Alone Now

Earlier today the last aircraft left Halley, taking the last of the summer staff out to our other Antarctic base, Rothera, on the peninsula.

Fun fact: this particular aircraft built in WWII and has crashed once since then. It’s looking spendid today, and evidently the bungee cords attached to the tail control surfaces work great.

There wasn’t supposed to be an aircraft here today. The same ship I came in, the Ernest Shackleton, was scheduled to return to Halley to bring us winter cargo, fuel, and take the summer staff out. It is currently bobbing around in the South Atlantic just off the coast, but is unable to get in to the relief point. The ice is now too thick and growing, and it can’t risk getting stuck at this time of year. So, non-wintering staff are being evacuated to Rothera before the weather turns too foul for air operations. For some, quite the adventure: it’s a scenic flight to Rothera, and from there they’ll be taken to Rio de Janerio on the HMS Protector, a navy vessel that happens to be in the area.

We won’t get our resupply cargo, but this isn’t the end of the world: we have enough contigency here to sustain us until its next visit in December. The Baslers, on their way here, brought other essentials for our safe winter such as fresh food and gin. The worst loss to us is all our mail and any last-minute things we’d ordered which now will not make it here.

This was the last of three flights by a Basler that was shuttling people out. The weather the last few days has been a bit crappy and it wasn’t certain that the planes would make it in and out until the last minute. This is how we felt when the first transport was away:

After a few goodbyes with those we’ve lived, worked and played with over the last two months, this last plane left, quickly disappearing into the whiteness.

The 13 of us are the only people for hundreds of kilometers, and thousands from the nearest thing you might call civilisation. It’ll stay like this until the first aircraft can get back to us in October or November. We’re by ourselves now.

And it’s exhilarating!