Z-fids Newsletter No. 47

October 2020

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 47   19 Oct 2020

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

News about Halley VIa
David Hunt, the Halley Ops Manager and Station Leader has sent us
the following update. Thanks very much to him for taking the time to
do that.
Due to the current global pandemic the 20/21 will be vastly reduced
to a team of ten to carry out essential maintenance works only. The
team will travel from the UK to Rothera on the JCR and then deploy
across to Halley by Twin Otter. We expect the team to be on the
ground from late December to mid-February.  The main focus of the
season will be to:

 * Service and refuel the micro-turbine
 * Raise and re-align VSAT Dome (link was lost in September - this
   was expected and data is still being transferred to Cambridge via
   back up Iridium open port system)
 * Service Automated Science instruments
 * Raise and service 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)
 * Receive airdrop of approx. 600 drums of Avtar
 * Initial investigation of possible relief sites for the 21-22 season

The season has been drastically reduced to try and meet BAS's aim of
having zero cases of Covid 19 introduced on to the continent.

The micro-turbine has been running well so far throughout this winter
 - with only a couple of minor component failures (all with built in
redundancies), which will be upgraded during the coming season.

Chasm 1
The West Brunt is also amazingly still there. As I reported in the
last brief the remaining distance of intact ice between the tip of
Chasm 1 and cracks propagating from The Rumples is still approximately
2.0 km and this hasn't really changed significantly over this winter.
There is also little change in the propagation of Halloween Crack.

This is obviously quite a tricky one as we don't know what the Covid
situation will bring us over the next year or so, but at present:

A full ship relief is intended for the 21/22 season, again depending
on the situation with the Ice shelf calving - if intact ice remains
stable we may well attempt relief from the West Brunt.

Overall, considering the circumstances we find ourselves in Halley is
in a good place with science continuing to function as normal and
planning in motion to try and meet any challenge thrown our way during
these challenging times.

All the best, David Hunt - Halley Ops Manager & Station Leader 

Sadly there are deaths to report.

George Hemmen
George died on 10th June 2020 aged 94. He was one of the three people
(the others were David Dalgliesh and Ken Powell) who decided, on 6th
January 1956, where the Royal Society IGY base would be built (it was
not called Halley Bay, after the nearby coastal feature, until later).
This was on the RS IGY Expedition Advance Party. Although he never
wintered at Halley, having been in charge of all the expedition's
logistics, he accompanied the first wintering party on the MV Tottan
to the Caird Coast. He told the story in a talk "Halley Bay - Base Z
 - The background and why it is where it is" at Z50 in 2006, and you
can read it on the Z-Fids website (link from 1956 page). Before the
IGY he had wintered as a Met man at Admiralty Bay in 1953 and Base
Leader at Deception in 1954. He worked for the Royal Society for many
years and for a time he was Secretary of SCAR (Scientific Committee
for Antarctic Research). For many years he organised annual reunions
in Lancashire for the IGYE team and associated Halley Bay Fids, and
was one of the last survivors from the Expedition. He was interviewed
for the British Antarctic Oral History Project and you can access
this interview on the BAS Club website. Again there is a link on the
1956 Z-Fids page. His funeral, on 26th June, was attended only by
close family and friends, due to coronavirus restrictions, but was
webcast for his many Antarctic and Royal Society friends and
colleagues. His wife Margo predeceased him by six months.

Peter Pitts
Peter Pitts, a beastie man at Halley in 1968 died on Tuesday 12 May
2020 aged 92 at Penzance.  He will probably be remembered for his
enthusiasm for amateur radio, with a call sign VP8JP and for owning
one of the most expensive cameras on base - a Leica M3, competing
with the one Hasselblad owned by Norris Riley.

Michael 'Bunny' Houlcroft
Michael Houlcroft who was tractor mechanic in 1977 and 1978 died in
May 2020. Ken Lax says "Bunny was  popular on  base. He had a great
sense of humour and contributed much to the general welfare and
morale on the base."

Richard Cuthbertson
Richard Cuthbertson died on the 15th January 2017 though I have only
recently learned this from his widow Peggy. Richard was the wintering
diesel mechanic at Halley in 1966.

Due to the pandemic, actual reunions have not been possible but some
have been held by Zoom, e.g. a Midwinter one for the 1966 winterers
and one in May for the 1977 winterers. The latter also had a Midwinter
pub quiz. Reports on the 1966 and 1977 Z-Fids pages.

Z-Fids website
This was set up in June 2001 and so is now in its 20th year. Since
Halley ceased to be a wintering base, more emphasis has been on
past than recent activities. If anyone has any interesting pictures,
information, anecdotes etc. which would be suitable for the website
and of interest to Halley Fids, please sent them in.

Lewis Juckes
Lewis, wintering geologist at Halley in 1964 and 1965, has set up a
personal website which may be of interest to some. A link to it is on
the Z-Fids 1964 page.

Return of the Sun
Although nobody has been on base to see it since 2016, the Sun should
have risen for the first time after winter on or about 9th August.
To mark the occasion, Allen Clayton, Surveyor in 1969 and BC in 1970,
has painted a scene which includes raising the flag and setting up the
sunshine recorder. This is now on the Z-Fids website, along with the
considerable number of comments which it generated. Link from the 1969
page. Dave French commented that according to Jim Chalmers the
signpost represented in the picture is probably the only item to be
moved from Halley II to each subsequent version and be now at Halley VI.
If anyone knows different, please write in. Other information about the
signpost is at www.zfids.org.uk/2003/signpost.htm

Visits to Z-2 and Z-3
Dale Heaton, who was the wintering builder in 1985 and 1986, has sent
in some interesting pictures of visits he and others made to the
abandoned Halley-II ("Grillage Village") and Halley-III (Armco) bases.
Links on the 1985 and 1986 Z-Fids pages or look in the Picture index.

VP8 radio licences
In August people who held VP8 ‘lifetime’ amateur radio licences for
British Antarctic Territory, for use while hamming at the BAS bases
including Halley, were disappointed when these were suddenly cancelled
by the licencing authority in the Falkland Islands. After a campaign,
these were reinstated in September. For more information see

Master Plumber
Congratulations to Jimmy Hendry, plumber at Halley in 2013, on being
awarded Master Plumber status by the Lord Mayor of London at the
Mansion House. There's a picture on the Z-Fids website, link from the
2013 page.

Winterers database
This is publically available on the BAS Club website under Resources.
An analysis shows that for the 2610 people who wintered at BAS, FIDS
and Operation Tabarin bases between 1944 and 2020, more winters were
spend at Halley (Base Z) than any other base. Out of 4554 Fid-winters,
1106 were spent at Halley. This does not count the years of the IGY:
1956, 57 and 58. The large number reflects the fact that Halley has
operated continuously as a wintering base longer than any other, and
has tended to have comparatively large wintering complements. The next
highest number was 806 at Rothera (Base R).

British Antarctic Oral History Project
Of the 286 Oral History interviews held in BAS Archives, 266 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:

Paul Coslett (Glaciologist, 1967-68): Last days of living in Halley I
Shortly after getting there, and the ships had sailed, we had one of
the generators on the old base fail, and so as opposed to having
three generators, two of which were running at any time, we had one
running and one on standby. It meant that the power available for
heating and things like that had to be drastically reduced. So
heating was switched off in all but the Office Block, and the
scientific programmes were put on hold a bit, when all available
labour was used to carry on getting the new base habitable, so that
everybody could move up there as quickly as possible. That was
probably achieved April/ May time, such that we were all up there,
apart from the static scientific crew, by Midwinter. There were about
12 of them stayed in the old base, in the old Office Block. The
original IGY hut was about 50 feet down, and that had been abandoned
apart from storage. There was a walkway from that, a Dexion ladder
that had been built at a staircase type angle. You went up that to
get into the Main Living and Dormitory Block, and then a few years
after that, the new Office Block had been built further up. When I
arrived, we had got full heating in the Dormitory and Living Block,
and those huts had been crushed under the weight of ice and any
waterproofing had deteriorated. There was enough water dripping down
through the roofs such that in each bunkroom we had to provide a bit
of polythene across the roof which discharged into a gutter that was
made out of old cans to run alongside the bed, and we had to empty
that, a five gallon drum twice a day. So that was the amount that was
dropping, dripping down. The whole thing was moving. One day somebody
went and put a Dexion ladder to get up into the loft space and left
it there and when he came to take it down, something had settled onto
the top of it and it was trapped. He did not like to cut it out or
take it apart, just in case something came down, and it had become
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/122.

Denis Wilkins (Doctor, 1969): Radio pill lost in loo pit
"We used radio pills to measure the temperature and there were various
experiments I did on base, lesser things just to get baselines, that
sort of thing. Therein lay a bit of a problem one time because I only
had four of these things. They were precious and Norris Riley I
remember (lovely guy), he was a Geordie as I recall, Norris came to
me one morning and said ‘You know I have got a radio pill, Doc.’ I
said ‘Yes, Norris.’ He said ‘Well you know we are supposed to use the
bucket to retrieve the radio pill.’ We wrapped it in a little rubber
fingerstall, tied it up, and then you went through the poo and
cleaned it off, slipped the rubber stall and out popped the pill,
reasonably clean. Cleaned it off, put it in an oven and reused it you
see. It doesn’t sound very savoury but it’s the sort of thing that
Fids do all the time. He came to me and I remember it. I was sitting
in the surgery doing something and he said to me ‘Doc, I have just
been to the pit.’ which is the bog which had just been used by 25-30
people for two years and started off 45 feet deep and was now about
the order of about 15-20 I guess. So you can imagine it was well-used.
So I said to Norris ‘Well that’s very unfortunate. I really really
must get this pill back. I will go and get the ladder for you.’ The
rope ladder was suspended from a hook over the pit. He seemed to take
the attitude that it was my radio pill and if I wanted it I would
jolly well go and get it, which I thought it was a bit un-Christian.
I did go down and look for it. I never found it."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/167.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

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19 Oct 2020
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