It has been another eventful week down here in Antarctica, the most exciting news is my time down here has been extended. I was meant to be flying home this week, instead I have offered to help the team for an extra week and am now heading home just before Christmas.
I started the week off by heading out on a FAM trip, back out to Cape Evans and Cape Royds. This was like a massive road trip with all the staff that normally work Sundays and don’t have the opportunity to go otherwise. It was amazing to see how much the sea ice had changed over the last 4 weeks. On the way out to the huts, the ice cracks had separated further meaning we had to bridge them for the Hägglund to cross. Securing the bridges with V ties, these bridges can support the Hägglunds over sea ice cracks up to 1m across. The coastline was dotted with hundreds of seals, coming up through the gaps within the sea ice. We headed out to Cape Royds first, walking up the very familiar hill looking down at Shackleton’s Hut. Although this time I was the guide showing people around the hut, sharing the stories and explaining the work that AHT had done in conserving such an important part of history. Looking out across the Ross Sea, we couldn’t see the edge of the ice shelf but you could definitely see more defined sea cracks running across to the dry valleys. My favourite part was seeing the ice covered in Adele penguins, marching in lines north towards the open sea.
We continued back to Evans, which was almost like heading home. After camping here for a week, there was something very homely and special about arriving back here. After spending time working on specific artefacts and set tasks, it was really nice to be able to step back and admire the hut as a whole and watching the excitement and enjoyment from everyone entering Scott’s Hut for the first time.
The rest of the week was straight back into work prepping and painting the walls of the kitchen. Similar to the cold porch, the eastern wall of the kitchen is painted Flamingo with Fanlight Yellow for the rest of the walls. Martin has started building the interior walls for Hillary’s room and the Radio room. The hut was originally built with a radio room and an office but due to an extra member joining the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hillary gave up his bed in the bunkroom and turned the office into his own room. Al has been working on the entrance way finishing the aluminium lining and placing artefacts back into position. This week the painters have arrived. Tony and Gus, the Antarctic Society Volunteers have come down for a month to paint the exterior and interior of the hut. They have been sanding down the roof and prepping for the initial primer while the weather has been good. After nailing in all the ceiling battens and finishing my last coat of paint the kitchen is completed and the team can start moving the kitchen artefacts back into place into the snow-melter and industrial ovens.
Tuesday nights is 2Step in MacTown. Joining our American friends, a bunch of us headed over for a fun night learning new dance moves. Andy, the Scott Base carpenter, also threw a bit of swing dancing into the mix. Throughout the week I have also been trying to do all of the walking tracks around Ross Island trail system and I only have a couple left. On Wednesday I grabbed a couple of friends at dinner and walked up Crater Hill behind Scott Base. AFT trainer Mark, Comms Operator Ruby and Helicopter coordinator Ryan followed behind walking up a very steep slope overlooking Scott Base and majestic views over to Mt Erebus.
Our AHT team were originally heading out to the Square Frame to camp for the night. The Square Frame Hut is the equivalent of the Scott Base bach, including a container with beds, heater and a huge sofa. Unfortunately, due to weather moving to condition 2, we were unable to leave base so instead we moved our party to the HFC. It wasn’t quite the same but we did get to have a fantastic dinner prepared from the chefs for winning the Dessert competition last Sunday. Each of us took turns in sharing our own stories and photos of some of the adventures we had been up to.
This week the AFT team have been organising and preparing the Ski Field. That’s right, Scott Base has their own Ski Field with a lift to the top! This place never ceases to amaze me. On Sunday the weather cleared and the Ski Field had its open day! What better place to learn to ski than Antarctica! Matt, a Field Trainer taught a group of us how to cross country ski. After a few minutes of finding my feet and working how to stay up right on snow, there was no stopping us as we continued out to the ski field. This was a great warm up before learning how to ski and arrived just as the ski field opened at 9am. Daryl volunteered on running ‘Dazza’s Ski School’ and taught Lizzie, Ciaran, Geoff, Ash and myself how to ski! Upon graduating Ash and I took to the slopes heading right to the top and eventually making to down. Gary, even on his day off brought us breakfast out to the slopes so we wouldn’t miss out back at base. Molly and Evert from the engineering department rigged up a tow up to the mountain run by a generator, alongside a container with a full range of sizes for skis and snowboards.
With the sun out, the music pumping, I joined 20 others making continuous runs down the slopes. El Presidente Mark even brought out his mono ski and made an appearance in a fluro lycra. There was an opening speech by the president and prize giving from the day. Lizzie got most determined, Ash got most improved and Ruby and I was awarded most dedicated as we had not stopped since the tow started running. It was a very proud moment for Dazza as we were accepted into the Scott Base Ski Club. The smile never left my face and on my last run I was able to make it down without falling over – Success! We finished the day off in the sauna and decorating Christmas cookies as Shul singing Christmas Chorals on her ukulele.
BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador 2016