Watching eight sno-cats leave the base in convoy this morning was very impressive.
Eight fully loaded sno-cats, each towing a sledge piled high and a few passengers
inside, off to meet the ship 50 km away. The trip will probably take five or
six hours, except for the dozer that left at 4 am this morning, needing the
three hour head-start to even hope to arrive around the same time. That’s it
then, the boxes have gone, the bags have gone, all we have remaining now are
The vehicles are due to return today or tomorrow and then repeat the journey
on Wednesday with the remainder of us. I wangled a few more days here in the
name of keeping an eye on special stow cargo and ice cores that will hopefully
be flown to the ship tomorrow, but everyone knows I’d do anything to stay an
extra minute here. I’m not sure what it’ll be like to leave, I have no choice,
which is probably a good thing, but it still hasn’t gone in. I am far too comfortable
Looking back over this summer’s blogs (which I can now do!), I realise how
much I must take for granted. The things I haven’t mentioned stand out more
than anything. The arrival of the Canadian operated, huge Russian plane (DC-3
for those in the know) investigating potential opportunities for tourism in
the future, my jolly flight to Berkner Island, getting stranded there overnight
due to bad weather at Halley (what a shame), and with it the opportunity to
fly a twin otter over Antarctica. A trip to creek two caboose one last time,
and a night at beloved Wonky. A flight along the coast to remove some monitoring
equipment on the Lydden Ice Rise. Our Argentine neighbours visiting by chopper
again, and two more visits from the Germans after their initial arrival in November.
The light changing as the sun drops, and first sunset behind the CASLab. The
CASLab itself, loud and noisy, hissing, spitting, pumping, crammed to brimming
with machines that churn and fry, flow gases around the ceiling manifolds, flashing
lights indicating a fault on the gas detection system, inlets, exhausts, people
climbing over each other to reach their machines.
The CASLab empty and three full sledges of cargo – sixty-odd full size
gas cylinders, one ISO container and a hundred large boxes. The making redundant
of oneself. And still I want to stay.
The ship arrived last night. Every time there is a storm, the sea ice changes,
the cliffs change and the chance for getting our cargo out of here changes.
A few weeks ago it would have been totally unworkable. Last week it was almost
ideal, or as ideal as an N9 relief can be, today, it’s not good, but it’s not
terrible. There is a tongue of ice sticking out below the surface that prevents
the ship mooring up. I guess they’ll have to have one officer continually holding
the ship steady, using the thrusters, while the crane reaches across the tongue
to the cargo on the other side. I guess. One thing I have learnt here is that
there is almost always a way. Even to do the impossible.
So, I’m on my last few days. I’m packed, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I want