Snow Tractors

I’ve made it my mission to start a certain percentage of my posts with variations on the theme of “been busy, been a while etc…”

This one, I’m not going to bother because you can probably guess that I’ve had a bit to do.

Apart from working to keep things warm, light and movable I’ve tried to get a bit of normality back. So trips to the gym on an evening are back – something which helps a lot in keeping a rhythm to your life and helps you sleep – which then helps getting your confused self out of bed in a morning. Your circadian rhythm can quickly get messed up if you let it.  This should get a bit easier now that the sun is back with us though (next post about that!). It’s not shining through the window when you open you eyes but we do at least have a difference between night and day now.

Few people asked me about the vehicles down here, so here are some photos of the various stuff we get around and about in. They are all female apparently. Not sure whether it’s a trade thing but I’ve never seen a transformer or a distribution board and wondered about its gender but the mechs down here consider everything with a moving part a She or Her, mostly quite affectionately.

These are a few of the vehicles we have at Halley, most are winterised because when the temps get really low not a lot will continue to work down here. The dozers, of which there are two, are the workhorses of the station and run pretty much all year re-fueling teh base, pushing snow into the melt tanks amongst other things. A lot of the vehicles are mostly for summer use only though a lot do come out early and late in winter when the temps are less hostile.

First up, the Nodwells or Noddys. Big, heavy tracked vehicles with a crane on the back. Great for drum raises

Nodwell crane

Antarctic nodwell crane

Antarctic nodwell crane

Next the John Deere Tractors. These do most of the donkey work during relief dragging sledges up and down from the ship to the base in summer.

Antarctic John Deere

Antarctic John Deere

Then the 360 excavator and the cherry picker used for digging and getting up to high stuff



Now we have the Pisten Bullys. The pride of the Halley mech crew – they love a bit of sexy German engineering.

Antarctic pisten bully

Antarctic pisten bully

My personal favourite, bit of a pain to drive but looks pretty cool. the Snow Cat. All purpose vehicle when the temps are above -30. Drive down to the ship or windy bay and also good for moving stuff around base.

antarctica snow cat

antarctica snow cat

antarctica snow cat

And one with one of the dozers.

CAT Dozer

Some of the machines winterised on the vehicle line.

halley Antarctic vehicles

And some shots of the vehicles with their winter coats on



I’ll post some more pictures with the smaller polar hero favourites – the Skidoos along with some sledge pics. I’ll write something fairly sharpish about Sun up too, it’s quiet a big date in the Antarctic calender after all.





The Big Power-Down…

I wasn’t going to say anything about this but now BAS has issued a press release I will write a little. The following is the statement released by BAS today.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is dealing with a serious operational incident at its Halley Research Station. On Wednesday 30 July 2014 a major technical issue resulted in the station losing its electrical and heating supply for 19 hours. All 13 station staff are safe and in good health. Our urgent priority is to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of the wintering team. Power and some heating are back online, and some other essential services have been restored, but the staff are having to live and work in extremely difficult conditions. The station has had good satellite communications throughout the incident. Contingency plans for alternative accommodation on site are in place and ancillary buildings are being made ready in case of a further power-down. It is now clear that because of the nature of the incident, and the prolonged loss of power, the station cannot now return to normal operation in the short or medium term.Everyone at Halley and Cambridge is doing everything that can be done to ensure that the incident remains under control. All science, apart from meteorological observations essential for weather forecasting, has been stopped.

From here: British Antarctic Survey News


I don’t really want to add any detail about what has happened down here (it’s nowt exciting honest!) but would just like to reiterate that we are all healthy, in good spirits and are busy setting about getting, and keeping the station in as good an order as possible. No-one here on station is responsible for the technical issues we are having and we are all working extremely hard.

Tea making facilities are still going strong.

On a happier note, despite the difficulties I really am still loving the place. Having made mention of how Antarctica can take things to another level just when you think you have seen something truly beautiful, well, I’ll have to say it once again. To prove that every cloud has a silver lining Halley, during the time without any power, was the clearest I have ever seen. This, coinciding with the loss of the small amount of light pollution we have, made the night-sky of the power-down the most beautiful I have ever seen – or probably ever will. the whole galaxy in its majesty, brighter than ever – going outside was almost a religious experience!

Another fairly cool, but problematic at the time, event occurred around the time of us losing power – the coldest temperature ever recorded at Halley Bay of -55.4 degrees. Throwing a cup of boiling water into the air resulted in small explosion as the water instantly turned into a cloud of ice crystals. This obviously didn’t help us on station at the time but it was nice to see a record set!

In other news, the Sun is on its way back to us. On a cloudy day the sky is really lighting up as the light from the Sun, still far below the horizon, is reflected upwards. After what we are used to it seems like there is daylight for a few hours a day now – though I know it;s just a pale (or dark) imitation of the real thing. Next week we’ll see the real thing, and shortly after we’ll need shades on all the time whilst out and about. Then it won’t be long at all till the night-sky is just a memory!

I’ll try to post updates when I can but I may well be fairly busy for a while!