Z-fids Newsletter No. 27

June 2011

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 27   13 Jun 2011 

Editor: Andy Smith  (email andy@smitha.demon.co.uk)
Website: www.zfids.org.uk

News from Halley
Ben Mapston, 2011 Winter Base Commander, has kindly sent the
following report:
   "The summer season was a fantastic success here at Halley with
all the modules being towed to the new base site and connected
together to give us a vision of what the new Halley VI base is
going to look like. However it is my winter team's task to keep the
ageing Halley V station operational and comfortable; sometimes
these two terms do not go hand in hand.
   As most of you know Halley V was designed to be jacked up on
steel legs every year to avoid the ever increasing snow
accumulation, however when the Halley VI build was announced it was
decided not to jack the building any more. This was back in 2006
and since then the snow has built up and a massive wind tail has
developed to the west of the platform.
   A snow model of the Laws platform was made by a Canadian firm in
2010, and it suggested that the end of the platform should be boxed
off to reduce the amount of snow build up around the building. This
was done in the summer and also meant a new front door was fitted
and the post office sign had to be relocated.
   The steps that once were the entrance to the south of the
platform were removed in the summer and a ramp has been put in
place. It is now possible to walk straight off the platform to the
snow level. It is a daily task to clear the platform and ramp from
depositing snow. When the "RRS Ernest Shackleton" resupplied us
last summer we got 12 brand new shovels... now we know why.
   We are also no longer able to jack the platform in the winter to
keep things level so games of pool can be very interesting if the
table has not been adjusted for a while.
   The plumber, generator mechanic, and electrician are all kept
busy repairing parts of the base that are now nearly 20 years old
and many of the components are obsolete so we rely the expertise of
the tradesmen to manufacture and assemble new parts from minimum
   The gash job of polishing the copper pipes in the toilets has
had to be stopped as the past 20 years of Brasso and keen FID
scrubbing has worn them so thin that a gentle squeeze and your
finger print becomes part of the architecture.
   The tunnel network that supplies the power and heating from the
Laws to the Simpson is now over 35 metres below the surface level. 
The immense power of the ice has twisted and buckled the metal
panels and made some 6 inch timber into matchsticks.
   Halley VI has had the limelight of the Brunt Ice Shelf for the
past few years but let's not forget what a fantastic base Halley V
has been.
   Midwinter is fast approaching so I would like to take this
opportunity to wish all FIDS past and present a very happy
Midwinter's day from the last (probably) Halley V winter team."

We wish Ben and all the team at Halley a very happy Midwinter!

Scott 100
I have to apologise to Denis Wilkins (Z-doc 1969). He asked me to
put the following notice in the Z-fids Newsletter. Unfortunately it
was not possible to sent the newsletter out until after the weekend
was over. I do hope it all went OK:
"In Plymouth - Scott's birthplace - we are celebrating the
centennial of his last birthday on June 4/5/6th 2011 with a bumper
w/e of lectures by world class authorities on the Antarctic,
environment, science, etc, etc.  Plus a couple of terrific dinners,
plays music and exhibitions. We are hoping to show the Great White
Silence, and many descendents of Scott are attending.  Details are
on the website at http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/scott100 if anyone is

Trefor Edwards
Trefor Edwards died on 20th November 2010, after a battle with
cancer. He was wintering builder at Halley 1981, and also worked at
King Edward Point, South Georgia, around the time of the invasion.
Mike Pinnock says: "He was a great guy to winter with; his ready
smile and craftsmanship were appreciated by all." An obituary will
appear in the BAS Club newsletter.

Derek Devitt
It is with sadness that we also record the passing of Derek Devitt
(Radio Operator at Halley Bay in 1970) who died on 15th March 2011.

Antarctic Monument and Memorial
The Antarctic Memorial in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London,
in memory of those who lost their lives in Antarctica, was
dedicated on 10 May 2011. The Antarctic Monument was unveiled
outside the Scott Polar Research Institute on 12th May 2011. For
more details on both of these events, see:

Surplus base reports
Keith Holmes writes: "BAS Archives recently weeded out their
surplus copies of the familiar grey-covered foolscap reports that
many of us wrote while on base, and both the Archive manager, Ellen
Bazeley-White, and I would like to make sure that Fids have a
chance to acquire any that interest them before they are
reluctantly disposed of. I thus now have custody of 1873 documents
which would take up 24 feet of shelf space, so I can't keep them
indefinitely. There are about 475 from Halley. If anyone is
interested, I can send them the complete list on an Excel File, or
search for author or year and despatch copies for the cost of
postage plus a modest voluntary donation to the Benevolent Fund.
Contact Keith at kdhox@hotmail.com

Z-fids website
Some recent pictures of the Laws platform by Chris Walton
(wintering chef) have been put on the 2011 page of the Z-fids
website www.zfids.org.uk. Of surprisingly good quality for shots
taken during the dark winter months, they show the effect of not
jacking the platform since 2006. You no longer need to go up any
steps to get onto the Laws, as noted by Ben Mapston in the update

Calling all 2003 winterers
Gavin Francis (Z-doc, 2003) is writing a book called "Empire
Antarctica" (to be published by Chatto & Windus in 2013) about
Halley and the emperor penguins at Windy Creek. More details are on
his website: www.gavinfrancis.com. He trying to track down email
addresses for the 2003 winterers, particularly Pat McGoldrick, Mark
Maltby, Elaine Cowie, Craig Nicholson, & Annette Faux. If anyone
knows how to get in touch with any of these people (who are all
briefly mentioned in the book) please get in touch with Gavin on

A History of Halley Bay, based on philatelic items
John Youle, Editor of "Polar Post", the newsletter of the Polar
Postal History Society of GB, has written in about a History of
Halley Bay, from 1956 to the present, which he has produced using
philatelic items (first day covers and the like). This could be of
interest to those who have spent happy hours on base servicing
philatelic requests! John will presenting this history on Sunday
morning, 18th September 2011, from 9.30 am to 10.30 am, at the
meeting of the Society in Cambridge, 16-18 September 2011. The
venue is the Royal Cambridge Hotel (not far from SPRI). Less than
half the time will be given over to an oral presentation and the
rest is given over to viewing. Any Halley Fid who would be
interested in seeing this would be welcome to come along, but
please let John know in advance (email: jyoule@t-online.de). The
event is not open to the general public. John has sent me a low
definition PDF document (10MB) of the work (which runs to 100 A4
pages); If anyone would like me to send them a copy, please let me

British Antarctic Oral History Project
More edited extracts from the transcripts (see
are reproduced below. If anyone would like to help with the
project as a volunteer, please get in touch.

Peter Clarkson: Beer for a year
"At the end of my first winter at Halley - at the end of the first
year, when the ship came in - it was unfortunate that all the base
supply of booze and all the private stocks of booze were all
offloaded from the "Perla Dan" at the same time, and they were all
stacked up in the garage. Now if you look at that amount of booze
for 30 men for a year, it is a hell of a big pile of stuff, and
Bill [Sloman] saw this lot and nearly went apoplectic. But when you
actually got down to it, it did not work out at more than a pint of
beer per man per day, really. It is not a lot but it looks an awful
lot in one place. I forget whether it was to me the following
relief or whether at that time: there was some question about what
was being done at the relief and he said 'Well you are the man in
charge here. You are the Base Commander. You are in charge. We are
just observers.' I thought 'Pretty powerful observers!'."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/89.

Barry Peters: Roy Piggott
He was a typical mad professor. I saw him lecture after I left BAS.
I worked for Marconis, and I attended a series of lectures at
Leicester University, and Piggott was there, with his tie round
here, his shoes covered in mud, the laces undone, and his arms
going  hot and holy . But he could explain things, to idiots like
me. He was so far above my plane. He had studied under Edward
Appleton. I think he had got a degree when he was about 18 or 19,
he was that bright, and he had worked for Appleton. He had never
bothered to take another degree. It was so much  old hat ; he had
got enough to go on with. An amazing man; during the war he was
working on everything from the proximity fusing of shells, to the
ionosphere, to almost splitting the atom. It was one of those jobs
that could go anywhere, and after the war they dressed him up as a
wing commander and sent him to Germany to get hold of some of the
German scientists and engineers that had been working at the German
ionospheric institute in Austria. 
   Piggott almost had his own private army; it was a bit like
Popski, and by subterfuge, blackmail and employing anybody he could
find out was a scheming little monkey, he would sort of deal on the
black market. He would do anything to get these guys out: borrowed
trucks from various places without people's permission...
   So he was quite an amazing guy. He would ask you to maybe sort
out some papers for him and you would go into his office and you
would say 'I can t find these papers anywhere.' His office was a
bit squarer than this conservatory; piles of papers everywhere. You
could not see the deck; that was gone, long gone. He would say
'Just a minute.' and he knew exactly where everything was. They had
a lady come in from Germany, Hannah, who was going to tidy his
office up, which she duly did, and of course he could not find a
thing. But when he got a promotion, I will always remember he came
roaring back through the gates into the Radio Research Station, in
his old Standard Eight car sagging at the springs with crates of
beer in the back. He was that sort of guy, just a wonderful bloke,
absolutely wonderful."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/86.

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19 October 2011
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