Z-fids Newsletter No. 34

April 2014

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 34   02 Apr 2014

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

News from Halley
The summer season 2013-14 began in November with the summer
operations team and the 2014 wintering team arriving by air
from Rothera. This was really the first "normal" summer at
Halley VI, after the construction phase and the removal of
Halley V. The Ernest Shackleton arrived on Boxing Day,
bringing new supplies and science experiments. Relief was
from N9, some 30 miles from the base. The summer maintenance
work included raising the modules and all the smaller huts,
masts etc., depot laying and collecting data from the remote
Automatic Weather Stations at Windy Creek (where the emperor
penguin colony currently is) and the Halley V site. Also the
workshops (a separate building) needed to be dug out by hand
(Fids with shovels).

The BARREL (Balloon Array for Radiation Belt Relativistic
Electron Losses) experiment continued for a second season.
This involved launching nine large helium-filled balloons
which ascended to 30-35 km altitude, and lasted long enough
be blown right around the Antarctic continent. Halley
International Airport has been busy, with four planes
arriving in the space of two days; it was visited for the
first time by Polar 6, the new German research plane. The
Shackleton left on 19th of February after its final call,
and the winter trips could begin. [Information from the
Halley Diaries]

The winter complement consists of 13 men, the same number
of people as last year. The winter base commander is John
Eager who was the chef in 2009. Details are on the Z-Fids
2014 page Interestingly there is now only one scientist
wintering, supported by electronic technicians, a data
manager, etc. This is quite a change from the old days,
when the ratio of scientists to support staff was more like
50:50. It reflects the fact that most science is now done
in the summer or back at Cambridge. See the "Halley Fable"
(link from the Z-Fids General index).


Sadly, as usual, there are deaths to announce.

Stuart Marsden
Stuart was a geophysicist at Halley Bay in 1961 and 1962.
He died on the 11th December 2013.
Martin Winterton writes:
"Mike Bethell and I attended his Memorial Service in
Holmfirth Civic Centre and were able to give short accounts
of events in Stu's life where it touched ours, and to hear
tributes from his family, former school colleagues, students
and also members of the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra
which he had been a member of for over 30 years."
There is an amusing story on the Z-Fids website of how
Stuart swallowed the crown of one of his teeth. This was
subsequently retrieved and glued back in using Araldite.
Afterwards he was nicknamed "Glue Man".
At Honley High School and College (Friends Reunited), one
pupil wrote "Ace Physics teacher, end of term famously
enlivened by his recounting of time on British Antarctic
Survey, complete with tape recordings of penguins. Also once
lent me his prized Nikon F1 camera. Have never looked back
as I'm now a photojournalist."
There will be an obituary published in the BAS Club

Gordon Bowra
Gordon died on 18th February 2014. He was Medical Officer at
Halley Bay in 1963 and 1964, and was the only doctor ever to
spend more than one winter at Halley (until this year). He
dog sledged to the Tottans and also was a member of team
which went to the temporary ionospheric "Coats station"
between Halley Bay and the Theron Mountains. He was quite a
handyman and fitted out the doctor's surgery in the new
building (Office Block) erected in 1964. He also made a card
table for use by the bridge schools which were flourishing
on base at the time. Unfortunately it was too big to get it
up the shaft from the old part of the base to the new,
without taking the legs off. Gordon's duties were as much
veterinary as medical. His research project was measuring
the rectal temperatures of the huskies to determine their
adaptation to the cold. Apparently it needed two people to
make the measurements: one to hold the dog and the other
to insert the thermometer.

John Nockels 1944-2014
John died on 22 March 2014. He was ionosphericist (beastie man)
1970-71, and was well liked on base. He had a flair for
electronics. Hwfa Jones has written an appreciation of John
which may be found on the Z-Fids website (link from the 1970
page). He was involved in devising the 50 Hz super regulator
which locked the frequency of the mains at Halley with atomic
time, using 16kHz radio signals from Rugby. He is also
remembered for inventing the famous beer machine which sat
on the bar at Halley II. You put in an empty beer can at the
top, pressed a button, and after lots of flashing lights and
whirring noises, a full can came out at the bottom. John
became an antiques dealer in Cromer after he left the

Jeremy Wright
Dick Fewster writes:
"Sad news. I've been trying to get in touch with Jem for
years. I was just trawling through the Internet and found
his obituary. He died on 1tth August 2013 in Fitchburg,
Madison. It's so sad; he was my best friend at Halley.
His mum said we looked like brothers."

Halley Flying Club
Bob Thomas wrote:
"I suspect that Charlie Blossom could have initiated the
Halley Flying Club in 1966 when he stepped back from admiring
the aurora, forgetting that he was on the top rung of the
ladder in the ten to fifteen metre shaft leading down to
Halley 2. Fortunately there was a dome of ice at the bottom
of the ladder, so Charlie was smartly shot along the
corridor leading to the door of Halley 2."

Z-fids website www.zfids.org.uk
The 2014 page has now been added.

Mike "Mix" Dixon (diesel mechanic, Halley 1984-85) has
contributed some pictures taken during a 1984 visit from
Halley IV to the "old old base" (Halley II, Grillage Village).
There is a link from the Z-Fids 1984 page.
The first picture shows a Jato bottle outside the library
(which incidentally still had a lot of books on the
shelves). Mick wonders who put it there and when. Does
anyone know? The second picture shows the famous white
piano, rescued from Halley I by Iain Campbell et al. in
1972. Mick says "the piano still played, though somewhat
out of tune. We considered the logistics of recovering it."
The third picture shows the Lancing Sno-plane. It had
no engine in it. Does anyone know what happened to the

The site contains a number of links to interesting YouTube
videos. For a while these links were not working, but this
problem has now been fixed.

Radio Echo-Sounding on the Brunt Ice Shelf
Liz Weeks (widow of Alan Weeks, radio op, 1965) writes:"
I have come across a document called 'Radio Echo-Sounding on
the Brunt Ice Shelf and in Coats Land', 1965 by J.T. Bailey
and S. Evans. They were part of the Scott Polar Research
Institute, Cambridge. Would you or others have any interest
in this document? Am in the process of downsizing so
everything is up for grabs! I am happy to post it to
wherever if it is of interest. If anyone would like this,
please contact Liz. liz.weeks@au.iofc.org

Another Award for Halley VI
The engineering firm AECOM won the 2013 Sustainability
Award from the Institute of Structural Engineers for their 
work on Halley VI. 

Z60; Halley Bay Diamond Jubilee Celebration
This is still on! Friday 7th - Sunday 9th October 2016 at
the Park Inn, Northampton, UK (same hotel as the 50th bash).
78 not including accommodation. Details are on the Z-Fids
website (Z60 link from the home page). A Halley badge is now
available. A range of apparel for Z60 will become available
later this year. For details, click Shop from the Z60 home

Eliason motor toboggan
Following on from previous discussion on the Eliason skidoo:
In the report of his 1984 visit to Halley II (see above),
Mick Dixon states that he took single cylinder engine to use
on the hovercraft lift fan. (For information on the
hovercraft, click the link on the 1984 Z-Fids page.)
Recently Mick has had second thoughts: "On reflection and
looking at the Eliason photo on other contributions, I
wonder if I'm wrong. The engine we 'took' or 'made use of'
or 'liberated' etc, etc, from the garage in 1967 base, 
a small compact air cooled unit, appears a smaller unit
than that shown on Eliason photos. Was there a more modern
Eliason? or an early skidoo? I'm fairly sure it was a front-
mount engine. I thought I recalled it was a Rotax. I will
look into it and see my photos again perhaps. It will be
months however. Someone will know.

Christmas Box Hill
In an interview transcribed for the British Antarctic
Oral History Project, James Broadway (doctor in 1984)
recounts a trip to Christmas Box Hill (Lyddan Ice Rise),
about 200 miles northeast of Halley, and reckons that this
was the first visit since it was discovered and named
(in spite of what it says in Wikipedia) by Bob Thomas,
at Christmas 1966. I have a feeling that it was visited at
other times between 1966 and 1984. Can anyone confirm this?

Andre Phillips article
Andre, who was electronic engineer in 1995, has written an
article for the radio amateur magazine CQ about his
experience at Halley. There is a link to it on the 1995
Z-Fids page.

BAS Club AGM & reunion 2014
This will be held on 21st June 2014 at Plas-y-Brenin, Capel
Curig, North Wales. Details in the BAS Club Magazine or in
the Members area of the BAS Club website (link from Z-Fids
home page).

1978 video
Bill Freeland (doctor at Halley in 1978) has put a video on
YouTube showing some rather nice pictures taken around the
base, set to music. There is a link on the Z-Fids 1978 page.

New coin
British Antarctic Territory has issued a new 2 coin which
features a picture of Halley VI with the aurora overhead.

IH Paul
Following the account in the last Z-Fids Newsletter (No. 33)
about Pete Witty (now Peter Anderson-Witty) dropping the
IH tractor "Paul" through the sea ice, Paul Whiteman (after
whom the tractor was named) commented "Rereading Pete's
account of the loss of "Paul", I hate to think of the Health
and Safety repercussions if it happened today. Then we were
all just relieved that Pete was OK."

Ships positions
Just a reminder that, during the summer season, the tracks
and positions of the BAS ships when near Halley can be a
found using a link on the Z-Fids home page.

Empire Antarctica
This book by Gavin Francis (doctor in 2003) has been name
Scottish Book of the Year, see:
Well done, Gavin.

The Fan Hitch
The latest issue (Mar 2014) of this sledge dog magazine is at
This includes an article by Peter Gibbs entitled "Steve's
solo journey" about the dog Steve who was left behind when
Detaille Island (Base W) was abandoned in March 1959. He
found his way back to Horseshoe Island (Base Y) 3 months
later, covering a distance of about 140 miles and somehow
managing to navigate. Peter outlines his probable route.

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

Mike Skidmore: Model aeroplane in the lounge
"I will tell you what I did. I was so frustrated, I built
this model aeroplane. I had a Keil Kraft kit. It was a model
Auster. Now the Auster was the reconnaissance aeroplane
which was taken down with the TAE, and for some reason (I do
not know how), I had this Keil Kraft kit. It was a balsa kit
of an Auster. So I made it up and I painted it red, put 'BAS'
on it. I wound up the propeller and I flew it in the lounge,
and it flew. Now it is recorded somewhere in the Pengwinge
that this was a very successful ploy because in Voodoo, if
you make an effigy of something you want to happen, it may
work. Well I made this aeroplane. Lo and behold, the thing
had flown successfully and it was not very long before we
heard that it had been arranged that we were going to fly
into the Shackletons."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/76.

Vicky Auld: The excitement of arriving at Halley
"Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Magical place. Just seeing
the ice shelf as the boat was sailing towards it. Absolutely
fantastic. Exciting I think. I am just trying to remember
the moment, I think it was only in the second winter, when
everyone went down to the ice shelf to wave goodbye to the
ship and then you suddenly realise where you are and just
how alone you are. But that first year, I think it was all
so exciting. We arrived on the ice shelf by ship and then we
were flown from N9 to base. It was only about a 15-20 minute
flight but my first flight in a small aeroplane, effectively.
Stuffed in the back and looking out of the windows at the
base that you are about to live in for two years. A very
exciting moment."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/104.
In her second year (1998) Vicky was winter base commander - 
the first woman to be appointed to that role.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

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11 November 2014
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