Z-fids Newsletter No. 33

October 2013

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 33   19 Oct 2013

Editor: Andy Smith  (email andy@smitha.demon.co.uk)
Website: www.zfids.org.uk

News from Halley: Midwinter 2013
A good way of keeping up with recent happenings on base is to look at
the 2013 Station Diary (link from the 2013 Z-Fids page). The June
instalment by James Townsend, the doctor, contains an account of 2013
Midwinter celebrations and is well worth reading. He has some good
pictures, and descriptions of the Midwinter meal (compared to an ancient
Halley recipe for braised seal hearts!) and the usual amazing range of
Midwinter presents, and other festivities. The Midwinter greeting
featured base members standing at the end of one of the blue modules,
forming the letter Z with their bodies. James also includes some nice
aurora pictures.

Award for Halley VI
Halley VI won a prestigious British Construction Industry (BCI)
International Award at a ceremony in London on 9th October. The station
was designed by Hugh Broughton, engineered by AECOM and built by
Galliford Try (Morrisons). The BCI judges said, "The creation of these
buildings in one of the most hostile and difficult environments on
planet Earth was a triumph for integrated, cohesive team working of the
very highest order."

Halley Flying Club Part 2
Following Gordon Devine's account, mentioned in the last Z-Fids
Newsletter (No. 32), of Jay Rushby's fall from the balloon shed and the
establishment of the Halley Flying Club, Norman Eddleston has written in
with more information about the incident. Norman was one of the amateur
nurses, having been trained on site by the Doc, Bob Paterson. He became
"one of the most qualified anaesthetists for hundreds of miles around".
This was just as well because Jay's treatment involved Bob as
Surgeon-in-Chief, Mike Taylor as Chief Plasterer and Mark Vallance and
Norman as Anaesthetists. Norman confirms that the Flying Club was
started not by Jay (as stated by Gordon) but by the Doc himself 5 weeks
earlier, when, while helping to clear the garage ramp after a blow, he
fell onto the blade of an IH tractor and broke a couple of ribs.
Norman also recounts the story of a later member of the Flying Club,
Paul Jones, who went flying when the top of the shaft to the Lacour
magnetometer hut (which he was visiting in a blow to change the chart at
midnight) was blown off carrying Paul with it, and left him out of sight
of the hut. Fortunately he managed to find his way back to the shaft,
with the help of a pair of scissors and a ball of string which he
happened to be carrying, and await rescue. You can read the full story
on the Z-Fids website, including Paul's explanation of why he had the
string and scissors. Click on "Flying Club" in the General Index.

Z-fids website www.zfids.org.uk
If anyone has any other interesting anecdotes or other relevant
material, contributions to the website, pictures and articles or
comments, are always welcome.

Z60; Halley Bay Diamond Jubilee Celebration, Northampton, 7-9 Oct 2016
The latest information has been posted on the website. Bookings are now
open and a booking form is on-line. The cost will be 78 per person for
the weekend (not including accommodation). Of course it is still some
time away but if you want to be sure of a place at this event of the
decade, book now. It should be at least as good as Z50! If you have to
cancel for any reason before 1 Jan 2016, your booking deposit (25 per
person) will be refunded in full. A favourable deal for accommodation
has been negotiated with the venue (Park Hotel). See the website for

1971 and 1972 scans
The base magazines Slush and Splode, plus Midwinter menus and other
items for 1971 and 1972, are now on line, thanks to Norman Eddleston
and Tony Jackson. Links on the 1971 and 1972 pages.

Base photos, 1971 and 1972
Additional photos of the 1971 and 1972 wintering parties have been added
to the site, courtesy of Norman Eddleston.

Following the toilet item in the last Newsletter, Ian Buckler has
"Yet another sparkling Newsletter thank you very much - there must be a
dozen turdicle stories for every year of genuine "surface" living and
the "high" living people just do not know what they have missed; full
battle gear used to be standard attire - they just don't get out enough
these days!!!! But then that is the comment I hear from fellow retirees
about the children of today - must be getting old."

Photos of Halley I wanted
Jim Franks asks:
"Has anybody got a photo of the first Halley Bay hut c.1962/3 when it
was 40' under? I have one on the ladder looking up, but unfortunately
lost the one looking down." If you can help, please email Jim on 

British Antarctic Territory flag over the Foreign Office
This happened for the first time on Midwinter's Day 2013. See link on
the Zfids 2013 page.

Ferguson Tractors at Halley Bay
Following the publication of an article on the above subject in
"Ferguson Furrows", the American Ferguson tractor magazine, based on
information provided by several Halley people, Bob Lee writes:
"Interesting how the Ferguson enthusiast got my name. I contacted one
of the organizers and I am invited to speak on Ferguson Tractors at
Halley Bay. I think we had two of them for the unloading of the Kista
Dan in January of 1961. They were hopeless as compared with the Muskeg
tractors. When I was an apprentice during the 1950's I had worked on
Ferguson tractors. I have been invited to speak at their annual
convention in Akron, Ohio, on August 17th, about 300 miles from where
I live in Michigan. They want to know what it was like working in the
conditions at Base Z."

Joe Farman
Jim Jamieson adds to what was written about Joe in the last Newsletter:
"I remember being challenged by Stan Green in 1970 (Stan ran the BAS
botany section at Birmingham at that time) on how many papers were
under preparation by Joe's team in Edinburgh. None of course. We just
took measurements and made summaries and collations. Stan was disgusted
at that. His team has six papers on the go. He died a long time ago - 
possibly before Joe's paper in 'Nature' in 1985. I sometimes think of
him churning out papers by the dozen - and then there was the one paper
by Joe which every scientist and non-scientist in the world knows of.
I wonder what Stan would have thought?"

Fan Hitch
The latest issue of this magazine, the sledge dog journal, was published
in September this year. See www.thefanhitch.org/ Articles about BAS dogs
are welcome.

Gavin Francis book
Gavin Francis (doctor in 2003) has written the book "Empire Antarctica"
which has been included in a shortlist of four in the non-fiction
category of the Scottish Book of the Year competition. See
www.scottishbookawards.com for details. In connection with this, a
video has been made: http://vimeo.com/75753702

16mm films
The old 16mm films, (Cattle Carters, London's Last Tram, etc.), which
amused and interested many generations of Halley Fids, were removed from
Halley V, and are being disposed of by BAS on 16 October. Bids to acquire
them were invited via the Z-Fids mailing list. The outcome of this is
not known at the time of writing.

South 2015 - a voyage to remember
A 21-day voyage in February 2015, to coincide with the dedication of the
British Antarctic Monument in the Falkland Islands, will visit South
Georgia, Signy, and the Antarctic Peninsula. There are still a few
places left. Details are on the Antarctic Monument website

Following the information about the Eliason Motor Toboggan (aka Elsan)
in the last two Newsletters, Gordon Bowra has contributed a photo of it
being driven by Dad Etchells in 1963. Click Eliason in the Picture Index
of www.zfids.org.uk

BAS Club AGM & reunion 2014 
This event will be held at Plas y Brenin, Capel Curig, North Wales (the
National Mountain Centre), organised by Brian Jones and Tony Wincott.
Details to follow.

2003 10-year reunion
The 2003 wintering team has held a reunion in Cumbria. There is a
picture on zfids (link on the 2003 page).

British Antarctic Oral History Project
More edited extracts from the transcripts (see
www.antarctica.ac.uk/oralhistory) are reproduced below.

This time we have two linked accounts relating to the International
Harvester tractor named 'Paul'. This was one of a trio of TD-8 crawler
tractors supplied to Halley Bay. See Paul Whiteman's account on zfids
(Peter, Paul and Mary in the General Index). It fell into a crevasse on
the way to the Shackleton Mountains in the 1969/70 season. The driver,
Norris Riley, escaped unscathed. According to David Groom, who was
driving behind, Norris did "a good impression of a rocket propelled
ejector seat exit". The tractor however was deemed irrecoverable.
Bruce Blackwell (DEM, 1971-72) thought otherwise and with three
helpers (Ian Bury, Dave Fletcher and Gordon Ramage) pulled the
tractor out of the hole and drove it back to base. The first extract
below is Gordon's account of this undertaking. Some years later, Pete
Witty was driving Paul across the sea ice to the ship when it fell
through, taking Pete down with it. In the second extract below, he
recounts his miraculous escape and rescue.

Gordon Ramage: IH Paul: recovery from crevasse
"The tractor was left in the crevasse. There was no known method of 
getting it out. It was written off as unrecoverable. However on a trip
from Halley to the Inland Ice on a totally unrelated trip, the diesel
mechanic at the time, the late Bruce Blackwell, passed the area and saw
the tail end of the cargo sledge sticking up. On his return he read up
on the history of the tractor being lost down the crevasse and devised a
plan. He was a very bright, practical engineer, and eventually he put a
proposal to BAS Office. He sold the idea that he would go and recover
this tractor with a team, using nothing but manual labour. There was no
heavy machinery to be used whatsoever. He knew that HQ would not
authorise the use of another International tractor in the hazardous
zone. We put a plan together, worked out what sort of equipment we
needed, and eventually set off, in October 1972, to try and recover the
tractor. We left base with a Muskeg tractor towing a cargo sledge. On
the back of the cargo sledge were two skidoos and behind them were two
Nansen sledges. Besides the usual pyramid tents, food boxes, etc., we
had wire hawsers, chain pulls, railway sleepers, an abundance of cable
and shackles, and a couple of new batteries to start the tractor.

We went to the end of the drum line, depoted the heavy tractor and then
proceeded in relays with the skidoos and the Nansen sledges up to the
site where the tractor was lost. The route was through Rosette Chasm, a
very chaotic area. We got to the Chasm and found the only way down with
the skidoos and the sledges was to physically shovel the top off a wind-
tail which allowed us to drive the skidoos and the Nansen sledges down
to the bottom of the Chasm, and then thereafter find a route from the
Chasm up onto the Inland Ice. We eventually got to the tractor site. We
had a time scale of about ten days to complete our task, before needing
to get back to base.

The job progressed reasonably well. We located the tractor; there was
accumulation of snow and ice, and the only way we could free the tractor
was to chip away all the ice. Ice axes were too small and light for this
but we found that a fire axe was ideal; as you smashed the ice, it fell
down to the bottom of the crevasse. We eventually freed the sledge and
the tractor but they were still coupled together. To enable the tractor
to be lifted out of the crevasse, we secured deadmen in the snow at the
southern end of the crevasse and rigged up a 3-to-1 heavy duty pulley
system using 3-inch wire rope. It was all secured and anchored and then
we split the sledge from the back of the tractor. This then allowed the
tractor to pendulum from the V position it was sitting in, to a vertical
position against the wall of the crevasse. It was all held in place with
wire ropes. The sledge was pulled out of the way by a separate hand-
cranked system and we then proceeded to winch the tractor out of the 
crevasse. It was a very slow process, so slow that it was taking about
an hour to raise it an inch. We had to keep re-tensioning the fixed wire
hawser. It took about 7 days until the tractor was on the surface and
all the tackle was cleared off it. It was a painstaking, very
dedicated, very precise job, to make sure that we never lost 'the fish
that we had on the hook'. That's the only way you can describe it.

Getting the tractor out of the crevasse was only part of the job. To get
it back to base was quite a task in itself. The tractor had to be
started after being buried in the snow for several years, but
thankfully, due to the due diligence of previous engineers, the tractor
was in excellent order and we just had to thaw it out. The batteries
were cracked and damaged. The new batteries that we had, we fitted to
the tractor and used a mobile charger just to give them a little bit of
boost. We put the Webasto heater on to heat up the engine. The tractor
started fine, just as if it had been parked the night before. We ran it
for about an hour, until we felt that the engine oil was warm enough.

The next part of the operation was going into the unknown, because we
had already crossed a very hazardous zone, albeit on skidoos. We had to
get this 7-ton tractor back via Rosette Chasm to what we deemed was a
reasonably safe area, where the Muskeg that brought the skidoos was
depoted. There was a wooden block bolted to the back of the IH cab, but
nobody really understood what it was for (except Dad Etchells) until we
discovered if you took that off, there were holes providing four
conduits from the outside which allowed you to pass remote-control wire
cables through, attaching to the clutch and to each of the steering
levers. These cables were about 20 metres in length. We tied a big inch
D-shackle to each end, and Bruce and myself walked the tractor by
remote control, following a route back that Dave Fletcher was sounding
out with a bog chisel. One of the heart thumping episodes on that trip
was the depth hoar. Anyone that has travelled in the field will be
quite familiar with depth hoar. It's where layers of snow have been
partially melted and weakened, and when you put weight on it, it drops
down suddenly. But when you are driving a 7-ton tractor over it, the
effect is enormous, like an earthquake. It drops the whole area for
about 50 metres either side, and that was terrifying. Quite a loud
thump which sounds like thunder and you wonder what's going on, but
fortunately the tractor stayed on the surface and proceeded to Rosette

We got it up through the Chasm under its own steam. We didn't feel it
was safe for anybody to sit in the tractor. It was a very steep angle - 
almost 45 degrees, but time was running out. We calculated the best way
was to start the tractor up, run the winch cable out, bury the end of
the winch cable into a railway sleeper which was buried under the bondu
at the top, and then put the clutch in on the winch to let the tractor
winch itself up. But we calculated it would dig itself in and stall at
the wind tail at the very top of the chasm. At that point we already
had safety wires ready to bolt onto the tractor to hold it. We would
then, yet again, use the winching equipment to pull it onto the hard
surface. This worked and finally we drove it back down to base. That
then created an issue for the logistics section at BAS, in that on
their books they had two Internationals, a Tucker Sno-Cat and a few
Bombardier Muskegs on base, and all of a sudden, without there being a
relief of base or a ship, there was an extra tractor. How the financial
department dealt with that, I don't know to this day. We got a telegram
from Bunny Fuchs saying 'Well done lads.' A sort of pat on the back,
and that was it."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/201.

Pete Anderson Witty: IH Paul drops through the sea ice
"Fortunately the cab had been taken off just prior to Relief, because
someone had caught it on the side of the garage ramp when they were
dozing and damaged it quite badly. We decided that because it was going
out anyway, we would take the cab off. It was one of the last two
vehicles to go back to the ship before it departed. It was quite a long
relief that year: 7 miles across the ice shelf, and by the time you got
down to Mobster Creek and back out onto the sea ice, I think it was
about 17 miles. Alan Etchells (my boss) was driving the Muskeg tractor
with a crane on it, and we were following exactly the same route that
we had done the relief on. It was a stake line because there was so
much hummocked ice. Mike Davies and I had put the route in originally
from the ship through to the base.

It was pretty grey and overcast with lots of spindrift blowing about;
visibility was very bad. You couldn't see the ship from where we were on
the sea ice. I was driving along and all of a sudden water was coming up
the bonnet and two great wings of ice, like a butterfly, were coming up
either side of me, and the tractor just went through. I went down with
it because for some reason I couldn't get off it, and I went down a
fair way because when I looked up, the hole seemed about 12 inches
diameter from the depth I was at. I got free and was coming up to the
surface but the ice was all slotting back onto place. I managed to get
to where I could see more daylight and forced my arms through it and
then got my back against the ice and pushed a bit to get a bit more
room so I could eventually ... I mean trying to get your arms up a
metre out of the water is pretty difficult, especially when you are in
waterlogged clothing. I managed to get my hands on the ice and pull my
head out and get some air and then pull myself a bit further. I looked
across and Dad Etchells was just kneeling down beside the hole looking
very distressed; the ice was still moving. So I shouted out to him 'Oi!
I am over here.' and of course he ran round and pulled me out and he
said 'Are you all right? Are you all right?' He had tears running down
his face. I put my hand in my pocket and I said 'Bloody hell, my fags
are wet!' He said 'Will you behave yourself?'

We decided we would talk over the situation as it was apparent then that
a large tide crack had opened up. Because of the amount of spindrift
that was blowing you just could not see the tide crack at all and
that's what had happened. I tried to get down the side of the engine in
the engine bay of the Muskeg tractor to try and warm up a bit but there
was no chance of getting in there. Luckily I had put my skis on the
running boards of the Muskeg tractor (you can't put them anywhere on a
crawler tractor because there's nothing there to stand them on), and I
was starting to feel a bit cold and so I said 'I will stick skis on and
ski to the ship. At least I will keep moving.' I had probed quite a bit
around this area and there was no way we could get the Muskeg across
safely anyway. So Dad stayed with the Muskeg tractor and I started
skiing towards the ship on my own. By this time I was a bit like Tinker
Bell. Water was running down and freezing on everything. I got to
within about three miles of the ship when there was a brief lull in the
spindrift. Stuart Lawrence was on the wing of the bridge and he saw me
on skis. He was a bit worried. We didn't carry radios in those days. He
sent Ken Lax to come and see what the matter was and Ken saw me covered
in ice. I couldn't get my skis off, couldn't get the bindings off so we
had to break them off with a wheel brace out of the vehicle. We got
into the cab and drove to the ship and I just walked up the gangway. By
that time the buzz had got round: 'Pete has gone through the sea ice.'

We went up to the Chief Engineer's cabin which probably had the best
shower facilities on the ship and Alan [Allison] stayed with me in case
I flaked out I suppose. I stood under the shower, fully clothed, for 5
or 10 minutes until I could actually start to get my clothing off. Alan
was sitting in his chair and he said 'What has happened to your boot?'
I had RBLTs on (rubber-bottomed leather-topped boots); at the calf they
are two layer of leather and at the heel they are three layers of
leather thick, and it was cut like a knife, straight down the back This
was obviously what held me onto the IH as it went through. There was
another IH in the hold, which I sat on the following day, in the same
position as if I had been driving it, and there was a seat adjuster. It
was a piece of U-channel with quite sharp edges on, which had caught in
the back of my boot. I don't ever remember panicking or anything, but
how I freed my boot from that ...  Anyway, no long term effects, no
flashbacks and it made a nice story to be able to tell."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/152.
Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

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04 April 2014
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