Z-fids Newsletter No. 38

April 2016

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 38   06 Apr 2016

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

The Halley event of the decade is getting closer. It should be a
great opportunity for a reunion with fellow Z-Fids and to celebrate
the past and present of the best base in the Antarctic. After 60
years it has holds the record for the Antarctic station with the
longest continuous British occupation (Base-F, Argentine Islands,
and Base-H were established earlier but F is no longer British and
H is now summer only). Details are: 

When:  7th - 9th of October 2016 
Where: The Park Inn Hotel, Northampton. UK
Cost : 78 per person (not including accommodation)
Contact email: Z60Celebration2016@gmail.com
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/z60celebration/

Look on the Z-60 website (link on the WWW.zfids.org.uk home
page) for details about the event and to reserve your place. When
last updated (5th March) there were 114 attendees listed, together
with 59 guests. The 60th has already been celebrated at Halley. See
the picture on the 2016 zfids page.

News from Halley
2015-16 has been a very busy summer season with three calls by the
Shackleton to deliver equipment for the relocation of the base
next season. Also the station has been in the news because of the
visit by Peter Gibbs and a BBC team making programmes for Horizon
and Radio-4. Peter wintered as a met-man in 1980 and is now a
weather forecaster and presenter with the BBC. There were live
interviews with Peter while he was there, and a programme 'Back to
the Ice' was broadcast on Radio-4 on the 6th March (now available
on BBC iPlayer). Also on Twitter hashtag #icestation
I have put some links on the zfids 2016 page.

The Horizon programme will be broadcast later in the year.
At the prompting of Mike Pinnock, the presenter of the PM programme
on 25th January asked Peter how he got his nickname Gridley.
Apparently it originated when listening to the radio in a tent on a
field trip; this was about the American Civil War and Captain
Charles Vernon Gridley of the US Navy, who at the Battle of Manila
Bay (1898) was ordered "Fire when ready Gridley". The association
with fire has no connection with the fire which burned down the
balloon shed in 1981 when Peter was base commander.

These days, a great deal of information about life at Halley can be
gleaned from the various blogs and tweets by people on the station.
These are listed on the website in the Links section.

2015/2016 Summer season
Adam Bradley, Halley Station Leader, has written the following
account of the season. It was originally published in the
'Icesheet' (the BAS in-house staff magazine) and is reproduced
here with permission.
"It was a hugely productive season. In addition to the routine
long-term science programme, an extensive Twin Otter based field
science campaign was run out of Halley. This included an airborne
radar project, and several threads of the 'Undercoats' geology
project, a collaboration between BAS and the Universities of Durham
and Newcastle. On station, the European Space Agency-funded
life-sciences research continued, using Halley winterers as
guinea-pigs to model the effects of long-distance space travel.
A University of East Anglia project also used Halley's flagship
clean-air sector laboratory to host additional atmospheric
sampling instruments that will remain in situ for several years. 
A brief but frenetic media visit to Halley by the BBC Horizon team
and Radio 4 was a superb opportunity for the scientists on station
to showcase their work. This was well publicised at the time, and
the documentaries are scheduled for release in the late spring. 
A big focus for this season was the selection of the new Halley VI
site. Choosing the correct spot was a complex process, requiring
BAS glaciologists to skidoo over 3000km with a ground-penetrating
radar system in tow. The chosen location is around 24km upstream
of Halley and meets our stringent scientific and operational
requirements. Preliminary work on the new site has already begun,
with the locations of the buildings now marked out and fuel depots
installed in preparation for next year's early season start. 
The delivery of a huge amount of relocation project cargo to Halley
was also successfully completed, following 3 Ernest Shackleton calls
that were aided by unusually sparse sea-ice within the Weddell Sea.
This cargo has all been meticulously organised and stored for easy
access following the winter."

Winter 2016
The 2016 Winter Station Leader, Jess Walkup, has kindly provided
this account of the winter so far.
"Since we waved goodbye to the summer crew and last year's winterers
on the RSS Ernest Shackleton on the 6th of March, the first four
weeks have flown by and 2016 winter is now well underway.
The first task was to get people packed off on their winter trips
with Mat the field guide. This year we are heading out in pairs
along with Mat, fitting snugly into one of the larger three-man
pyramid tents. So far there have been a few trips further south
into the Hinge Zone, with day trips to Stoney Berg and beyond,
and another more exploratory trip towards Precious Bay where no-one
has holidayed for a fair few years now.

It was while Sledge Alpha was off station on the first winter trip
that we got a special phone call in the comms office. With Sledge
Alpha listening in on the HF radio, we received a call from
British astronaut Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station.
He seemed as delighted to speak to the crew of Halley VI as we were
to speak to him, and with lots of questions flying in both
directions we found many similarities between life on the ice and
life on the ISS. If you compare the frequency of re-supply and the
time it takes to get home, or even the Internet bandwidth, then we
are definitely more isolated on the Brunt than he is in space.
This year we are also learning, like Tim did, to dock the Soyuz
Space Craft to the ISS, albeit on a simulator. The value of
carrying out life science research in Antarctic research stations
has been realised recently and this year we are continuing the
research carried out at Halley, by the European Space Agency and
other collaborators, last year. As well as investigating how
isolation impacts an individual's ability to remember how to carry
out complex technical tasks, such as landing the Soyuz, there is
also a stream of research into how 24-hour light and 24-hour
darkness can affect how well we sleep. It is really exciting to
have a new stream of research going on at Halley, especially one
that might affect the welfare of future winterers through greater
understanding of the effects (if any) of our prolonged

On Station everyone is settling into the new winter routine.
One favourite event is the Friday night 'takeaway' dinner prepared
by Victoria the chef. Each week she prepares food with a different
fast-food theme: pizza, Nandos, American diner etc. What's more
is that we break with the daily tradition of assembling at the
table for dinner and instead gather in the bar and eat off our

The first decent display of aurora of the season conveniently
coincided with a party in the igloo built during summer within
the station perimeter, a hundred or so metres from the module
building. The igloo was finished with a sheepskin-topped bench
around the inside and a big central table, complete with tea
lights, for evening drinks, and we walked to and from with green
glow as a backdrop. The camera buffs, Greig, Stu and Mike, were
out in force but even the most inexperienced photographers among
us managed a few record shots of the aurora to send home.

With the last few weeks being predominantly calm and sunny and the
summer weather having been particularly tame with a large number
blue-sky days, I think many of the team are in for a shock when the
depths of winter descend. With just four more weeks until sun-down
we don't have long to wait!"


Sadly, as usual, there is a death to announce.

John Skipworth
John 'Skip' who was the wintering electrician at Halley Bay in 1966,
died on the 18th February at home after a very brave fight against
cancer. Dave McKerrow remembers: "I sailed south from Southampton
with Skip on the Shackleton in October 1965 and he was a great guy
from day one, including his pipe. We shared some tough, different
but wonderful memories and I shall continue to keep those close."

Z-fids website www.zfids.org.uk
The 2016 page has now been added to the website, and the Name
Index, Job Index and Wintering Statistics pages have been updated.
The page also covers the 2015-2016 summer season, the Relocation of
Halley project, and the return of Peter Gibbs after 35 years. I
would particularly recommend looking at Mike Krzysztofowicz's photo
album (link in the Links section). He is putting up one picture per
day for 2016. There are some really good photographs there.

Since the last Z-Fids Newsletter in November, there have been only
minimal other changes to the website. A picture of a Lego model of
Halley VI (with the real thing in the background) was added to the
2015 page. On the 1986 page there is a link to an interesting Travel
Report by Toby Clark. On the 1956 page is the first ever picture at
the site where the station would be built, taken on the 6th
of January 1956. It shows the three men (George Hemmen, David
Dalgliesh and Ken Powell) who made the decision about where to site
the base for the Royal Society IGY Expedition.

Polar Medal for Ags
Agnieszka Fryckowska joined BAS in 2004 as a meteorologist at
Rothera. She was winter base commander at Halley V in 2008 and
2009, and at Halley VI in 2013. She was the first person to serve
three winters as base commander. Well done Ags!

Dog team photos
Many of you will be aware that the husky memorial which stood
outside the main BAS entrance since it was unveiled in 2009, had to
be moved because of the remodelling of the front of the BAS
building. It has now been moved permanently to a site outside the
Scott Polar Research Institute, in Lensfield Road, Cambridge, where
it will be seen by many more people than if it had remained at BAS.

Hwfa Jones, who with Graham Wright led the campaign to establish the
memorial, has written as follows:
"Now the husky memorial is grandly displayed at the Scott Polar,
Graham Wright and I have a little time available to contribute
something to Z60, I thought it would be an interesting idea to have
a photograph of each of the dog teams listed on the memorial for
display at Z60. Photographs can be sent to me at Hwfa.jones@googlemail.com
(for digital), or direct to me by post if they are paper based. I will
see what we can do to set up a fine display. I'll return all paper
based photos if Fids want them and include a return address.
Best wishes -  Hwfa"
NB: the names of the teams on the memorial can be seen by
clicking the dog memorial link on the www.zfids.org.uk website.

Food in Extreme Places: Antarctica
The 2014 Halley chef Gerard Baker produced an audio diary during
the year and this has now been broadcast in the Food Programme on
BBC Radio-4, with the above title. As well as the cookery side of
things, Gerard talks about the Great Powerdown that occurred that

John Flick (aka John Shepherd)
Robert Bradbury writes:
"John was radio operator at Halley Bay 1971-72, last heard of in Devon.
His nephew Robert Bradbury is trying to track him down to tell him
about new additions to the family. John now has a grandnephew and
niece. However since the death of our Mum (John's sister ) in 2013
from Pancreatic cancer I felt very deeply that I have a responsibility
to find him and talk with him. I am unsure of the reasons for him
drifting away and would dearly like to introduce him to my 2 year
old twins Thomasina and Tristan whom I feel should meet their Grand
Uncle. My brother and I have many fond memories of John's stories
of his time at Halley and I have a little wooden box of his from
that time (I think he said all his personal stuff had to fit in it!
wow!) My brother has on old stove amongst other things and we both
have such lovely memories of him. If any of you are in contact or
know of his whereabouts could you try to help us? Even if you are
and he asks to not be contacted by myself or William for his own
reasons I would love to just know he is safe."
If you can help Robert get in touch with his lost uncle, please
email him at robert.bradbury@rocketmail.com or phone 01483 898324.

British Antarctic Oral History Project
The main focus of the project at present is the transcription of the
interviews which have been recorded. This is being done by a team
of volunteers. If you are interested in joining us, or would like
to find out what is involved, please contact me: andy@zfids.org.uk
At the time of writing, over half of the interviews held in BAS
Archives have been transcribed (153 out of 284). The transcripts,
together with the audio recordings, are being made available online,
on the BAS Club website. There is a link on the Z-Fids home page.
You don't need to be a BAS Club member to see them. So far 50 have
been uploaded and it is planned to upload more in the near future.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of extracts which have not yet made it

John Wright (GA, 1977): When skidoos replaced dogs
"They'd had skidoos of one sort or another going well back into the
60s and then I think officially the use of dogs stopped in about
1974 for research purposes. They were kept on for another 20 years
as recreational and maybe a bit of science. But they'd had skidoos
on the Peninsula for a while and what was then the latest
generation of skidoos was the Bombardier Alpine. It was a 640cc
two-stroke machine with a twin track, so a big track area, so a very
low bearing-pressure and lots of traction. They had a lot of success
with them on the Peninsula, and developed some travel techniques
which we adopted. But we did find there were significant
differences. On the Peninsula they'd had lots of problems with
overheating. With a skidoo working hard, even when it was cold, it
tended to overheat. They often used to do away with the cowling
and things like that. We didn't have that problem. We never found
they overheated.

But they did break down. My first trip to the VLF site in early '77,
pre-winter '77, I had a drive chain break. Now how it broke, I
don't know. It was a triple chain and it broke, and that's one of
the reasons I say it was invaluable having Pete Witty there. I
could probably have put it right myself in the end, with a bit of
discussion with Pete over the radio. But having Pete there, made
it a lot easier. And then Dog [Holden]'s skidoo in the Shackletons
was running very roughly, and because I had become the 'de facto'
skidoo mechanic of the four of us, I stripped the thing down. I
think it had blown a crankcase or oil seal, as I remember it. But
they used to get a lot of condensation in the crankcases. They
used to freeze sometimes, and you could even jam the thing up
completely, but they were certainly effective and I remember Pete
Clarkson, I guess reluctantly, saying that although he was a
doggy-man, a doggy geologist, he had to admit the fact that he got
far more work done [with skidoos]. He could never have done the
work that we did that season, with dog teams."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/149.

Paul Burton (Builder, 1970): Building Halley III
"It was a good season. It was hard work: it was 12-hour shifts you
know. What happened: the boat went down, anchored alongside and
we did 12-hour shifts and built the Armco, put the buildings inside.
Big Al Smith was the chap in charge of the programme. We used
pulverised fuel ash - it was just clinker - and we laid that
inside the Armco and bedded it down to get a level surface, because
the Armco is like an egg, made of steel, corrugated. So we got the
pulverised fuel ash, which was all pre-bagged, got that in, put
timbers on top of that, and then built the sectional buildings
inside the Armco. I can't remember how many buildings there were
but we built the generator shed quite a way from the main living
and offices and scientific laboratory accommodation, purely from
the point of view of safety. It vibrated and if it went, it was
all right. It was all connected with tunnels.

We played hard; we worked hard but we had good fun and we had some
silly times. I can remember we had to lift a crane off the ship
and there were a few hairy moments. It almost went into the sea.
It scraped the side of the ship and I think the ship was white
and got red marks from the crane. It was life. We had a short time
to build the base. It was 12 [hours] on, 12 off. We used to come
back to the ship and sleep on the ship, but one time on the ship
the ice cliffs gave way. I was on board. It was a bit of a scary
moment. I think we were in bed, or watching a film or something.
The boat itself is tied alongside and there's obviously crew
watching for danger all the time. It flattened the actual bulkhead
of the ship, walking down the sides. It flattened some of that,
and came through a couple of portholes.

Fortunately the crew cut the ropes very quickly and the boat went
out to sea to sort itself out and eventually slowly came back
alongside. Another time, we had a load of sea ice. A boat came
alongside the sea ice and it all broke up We lost a couple of
sledges and had to pick men off the sea ice and take them onto
the boat. So you were always mindful of that sort of danger."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/230.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

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22 Aug 2016
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