Sanitation Blues

Peter Noble

Halley Bay
Dec '66 - Jan '69

Sanitation Blues

The tune is "I Still Miss Someone" an early Joan Baez song which I used to sing a lot. The hand writing of Sanitation Blues is my own but I don't remember writing it. In fact the obvious reference to an outside chemical toilet suggests a Graham Land base, probably Deception Island . . . before it blew up (perhaps this is why it blew up!).

By the door the wind is howling
A cold blizzard sweeps across the ground
The snow is thickly falling
And the Gash Hand ain't around
Oh I wonder who's going to dig the bog out?
I think maybe I'll wait and see
And if someone doesn't dig it quickly
I guess it's gonna have to be me.

My guts are all contorted
What a winter this is going to be
I only hope that someone
Is feeling constipated more than me
Oh why won't someone dig the bog out
Can't wait, it's getting pretty grim
And anyway I know when I get in there
The bucket will be full up to the brim.

Oh I ain't been since Monday
And Wednesday was two days ago
And now the whole darn building
Is sitting under sixteen feet of snow
Oh life is getting pretty rugged
My insides are starting to clog
Oh why can't someone start to build us
A centrally heated, indoor, flushing bog.

At Halley the desire for a flush toilet was impractical of course as the whole system would have frozen solid. A very commendable loo was constructed however. The age old "long drop" principle was used. A pit was dug, eight foot square and forty three foot deep. This was capped with wooden flooring and a cabin built on top which was itself connected to the base by a short corrugated iron corridor. The cabin had two "sit down" compartments, a stander upper and a larger hole where kitchen "gash" was thrown. When the base was eventually covered by drifts, the loo was relatively snug - well relative to the outside! The problem was that as all the loos fed directly into the same pit; one would be sitting pondering the higher philosophies of life when someone would open the door of an adjacent loo and a freezing blast of air would hurtle upward, invalidating one's fundamental premises.

[In fact flushing loos were provided at Halley V; filling the melt tank to provide the increased water requirement is now a twice daily duty. -- Ed. 28/03/2010.]

Polar poetry by Peter Noble

28 March 2010
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