sun down and mid winter presents and radio 2

The sun left us last week - dropping beneath the northern horizon mid afternoon for the last time for around 100 days. We marked the day by climbing up to the top of the base and lowering the old Union flag - this was done by our oldest base member Nick Warburton. Come early August, our youngest base member, Silver, will raise the new flag to celebrate the sun's return. Just a week since we lost the sun, our days are already very short - with little or no light other than a glimmer on the horizon. It will be a relief to see it back again - I very clearly remember the last time I over-wintered - going outside to see the sun again as it rose over the hill at Rothera. The two BAS bases I have wintered at are very different. Rothera is built on a small peninsula attached to a large island surrounded by incredible scenery whereas Halley is located on a floating ice shelf - well away from the sea so the whole feel of the two bases is very different. What makes a successful winter, however, is not the outside of the base, but the people that make up the team, and in our case we are very fortunate in having a great bunch of men.

So, gathered on top of our base, it was a pleasure to be take some time with the other guys here and to spend a little while looking forward to sharing our time together here. On a day to day basis most of my time is spent on my own, so any chance to get together with the others is welcome. A few of us spend the occasional evening in the music room at the far end of the base - Al, our Field guide, is a keen folkie and a great guitarist, and particularly helpful in getting other people to learn other instruments. The aforementioned Silver - real name John Mann from Widecombe in the Moor is learning the Bass guitar which he has proved adept at, while I am - for now at least - trying to remember how to play the piano. We had ourselves a mention, and a tune played on Radio 2 last week on the folk show - a request for Al in fact as he had been working really hard recently taking us all on our winter trips. Anyway, we may well be featuring on the show if we can in fact actually play a tuneā€¦.watch this space.

We are now in the run up to midwinter - June 21st which is for us the midpoint of our dark period - and of course the day beyond which the sun begins to return to our little spot on the ice. We each make a present for another man here - which is occupying a great deal of all of our time at the moment. My gift is in part made from wood that came from one of our Nansen sledges - from one of the runners in fact. The sledges are made to an almost identical deign to those used for the past 100 years or more of Antarctic and Arctic exploration and this week we said goodbye to another sledge as she was decommissioned from use after almost 9000 miles and 27 years of use. It's incredible to think of the places she had been to and the people she had worked with. Myrtle - N71 as she was also known had in fact come over from Rothera a few years ago. And, there, she had carried my gear on my second winter trip back in 1999 with another field guide, the incredible Crispin Day - the notes on the trip are here in the sledge records, such is the nature of how well the Field Guides like Al, look after the gear that is passed on from team to team here on the ice.