Z-fids Newsletter No. 46

March 2020

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 46   26 Mar 2020

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

I hope this finds you all well in this worrying time of the Covid-19
epidemic. So far Antarctica is the only continent not to have a
confirmed case, and Antarctic operators are working hard to keep it
that way. Let us hope that remains the case.

News about Halley VIa
Dave Hunt, the current Halley Station Operations Manager/Station
Leader, has contributed the following update on the 2019/20 season at

"The 2019/20 season came to a close on Feb 22nd with the final Twin
Otter transferring the last 3 of the closedown team across to Rothera.
The season was an extremely successful and enjoyable one for the
relatively small team of 30.
The key objectives for the season were:
 -Servicing and refuelling of the micro-turbine
 -Servicing of Automated Science instruments
 -Raising the Modules, Drewry, Garage and Science Cabooses
 -Transferring all other equipment, containers and vehicles on to new
  winter berms (around 80 in number)
 -Raising of LOH network (this is a network of automated GPS sites
  that monitor the stability of the Ice shelf and allow us continuous
  monitoring to ensure  personnel safety)
  -The introduction of three new automated science projects (NOAA
  greenhouse gas flask sampling, a collection of auroral cameras for
  collaborators at the Kanazwa University in Japan and the
  reintroduction of the condensation particle counter to the CASLab
  to monitor background aerosol concentrations.
The season began with a small open up team (myself and FE, Nicholas
"Curly" Gregory) being transferred from Rothera on the 17th Nov.
Between then and Dec 6th, the station was opened up and brought to
operational status for the arrival of the main body of summer staff.
From then on it was full steam ahead to achieve the season's

We returned to find the MT spinning merrily away and although it is
monitored remotely during the long winter months, it was a relief to
get back and open the doors to physically see it quietly doing its
job. Throughout the summer the MT has been serviced and improvements
made ready for another winter of supplying the power for all of the
automated science monitoring projects. This project is proving to be
a major success and other nations are now looking at the way we are
working at Halley for the way they may operate in the future.

Chasm 1
The West Brunt is amazingly still there. As I type the remaining
distance of intact ice between the tip of Chasm 1 and cracks
propagating from The Rumples is approximately 2.0 km and didn't
really change significantly over the summer. Bets and sweepstakes
were all wildly wrong and we are now hoping that the shelf calves
before we return in November. The shelf needs to calve before we can
carry out a full ship relief, but we can keep Halley operating until
that time with existing fuel and supplies coupled with air inputs.
We do have to run lean and efficient seasons which in itself is no
bad thing as we look to develop a more cost effective operating
dynamic moving forward. 

Generally the aim over the next few seasons is to maintain the
existing science output and to introduce new projects as the MT
continues to prove its reliability.  A full ship relief is intended
for the 21/22 season, again depending on the situation with the Ice
shelf calving. Overall, after a successful season where the majority
of our objectives were achieved, Halley is in good order and ready to
face the challenges that the next few years will bring."


Unusually, I not been notified of any deaths among Z-Fids since the
last Z-Fids Newsletter (October 2019). Obituaries have been written
for Les Barclay, Jim Blackie anmd Dave (Gonk) Hoy, whose deaths have
been previously reported. These may be found on the Z-Fids website.
The best way to find them is to go to the General Index (link from
the home page) and look under Obituaries.

Perla Dan
MV Perla Dan foundered on Xmas day 1984. At that time she was MV Mothi
and had been through several changes of owner having been sold by
Lauritzens in 1971. She was at anchor 1nm off Cuddalore. There is a
rather sad picture of her foremast and crow’s nest poking out of the
water on the wrecksite website. This was spotted by Denis Wilkins.
Thanks to Bob Wells for alerting me to this.

British Antarctic Oral History Project
Of the 286 Oral History interviews held in BAS Archives, 256 have now
been transcribed by our team of volunteers.
147 of the interviews have been published on the BAS Club website (link
on the zfids home page) and more are expected to be published soon.
You don't need to be a BAS Club member to see them. There are
links on the Z-Fids website to the interviews featuring Halley people
(See the General Index under Oral history recordings).

Here are a couple of extracts from the interviews:

Steve Emery (Electrician, 1976,1977): Skidoo sank
"I had gone down with Phil Hart. I hadn’t realised until that day
because it just hadn’t occurred to me, that all the time we had been
down there, he had never driven a skidoo because he had run with the
dogs. So when we decided to come back, he said ‘Can I drive back?’
I said ‘OK’ and he jumped on it and off he went. I wasn’t thinking
any ... I was just sat on the back following the other lads.
We were trundling along and he was coming up to one of these leads.
Well the lads on the other skidoo just went straight across it, which
was what I was expecting him to do but for some reason, at the last
minute he obviously, I wouldn’t say panicked but for whatever reason,
he thought he couldn’t make it. So he tried to turn to miss it. In
actual fact what he did, he left it so late he actually ended up
turning and driving on to the slushy bit and then driving along the
slushy bit, with the skidoo slowly disappearing underneath. He baled
off and got onto the hard stuff and I am baling off and desperately
trying to hang onto to the skidoo at the same time, and it is just
slowly sinking down through all this slush with me desperately
hanging on to it on the ice and slowly going down with it. When it
got to my chest I decided it was time to let go of the skidoo and
then just managed to haul myself out, by which time Phil had got to
us and helped pull me out, but I was certainly up to my chest in the
water and the skidoo had gone."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/151.

Gordon Ramage (Tractor mech, 1972): Skidoo sank
"I noticed this skidoo (it was the first time I had seen a skidoo).
It was parked up the left hand side of Third Chip and it seemed to be
abandoned. I thought it was there for some reason. There was one night
after dinner - bear in mind it was 24-hour daylight - I was speaking
to one of the Fids on base. I said ‘That skidoo down at the Chip, is
there a reason for it to be there?’ They said ‘Oh, it won’t go. There
is something wrong with it. It’s just been ... We will deal with it
later on.’
I thought ‘Well, who is going to deal with it? There’s not anybody
else.’ They were all going away so it looked like the onus was on
myself. ‘That’s my first job.’ However the following day it was back
to the shift as usual, but then at night time I had a I had a root
around the garage to see what stuff there was. I found out what was
wrong. It wouldn’t start. So I found some spark plugs and I got a lift
down to the ship that night with one of the lads that were on the late
shift, and duly made an attempt to get the skidoo to work. I lifted
the cowl at the front as said ‘Oh, it’s a single cylinder engine.’
No surprise, not unlike a lawnmower engine or a piece of stationary
I done all the checks you would do, and then before I thought ‘Ready
to start it, I will do the next thing and just make sure it is out of
gear.’ I checked everything. ‘Yes, it’s out of gear. The lever says
it’s in neutral, the middle position, and we will have a go at starting
it.’ I put on the choke and eventually got it started, and it was
ticking over at a ... I wouldn’t say at a fast speed. I thought ‘Right,
OK. I had better progressively take to choke off or it will flood it
and stop it again.’ So as I gradually opened the choke, the revs come
up, come up, come up, and the transmission (it was one of these
centrifugal variable transmissions that, basically the faster the engine
went, the pulleys varied from small to large and then started to make
an effort to move the transmission). But at that point, disaster struck,
the engine revs came up and unbeknown to me, they had problems with the
transmission, the small gearbox jumping out of forward gear and
blatantly had wired it in forward gear. They never thought there was a
need to put a skidoo into reverse.
Of course what happened is the engine revs came up, the transmission
got a bit faster and then all of a sudden the skidoo started to move
and I was left standing there looking at this skidoo heading towards 
the Bransfield. Of course the first thing you do is you think ‘I have
got to catch this thing and stop it.’ So I tried to do a rugby tackle
and hold the skidoo back but unfortunately to no avail. The skidoo
picked up speed as it approached the Bransfield and politely cleared
the gap between the top of the ice cliff and hit the Bransfield
midships. Robbie Peck, the first bosun at the time, who was standing
on the deck at the top of the gangway, and I can see his face to this
day, he could not stop laughing at this machine shooting down from
Third Chip, clearing the gap which was a good 25-foot gap between the
particular part amidships and the side of the Bransfield. However the
following day I was summoned to speak to Paul Whiteman who was on
board at the time and I explained to him that was my first attempt at
repairing anything at Halley Bay. So it didn’t go down too well but
they still kept me on."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/201.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

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19 Oct 2020
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