My bike adventure from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires

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The Falklands and away

Posted by latoba on March 16, 2013 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (3)

So that's it folks.  We made it through the roughest seas on the planet and I'm now sitting in Stanley harbour waiting for my flight to Chile.  The crossing didn't cause too much alarm, and we had a relatively queit time of it all things considered.  While I wouldn't claim to have felt marvellous the whole trip I certainly wasn't ill.  Thanks mainly to no seriously bad weather.  She rolled around a bit and walking across rooms was fun and interesting at times but never impossible.  Sleep was often broken by being slid down the bed but there was no being thrown about the rooms.

My days were mainly spent editing the many photos and things from the trip in the mornigns and then trying to get some excersise up on deck and sitting at the back of the ship in the science labs wildlife watching.  It was well worth the hours as we saw numerous whales, humpbacks and minkies, seals, penguins and all manour of seabirds.  The most of impressive of the birds and possibly of all were the wandering albatrosses, quite magnificent things.

My mind started to think back over the time I had down at Halley but I don´t think I will get a true perspective untilI get home.  Which I am looking forward to and am envious of the lads heading home.  Having said that I´m also keen to make the most of South America which I think will be fantastic.

After eight days at sea I think we were all keen for land and it was a lovely feeling seeing the Falkllands come into sight.  And then stepping onto solid land for the first time since November.  The Falklands themselves were very enjoyable and I could have quite happily spent a few more days here. I spent the three days exploring Stanley, which didn't take a lot,  Walking around the coast to see penguins, gentoo's and magellan, and various other wildlife, and a good walk in the barren interior. 

The referendum had just finished as we arrived and one was in no doubt as to which way the locals see themselves.  I think it is more British and Britain. I think the two things that surprised me most was how big the Islands are and how small Stanley is. Being back among something like civilisation didn´t seem too strange  but small things were very noticeable.  Any walking at all really took its toll as I realise I haven´t walked in the manner we are used to for so long.  The senses definitely got a wakening too, while Stanley couldn´t claim to be noisy it´s amazing how loud things like vehicles actually are when you´re not so used to it.

As I look towards South America I think it is going to be very interesting trying to get myself into the swing of things for the duration of my trip.

Breaking Through The Ice

Posted by latoba on March 6, 2013 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (3)

I am now writing this entry at sea aboard the good ship RSS James Clark Ross.  We're now in a lead through the ice heading north, before we clear the ice for real and turn towards the Falkands.  I've now been on here for six days and getting eased into life at sea.  The first four days were spent morred to the ice shelf as we carried out last call relief.  It went reasonably well and was interesting crawling around in the holds loading the outgoing cargo.  The weather continued with its spiral and the ship froze steadily around us as we worked away in the snow. 

The winterers then came down to the ship to see us slip our moorings.  As they let off flares it was quite a site leaving them stood on the ice in the knowledge of what's to come for them over the coming months.  For us it was all eyes northwards and out to sea for the next leg on the mammoth passage home.  For those heading home it will be a twenty day journey door to door.  I can't think of too many jobs with quite such along commute.


We've now had a day and a half at sea which so far has been thoroughly enjoyable.  Last night was spent breaking ice as we made a way slowly out into th eopen lead that we are now in.  I stayed up most of the night enjoying the ship rocking and rolling its way around through and over the ice.  It's amazing how much of a shudder we get on hitting what appears to be quite a small piece of ice.  Seeing penguins a sat on little floes and hearing a whale somewhere away in the darkness was all quite special and well worth staying up for.


Now we continue and I've my fingers crossed that I continue to feel well throughout the crossing.


Farewell Halley

Posted by latoba on March 1, 2013 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (3)

Well this is just about it for me on the Brunt Ice Shelf.  I’m sitting here awaiting the shipsarrival.  She made it through some ice last night and at some point today will arrive and has to decide on the best of two bad spots for relief.  Once the decision ismade myself and a few others are heading down to load her up.  I’m in the hold this time up which will beanother very different experience.  We’ve got a whole line of containers to take away and a bit of waste, then it’s up to the base with the all-important last batch of ‘fresh’ food for the winterers and we’ll be away.  There won’t be a lot of hanging around and risking getting stuck in with the temperatures fast droppingand the sea ice already beginning to form.

The last few days have flown by as I’ve tied up any loose ends.  I squeezed in a last run in the fog and had a tilt at a twenty minute 5k. I just squeezed in what was definitely my coldest run.  I got the full Antarctic hero look going on with the frosted beard, eyebrows and such. The beard has been well frosted up the last week or so as the temperature now stays well below -10.  Withit we get some fantastic weather amongst which we enjoyed two or three fogbows yesterday.  Last night we had an almost dark sky with just red of the setting sun out to the west.  The sun sets twenty minutes earlier each night would you believe, I think that is the true meaning of the nights are drawingin fast.  We had the last two planes on the continent come through yesterday on their way back up to Canada.  A realisation of how completely isolated those that staying on for  winter will be. 

As I bid my farewell I’ll be sad to leave but take with me many fantastic memories and one incredible experience.  The question gets put about a lot now of who’ll be back in the future and for me I still can’t really say at the moment.   I thank everybody for following and your comments that I’ve enjoyed reading.  Thisisn’t quite it as I’m sure I’ll be looking for something to do as I while away the days on board the JCR, hopefully not in a sea sick state.  Although I look forward to the Drake Passage and the wildest stretch of sea on Earth!

 

Waiting on the JCR

Posted by latoba on February 25, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (3)

The last few days and week have simply flown by.  With the last flight of the summer leaving Antarctica and numbers well down on base at last it now feels like we are completely isolated from the rest of the world. We are now reliant on the JCR showing up, as she is scheduled to onFriday.  The weather continues to deteriorate most days are now a battle to walk the 50 or so yards to and from the workshops for work and the modules for meals.  It’s been so good to experience the Antarctic at something like its most extreme.  Despite dropping to -40 with the wind chill and visibility of a few metres in the driving snow it’s a sobering thought to think that this is nowhere near as bad as it gets through the majority of theyear.  We all had a little bit of a chuckle at Ranulph throwing the towel in and more so at some of the others carrying on who have been at Halley the last couple of summers.

I’ve moved into the luxurious surroundings of the modules and am enjoying living on the base for real. Getting a feel for what life will be like for the 13 winterers who willbe spending the next eight months or so down here.  I realise how much more enjoyable life is here with the similar number of folk as we had at the beginning of the season.  I think that it  was a struggle at timesliving with so many people in such a relatively confined space.  That sounds a little strange when I think of what how much open space we are surrounded by but in terms of living space we really don’t have a great deal.  That has been the most challenging aspect I think. In terms of what I have missed most, it’s a pretty easy answer really.  I understand much more how much family and friends mean to me and spending time with them.  And quite simply my freedom.  The freedom to come and go as one pleases and just to do whatever the hell I want to do.

On which note our new field assistant put on an Ice climbing trip to the creeks on Sunday.  How amazing it was to get down to the coast and an incredible spot.  Climbing aside it was a wonderful day at a pretty special venue, again a reminder of how lucky I’ve been to get so some of these places and spend any amount of time here. The climbing itself was super, straight up a forty foot ice wall that was everything that I enjoy about climbing and more.  We got to enjoy the whole day down there that included a great pack up while watching whales in the bay on the one sunnystill day we’ve had for a while.  More memorable moments for me.

The working hours have now been cut as we’ve all got ahead with our work.   So I continue doing some finishing jobs such as building work benches and shelving for theworkshops.  Now that the Drewy is finished and being lived in we’re all just padding around really until the ship arrives, hopefully!   I look at it now with a bit of pride in the knowledge that it will be sat down here on the Brunt for years with people enjoying its comforts and shelter.

I’ll try and get some more photos out this week that Sally may manage to get on the site!

 

The sun begins to Set

Posted by latoba on February 20, 2013 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (3)

We have had an exciting week down south as the season draws near.  We all await a plane that will arrive some time tonight to take out last years winterers and a number of other guys.  To give them a send off we had our folk night on Saturday, a collection of random acts put on.  Having failed all week to come up with anything meaningful I managed to bodge together a poem that went down well.  It was good fun and the last chance for everybody to really let their hair down.

It felt like something of a celebration as we have now all but finished our work on the Drewy.  This means that as soon as the others have left we'll be moving in and spereading ourselves between there and the modules.  I'm not sure where I'll be yet and look forward to either, it , may even be the tent yet.  The annex will be coming down tomorrow and the clearing up of the site begins.  Suddenly without knowing it the end is suddenly in sight.  The JCR has left the Falkland and is on its way, and the sun has now set for the first time. 

The weather continues to get colder and more exciting.  We got a couple of days of the wild stuff this week with constant winds and snow.  The difference it makes to evyhting is not unsurprising , but once it clears and we can onc emore see teh ground beneath our feet the change is phenomenal.  Around the buildings the wind tails and build up amounts to about 6ft high.  There is more on the way which I look forward to as it gives more and more of a feel of what it's like when the season isn't so kind.

I've got one or two things on my list of jobs to do before leaving.  I have completed a cold half marathon on Saturday and next up is staying up tonight to watch the sun go down.  They'll be a spot of eating no doubt in there too.  Upon whihc my promised food diary.

Breakfast  6.30:  Cereal and toast

Smoko 10.00: Porridge and bacon Sandwich

Lunch 13.00:  Sweet and sour Pork, rice and salad.  Chocolate bar and fruit

Smoko 16.00:  Lemon Drizzle cake

Dinner 19.00:  Lamb stew, potatoes, veg and coleslaw x2.  Rice pudding. Lemon Drizzle cake.


The sun begins to Set

Posted by latoba on February 20, 2013 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (1)

We have had an exciting week down south as the season draws near.  We all await a plane that will arrive some time tonight to take out last years winterers and a number of other guys.  To give them a send off we had our folk night on Saturday, a collection of random acts put on.  Having failed all week to come up with anything meaningful I managed to bodge together a poem that went down well.  It was good fun and the last chance for everybody to really let their hair down.

It felt like something of a celebration as we have now all but finished our work on the Drewy.  This means that as soon as the others have left we'll be moving in and spereading ourselves between there and the modules.  I'm not sure where I'll be yet and look forward to either, it , may even be the tent yet.  The annex will be coming down tomorrow and the clearing up of the site begins.  Suddenly without knowing it the end is suddenly in sight.  The JCR has left the Falkland and is on its way, and the sun has now set for the first time. 

The weather continues to get colder and more exciting.  We got a couple of days of the wild stuff this week with constant winds and snow.  The difference it makes to evyhting is not unsurprising , but once it clears and we can onc emore see teh ground beneath our feet the change is phenomenal.  Around the buildings the wind tails and build up amounts to about 6ft high.  There is more on the way which I look forward to as it gives more and more of a feel of what it's like when the season isn't so kind.

I've got one or two things on my list of jobs to do before leaving.  I have completed a cold half marathon on Saturday and next up is staying up tonight to watch the sun go down.  They'll be a spot of eating no doubt in there too.  Upon whihc my promised food diary.

Breakfast  6.30:  Cereal and toast

Smoko 10.00: Porridge and bacon Sandwich

Lunch 13.00:  Sweet and sour Pork, rice and salad.  Chocolate bar and fruit

Smoko 16.00:  Lemon Drizzle cake

Dinner 19.00:  Lamb stew, potatoes, veg and coleslaw x2.  Rice pudding. Lemon Drizzle cake.


Camping on the Brunt

Posted by latoba on February 13, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (3)

Another week has passed by and with it the arrival of the James Clark Ross and the beginning of my journey home gets ever nearer.  I think everybody is looking forward to theprospect of getting away now.  That’s not to say that everyone is done having fun or getting downbeat just that everybody misses certain things and it’s a long time to be away from all of those at one time.  With the majority of my work now done I was offered a place on the flight home going through Cape Town that leaves next week.  While being tempting I’ve got far too much that I am still looking forward to.

It’s been a real test living and working alongside people 24/7 for such a long length of time. There is almost no escaping people, which I think everybody has found hard.  It may sound strange when we areall down here living so far away from anybody else but everyone being confined to such a small area is tough. Personally I found it far easier prior to Christmas when we were about 45 before numbers nearly doubled.

It was partly our motivation for a camping trip, just to escape for a bit.  It was probably the most adult form of camping in the garden imaginable.  Off the two of us skied to the edge of the perimeter to the pyramid tent, much the same as the early explorers used, and back again in the morning for breakfast. It was pretty cool that said, the first night out the fog had been coming and going all day and we looked set for a cold night.  At three in the morning when I forced myself out for a pee it had dropped to -23 and the fog was fully set in.  the base was out of sight, as indeed wasanything further than about ten feet and I got just a small feel of the isolation that others must have had and get out in the field.  We didn’t make the same mistake twice and having collected up a second sleeping bag, lying on the sheepskin rugs sleep under so much down sleep was a pleasure the following nights.  So much so that by Saturday we were forced to make a rather embarrassing ski across the base having been woken up by the sound of a bulldozer an hour late for work.

Having lost my day off on Sunday as my name was next up on the gash rota it was back to plodding away at work and trying to find as manyother exciting things to do in the remaining days and weeks. Gash is basically just looking after the base for the day, doing all the cleaning and general day to day chores, and the dishes after each meal. On which front I think I have just about got my diet under control now,although temptation does lie just around the corner in the form of the five feasts a day.  I swear that BAS think we are all still man hauling sledges through the snow on the way to the pole.  Maybe I will do a food diary this week to give an idea what we get through.

 

 

Farewell to mr penguin, hello Halley VI

Posted by latoba on February 5, 2013 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (9)

Tuesday 28th - Tuesday 5th February

The big news of the week is that our penguin headed off on Saturday looking resplendant in his new coat.  And even better than that was that he headed straight back the way he came towards the coast.  Hopefully he has made it back and is enjoying a good meal with his buddies as we speak.

The temperature has started to drop considerably now as the sun gets lower.  We now wake up to it being around -15 and it gets harder to work as nipping out consists of lwyering up first. As for the base it has been business as usual while preparing for the big opening.  Unofficially it was brought forward a day so that our 'vips' godd get back to Rothera and home while the weather is still good.  So last night the base was opened by the chairman of NERC and some fellow from the government.  The irony of their speaches regarding the usual need for austerity measures, whilst being on what we reckon to be one of the most expensive day trips in history wasn't lost on the majority.  Nobody was particularly impressed by the need for the jolly, but the good news is we get a day off and a nice meal tonight.  

I've got a rounders tournament organised for today so I've injected a bit of competetive banter in the hope of getting more than the usual 7 or 8 involved.

Last weekend I was able to get out to the caboose for the night with three others.  It was great fun and so nice to be off base even if just for a while.  We sat out most of the evening  or clarting aorund until about two when we managed to convince ourselves it was bedtime.  It was quite strange being outside and even in the cabose under comlete daylight.  The mind just doesn't quite realise that it is nighttime.

I have also managed to send some photos back to Sally who will hopefully post them on here.  Now I know how to do it I will try and get some more done.  If nothing appears in th next few days you all know who to get at!

 

Raising of the modules

Posted by latoba on January 30, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (5)

Tuesday 22nd - Wed 30th

The week s continue to fly by for everybody down here.  Now that Christmas and the reliefs are done with it really is all guns blazing on finishing off which ever projects people are working on.  For me that means more dry lining and waiting for others to finish their bits and pieces.  The buildings are coming on towards completion and its quite a nice feeling to know that for years to come these buildings will be sitting out here being continually used and shuffled about.

For others the week has seen the raising of the modules.  I.e. the main base, andlevelling the large wind tails that have formed around it.  It looks quite a sight now and is some what more breath taking in its current standing. Basically for those that haven’t seen images yet, which may become available next week in the press, the six modules sit on hydraulic legs on ski’s.  These legs are lifted, packed full of snow and then the modules raised from the higher snow level.   It all goes up very quickly and in a few days has been raised two metres.  Thereis a lot of on-going speculation as to whether to lower it again for winter asit didn’t really work as it was supposed to last year.

We all continue to get ready for the opening on Tuesday which is to be a Halleyday, day off, and will involve various festivities we hope.   The penguin continues his vigil up at the south end of the modules and the big news is thatthe web cam is now focused in on his activities so somewhere on the BAS website you can all follow along with hisexciting routine of you so wish.

Back to Base

Posted by latoba on January 22, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (6)

Tuesday 15th - Tuesday 22nd

After the excitement of last week it was alwasy going to be something of a comedown returning to Halley, but life continues apace here.  There is certainly no resting on your laurels down here.  After we were payed a visit by the Environmental inspection team who hopefully found everything to be above board it was back to the hard work of refurbishment.  I've found my place now amongst everyone end found a list of jobs of areas ready for my expertise!

Finding the right working pace I'm discovering is important and settling into a routine of sorts seems to help.  With the perimeter now groomed after our continual nagging and the temperature dropping slightly weve now got a lovely surface to trot around on and the joys of crusing along were once more mine to enjoy.  The raising of the modules has begun in readiness for the big opening that we are all now looking forward to on February 4th.  Hopefully it will make the news/papers and you'll be able to enjoy a view of things as they are.  I am still in the process of tryiing ot get some ohotos posted.

We have another visiter form the north for the time being.  A juvenile penguin has wandered up here rform the coast and is spending his days sitting on a little hillock while he malts.  Time will tell if he will return to the coast on continue on a death march towards the continent.  I pop out to see him most eveinings and have my fingers crossed that the sea is calling.

This week we celebrate Burns night with amongst other things, our own highland games so I will be practising my caber tossing in anticipation over the next few days. 


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