The Beginning. Girton College. For another set of ice lovers.

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It’s a year ago since I began my contract with BAS, going down to Girton College in Cambridge and being like an excited 9 year old, learning more about where I was off to and who with, wandering around staring at peoples badges and seeing who’s who, where they are off to and whether they are summer or winter crew.

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If any of this year’s folk are reading I hope you have a great time – especially the Halley winterers obviously!

Enjoy the Ceilidh – go on have a dance! Don’t get anything sensitive caught in your climbing harness and remember your ABC’s.

Hope it’s nice and sunny for the field training too!

 

My new House

This post is for my Mum, who wants to see what my home down here is like. Here are some pics of my room and the base – the photos were taken as I approached the base for the first time after I left the ship, it’s pretty weird seeing your new home from about 15km away, and it gets more and more impressive (and weird) as you get closer. I was starting to lose the plot after two and a half hours into the journey from the ship so the weirdness was maybe worse for me. After packing our bags onto the sledge everyone got into the snow cat for the ride up, I’d heard someone say how we had it easy and they had to ride up on the sledge. So, challenge accepted. I did the 3 and a bit hour trip on the back of a sledge. Started off okay but by the third hour I was hurting.       It’s cold you know, in Antarctica.

Anyway, some pictures of me house:

Seeing Halley for the first time

Seeing Halley for the first time

halley far3

My new home, Halley 6

My new home, Halley 6

halley lounge

Halley lounge

Halley Lounge

Halley Lounge

Halley Lounge

Halley Lounge

Halley cinema

Halley cinema

halley cinema

Halley cinema

my office

my office

Halley gym

Halley gym

Hallley dining room

Halley dining room

Halley Dining room

My Halley bedroom

me bedroom

me bedroom

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My Photo Wall – looking sparse at the moment. If you have some nice pictures of home email em in! Nice pictures of moors and trees. Or anything else you think I might be missing. Need to make this house a home!

Got some more pictures to post up shortly but as ever it’s a nightmare uploading pictures.

All in all it’s a pretty cool place to live!

More Training…..

So, still on with the training before I head south.  Nothing too exciting this week – for most people, for me though, I’m loving it. I’m working for an organisation that is doing great things. I’m off to do what is for me a dream job in one of the coolest places on the planet and before I go there I’m learning how to do things that, as well as getting me prepared for the actual job I’ll be doing, also mean the number of qualifications and skills on my CV have massively increased. On top of that, I just chuffing love learning stuff, whether it’s useful, essential or even useless! Lets put it this way- I think I’ll soon be a pretty good person to have with you come the zombie apocalypse. Not that I’m not already mind.

This week I’ve been learning the basics of refrigeration.  Making stuff cold is a fairly ordinary thing until you think of how recent it is that we have been able to do it, the technology required, and, particularly relevent to some of the work BAS does, the impact it has on our environment. Everyone has heard of the hole in the ozone layer and we all remember becoming a bit more careful with aerosols in the eighties and nineties. Refrigeration is a subject linked with both the depletion of the ozone layer and also, more recently, with global warming. Refrigeration gases used to cause big problems for those working with them until a clever bloke called Thomas Midgley invented a new type called chlorofluorocarbons, more commonly known as CFC’s. Until then, the gases used in keeping things cold could be toxic, corrosive, explosive and not particularly efficient. CFC’s were none of these and did a great job of refrigeration.  Not until the hole in the ozone layer was discovered at Halley (the place I will soon call home) in the eighties did it become apparent just how harmful they really were. Poor Thomas Midgley also came up with the idea of putting lead into petrol, something else which, at the time, was considered a stroke of genius but turned out much later  to be a fairly bad thing! It has to be said that Mr Midgley was a good and brilliant man trying to make the world a better place. But he was certainly unfortunate with the two things he was most known for!

CFC’s and other ozone depleting gases have been phased out and we now no longer use them, though some of them will continue to remain in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is still there too and we are just beginning to learn about its impact on the world-much more than just giving us a nasty sunburn, the increased amount of UV radiation getting through the hole has changed weather patterns around the Antarctic continent. The Gases that replaced CFC’s, whilst not depleting the ozone layer, are extremely potent greenhouse gases, some thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Although technology is improving and different gases are beginning to be used most of the gases in refrigeration are still very strong greenhouse gases. Therefore it is hugely important that the cooling equipment using them is as efficient as possible and, crucially, does not leak. A kilogram of refrigerant gas released into the atmosphere can have the same effect as the carbon dioxide from a car driven for a year!

Other than the harmful effects of the gases used in cooling I also learned the theory behind refrigeration itself. I won’t bore you with the technical stuff but it’s a brilliantly simple process using the exchange of heat with gases at different states, temperatures and pressures. This technology is used in all the things we use to keep things cool, from fridges and freezers, air conditioning units and scientific experiments. Proper interesting stuff, though I am a bit of a geek.

The practical side of things involved the maintenance and repair of refrigeration units. How to test the equipment and check for leaks in the system and what to do when you find one.

Other stuff I’ve been up to this week included getting up to date with my scaffolding qualifications, learning the basics about the IT system used by BAS and I learned how to braze copper with an oxy-acetylene torch.

I was also staying in a hotel that was creepily reminiscent of the place in Twin Peaks, though the bed was comfy!

Things to do Before you Leave Civilisation

Before you set sail for Antarctic there are quite a few things you’ll need to sort out. Health is important. You’ll need to have a full medical and make sure that your firing on all cylinders before you head south, we have a Doctor on the base at Halley but it’s still not a good idea to be out on the ice with health problems that you could have sorted out whilst in the UK. The same is true for your teeth, in fact dental problems can be one of the most common, not to mention painful, health problems for the people in Antarctica. So for the past few months I’ve been getting any issues with my teeth sorted out. Problems that may not cause too much of an issue but on the off chance that they did could turn into a real nightmare thousands of miles away from a dentist, all have to be sorted out. I’ve had two extractions at the moment and I have a few more appointments to go. To be honest I’ve not really been keeping up with my dental visits for the past few years so I was a bit hesitant before getting my dental MOT. However, Charlotte, my Dentist is brilliant. She has been nice enough to not call me an idiot for not visiting the dentist for so long and although one of the teeth took quite a bit of tugging to get it out none of it has been too unpleasant.

Buying stuff to take with you is something to think about quite a bit, there are no shops and only two deliveries a year- so not much shopping can be done once you’ve left. There are things you definitely want to have with you. I think the most expensive thing I’ll be taking with me will be an SLR camera. I’ve not really any experience of photography and although you can take some nice shots with a compact, if there is anywhere on the planet you want to use and learn something a bit better, then Antarctica is it. I really want get some of those long exposure shots of the Milky way and amazing auroras I’ve seen on other blogs.
Clothes need buying, lots of warm stuff obviously, but just planning what you’ll need for eighteen months is a task, let alone eighteen months where I’m going. Lots and lots of sock seems to be the main advice I’ve been given.

My Mum kindly bought me some undies. They’re proper nice.

Nasty

Nasty

Things to entertain you whilst away. I like to read a lot so I’ve been cramming as many ebooks onto my Ipad as possible, there’s plenty of free books available that are out of copyright (good job I like classics) and I’ve been asking friends for recommendations of more contemporary stuff. I’ve also been stuffing as many films and box-sets as I can onto a hard drive. I always like to listen to music or an audiobook whilst I’m working so plenty of that too. Downloading stuff is not really do-able whilst on base due to the low bandwith so I’m grabbing as much as I can.

I’m also trying to get in as much of the stuff that I wont be able to get whilst down there so I’ve been scoffing loads of butties from Sulivans, the sandwich shop at the top of my street. I’ll be making good use of the gym down there, as well as being outside hiking and climbing so I’m not too bothered about putting on a bit of weight before I ship out (it’s insulation anyway). which is good because I’m eating for England at the moment. I’m sure an Antarctic marathon will have me fit again…

I have made sure to take some essentials from home. Top of the list were these:

Proper tea!

Proper tea!

I know they won’t last long so I’ll have to ration them.

Tips and recommendations of books or other Antarctic essentials are more than welcome!