Into my fourth week here in Antarctica and I still amazed every time I look out the window. I have to keep telling myself that I am actually in Antarctica and I think I have taken over 10, 000 photos already.
A colder front has moved in over Ross Island, so the first couple of days it snowed!! That didn’t make much difference to our operations on the hut other than it was a lot colder so we are working inside. I have joined Doug and Geoff in the HFC working on finishing off the cold porch. It reminds me of Santa’s grotto where children would line up to talk to Santa. Scott Base even has their own radio station 97 fm which people can make up play lists and broadcast them out. Once the radio is turned on, my blue overalls are zipped up and the walls are prepped, it’s time for some serious painting. The walls and roof are painted Flamingo, an orange/pink colour which were the original colours of the exterior of the facilities.
It is uncertain when it first was realised but it has noted in previous years there was an initial diesel smell when you first entered the building. After removing one of the aluminium flooring panels in the entrance way, exposed a thick layer of black slime. This was a combination of diesel and contact glue between the aluminium and the plywood. This solved the mystery of the unwanted smell but also created unforeseen work that was not scheduled for. The rest of the week I undertook the job of removing the rest of the flooring from the entrance way and scraping off the diesel layer. Armed with my gas mask, scraper, white spirits and some good music, the thick black slime didn’t stand a chance.
The pressure is really on to keep to schedule and complete the hut before the 20thJanuary on the 60th Anniversary of Scott Base. There have been many unforeseen problems but the AHT team has been excellent solving problems on the spot and making use of what materials they have. It’s not like you can just pop down to your local hardware store if you need something.
On Wednesday and Thursdays there is a fitness circuit run at 6.15am up in the HFC. Sergeant Ash and Dan (Snowflake/Dan Dan) take turns at setting up a series of workouts lasting for 45mins. It’s a great way to start your day and feel awake for the morning meeting.
In the HFC there is also a bouldering wall on the Western side with varying degrees of steepness. I have never done much climbing but I am always up for a challenge. Most nights there is normally a few people having a go and my aim is to complete a circuit touching all corners of the wall before I leave. My first day I couldn’t even get up the first half of the wall but after four weeks of preservation I can now get across the wall. Now I just have to work out how to climb down and it’s a lot harder than I thought. Lucky there are huge foam mats beneath you to catch your fall.
A huge highlight of my week was on Wednesday evening when I headed out onto the sea ice with Ruby and Mark to go kite skiing! Most of the AFT trainers have brought down their kites, so when there is a good constant breeze you will see a series of kites powering across the sea ice over to White Island and back. The brightly coloured kites really stand out against the white background. Putting my harness on, I practiced with the training kite before having a go on the 9 metre kite while standing. It was awesome to be able to control the kite enough to lift your feet of the ground without being taken across the Ross Sea. My next aim is to try it with skis although I thought it would be better to learn how to ski first before combining the two.
The much anticipated party of the year at Scott Base is the skirt party. This is one party where Scott Base is open up to the Americans, the men turn into ladies and Miss Ross Island commences. The ladies on base decided we didn’t want to miss out so we dressed as our fellow men and I was able to be ‘Bob’ for the night. Wearing my work uniform with my overalls, earmuffs and tool belt, I think I was a lot more comfortable then many of the men trying to walk in heels. Each man got to strut their stuff along the catwalk and the top 10 got to show their special talents. Dan Dan was crowned Miss Ross Island wearing a little red skirt and blue corset and his talent of push ups with Laurine on his back. It was a fantastic night with lots of laughs, whiskey, music and dancing.
Sunday was our night to make dessert. Sue was head chief, handing out individual roles to make an apple tart with salted cameral sauce and ice cream. I was in charge of making the individual scoops of ice-cream into a Christmas tree shape. I found the best strategy was to sit in the freezer with my ECW jacket on rolling scoops of ice-cream. We plated it up and served it hot. Sunday’s dinner was slightly different as this is mid-way through summer where a lot of the base staff are handing over to the new staff flying in. We had a special dinner wearing our Sunday best to say thank-you and good bye to the staff leaving. To top of the evening, our dessert won overall with the highest average score of 8.9. Best way to finish off an awesome week!
BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador 2016