“The Work Continues” – by Ian Prickett
The ship has finally sailed and left the six of us with nowhere to run (ski/drive/follow) other than South. I have been waiting for this moment for ages now and it seemed as if it was never going to happen for a while. Thinking back to September in the lashing UK rain, being flooded out stuck in the corner of the Finning car park, Brian and myself were certainly very doubtful that we would have everything finished in time.
It was all extremely manic, yet most, I repeat most, of our necessary equipment arrived in time to make the ship. Some things were rushed to get on-board and due to that they might not of been as perfect as we hoped but at least it was there. Due to this we are still hanging around in what can only be described as the most stunning workshop in the world. Most of the last week has been spent fixing the insulated covers to the cabooses, erecting comms equipment, tidying the endless stream of spares and essentials into respective hidy holes, welding brackets onto the sledges to take the generator cables from the CAT, test rigging and pulling of the fuel scoot array and numerous other tasks to get us ready for the big pull.
It’s not all glamour here though. Today I spent most of the day on my back under the living caboose fixing an insulated underbelly cover. I had hoped that a few of the team from the ship were going to return to finish the job they started but they kept coming up with excuses along the lines of, “we need to get all the fuel off first!”. Priorities. For the last week or so there has been “finish underbelly lining” in big red letters on the to-do list, which I have kept avoiding in the hope that someone from somewhere will miraculously turn up and finish the job. To no avail. I snapped more drills in the lining than is possible to resharpen. If you look inside my tool box you will find an empty drill set with fragments of my skin attached. If I was in earshot of anyone that was remotely not used to expletive after expletive coming from my mouth I must apologise. Luckily we are a few hundred miles from our nearest neighbours, the Belgians, at Princess Elisabeth Base. I’m sure if they listened carefully in the wind they would of heard some quite interesting language. However, the job was finally finished and I screamed with joy at the dinner table as I rubbed the words away. Next on the list, ski more than 2,000 miles in winter. Easy after what I have been through today.
There is still more to do, however. In the morning we will have a final tidy of our sheltered work site, a mere 20 meters from a stunning overhanging ice shelf, 200 meters from the water’s edge and the Adelie penguins and in the lee of the main ice shelf protecting us from the winds.
We will bring the CATs back down from the depot line, currently a kilometre away and alongside our 60-ton fuel scoot arrays; hook them up to the sledges and pull them up the ramp, past the crossed flags symbolising danger due to crevassing and alongside each other ready for a test of the proposed evening camp setup. The mechanics still have a few days at the depot line to complete the full build of the generators attached to the machines, yet we are hoping we should be off around Thursday, heading for the Belgians and a telling off due to my language today.