Christmas Eve

It’s 6am on christmas eve and I’m struggling to stay awake for the last two

hours of this 12 hour shift. These are always the hardest. When it’s quiet and

warm inside and sleepiness creeps back in again. Outside, I forget to be quiet.

Razzing around on my skiddoo, carrying newly arrived passengers, offloading

cargo from the ship, picking up boxes and bringing them to buildings, unpacking

box upon box upon box of tinned potatoes.

Last year I was driving across the sea ice, this year I’m at the Halley end,

a winterer who has seen this before. With all these fresh faces around overflowing

with enthusiasm in glaringly bright new orange overalls, I am reminded of myself

last year, the year before, and it’s ok to see the change too. I’m more competent,

I know my way around, I know how things work and get done, this is my home.

I can start a skiddoo on my own and take people where they need to go, I can

lift heavy boxes and dig snow so it makes a difference. I am still a girl on

base and ask for help when I need it, but I’ve learnt when I need it and when

I don’t. No-one is offering to carry those boxes for me any more or start my

skiddoo. I live here. But it’s their new home too.

The ship made it in with little difficulty and the Relief exercise this year

has so far been very smooth. The major anxiety for me was in receiving our scientific

cargo, one component of which is a very expensive 7 tonne ISO container on the

weight-limit threshold for the kind of conditions we had last year. It, and

the rest of our boxes, arrived before my first night shift had even begun. And

all before christmas. Already, we’re off to a good start.

The ship also brought with it post. POST! Letters and cards, packages and parcels.

My dear friends out there know me very well. Presents for my thirtieth, five

months late but not a minute too soon, and one big box from my family that I

opened today full of chocolate and moisturiser, more chocolate, pates, biscuits,

chocolate and shower gel. And some more chocolate. At this stage in the year,

all I want is consumables and it seems I’ll be doing a lot of consuming during

the next few weeks!

A few friends, unasked, sent me underwear.. made me laugh as you have no idea

how welcome that is! That’s something else I’ve noticed: everyone who has been

here for the winter suddenly looks more shabby. Or rather, new folk look more

preened. New colours have appearred in the building – bright purple hats

and brightly coloured t-shirts. T-shirts that are really white. Without noticing,

everything we own has faded and been worn to extreme. Everyone has holes and

patches in their outer clothing, but it’s more a mark of recognition here than


We have fruit as well. I thought I would miss fresh fruit and veg so much but

I haven’t. It’s nice to see an orange again and bite into an apple but really,

the earth didn’t move. I wanted for nothing, which somehow makes the presents

even more indulgent.

It’s christnmas eve. I shall try and phone my family later today. I imagine

I’ll either work or sleep through most of the celebrations but it’s the best

time of summer to be here. When the action really happens. Boys and their toys

in the biggest playground in the world. Bulldozers and cranes, skiddoos and

sno-cats, masses of space to build and lift and dig and drop and move and do

all those things kids dream of. It’s a living dream, for me anyway.

Merry Christmas.

PS. The penguins have grown right up now. Like fat adolescents instead of cute

kids. I wrote a little blog when I went to visit them last but it’s in my room

where my room-mate, on dayshift, is currently sleeping. Photos attached anyway!

penguins last.jpg

penguins last2.jpg

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8 Responses to Christmas Eve

  1. Michelle says:

    Hooray for penguins – have a fabulous Christmas and enjoy the summer! xx

  2. Stefan Geens says:

    The New National Geographic World Atlas was under the Xmas tree here (in Ireland) and first thing I did was check to see if they got Halley right. Sure enough, you’re on the map. All — what, 12? — of you.


    MERRY XMAS FROM RHIAN & THE PENGUINS For those who don’t know, Rhian Salmon has been blogging from the British Antarctic Survey the last year. Recently, she was stunned to see a cruise ship full of touists pull up!…

  4. Rhian says:

    18 actually. You forgot a third of the local population!

  5. sharon says:

    well can anybody temme do v find penguins @ uk?

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