Hello from rainy Antarctica! Would you believe it – one of the driest places (in terms of precipitation) in the world and it’s raining! It’s probably a good thing though, helping me to acclimatise to the UK before I return home to the shock of soggy weather. Still, at least everything won’t be all frozen!
So! Regular update from down here at Rothera contains... not that much. The season here is well and truly at an end and everyone is getting ready to travel north. Tom and I fly out on the 3rd of March and we are the penultimate Dash flight out with the one after us being just the pilots. In between then and now the four Twin Otters will all be fitted with their Ferry Tanks to make the long journey up and will have all left by the time we do. It’s weird to think that in a week’s time it will all be over and we will be about to leave for the Falkland’s. It’s been a pretty long season but in both respects it’s flown by and also it feels like we have been here for ages. When I think back to things we have done down here: our field training, the two weeks at Fossil Bluff and the Reptile Ridge work it feels like we’ve been down here forever but here we are at the end and I can honestly say that time hasn’t dragged once. Having said that I do feel that the time is right to come back – I’ve started to get into going home mode and am looking forward to all the things I haven’t been able to do whilst I’ve been away. However I’m not as excited as Steve MET was a week before he was due to leave – it was all he talked about and he would come up to the tower and tell Tom and me how many days he had left! To be fair to him, he was the hardest working person on base getting up around five in the morning to be on standby all day until about ten, seven days a week. No wonder he couldn’t wait to leave!
Since the last time I posted we have had Folk Night, which became Folk Night/Air Unit barbecue, and we had HMS Scott in the day before. Tom and I made sure we got ourselves on to that ship by asking John every time we saw him and in the end I think he just felt sorry for us and let us go to stop the incessant asking. It was only four of us that got the chance to go across in the end and it was one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had down here (to be fair it was only a week ago...). Once onboard we were met by the XO and given a tour of the ship and her facilities – which were first class. Every man onboard has his own cabin and Officers also have a day cabin, two gyms, a basketball/squash court and an extremely impressive hydrography suite. At one point around the ship, the XO opened a compartment which ran the height of the ship and it was huge!! There was just a bit of time for some lunch in the Wardroom, uckers and a cheeky bit of JPA. That was quite funny as both of us had not been online since we left, four months ago, and both struggled to remember our passwords... We got there in the end.
After the Scott had departed we had a cruise ship in the day after and I was roped into giving tours to the passengers. Nothing exciting: just showing them round the base, taking them to the aquarium and science labs, answering their questions and highlighting my own lack of knowledge of the base... That evening was the Air Unit barbecue which was held indoors due to inclement weather (surprise) and also Folk Night. It was a really good evening and a chance to take a humorous look at the events of the past season with people doing sketches, songs and some stand up. Since then it has been very quiet. We had fifteen people leave on the Dash a few days ago and another fifteen leaving tomorrow, so it’s getting very sparse around the bazaars. We also uplifted Sky Blu last night which officially marks the end of the season and has now made evening scheds (where we talk to field parties) a lot easier with just Fossil Bluff out awaiting shut down. At the peak of the summer we had eight field parties out which took two hours to get through, now it’s just fifteen minutes. Result!
On a more awesome note – Tom and I were treated to some private flying time with Alan, the Chief Pilot, a few days ago. It was THE best experience I’ve had down here without a question of a doubt. We flew out of Rothera to uplift North Sound Depot at the north of King George Sound near the Bluff. I took co-pilot first and once lined up on the threshold Alan turns to me and says: ‘You’ll be doing 90% of this if you’re happy?’ Let me think about that.... yes! So I did the take off and the hour and a half flight down to the depot, with some cheeky low level flying thrown in. On the way down we flew over sea and icebergs and as we were approaching the Sound Alan turns and says: ‘Let’s have some fun – descend down to 500ft and then when you’re comfortable take her down to 250ft’. Hell yeah! It was the most exciting flying that I have ever done; just watching the icebergs and the ice cliffs about 100ft below was so exhilarating! Especially when you fly over a particularly tall berg and with the RadAlt set to 200ft you hear: ‘Terrain! Terrain! Pull up!’ in a weird robotic, but very loud, voice! Unfortunately, when we located the fuel drums, the contrast was down to nil which meant that I couldn’t do the landing and so Alan stepped in. However on the way back, whilst Tom was flying, we found a large patch of sun on the snow which meant the contrast was good enough for us chimps to have a go at a few landings with skis. It was such an awesome days flying and one that I’ll never forget.
That’s about it for this post. Not much else has happened and not much is really due to happen in the days before we leave. It’s going to be work as normal, flight following and fire cover, and starting to pack. My next post will probably be my last from the continent so I will try to make it exciting however I can only work with the material I have...