More on the flying club

by Norman Eddleston - Geophysicist, 1971-72


Gordon Devine's story, "The beginning of the flying club" contains a slight inaccuracy. Jay's "flight" was not the first, as Andy has pointed out. That honour fell to the Doctor himself, Bob Paterson! It is all in my diary and I can add a few details of that and other Wright Brother impersonations of the time.

But first, in those days the Halley doc would approach a couple of likely lads and ask them if they would like to volunteer as base nurses. I expect he had asked almost everybody else on base and they had all declined. In desperation he must have decided to ask the last two, Bruce Blackwell and myself, and we of course agreed. Little did we know. Anything new sounded fun. Beside, our services would be hardly needed. Hah!

Anyway, Bruce and I passed Bob's medical training course and settled in to an expected future of cleansing wounds and helping with dog injuries. I had also become one of the most qualified anaesthetists for hundreds of miles around.

On Tuesday, 6th of April, 1971, the two "Nightmen" (Gordon D. and myself - I was on Auroral watch) were involved in what was at first thought to be a fire in the Genny Shed. That story has been described elsewhere.* The "fire", at 4 a.m. was actually a spectacular generator cooling leak. The whole base were invited (by the fire-alarm) to arouse themselves and join in the fun. Eventually, at 7 a.m. I went to bed, exhausted after the eventful night.

I was awakened by Rick Lee at midday and told that there had been an accident. After a major gale and while helping to clear the garage ramp, Doc Bob had fallen from an I.H. tractor and hit the blade on the terminal part of his flight. Muff (Mike Warden) had diagnosed a broken rib at the front and a fractured rib at the back. A later X-ray suggested two broken ribs at the back and one at the front. Bob was in quite a bit of pain and was worried about a potentially punctured lung. I still remember him telling me what to do if that happened. Gulp! Your-life-in-their-hands, indeed, but this was all back to front.

Bob made a good recovery and so was in relatively fit shape when the next flyer, Jay Rushby, made his spectacular fall on Friday, 11th May. According to my diary, Jay fell ten feet. Gordon says only eight. Tut-tut, events are supposed to get embellished with the passage of time. Anyway, as usual, I was on nights and was awakened at 4 p.m. and told that we had another medical emergency. So, at 10 p.m., with Bob as Surgeon-in-Chief, Mike Taylor as Chief Plasterer and Mark Vallance and I as Anaesthetists (I also measured BP and pulse), Jay's dislocated foot was put back in place and the ankle break suitably treated. It was all over in 30 minutes. Since I was on auroral watch I was able to check on him regularly throughout that night.

The following day Jay had another minor procedure to reconfigure his plaster and started his slow recovery.

But that was not the end of the Junior Flying Club!. The following day, on Saturday, 12th May, in a gale that was gusting up to 77 knots (89 m.p.h.), Paul Jones was climbing out of the La Cour (magnetics) hut at 10 p.m., after changing charts, when the top blew off. Paul went some way with it. Luckily La Cour hut shaft extensions are not designed to fly well and Paul was deposited somewhere close by on the Bondu. When the magnetic charts did not arrive at the usual time I raised the alarm and a search party of four people (Hwfa Jones, Brian Cornock, Tony Gannon and Steve Bean) went out to look for him. Paul had managed to crawl back down into the hut (luckily without falling down la Jay) and he was returned to base just after 11 p.m. in one working piece. He said that in the total whiteout conditions he had no idea where was in relation to the hut so he stuck a pair of scissors in the snow, tied a ball of string to the handle and crawled out in ever increasing arcs until he found the remaining portion of the hut shaft. My diary does not record why he happened to have a pair of scissors and a ball of string with him.*

Aptly, the film being shown in the Lounge that night was "Heavens Above" with Peter Sellers...
[17 June 2013]

* Norman comments:

When I wrote about the "fire" being described elsewhere, I had a memory of something I read in the last 2 years by Hwfa on Z-fids. However, I cannot find what that was! I cannot think where else that event may have been described - nless it was in the BAS Club Magazine. As for Paul, I remember having a discussion with him before he went out that night. I had tried to get to the Auroral Hut earlier in the evening but given up "after 15 yards" (according to my diary entry). We had a hand line directly to the Magnetics Hut and always took a torch in the dark. I wrote in the diary that Paul's torch went dead before he resorted to the scissors and string. They still seem a strange choice of emergency equipment to me! With luck he will see what I wrote and respond. Knowing Paul, there is probably some obscure connection to James Joyce!
[25 Jun 2013]
* Paul explains:
If you remember, there was a gap in the hand line between the Met instruments and the hand line out to the magnetic hut (to allow for the passage of vehicles). Visibility was so bad (not to mention my level of nervousness) that I took the ball of string and scissors to bridge the gap (which I did on the way out).
[26 Jun 2013]

27 June 2013

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