Z-fids Newsletter No. 41

July 2017

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 41   11 Jul 2017

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

I usually head this Newsletter with an item "News from Halley" which
at this time of year is often provided by the Winter Station Leader
(aka Winter Base Commander), and is about what the guys down South are
doing round about Midwinter time. This year, for the first time in 62
years, there is nobody wintering on the Brunt Ice Shelf, following the
decision by BAS to pull everyone out at the end of the summer, as a
precautionary measure, because of concerns about cracks in the Shelf,
particularly the "Hallowe'en Crack". A map showing the location of the
cracks and a link to the Press Release announcing the decision may be
found on the 2017 page on the Z-Fids website. The last personnel were
flown out on 2 March, leaving the station in a winterised state. Some
observations are continuing and BAS has a lot of experience with
gathering scientific data using unmanned observatories and storing
them on site for collection in the summer. Current meteorological
observations continue and may be seen on the BAS website. Use the link
on the Z-Fids home page, to "Latest Weather". The pressure,
temperature and humidity graphs may be viewed; the anemometer does not
appear to be working.

A BAS team will be going in after the winter to assess the situation
and re-open the station. My guess would be (and I stress this is my
personal opinion) that if it wasn't safe to winter people in 2017, it
probably will not be safe in any winter in the near future and that
therefore Halley  will become a summer-only station with the science
done by a combination of summer projects and automatic winter observations.

The relocation of Halley VI
This complex project was carried out, with all the modules being moved
to the new site and reconnected by the end of the 2016/17, with a
temporary science facility remaining at the old site. Congratulations
to all involved in achieving this. A link to the relevant BAS Press
Release, - "Relocation Success" - may be found on the Z-Fids 2017
page. The move was documented for the BBC 2 Horizon programme "Antarctica
- Ice Station Rescue" by film-maker Natalie Hewit who was embedded
with the relocation team. The programme was first shown on 7th June
and was then available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days. The footage of
moving the modules 23 km, particularly the 200 ton "Big Red" module,
along the groomed road, towed by multiple tractors, was impressive.
Good use was made of drones to film the move. The programme was
generally well received, although personally I found the dialogue
difficult to hear at times, and there was perhaps not as much
discussion of the science as one would have liked (Horizon is a
science programme). There was a lot of appreciative feedback on social
media and there was a massive spike in the number of visitors to the
BAS website immediately after programme, and also lots of views of
current job vacancies. Martin Winterton (Halley GA, 1962 and 1963)
expressed a contrary view and asked me to circulate it to Z-Fids.
"As a former BBC Film Editor on Horizon I feel I must apologise on
behalf of the Corporation for the poor production of what could have
been a really exciting subject. The Producer/Director/Cameraperson/
Tealady (The Beeb saves money where it can nowadays!) did not seem
to have a clue of the potential of the subject/ At no time did we get
a true feel for the magnitude of the operation. She only seemed to
interview about five people and those were pretty perfunctory. And
of course, instead of using all the great sounds which are heard on
an Antarctic base, like the hiss of drift on the ice, the crunch of
skis and sled runners and so on, we were treated to the Musak approach
with meaningless musical filler. By the end I was screaming at the
TV screen as one visual or audio opportunity was missed."

Early disappearance of penguins and sea ice at Halley
Mike Pinnock (Z77-78, 81) writes "I'd like Zfids to scratch its
collective head and see if they can provide some information.
As some of you may have seen, BAS has recently published a paper on
the exceptional sea-ice extent in summer 2016 (a link to this is on
the ZFids 2016 page). Buried in the detail of what happened is the
fact that sea ice adjacent to the Brunt Ice Shelf went out
exceptionally early, in November, and it is believed that all the
emperor penguin chicks were lost as a consequence. I have cautioned
against any claim that this is the first time this has happened,
as I seem to recall in Halley folk lore that it had been observed
before? Can any Zfids tell me of years when early loss of the sea ice
resulted in a failure to rear chicks? If so, hopefully it may have
been recorded in the BAS diary so that we can substantiate the claim."
Contact Mike on mpi@bas.ac.uk

Sadly, as usual, there are deaths to announce, and this time there seem
to be more than usual.

Mike Skidmore
Mike wintered at Halley Bay in 1967 and 1968, as a geologist. He
died on 19th February after a long fight against cancer. Mike was
well-known for his Antarctic paintings. His oral history interview is
available on the BAS Club website (you don't need to be a member of
the Club to access it).

Munro Sievwright
Munro wintered as a geophysicist at Halley Bay in 1964 and 1965. This
was a time of the IQSY (International Quiet Sun Year), designed to
study opposite conditions from the IGY a few years earlier. Munro was
one of the team making observations for this. He later worked at BAS
HQ in the Finance and Personnel departments. Munro died on 17th
February after years of suffering early onset dementia. Phil Cotton
says "Munro was an inexhaustible tower of strength to me, as my Deputy
Base Leader, at Halley Bay in 1965. When I was out on the Autumn
journey in March and April 1965, Munro ran the base, did his own work
as the night-shift aurora physicist and contrived to lead the team
which successfully built a new balloon-launching shed, for which the
assembly drawings had got no further than Port Stanley."

David Cansfield
David was a member of the IGYE Main Party and wintered at Halley Bay
in 1957 and 1958; he died in March. He was in the ionospherics team
and was a regular attender at the IGYE and TAE annual reunions held
at the Shireburn Arms, Hurst Green (Lancashire). Les Barclay comments
"We spent two good years together."

Steve Norris
Steve died on 7 April. He wintered at Halley in 1975 as an electrician
but for  most of his career with BAS he worked on the ships as an

Derek Gipps
Derek Gipps who died last year was not a Halley Fid but was known to
many in his role as Head of Logistics at BAS HQ for many years.
He was a frequent summer visitor to the base. Phil Cotton comments
"He came down to Halley on the Kista Dan at the January 1966 relief.
This was when I was leaving base after my two-year stint there. We
had all had a tough year. Lots of things had gone wrong, the worst
being the death of our three colleagues, Dai Wild, John Wilson and
Jeremy Bailey, in a crevasse accident in October 1965. By the end of
the relief, I was mentally and physically exhausted, having survived
on half-rations of sleep for the week. After a 12 hour kip, Derek
and I talked at length on the way north to South Georgia. He proved 
to be a sympathetic listener and our chats helped greatly to get me
into the right frame of mind for the more formal interviews, which
were to happen later with the High Commissioner, Cosmo Haskard, in
Stanley and the boss, Vivian Fuchs, in the London Office, when we
eventually got back to the UK. I met Derek and Sandy on the
Marguerite Bay trip on the Polar Star in 2005 and again at the reunion
on the Great Britain in Bristol. I believe I did say thank you to
Derek on those later occasions for his 1966 conversations and advice.
He didn't remember it as anything very significant. It was to me."

Z-fids website www.zfids.org.uk
Since the last Z-Fids Newsletter, the website has had only minor
updates and changes because I now have less time to devote to it.
Roger Tiffin has contributed an article about a crack in the Brunt
Ice Shelf, east of the "Gin Bottle" (MacDonald Ice Rumples),
similar to the Hallowe'en Crack, which he and Geoff (Abdul) Smith
found in 1969. This is illustrated by a photo and a map and there
is a link from the 1969 Z-Fids page.
I have given some thought to the future of the Z-Fids website in the
event that Halley becomes a summer-only station. So far the structure
is based on calendar years with each year page associated with one
wintering party. Most of the material on the site has been contributed
by and is about Halley winterers. Generally summer visitors are too
busy with other things to get involved. Most information about summer
seasons has been slotted in at the end of the page covering the year
in which the season ends. I could just not record anything after 2017
and make the site "Z-fids: Halley Bay, 1956-2017" instead of "1956 -
present". I would continue update the site in respect of anything
referring to those years. Alternatively I add a page "2018+" for
anything later than 2017. I will probably do the latter.

Reunion for 1969 and 1970 Z-Fids
Dave Hoy reported in June "We held a small reunion for the FIDS who
wintered in 1969 and 1970 at Halley. Very informal BBQ and beer etc.
We got 9 out of a possible 43 surviving members. I wondered if you
would mind including the attached article in the next ZFids news.
We are trying to drum up enough enthusiasm for a repeat do sometime
next spring. Nothing is arranged yet but if you want to put in a
contact you can use my email dave@networkhoy.com."
The article Dave attached is on the Z-Fids website (links from the
1969 and 1970 pages).

Cloth badge with Halley Bay shield design
Now available at 2 plus P&P from Tony Wincott. See details on Z-Fids
website, link "Halley Motto and Crest" from the 1963 page. The
original hung above the fireplace in the lounge at Halley I. The badge
contains a spelling mistake and so may become a rare collectors' item
(or it may not).

British Antarctic Oral History Project
Of the 286 Oral History interviews held in BAS Archives, 181 have now
been transcribed by our 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
51 of the interviews have been published on the BAS Club website (link
on the zfids home page) and more will be published shortly. You don't
need to be a BAS Club member to see them. Here are a couple of abstracts
from the interviews:

Alex Gaffikin (Meteorologist, 1999 & 2000): A Scary Moment
"You know sometimes you can forget just how dangerous Antarctica can be,
silly things like, you go out in a blizzard and take the wrong step.
One of the most scary moments I have ever had in Antarctica was when we
were camping down at the coast in a tent and I think I was with
Ian Marriott in the tent and the two others were in the caboose.
It got to about ten o'clock at night and we left the caboose to go to
the tent and it must have been 10 metres away, if that. There were
some lights in the caboose but not in the tent and we set off from
the caboose and after a few steps I remember looking back to the
caboose and seeing the glow, turned around and then just saw that
I was ... Ian in front of me and then I couldn't see anything else.
The wind was howling, the snow blowing and I thought to myself 'Oh my
gosh! I hope he knows which direction he is going in because a tent
is not that big and if we miss the tent and we are moving away from
the caboose, which has got the light on, that's it. We could walk off
the edge of a cliff. We could just die of exposure.' I remember
suddenly my heart went in my mouth and I thought to myself ... and
literally about 5 seconds later, bang, we hit the tent. But for that
moment of disorientation, when I turned round and turned back again,
I realised how dangerous it would be and how the life could just shssh,
like that, in Antarctica."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/126.

Ken Lax (Radio Operator 1974-5,BC 1977): The record collection
"We had a collection of records at Halley Bay, LPs, and they were all
kept in little shelves. The rule was: whoever put a record on, it
stayed on. You never took anybody else's record off because that way
lies anarchy. So when the record was on, until it was finished, it
was left. When you were assistant cook, you were allowed to put the
record on that played during the meal, because they had a little
speaker going into the dining area. Well one of the worst records
we had was two Scottish folk singers, Andy MacKay and Sandy MacKay,
and they were known as the Twa' Bra' Lads. It used to start off
[sings]: 'I'm Andy MacKay and I'm Sandy MacKay, two bonny lads are
we ...' and it went downhill from there. It was absolutely awful.
Well this used to come out when the assistant cook wanted people to
move away so we could clear up."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/190.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

Registrations and email updates
As usual this newsletter is being sent out by email only, to 461
people. If you are on email but have not received it by that route,
please register or re-register on the website (links on the home
page). 428 people have now registered on Z-fids. If you have, your
name will be shown as a link on the appropriate year page(s). If you
wish to be removed from the mailing list, again let me know by email.


31 Mar 2018
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