Field Trips

Otherwise known as Jollies, these were one of the major bonuses of living in the Antarctic. As you will see from the pictures, even Halley had some beautiful scenery, despite being a flat ice shelf.

Each season we were allowed to go on two field trips - one 7 day trip before mid winter and a 10 day trip after. Four people would go on a trip together, one of whom was the base GA (someone who knew what he was doing and made sure we didn't injure ourselves too badly). Since everyone wanted to go when it was sunny, we had to draw lots to get a time window in which to go. Consequently, some people ended up going on a 7 day holiday in a blow, only leaving the tent for nature's necessities.

The party would take two tents. Each person travelled on a skidoo, towing in a sledge, so a field party broke down into two self contained teams of two. These teams travel together and usually everyone went out exploring together.

When the sun shone it was amazing, and in February 1995 the sun shone for my entire 7 day trip. Here's what I saw on some of my trips:

April 1994 - Field trip to 1st Chasm, in the Hinge Zone (Where the Brunt Ice Shelf leaves Antarctica and starts to float)

Aurora Australis over a tent at 1st Chasm, Halley, Antarctica
Aurora Australis over a tent at 1st Chasm

Howzat for an Aurora? This trip was so late in the season that it got dark at night & was very cold (under -30c, I think). My feet were numb for the whole trip, but these were the rewards. This is about the only decent photo of my first Aurora. I took loads of pictures, experimenting with lots of exposures. The camera was just plonked on a sledge & I was stomping about behind it trying to keep warm. The trouble with photography in cold places is that all the sitting about gets you very cold. I think this exposure was about 3-4 minutes, taken on my trusty Praktica MTL50. The tent is bright because someone had the foresight to light a Tilley lamp in the tent, before coming out to photograph. This made the picture look good and also warmed the tent up for when they got back in. I am sad to say that this wasn't my tent.

February 1995 - Field trip to 2nd Chasm in the Hinge Zone

Graeme Hart in an ice cave in Antarctica
Me in an ice cave in Antarctica

This is me in a small cave above the main valley we called Alladin's Cave. Note that I am wearing just a thermal top & a t-shirt. That's how warm it was. This really is blue ice but, unlike the usual location - inside a cold crevasse, we could walk into this one with ease. The two new guys stayed at the camp this day because they were "tired"! Despite my efforts I could not get them to understand that they were probably never going to be able to look around this unique terrain in such perfect conditions ever again.

Graeme Hart in Antarctica
Me at the entrance to Aladdin's Cave

Standing at the top of a short ice climb, Alladin's Cave. Perfect visibility, and some interesting weathering patterns in the ice.

Climbing an ice cliff in Antarctica
Climbing an ice cliff

Ice climbing in 2nd Chasm. Hard work, but worth it for the view at the top.

Graeme Hart at an Antarctic field camp
Happy camper

Here I am having just returned to camp. I'm not sure what time this was taken - the sun lasts a long time in February, so it could have been quite late in the day.

On top of Tilted Berg in 2nd chasm on the Brunt Ice Shelf
Antarctic rocks

This oddity was sitting on top of "Tilted Berg". Note the only rock I got to touch in my time at Halley - the dark patches are gravel, gouged out of the ground deep below the snow surface when this ice was on the Antarctic continent.

Graeme Hart on a field trip in Antarctica
Taking it all in

Leaving Aladin's Cave, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Walking away from Aladdin's Cave

The approach to Alladin's Cave

2nd Chasm, Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica
Inside 2nd Chasm

This is broken ice in 2nd Chasm. Despite being 50 miles from the coast, we would often see penguin tracks here. The ice was so thin that we would occasionally find a crack containing salt water (ie, the sea). A reminder that Halley is built on a floating ice shelf, not rocks.

October 1995, from 2nd Chasm to the Bay Of Wales

Abseiling down an ice cliff in 2nd Chasm, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Antarctic Abseiling

This is the sort of ice feature that you can see on the ice shelf. This was a fracture in the shelf that had been thrust up and then weathered for an unknown period of time. It was glistening in the sun and begging to be climbed. The climbing involved walking around the back of it, then the energetic members of the party threw a rope over & abseiled off the top. This one tripped up the GA and he ended up pressed against the ice with his feet wiggling about above his head.

1995 Field Party, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Halley Field Party, 1995

This is my October '95 field party. I do like a team photo.

A Nansen sledge packed for a field trip

This is a fully loaded sledge. If you look at the front closely you will see that it is being drifted in. This sledge was eagerly packed the day before, but the wind picked up, contrast vanished and the departure was postponed.

Ski-Doo with a rolled sldege on a field trip in Antarctica
A Rolled Sledge

Sledges tend to be top heavy and roll quite easily, as the most experienced member of our party discovered (the GA).