Watching eight sno-cats leave the base in convoy this morning was very impressive.

Eight fully loaded sno-cats, each towing a sledge piled high and a few passengers

inside, off to meet the ship 50 km away. The trip will probably take five or

six hours, except for the dozer that left at 4 am this morning, needing the

three hour head-start to even hope to arrive around the same time. That’s it

then, the boxes have gone, the bags have gone, all we have remaining now are


The vehicles are due to return today or tomorrow and then repeat the journey

on Wednesday with the remainder of us. I wangled a few more days here in the

name of keeping an eye on special stow cargo and ice cores that will hopefully

be flown to the ship tomorrow, but everyone knows I’d do anything to stay an

extra minute here. I’m not sure what it’ll be like to leave, I have no choice,

which is probably a good thing, but it still hasn’t gone in. I am far too comfortable


Looking back over this summer’s blogs (which I can now do!), I realise how

much I must take for granted. The things I haven’t mentioned stand out more

than anything. The arrival of the Canadian operated, huge Russian plane (DC-3

for those in the know) investigating potential opportunities for tourism in

the future, my jolly flight to Berkner Island, getting stranded there overnight

due to bad weather at Halley (what a shame), and with it the opportunity to

fly a twin otter over Antarctica. A trip to creek two caboose one last time,

and a night at beloved Wonky. A flight along the coast to remove some monitoring

equipment on the Lydden Ice Rise. Our Argentine neighbours visiting by chopper

again, and two more visits from the Germans after their initial arrival in November.

The light changing as the sun drops, and first sunset behind the CASLab. The

CASLab itself, loud and noisy, hissing, spitting, pumping, crammed to brimming

with machines that churn and fry, flow gases around the ceiling manifolds, flashing

lights indicating a fault on the gas detection system, inlets, exhausts, people

climbing over each other to reach their machines.

The CASLab empty and three full sledges of cargo – sixty-odd full size

gas cylinders, one ISO container and a hundred large boxes. The making redundant

of oneself. And still I want to stay.

The ship arrived last night. Every time there is a storm, the sea ice changes,

the cliffs change and the chance for getting our cargo out of here changes.

A few weeks ago it would have been totally unworkable. Last week it was almost

ideal, or as ideal as an N9 relief can be, today, it’s not good, but it’s not

terrible. There is a tongue of ice sticking out below the surface that prevents

the ship mooring up. I guess they’ll have to have one officer continually holding

the ship steady, using the thrusters, while the crane reaches across the tongue

to the cargo on the other side. I guess. One thing I have learnt here is that

there is almost always a way. Even to do the impossible.

So, I’m on my last few days. I’m packed, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I want

to stay.

4 thoughts on “Departure

  1. So how does this internet access thng work? Is it via satellite? Do you have one above you in some weird kind of orbit? It would have to be several, right, handing off the task to one another as they fly over…? What’s the bandwidth like? Have you bought anything on the iTunes store? In fact, has anyone ordered anything online yet, and if so, what could it have been? Crampons, for delivery in November? Tea? Have you tried downloading movies?

  2. Good luck Rhian. Hope you enjoy the trip home. Just think how wonderful it will be to see everyone again! I’ve still got 18 months to wait before I see my brother.

    Besides, I am quite sure that Antarctica hasn’t seen the last of you yet! You’ll be back.

    Please keep up the diary for a little while after you get back, your writing will be missed.

    All the best,


  3. Dear Rhian,

    As you finally depart from Halley, I’d like to say a big thank you, to you and all the others, for all your help during CHABLIS, and well done! I have enjoyed reading your log, and there is a good book there! You are assured at least one person would buy it! Also enjoyed the film of CASLAB that you made. Anyway, I know that leaving will seem strange to you, but we are all looking forward to seeing you all when you get back.

    Bye for now,

    Enjoy the trip home.

    Best wishes,


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