After being stuck in the ice just around the corner from us the R.S.S. Ernest Shackleton finally arrived down at the creeks near Halley. this meant the relief could begin and we could get all the food, materials, fuel and people for the next year up on station. Relief is the busiest time of year down here and we were going to do it twenty four hours a day in two twelve hour shifts. I was on the night shift and, as a welcome change, was down at the ship helping unload cargo.
The convoy of vehicles and sledges set off down to the coast to be greeted by the sight of the Shack, moored up against the remaining sea ice about a kilometre from the shelf edge.
The cargo was unloaded onto waiting sledges and then taken up to the ice shelf where the sledges were hooked together in trains and the pulled back to base.
Despite it being nighttime the sun was well up in the sky so the night shift aspect wasn’t actually to bad. Though shifting one thousand and seven hundred drums of fuel out of the ship for twelve hours was a bit full on.
Fuel Drums. Thousands of em…
Flip em over….
Then sling em up and crane em out.
Anyway, despite the long hours and hard work it was great being down at the ship. Showers you could stay in for longer than five minutes, lots of fresh food and a a different view outside were all good. The ships crew were cool too.
We got plenty of little visitors hanging around near the ship too.
Just before leaving the remaining 2014 winter team came down to the ship for a meal together and then we got ready to jump ship and wave the Shack off. However, just as we were set to leave the sea ice that had seemed so solid when we were loading eight tonne sledges onto it now began to break up. Pretty cool watching it all snap off. Although you know you are not really at the coast but rather just on the ice it still felt like it. When the ice began to break up it quickly began to feel like where we actually were – above deep dark ocean rather than at the seaside!
It was pretty freaky watching chunks of ice that still had your footprints on just disappear!
To actually get back onto the ice shelf the Shack had reverse out to sea and then ram, back into the sea ice, finding a spot that was solid enough not to break off. This took quite a few goes. We eventually got back to stable ice and the were hoisted off the deck and down onto the ice on the wor geordie – no idea how to spell that but it’s big donut with cargo netting attached that is hoisted up by the ships crane (with you hanging onto it). That was a pretty odd end to my stay on the ship.
Oh yeah – we also saw a Leopard Seal basking down on the ice. quite a rare visitor down at Halley.
Right now I’m back up on base and the place is busier than ever – and I’m still adjusting to that!