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Antics in the Antarctic - Olivier's Blog




When I first mentioned this Antarctic trip to Mrs Dougall and to the then Chair of Governors, Jane Cranston, back in February 2016, their immediate response was that this was an extraordinary opportunity and that I must go but under two conditions; firstly - come back, secondly – write a blog.

Having been given my homework I set out jotting notes but the British Antarctic Survey, whose website I was meant to use as a platform, seemed to be looking for something short and punchy while I wanted to waffle on at great length.

In the end, I have decided to keep a detailed diary, some sort of Antarctic Chronicles that will hopefully give you an insight into life at the South Pole.

I will try to keep the instalments rolling in as regularly as possible yet forgive me if I sometimes lapse as my spare time is determined largely by the project workload – which, at present, is quite considerable.

I will also attach photos and drawings, do not hesitate to forward me any questions you may have as there is bound to be someone here who knows the answer.

I hope you enjoy these diaries, make sure you read them carefully as there will be a little test when I come back.

I am missing all of you. Happy reading!







This adventure has been so long in the making that it has almost become detached from reality. Distant, elusive, intangible, cloaked with the queer and evanescent quality of a dream, it seems to hover somewhere at the back of my consciousness, just within my grasp yet somehow always out of reach.  I assumed, rather naively, that once I treaded south the tyranny of daily life would raise its irrepressible head thus shattering the illusion. If anything, the experience has become ever more surreal. After our three days’ jolly in Cape Town we are now all seating in a converted Russian Ilyushin plane fully kitted with all the comfort and elegance of touch one associates with the old Soviet Union. There are no windows, the fuselage is everywhere apparent apart from the sections hidden by the various national flags of the 11 Countries that constitute the Dromlan federation - giving the cavernous hull an air of Middle Eastern bazaar. (Dromlan being the acronym for Dronning Maud Land, Queen Maud’s Land in Norwegian, a multinational air network composed of Belgium, Finland, Germany, India, Japan, Holland, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sweden and the UK). The convenience facilities consist of a couple of portaloos plonked at the back of the passenger section, behind which, held by sturdy netting, the cargo load rises up to the ceiling. Our hostess’s name is Ekaterina. She supplies us with sweets and ear plugs – “you will need them” she assures me. I determine not to get both items mixed up and try to stretch out for a nap as we’re going to be stuck in this hold for nearly six hours and I can’t remember where I’ve put my book. When I wake up it is to find that we have made good progress, Ekaterina is now plying us with fruit that looks as if it has travelled all the way from Ulaan Batar, I don’t care much but why serve third rate apples when you have gorgeous local fruit readily available in Cape Town? Maybe this is part of the ‘Soviet experience’. At least Ekaterina is smiling and the footage on the giant screen has suddenly acquired a delicious urgency: “You will be landing in Antarctica in about 60mins – The temperature at ALCI airbase is -7c Wind 11mph. PLEASE CHANGE INTO YOUR ANTARCTIC CLOTHING”. The scramble that follows is of epic proportions as ninety burly men (plus a few women) attempt to squeeze themselves inside giant baby grows within the confines of an overcrowded plane. The Russians seem to have a sense of humour after all as another prompt appears on the screen reminding us kindly not to stand on the seats while getting changed. Anyway, we are soon all swathed in garishly coloured winter gear, several layers of it, under which we begin to feel uncomfortably hot. The array of jumpsuits and down parkas is bewildering but our resplendent orange BAS boiler suits easily steal the show. By the time we stand on the ice I reckon we might just about be visible from outer space. My Chinese neighbour seems most impressed and asks for a photo, we hug each other grinning at the camera like old friends then sit down and wait some more. The plane begins his descent and the camera that is placed right under the nose of the Ilyushin starts beaming live footage of the frozen continent beneath us. Soon the blue ice runway becomes visible, the turbines roar in anger and with the softest of touch we land at last. The door opens wide, an amazing light fills the cargo plane and then we’re on the ice.

This is a moment I will never forget. There is nothing at Novo airfield. Not a single building for as far as the eye can see. As we stand, awed and bewildered – the blinding Antarctic sun glances off the ice  bleaching the whole landscape. It is cold but not so cold that it comes as a shock, the air is crisp and amazingly fresh. I feel like dancing and shouting for joy though I restrain myself as we have been warned that the blue ice runway at Novo is particularly treacherous. A few years ago, some poor guy having just arrived climbed off the airplane, slid on the ice, and broke his leg. He went straight back home on the return flight. That would be just my luck. I am therefore - if not perhaps on my best behaviour - at least on a cautious one. Having taken yet more shots of the Ilyushin 76 (this must be the most photographed plane on earth) we all congregate around our respective flags as the rear of the hull opens and our cargo gets unloaded. National characteristics are a funny thing and one can see how easily stereotypes can evolve. While the German crew all wear the same uniform with matching hats all neatly tied and get about packing away their luggage in an efficient and orderly manner the British contingent wanders round in a detached, aimless kind of way displaying a full panoply of mix and match jackets, trousers and, most importantly: hats. Indeed we have been encouraged to bring along any favourite hat we might have, not to make us look even sillier than we already are but as this allows us to be more easily recognised from a distance or in bad weather. I expect it will also facilitate the identification of the bodies. Nevertheless I feel a thrill of excitement as Lindsay, my youngest daughter, has knitted me an amazing penguin deer-stalker that will undoubtedly earn me the first place in any “ridiculous hat” competition this side of the equator. I am however saving it for a special occasion and must content myself with a black pompon woolly hat for the time being. I notice that Sam is sporting a penguin hat of sorts – poor fellow, he is bound to be green with envy when I uncover my homespun headdress. It is our first sight of each other in full polar gear and I must admit that the results are mixed – psychedelic orange is perhaps not the easiest of colours to wear. Jo and Michael, our second-row forwards – who look big enough at the best of time now appear enormous as they waddle in their massive Mukluk boots like two oversized Teletubby. For some reason our luggage is last to materialise, no one really cares as we are too busy gaping at the vast frozen desert that stretches for miles in all direction (ten miles to the horizon apparently, due to the curvature of the earth – how anyone knows those things I have no idea, I simply assume this must be one of the hazards of travelling with scientists that you end up being plied with arcane specialist knowledge whether you understand it or not). This concept at least even I find easy enough to grasp while perhaps deploring its lack of poetry. See below what I mean by choosing your preferred version:

A - The glittering ice sheet stretched to infinity, a long glistening cloak streaked with pale veins of fragile, translucent blue.

B – The horizon stood exactly ten miles away from us due to the curvature of the earth

Anyway, I digress; it was all very beautiful and rather surreal. At this stage we were faced with the option of boarding a Basler plane straight away or taking the risk of having to wait at Novo for up to a week as the weather forecast wasn’t looking too good for the days to come. All of us being desperate to get to Halley this proved an easy decision to make and, after a quick visit to the loos (a container painted like a zebra. Well, why not?) we all crammed in the Basler, a converted DC10 fitted with skis and not much else. The lack of pressurisation seemed to affect some of the young lads as they succumbed to altitude sickness – I’ve experienced it once or twice and it is rather unpleasant, at least as I’m getting older I seem to be getting tougher when it comes to that sort of thing and after spending a couple of hours sketching, seated on a container, I merely got bored – if only I could find that damn book! For such a small plane the DC10 proves remarkably smooth and stable, so too the landing. The doors slid open, we jumped out, familiar faces are waiting for us, beaming across the runway: “Welcome to Halley” shouts John - the station leader; we have arrived at last!

We immediately form an orderly chain and start unloading our cargo onto a large wooden sledge pulled by a skidoo. The base is a few hundred yards off the runway, bathed in that unearthly Antarctic glow. Having dropped some of our luggage at the “Drewry” building the sledge takes us at the foot of one of the giant blue pods. I must have gazed at dozens if not hundreds of photos of Halley VI yet nothing could have prepared me for the sight of this amazing structure. I do not want to be unkind to the architects who designed the station but it looks to me as if it’s quite extraordinary presence owes as much to its design as to its stupendous setting. Set about twenty-five kilometres from the rim of the Brunt ice shelf Halley VI is surrounded by an immense flat white plain entirely devoid of landmark of any kind save for the station’s various clusters of bright red shipping containers and lines of vehicles dotted all over the place within the five-mile-long perimeter. And here, aloof and incongruous, stands the base, looking as if it had just materialised straight out of a ‘Star Wars’ movie, a giant red and blue caterpillar on stilts, gaudy guardian of the frozen wastes.  The pastel colours work particularly well, especially the pale shade of blue that seems to hover above the snow, mirroring the slender veins of ice streaking away in the distance. As for ‘Big Red’, it dominates its surroundings like some colonial throwback, proudly puffing its glass and metal chest emblazoned with a giant union jack. “Look at me!” it seems to be shouting, brash and oddly charming like some lovable rogue. Beneath that dazzling exterior, the underbelly of the beast has the feel of a winter fairyland arcade, framed by two rows of giant stilts resting on massive white metal skis currently frozen to the ice shelf. Various antennas, domes and assorted paraphernalia pokes out of the roof of the science modules while the bridge linking them to the rest of the station is piled with multi-coloured drums and rubble bags. Despite having withstood the harshest climate on earth for over five years now the buildings look almost brand new, not a scratch, no discoloration, no rust whatsoever (Antarctica is after all a desert) – there is no doubt in my mind that this is the most striking base on the entire continent and I am beginning to understand why people love it so much and long to come back after they have spent any length of time here.

But that is only the exterior, a flight of metal steps takes you inside the beast. A huge door opens on a small antechamber, there are all sorts of skis stacked in a corner plus a stretcher which is part of the doc’s emergency response kit. Wooden shelves are filled with lip balm and sun cream. Halley being situated right under the ozone hole ultra violet radiations are more powerful – and more dangerous – here than anywhere else in the world, which is why everybody slaps on sun cream every time they go out. Even so, one soon develops a ruddy complexion referred to as the “Halley tan”.  Underneath the sun cream sits an array of “grab” radios standing to attention in their chargers. Anyone venturing further afield than the nearby buildings is required to carry one. Weather conditions can deteriorate extremely quickly, in case of sudden whiteout one can easily wander within striking distance of the modules yet fail to reach them, not a pleasant experience in this kind of climate. Push another door, of normal proportion this one, and you find yourself in the boot room.  This is a crowded, messy place where people dump their boots and their multi-layered outdoor clothing. There are racks for gloves, glasses, scarves and hats - pegs for overalls, fleeces, parkas and down jackets, a top shelf for ski boots and the other half of the doc’s emergency kit hangs on a hook by the exit door. All this cohabits in a happy colourful jumble. It smells of fresh rubber, a smell that from now on shall always be associated in my mind with the excitement of heading out for the ice. It is a room one gets to know intimately as we seem to be spending half our working time getting in and out of cold weather gear. We now step into the station proper, this is control command pod. The surgery is straight ahead, to my left hangs the fire response uniforms, to my right a large multi-coloured board studded with hooks. This is the tagging board, a vital part of life at Halley. All the various outbuildings are represented, as well as a “within perimeter” and an “off base” column. Upon arrival everyone is given a red rubber tag bearing his or her name (winterers have a brass one) and you are required to tag in and out every time you step outside. Besides, you must also enter your time of departure and your expected return time in the movements book. On a benign sunny summer’s day - where the temperature might be hovering at around minus three or four – this might seem like overkill. Wait till you’ve seen the visibility drop faster than you can drive your skidoo and you’ll suddenly find it rather comforting to know that the sign-in book is regularly checked by the comms office.

Communications, comms for short, is next to the tagging board. It is, with command control on the other side of the corridor, the nervous hub of the station. The next two pods are living quarters, each boasting eight two bunks bedrooms, plus toilets and shower rooms, all of it extremely comfortable and brightly coloured. As a matter of fact the whole station is a riot of gaudily painted walls, floors and ceilings. Green apple, cobalt blue, egg yolk yellow – this is meant to counterbalance the relentless whiteness of the outside world and thus help station dwellers maintain a positive psychological balance. Either that or somebody at BAS got hold of a cheap lot of paint. Everything is in a very good nick, especially the showers, who wouldn’t look out of place in a five-star hotel or a plush Surrey home. There is a good reason for them being in such good condition: they are hardly used. It’s not that we don’t wash very often – only that we wash very little at a time.  Antarctica being a desert water becomes a precious commodity. All the water we use on base comes from melted ice, ice that first needs to be shovelled down two huge melt tanks before being heated up by fuel – and fuel, like everything else here, has come a hell of a long way. Ok girls, here’s a little polar experiment you can carry out at home. It’s called a regular army shower.

Step 1. Get wet- you have 1mn maximum.

Step 2. Turn the water off and lather/shampoo yourself vigorously and enthusiastically.

Step 3. Turn the water on again to rinse off. 1mn maxi.

Ps. Pray that the fire alarm doesn’t ring between steps 2 and 3. (don’t laugh it has happened).

If you choose to exceed this regime and indulge in somewhat more elaborate ablutions this becomes known as a “Hollywood shower” – such extravagances are frown upon and will result in moult shovelling, as everyone is expected to shovel as much as he/she uses. Right at the end of the living modules is the quiet room. It doubles up as a small library – don’t get excited girls it’s nothing compared with the one you’ve got at school. It is, however, very quiet, mainly because nobody ever comes here, unless the shop or the post office take over the space once every few weeks. This is where I am writing from at the moment, I prefer the conviviality of the communal room but it gets very hot with those large bay windows whereas the library is cool, almost fresh at times – which I prefer.

The communal space and heart of the base is of course “big red”, a multifunctional area that serves as dining room, bar, lounge, games room, meeting room and washing up area. It works really well and the huge triangular bay windows are absolutely stunning. On a sunny day the whole place is flooded with light and people happily hang around here from seven in the morning until the early hours, especially if it’s a Saturday night and most of the base can enjoy a lie-in the following day. The kitchen is also situated there, boasting the most amazing view over the ice shelf. I am not going to be working in it for very long as the modules should soon be decommissioned, I am therefore determined to make the most of it while also looking forward to the other kitchen waiting for me at Halley – the one in the shipping container. Step out of big red and you are in the plant and generator module. This one is full of technical stuff that basically keeps us alive. I suppose I ought to write a little bit more about generators, plumbing and electronics – out of gratitude if nothing else – but I feel it’s a little bit like breathing, one cannot do without it yet nobody gets too excited about the process. Actually, I am probably wrong, the various gangs of technicians who keep the plants running seem full of passion and enthusiasm. At any rate I am intent on keeping them as well fed as I possibly can – the thought of running out of power in a place like Halley doesn’t bear thinking about.

We have now reached the bridge that links the first five pods with the last three. Those are the science labs. Clean, quiet and empty compared to the rest of the base. The quietness could be due to the fact that, because of the relocation, there are very few scientists this year. As far as I am concerned this part of the base offers two poles of attraction: the upper observatory where the Dobson spectrometer is housed and the craft cupboard.

The Dobson (whose name is Daphne by the way) is of course the legendary machine that enabled British scientists to “spot” the hole in the ozone layer.

I have quite a bit more to tell you on this subject, however you will have to wait as it is quite late and I am moving kitchen tomorrow. Besides, we have reached the end of the station and thus the end of the tour.

Good night!






Base induction today, we shuttle between buildings in small groups with the aim to acquire the skills necessary for survival at Halley. This includes how to light a Primus stove, proper use of the radio network and riding a skidoo. The “Primus” is easy enough but what catches my imagination is the “Tilly” lamp which, almost as soon as it is lit starts emitting a strong cheesy smell. First if you don’t know what a Tilly lamp is imagine a large paraffin burning hurricane lamp; the name is misleading as its purpose is to warm up your tent rather than to provide it with light. This one has a long streak of melted cheese plastered down one of its sides, hence the smell. We soon understand why as Mat, our instructor, produces a small can of tinned cheddar (I am being entirely serious here), pops the lid off and balances it on top of the “tilly”.

“Toss us the biscuits Kat!” he shouts at the other guide who obliges and delivers a green foil packet containing some flat square biscuits. Those delicacies are known as “biscuit browns” in military jargon, the other variety on offer bearing the inviting name of “dead fly biscuits” apparently they contain raisins rather than insects which, despite my wide ranging tastes , I find kind of reassuring. Surprisingly given the basic ingredients we started with we find ourselves dipping our biscuit browns into gooey orangey cheese wishing we had a glass of chilled Swiss “Fendant Blanc” to wash it down. Not a bad fondue at all!  The highlight of the day however remains the skidoo training.   All right, I’ve got to come clean on that one. You’ve made it to the interview stage and there you are, sitting in front of a reasonably kindly but somewhat stern looking  panel of people who will be bossing you about should you get the job. One of the questions they put to you is of course why you applied for the position in the first place. (a rather pertinent question in my view when you are willing - indeed hoping - to be selected as one of the elite few fortunate enough to go and freeze their mitts off in the coldest place on earth). At this point one usually embarks on a well-rehearsed speech full of inspired metaphors and lyrical elan while artfully and desperately attempting to conceal the REAL reason why you covet the job. Let me show you how it works:

Panel – “Why do you want to work in Antarctica in the first place?”

Interviewee – “ Well, (pregnant pause) given the urgency of understanding the causes of global warming so as to be able to devise and implement mitigating measures that will – in the fullness of time – enable us to lower average global temperatures – thus hopefully saving this amazing planet and bequeathing to future generations a healthier, happier, better world, I have come to the conclusion that every single one of us must do all that is in his or her power to advance the progress of science. And where better to contribute to this noble task – indeed to this inherent human duty – than in Antarctica by working for BAS, an organisation that has perhaps done more than any other to further our understanding of this remote, mysterious and fascinating continent.

Interviewee’s subconscious – “This is all very well but why I really want to go to Antarctica is TO RIDE A SKIDOO!”

Maybe not quite so noble after all. But what the hell, here I am with a skidoo. It’s nothing more than a moped on skis with a couple of tracks thrown in to make it look cool but you can tell by the way all staff jump on them and ride away one knee on the saddle, the other leg gracefully balanced in the air that this is indeed nothing less than the trusted steed of the fearless Antarctic Cow-boy. The whole base is buzzing with them, noisy, brightly coloured little demons that keep appearing at every corner. Some are pulling good old fashioned wooden sledges stacked with boxes, jerrycans, and various colour coded drums tightly lashed to the railings, others carry people: two or three at a time – on Sundays they will pull skiers up and down the wind tails at the back of the station. I’m not sure what I was expecting as far as skidoo training is concerned; perhaps some shortened version of the automobile driving test? It turned out that, after a brief induction, we are let loose on the machines for a wander round the camp. It seems that the only requirement for driving a skidoo is that whatever you’re doing is dead urgent and you are in a hell of a hurry. I couldn’t wait to be started!

 I don’t know if this is because I learnt to drive in Paris in a car that had received more knocks than John Foreman but despite being surrounded by the sprawling immensity of the Antarctic continent I had not even sat on my mount that the wretched thing roared into life, escaped my grasp and ran over one of my colleagues. She rolled around on the ice screeching for a little while – just to make me feel guilty I expect, but she got up eventually, unharmed if a little bruised. As a result of this embarrassing incident I am now probably the slowest, most careful driver on the base. I do not wish to give Parisian drivers a worse reputation than they already have. (It is after all my home town). Besides none of those skidoos have klaxons – it is a well known fact that a Parisian cannot drive without a klaxon.

Next is radio. Wherever you are at base you will always find yourself within earshot of a radio. All communications are public as you need to be able to pick up a set and answer should you be the one being called. The day is punctuated with those terse, business like little exchanges, here is a transcript of a typical conversation:

  • Halley comms, Halley comms, Olivier
  • Olivier, Halley comms
  • Hey guys it’s cocktail night tonight, any chance of vehicles bringing some crushed ice?
  • Sure, we’ll get hold of Ben and ask one of his dozers to dig a bucket of white or two.
  • Halley comms, Halley comms, Ben
  • Ben, Halley comms
  • Sorry guys all my dozers are busy building the igloo to store the beer
  • Ok, never mind I’ll just have to use the ice core samples
  • Whoah! Last time they gave my Martini a funny taste.
  • Yea, but those are only a couple of million years old, they should be all right.
  • Do you think the scientists will mind?
  • Not if there’s Martini with it
  • Splendid, and if the sparkies could also bring their welding iron I could put the finishing touch on the cremes brulees.
  • Roger Olivier, looking forward to dinner
  • Roger, see you later guys!

Ok, this might be apocryphal. Let’s move on to the first aid refresher course (took place in the bar – this one I am not making up), a few more bits of information about life on station and a grand tour of the facilities. This place rocks, I think we’re going to be working pretty hard over the next few months but it looks as if we should have a lot of fun too. And well, that’s pretty much it. We have been induced and are subsequently let loose on the unsuspecting station. This is just as well as we are all itching to get stuck in and get the relocation on the move, both literally and metaphorically. First day at work tomorrow. See you there!








I do apologise for having taken so long to forward some written material, big workload and computer problems have conspired to thwart my best intentions. The relocation is under way and progressing well, we have now moved to the temporary camp which means that I am cooking for 80 people, 5 times a day from a converted shipping container. It sounds rather basic and hard work but the unit is very well kitted and there are now four chefs on the base since the last twin otter flight landed last week. The last of the team will be in with the ship around Christmas day together with tonnes of cargo and FRESH food. The BBC has also arrived in the shape of a single reporter laden with a mountain of equipment. I have volunteered to help her and as a result I've spent my day off today being the sound man for the BBC. We filmed the removal of the Dobson spectrometer from the weather obs to the summer science caboose. I am glad to report that I haven't dropped or broken anything.

I miss the school (I really do!) and I hope everyone is doing well,


Amicalement, Olivier




Hi Everyone

Here is BAS Halley Station New Year’s post-festive edition crammed with interesting facts, games and quizzes to keep you and your family entertained. Have fun!

Find the odd one out

1 - Spam - Corned beef – Pork luncheon meat –Organic Cherry tomatoes

2 - Frostbite – Frostnip – Frost Burn – Sunburn

3 - Thermals – Long Johns – Woolly Hat – Bikini

4 - Halley 3 – Halley 5 – Halley 6 – Halleluiah

5 - King Penguin – Emperor Penguin – Yellow eyed Penguin – Gerbil


Right, you know how some newspapers and magazines love to produce those lists: the ten best summer reads, the ten best handbags, the ten best lawn mowers and so on. I am ashamed to confess that those pointless compilations exert an irresistible fascination over me, regardless of the items being thus ranked and catalogued. I have therefore decided to produce my own “Best of Antarctica “; for the sake of parity I have also compiled a “Worst of”. Here we go!


10 Best things about Antarctica

  1. The people I am living and working with
  2. No one uses a mobile phone (there is no signal)
  3. The amazing, other worldly quality of the light
  4. Everybody helps with everything
  5. Saturday nights
  6. There is nothing to buy
  7. Donald Trump is not here
  8. I get to wear lots of silly hats
  9. You can finish work at 10pm and it’s still bright sunshine
  10. I get to play a lot of table tennis


Another 10 best things about Antarctica

  1. The iconic station building (it’s just a giant ““Tonka” toy really)
  2. The penguins
  3. Skidoos!!
  4. We’re all wearing really cool sunglasses all the time
  5. You get five meals a day (even better if you’re not a chef)
  6. Nordic skiing around the perimeter on a dazzlingly bright day
  7. Wherever you leave your glasses someone will always bring them back to you
  8. You get to say “Roger, do you copy?” on the radio
  9. You should see some of the beards!
  10. Not to mention the outfits.


10 Things I miss most in Antarctica


  1. My children
  2. My friends and neighbours
  3. My wood burner
  4. My garden
  5. Going to a nice country pub
  6. Dark nights and the alternance between night and day
  7. Cycling along the ridgeway
  8. BBC Radio 3
  9. BBC Radio 4


10 Worst things about Antarctica


  1. There is no night (it’s playing havoc with my body clock)
  2. We are now completely out of fresh fruit and vegetables
  3. The fire alarm seems to have a predilection for going off while you are on the loo
  4. It is snowing in the kitchen (through the extraction system)
  5. My hands get really cold very quickly
  6. I don’t always win at table tennis
  7. There are fish fingers in the freezer
  8. Lack of sleep
  9. Even the Camembert is frozen (AAAAAArrrrrrrggghhhhhh!!!)
  10. Not only do we have to wear baby-grows but they are ORANGE.


10 things I would change at Halley if I was in charge

  1. I would banish motorised skidoos and replace them with sledges pulled by reindeer (or is that Finland?)
  2. I would forbid fish fingers
  3. Anyone caught in the act of freezing a Camembert is to be hanged, drawn and quartered
  4. Nobody would be allowed to beat me at table tennis (for punishment see above)
  5. It would be permissible to use the radio network for pranks
  6. The station’s flying drone would be programmed to bring staff snacks and drinks at regular intervals regardless of location
  7. Saturday nights to be held twice a week
  8. The science module to be gutted and turned into an indoor swimming pool
  9. It would be possible to open the bedroom windows.
  10. Daily atmospheric balloon launch to be replaced by clay pigeon shooting




Here is a selection of slang words used in the Antarctic, match the words with their correct meaning



Smoko                      Workers who erect steel structures

Reefer                       Powerful snow truck fitted with tracks

Genie Mac                Electrician

Gashman                  Extra padded cold weather boots

Steelies                    Small portable metal stove  

Man food                  Fridge

Caboose                   Carpenter

Antarctic 10              Multipurpose hut

Mukluks                   Scientist

Piston Bully              Person in charge of cleaning & washing up

Beaker                     Traveling rations   

Chippy                      Tea break        

Primus                      Generator mechanic        

Sparky                       What any woman will become if she stays long enough in                                                                 Antarctica (Mrs Dougall asks ‘ What will a man become??!)




Using the following ingredients, design a festive five course menu for 80 burly men plus 5 vegetarians, 2 coeliac, 3 dairy intolerant and 1 vegan


  • Tinned potatoes (previously frozen)
  • Dehydrated onions
  • Sliced beetroot (canned)
  • Powdered milk
  • Frozen egg whites
  • Frozen egg yolks
  • Cake mix (only 2 years out of date)
  • Canned cheese
  • Frozen haggis
  • Spam
  • 2 lemons (fresh!!)
  • Gravy browning
  • Angel delight (pink variety)
  • Something brown in a bag (might have been potatoes)
  • Saliva samples (sorry, can’t use those, they belong to the Doc)




You will need:

  • Any number of players (bearded ones particularly suitable)
  • As much winter clothing as you can possibly find for each player
  • A rucksack filled with five-year-old packet food
  • A tent, a sledge and a first aid box full of Mars bars
  • A riveting thriller, the last pages of which are missing





Fill in this easy questionnaire to find out.

3pts per correct answer


  1. It’s -25c outside and the melt tank needs filling up, do you:


  • Wrap up warm in all your cold weather gear, grab your shovel and head out cheerfully to do some shovelling
  • Make sure you’re wearing adequate clothing and draft in a couple of mates to help you out
  • Wrap up warm, make yourself an Ovaltine and sit by the fire with a good book in the hope that somebody else will fill up the wretched tank


  1. The SAR (serious accident response) has been triggered, Sam, one of your colleagues, has gone missing, do you:


  • Muster at once and offer your unconditional help to the muster officer
  • Check the loos - where Sam’s usually sitting for hours doing the crosswords
  • Keep reading your book as you’ve reached a really good part and you never liked the guy very much in the first place


  1. The relief ship is late and the station’s low on food, the chef has now been cooking pasta six dinners in a row, do you:


  • Compliment him on his extensive Italian repertoire
  • Ask him cheerfully what tomorrow’s surprise dish is likely to be
  • Strangle him in cold blood while screaming “NO MORE ***** PASTA!” at the top of your voice


  1. You wake up to find that the front door is entirely blocked by a snowdrift, do you:
  • Get out by the window, grab a shovel and dig yourself out
  • Call the garage boys to come and give you a hand with one of their bulldozers
  • Go back to bed and trigger the Serious Accident Response


  1. You’re on a deep field expedition, your mate, who was carrying the food bag,  has fallen into a crevasse, do you:


  • Rappel down the crevasse and heroically drag him out
  • Call for help and keep talking to him to reassure him that everything’s going to be all right
  • Wish he’d been carrying the tent rather than the food bag.







A message from our Team Leader! Please do check the BAS Facebook page for some great updates and superb photos of what the team are doing down here!


Dear Colleagues


A Happy New Year to everyone, which I wanted to start on a positive note with some excellent news.  Halley is on the move, as planned.


If you follow BAS on Facebook or Twitter you’ll have seen that the relocation of the Halley Research Station modules is fully underway.  After a huge amount of preparation earlier in the season the first module (H2) moved to the new site just after Christmas. 


The arrival of Ernest Shackleton and an intense period of relief added to the workload of the team on station and so I’m especially delighted to update you that as of today (at 1.30am) the garage, Drewry building and three of the main station modules (H1, H2 and E2) have been towed the 23 kms from Halley VI to the new site at Halley VIa.


What an outstanding achievement!


It has been an immense effort by the entire Halley team who have worked hard to ensure the safe relocation of the modules.  Each module or building takes around 5 hours to move, which takes place at night when the temperature is colder and therefore the snow is harder.


This weekend the team are attempting the most technically challenging part of the project: reconnecting the bridge and moving the big red A module, which is the heaviest.


I’d like to thank everyone involved in the project, which includes our ships, aircraft, stations and Cambridge staff, across all our departments for their efforts so far.


To see photos of the relocation efforts please check the BAS Facebook page, which we will update regularly (you don’t have to be a Facebook user):


I’ll keep you posted on future developments.


With best wishes


Operations Director

British Antarctic Survey


And a message from me – will hopefully be speaking to the girls and staff via a live phone link in school very soon. Enjoy the new term!

PS The Happy Christmas St Helen and St Katharine Atmospheric Balloon that I set off is on track to fly over The Falklands sometime soon...with apologies about the positioning of 'Highly Inflammable' Girls. A new school motto perhaps?

Amicalement Olivier.



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