sun up in Antarctica

Sorry, it has been a while since my last post - we've had a busy old time here at Halley and some quite remarkable weather of late.

We are, thankfully, now out of the dark period which lasted just over three months - the sun came back 103 days after it left our northern horizon and its return has been very welcome indeed. Sun-up - on the 11th August - also coincided with our coldest spell of weather, during which we recorded the coldest temperature ever here - minus 55.4C. The last couple of weeks have been particularly brutal, both in terms of temperature - never warmer than minus 45C - and because of technical issues here on base which have been chaotic and challenging to say the least. It has only been made bearable through the hard work, tolerance and determination of the men here who are an incredible team to be a part of.

I'm not sure if any of you have picked up on this in the press back at home - various papers and the BBC reported it all, and gave a reasonable summary but its almost impossible to relate quite what our situation has been as we are still in the middle of an evolving situation.

Thankfully we now have power back on in both sides of the station - that is either side of the bridge that connects our science modules to the living and command sections of the base. Problems within the bridge caused a power down which meant that, for a time, a few bits and bobs started to freeze up. Luckily, we still have hot water, light, heat and a working loo (just one) which is much better than the bucket arrangement that we had for a week or so.

The team here has worked solidly for almost three weeks now to get us to the position of having our spare accommodation building, the Drewry, up and running. For now it is powered from the main station, but we hope that it can eventually be powered by our emergency generator, but at present that is not yet working. We are lucky to have not only an excellent technical team here, but a couple of electronic engineers who are assisting.

All science, apart from Meteorology has been stopped, as we don't have the spare power to fire up all of the experiments and huts in which they are housed. Clearly that is a big loss to the scientists here, and we are all doing our best to support them, although they have been wonderful in helping as much as possible by setting up a round the clock watch on the generators to ensure that we don't lose any of them.

Only a five minute walk away, our possible next home, the Drewry has the added attraction of working showers and washing machines - so you can imagine that we were all glad to have the chance to shower and do laundry after nearly three weeks without.
It is surprisingly nice to be able to walk out and about and to go somewhere else for a while, even if it is only to have the chance to sit down for a while and get away from the main base. Al, our field guide, has been kind and welcomed us into his workshop last saturday for a steak BBQ, cooked on a hotplate over a couple of primes stoves.

It has been a busy time in the kitchen as you might imagine - with everyone working so hard I have switched my routine around to start earlier to give everyone the chance to have a cooked breakfast - mostly porridge and bacon - and plenty of goodies at other times of the day so that everyone feels as well looked after as I can make them - I basically resorted to making everyones favourite things, as I have a pretty good idea of what these are by now.

As for what happens next, I am not sure to be honest. We are probably going to stay here in the main base for as long as we can - the last thing we want to have to do is to move out to live in the garage, which is our final option (apart from tents) if we have to move out for any other technical problems. At least the garage has its own heating and a small generator which will power the lights, and I can cook pretty much whatever I want on a couple of primus stoves.

I was lucky to be able to take a day off today, and got showered, did washing, tidied my room and packed a couple of grab bags to keep my gear in better order than I have been able to for the past wee while. We have no idea what the result of all this will be on the summer ahead, or indeed at this stage on our own plans beyond. Its just too early to say.

On a happier note, the clear skies, and lights out, have meant that we have seen some of the best skies we are ever likely to - a beautiful range of auroras and are anticipating winter trips and penguin safaris as soon as we can manage to arrange them.

So, I'm knackered and soon dinner will be ready = I have to say, on one last note, that we not only have an incredible team, but we have a brilliant, calm base commander in the form of John Eager. He also happens to be a chef, and it's thanks thanks to him that I have today off.
I'll write more as I can.

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