It is my scheduled day off... a one hour sleep in leaves me a bit foggy around 6:30ish... by 7:30ish I’m making toast in the dining room, peanut butter on one slice and nutella on the other. I only eat toast on my days off and so far it's been this combination. Usually I snack on a bowl of cereal or porridge placed strategically between a mug of coffee and the paper towel dispenser on a shelf just above my chopping board in the kitchen. I get the news that I and five others will have been invited to the Russian station of ‘Progress’. The helicopter will depart the heli pad here at 9:30. So here we go again....................a quick shower, clean the teeth, splash on a little liquid metro, pack a bag with thermals and sun block, charge the camera, clean the lens, grab a hat and the next thing you know I’m at the door ready to head of to the heli hut.
Ding, ding, frickin ding......the fire alarm goes off. Thankfully I’m not on the fire team this week but I do help the guys who are to suit up. The rest of the station gathers in the wallow and names are read off from a clip board. The alarm stops. We’re told to stand down. I find out later it was just a little battery issue (god knows how many fire alarms there are around the station but I would suggest somebody at HQ has shares in Duracell).
Well off we go, two squirrels flying through the Antarctic... destination Russia!! The Russian base is a stone's throw from the Chinese and as we make our approach we enter the outskirts of Peoples' Republic... do a wide arc... and settle down on one side of the locals helipad. The next chopper lands on the other side, the blades slow down, systems are checked, the engines stop and the blades come to a stop.
As we exit our transport we’re greeted with the familiar faces of Serge (Station Leader) and a local tradie/interpreter whose name I never heard the first time... nor this... nice guy anyway. We’re taken on a tour of the base, shown through the two main buildings which are still under construction on the inside, around the workshops, out into the backyard (well it looks like one) and finally into a pokey diner looking establishment where we’re fed dried bread, potato and meat soup, sliced cold cuts and pickles. We have a little toast to friendship/Christmas/future (the poor chefs here are working in an out of date under equipped kitchen so I was very thankful for the food we received). I end up choosing brandy over vodka for the toasts............what could I do? Its 1pm and I’m having shots of brandy? My body was not designed for this... but hey anyway.
After a bit of present swapping we make preparations to head off. It was decided that we would walk over the hills to Law Base and there the helos would pick us up. Well have you ever tried to scale a loose based rock hill after a couple of brandys whilst carrying a backpack filled with Antarctic clothing and juggling a camera between the hands that aren’t needed to steady your course. Well the view truly made up for the discomfort of the situation. Stunning!!! The placement of both the Chinese and Russian stations set them up for superb perspectives in relation to the size of the glaciers and our humble foot prints.
Half an hour later we reach Law Base. It a combination of apples, melons and a hut. Look at the photos and I’m sure you’ll work out what's what. We stayed here for an hour or so just looking around... Ali (our Station Leader) is a geologist by trade and was lost in thoughts and ramblings for the entire time. It's nice to see people enjoy and share their expert knowledge down here, and Ali was no exception to this as she got excited about what I could only see as different coloured rocks. I listened and tried to take as much in as I could but wow does she know her stuff. If I retained even 1% of what she told me I’ll be a happy guy.
By the time we jumped in the helicopter I had a huge headache from the little tipple earlier and forgetting to drink water on our hike. So I thought I’d have a little nap on the way home. It was not to be. With a lot of different cloud cover the landscape made for some magnificent views, and with the random seals, emperor penguins, adelies and giant ice bergs..............A lot of unique photos as well.
|View from chopper on way home|