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Cooking in the cold

Things are getting quieter here at Rothera. All the scientists who were camping out for weeks or months have flown back to the UK and most of the aeroplanes have gone too. There are now 60 people working here, so there is still a lot to do.

For this blog I thought I should visit some of the most important people in the station: the chefs. In the summer there are 3 chefs working here. Then, in couple of weeks (when our winter season starts), we will only have one left to cook for 19 of us.

At the busiest time of the year they have to cook lunch and dinner for up to 100 people. Also make bread, some soup in the mornings and cakes in the afternoons. They are always busy. Despite having to make food in such large amounts, our chefs make absolutely amazingly tasty food for every meal. Many people go home a little heavier than when they came out.

In the summer (now) we still have lots of ‘freshies’ – fresh fruit and vegetables. This will get less and less over the winter, as we will not have any new deliveries for months. We have to have enough food on station over the winter to feed everyone for more than 6 months. That is a very big grocery delivery!

Here I am with Chris, he is frying some chicken in ginger for a Thai meal. I don’t know what Sid is doing, I am sure he shouldn’t be in that pan.

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This is Izzy; she is going to be our winter chef. Everyday they make fresh bread from scratch – yum.cook2 cook3

Everyone comes to eat together. Most days it is help yourself, here are some of the Rothera people eating lunch.

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On Saturdays it is a three-course sit down meal, when people dress up a little bit more and the chefs make even more effort. My favourite food day is Friday. We have fish on Fridays.

Most of the food is in big storage containers and needs to be moved every few weeks by one of the vehicles and a human-chain to carry it, like this:

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This food was being moved to the big freezers, yes, even in the frozen Antarctic we need freezers. Here is Scott trying to fit just one more box of chips into the freezer :

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We don’t need to make our own ice, as we can use blocks of it that are floating around in the sea. It is completely pure and thousands of years old. It’s great to have in your coke!

Some of the food is stored near the kitchen, for the chefs to use day to day; here are some of the shelves.

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So that is the food news.

Sid and I have also been keeping an eye on all the animals around the station. The penguins have started to moult. They look very unhappy and are a real mess. Often they will have a non-moulting friend or relative next to them, keeping guard.

Here we are chatting with a young Adelie penguin (it doesn’t have the black bit under its chin yet). He said he was just about to moult and was looking for a good spot. The other photo is of me with a moulting penguin, she was feeling very scruffy and wasn’t too happy having her photo taken.

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That is it for this blog, I hope you are getting more of an idea about life down here. I will put another blog up in a couple of weeks, as there is going to be a big change down here: everyone will be leaving apart from the 19 winterers. As well as Sid and me of course.

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Adventure to Halley

Hi there,

After my fantastic visit to the South Pole I soon got itchy feet again and I really wanted to go to the most southerly of the British Antarctic Survey stations – Halley. On this map you can see where the stations are:

bas map

Lots of people at Rothera would like to visit Halley (not quite as much as the South Pole, but nearly) so I had to hide in one of the Twin Otters to fly there:

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When Bryony realised I was missing she guessed where I had got to. So she phoned up Nathalie, the doctor at Halley, to come and find me. Here I am at Halley:

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That is a bit of joke, it isn’t really an airport, the planes have to land on an ice runway and not many can get this far south, it is not like Gatwick or Heathrow.

I spent a few days at Halley. There have been several different buildings over the decades. The problem here is that Halley is build on an ice shelf, with no solid land underneath. So it is constantly moving. It is also a lot more cold and windy down here, and so permanent, low buildings, like they have at Rothera, would soon be buried and lost. The new building at Halley VI is made up of several pods or modules built up on legs. The legs and pods can be moved and all the modules are joined together, so you don’t have to go outside if the weather is really bad. Over the last winter the snow built up around the legs, so now it is just the pods you can see. Here I am outside some of them:

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Nathalie showed me all around the base. She has lots of jobs here. Here we are providing fire cover – not really like the fire engines in the UK:

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I also had a go driving a skidoo myself:

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One day I got to go out with one of the scientists. Halley is surrounded by just flat, white snow and ice, so it was nice to see a few mountains. This place is called mkrzysztofowicz! I am not sure how it got that name; maybe you could try and find out for me?

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After meeting everyone at Halley, learning about their discovery of the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980’s, and seeing how remote they are, it was time to go back to Rothera. So I helped refuel the Twin Otter and I am now safely back with Bryony and Sid, keen to learn more about everything happening back here, let me know if there is anything about life and work in Antarctica that you would like to know more about.

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Happy New Year from the South Pole!!!

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with decorations, trees, lots of food, presents and spending time with your families. Down here Rothera had the traditional turkey, crackers and singing carols. Bryony had a lovely time, but what about me? Well, I was away for Christmas on a very special trip.

Although Father Christmas lives at the North Pole, I got to go to the South Pole! Rothera is in Antarctica, but still a long way from the very bottom of the Earth. A scientist and a pilot from Rothera get the chance every year to visit the most famous spot in Antarctica to check on some scientific equipment BAS has there; and I asked if I could go along. As I am very light they could squeeze me onto the plane, along with a couple of other friends.

Here I am at the South Pole, can you see how excited I am? All the other people at Rothera, including Bryony, are very jealous of me.

Here I am at the South Pole, can you see how excited I am? All the other people at Rothera, including Bryony, are very jealous of me.

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The American’s run a station there, bigger than Rothera, called the Amundsen-Scott Station, after the two great explorers who lead the first parties to walk to the South Pole. As the South Pole has land under it we can build there. At the North Pole there is only ice, so it moves all the time. If you build a house on the North Pole one day, it wouldn’t be there the next!

It is amazing to think that 100 years ago men risked their lives to walk for months pulling sledges to get to this place, and now there are planes landing, showers and even an ice making machine here.

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Back at Rothera it is warming up and more and more of my distant relatives (penguins) are turning up. There are also a lot of seals. These are mostly Elephant seals, which are huge and smelly, but quite funny as they burp, roar and fart all day long, lulling around and scratching themselves. Sometimes they fight each other, but these are not the adult males, so they are only practicing. They are here to rest and moult. Although they look clumsy and lazy on land, in sea they are fantastic divers and have been recorded diving a mile and half under water! They can also hold their breath for over an hour and a half. Here I am with one of the Elephant seals.Jan4

We also have some Crab Eaters and Weddle seals, which are much prettier. Here I am with a Weddle.

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Rothera got busier last week as a ship came to visit. The James Clarke Ross, a BAS ship, which was bringing supplies for the station. As there are not many flights and aeroplane fuel is very expensive, almost all food, drink and equipment has to be brought here by ship. So we had a busy few days taking all the stuff off. Here is the ship:

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Bryony and I were very excited as a box and bag we had packed 6 months ago came on the ship. This had more clothes and things in it for the 16 months we are staying. But you won’t believe who we found when Bryony and I were unpacking: Sid (see his profile at the bottom of the profile page). He smuggled his way into the luggage even though he knew he shouldn’t come. I love Sid, but he is too naughty and always getting into trouble. I really hope he behaves here or I will be very embarrassed.

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That is all for now as I have another exciting trip coming up. Lots of love to you and your penguins, I would love to see any penguin Christmas photos on the website,

Love Pearl x

P.S. I have just had a very special message from a friend of Bryony’s in Africa. A sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees has sent us a photo. The baby chimps have lost their mothers, and it is even harder from them at the moment as there are health problems in the country, but they wanted to say “hi” and I will send them a photo of the penguins here.

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Flying and the weather in Antarctica

Hello, Pearl here again. I have now been in Antarctica for a month and it has continued to be a really amazing and exciting time.

Firstly, where do I sleep? This is my bedroom, which I share with Bryony and another human, Vicky. You can see me asleep in my bed on the table, Bryony has the top bunk bed and Vicky is on the bottom.

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Vicky is one of the pilots. She used to work with BAS (British Antarctic Survey) as a meteorologist (they study the climate) but found she loved flying in Antarctica so much she wanted to learn to do it herself. So she went back to the UK and after a few years of flight training she is now in her dream job.

She kept telling me how great flying here was, so I thought I should try it. I was very lucky to be asked to go up in one of the planes with another pilot, Andy. Here we are, in the air, Andy is posing (Bryony and Vicky agree that this is something pilots are very good at).

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It was a fantastic flight, I had a go at the controls and we went above the clouds and then down low to see the seals that had come out of the cracks in the sea ice. Here is the view as we flew up to Rothera’s runway:

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As a lot of the science studies being done here are a long way away, the aeroplanes are essential to get the scientists and their equipment around. There are four twin otters (the smallest planes, that I was on with Andy) and a Dash 7(the type I flew from Punta Arenas on). They can land with wheels or with skis.

The pilots and air mechanics are very busy in the Antarctic summer, getting the planes ready and flying the scientists all over the place. Sometimes they have to stay out for several nights camping. They also help the scientists digging up equipment and building things. Not something a pilot for British Airways would have to do!

They can only fly when the weather is good, as it can get very windy, snowy and dangerous down here. After a couple of weeks of lovely sun I woke up this morning to see this out of our window (you can compare it to the view in my last blog):

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In the UK I like to look at the weather forecast to see if I should put my scarf and hat on, but down here it is much more important that we know what the weather is going to be like. It is dangerous to be out in bad weather, and landing a plane on snow and ice is hard enough even when the weather is good.

So we have our very own weather forecaster, Don. Today I went to see him and he told me all about his forecasting. He is very important and can give very up to date weather all over the Antarctic Peninsula. He has to get up every day at 4am to get the weather reports for the flying, and if there is a plane coming in late he has to get up again (1.30am this morning!). Phew.

Here he is teaching me how to forecast:

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And here is a satellite photo of the Antarctic Peninsular Don put together with all the ice shelves and sea ice. This one is from October 30th, just before we arrived. Can you see the Peninsular (the sticky out bit of Antarctica)?  All around it is sea ice, which has now started to melt away as the summer progresses. You can see why ships can’t get to us until later in the year!

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After all that talk about the weather and snow I thought it was about time I went out and enjoyed it. New snow is perfect for making a snow-penguin.

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That is all for now, it is dinner time and I am sure the chefs have cooked us up something great again. I will need to let you know more about them, as well as the science, the divers, the weather ballons, the field assistants…ohhh there is so much going on I can’t wait to tell you about.

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Arrived at Rothera

Hello everyone, Pearl here. I have arrived in Antarctica!!

I flew down here a week ago, on a plane, as sadly my wings are only good for swimming. In fact it was 4 different aeroplanes, the last one was very small and a bit bumpy, but I was very brave.

Rothera is beautiful. It is still covered in snow, but some of this will melt soon. There is sea, mountains and sea ice which has trapped some small icebergs. This will melt soon too.

The mountains, sea and trapped icebergs at Rothera.

The mountains, sea and trapped icebergs at Rothera.

Looking at the view out of my bedroom window. The Dash plane, which I flew in on, is landing.

Looking at the view out of my bedroom window. The Dash plane, which I flew in on, is landing.

This first week has been settling in and learning lots of new things. I have found my way around the base, learnt what everyone does here and made lots of new friends.

Me with Sam the electrician. He is also holding Pow the Penguin, who was sent here by some children in Canada.

Me with Sam the electrician. He is also holding Pow the Penguin, who was sent here by some children in Canada.

At the moment there are a few flying birds around, but not much other wildlife, it will all be heading here soon as the summer progresses and the ice melts.

This month we were very lucky, the first Antarctic penguin I have met is Ellie the Emperor Penguin. Yes, the biggest penguin in the world, and most would say the most amazing. They are also the rarest type of penguin we can see here at Rothera; there hasn’t been one here for several years. They usually hang around in big colonies but Ellie is a bit lost. She spent a day wandering up and down the runway here, occasionally shouting out to try and find her friends. She saw me and asked for directions, I wish I could have helped her.

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For the next few weeks I will be finding my feet and doing lots of training on how to survive in Antarctica. I will try and write my blog about once a month with updates and information about Antarctica and everyone living out here. Bryony and I haven’t stopped smiling since we arrived. If you have any questions please ask your teacher to email Bryony.  Please follow Pearl on Twitter to get updates on when the site is updated!  @pearlthepenguin

Bryony grinning at the top of a hill with Rothera station in the background.

Bryony grinning at the top of a hill with Rothera station in the background.