Z-fids Newsletter No. 35

November 2014

      Z - F I D S    N E W S L E T T E R   No. 35   10 Nov 2014

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

News from Halley
No news direct from the base this time, but no doubt they are very busy
preparing for the summer season, which will presumably involve mending
the generator cooling system and restarting the science programmes.
Doc James Townsend's blog features some nice pictures of a visit to the
emperor penguins. The first Twin Otter arrived at the end of October.

The Big Power down
I am sure that most if not all of you are aware of the power down
which occurred on 30th July this year, at about the coldest time of the
year. This was due to a massive loss of coolant. It was an uncomfortable
time for the winter crew but they worked hard to bring back limited
power using backup systems. All science, apart from meteorological
observations essential for weather forecasting, has been suspended.
There is a page on the Z-Fids website www.zfids.org.uk (link from the
2014 page) quoting the two BAS press statements, a statement by the
winter base commander John Eager, various press comments and blogs, and
a nice photo of the outside loo (no power for the inside ones).

The situation reminded Chris Sykes of a power failure which occurred in
1967. The generator concerned was a write-off, and so it was necessary
to reduce power consumption. You can read Chris's article on the Z-Fids
website (link from the 1967 page). It describes the unpleasant living
conditions experienced at Halley-I in its final days on reduced power:
bunkroom temperatures down to -19C, and Newcastle Brown Ale freezing
instantly as soon as the bottle was opened and the pressure released.
The final straw was an exploding tin of kippers which destroyed the


Sadly, as usual, there are deaths to announce.

Dave Townsend
Ray Freshwater writes to record that Dave died earlier this year. He
was the wintering diesel mechanic in 1988 and 1989. There is an
obituary, written by Simon Salter, on the website (link from the 1988

Derek Ward
Derek passed away peacefully on Tuesday 6th May 2014. Derek was one of
the met team in the Royal Society IGY Expedition at Halley Bay in 1957
and 1958. His health deteriorated after a stroke in and a fall in 2010,
but he never forgot his Antarctic experience and right up to a few months
ago he would perk up when his wife Vickie read a couple of passages
from the Ferguson tractor magazine (the make of tractors used by the
IGYE). He also appreciated the Z-Fids Newsletters.

Jim Parker
Jim was the chippy in 1978. He died on 28th July, aged 60. Like most
Fids, he took lots of photos and his partner Anne Henley has offered
to send some for use on the website.

John Nockels
A tribute to John, whose death was announced in the last Newsletter,
has been written by several of his fellow winterers in 1970 and 1971.
It may be found on the Zfids website (link from the 1970 page).

Dave Holmes
Dave (electronic engineer in 2012) was killed in a motor bike collision
with a car on the A47 in Norfolk in 2013, while returning home after
meeting with some of his Antarctic mates at a race meeting in Kings
Lynn. He was 38. His mother has released video footage from his
helmet-cam in the hope that this will encourage both motorists and
motorcyclists to drive carefully and help avoid such tragic accidents
in the future. There is a link to the video on the 2012 Z-Fids page.

Charles Swithinbank and Dick Laws
The deaths of these two senior and well-respected Antarctic scientists
have occurred since the last Newsletter. Charles died on 27th May 2014.
He began his career as a glaciologist on the Norwegian-British-Swedish
Expedition to Antarctica in 1949-52 and from then on he spent more than
20 seasons in both the Arctic and Antarctic, working on the nature of
glaciers and interpretation of ice depth radar images. He was based at
the Scott Polar Research Institute, at the University of Michigan (Ann
Arbor), and at BAS from 1974-1986, where he was Chief Glaciologist and
Head of the Earth Sciences Division.

Dick Laws died on 7 Oct 2014, aged 88. He first went to the Antarctic
in 1947, wintering as zoologist (studying seals) and base leader in
1948 and 1949. He was later the first base leader at South Georgia
(in 1951). After a spell studying elephants and hippos in East Africa,
he was appointed head of life sciences at BAS in 1969, and succeeded
Sir Vivian Fuchs as Director in 1973.

Z-fids website www.zfids.org.uk
Graham Wright ('Genghis') has contributed some fine pictures of the
Shackleton Mountains taken in January 1970.

Mike ('Muff') Warden describes a field trip with John Nockels in
September 1970.

George Blundell (Auroral Observer, 1961 and 1962) has written about the
History of the Bob-Pi crossing onto the inland ice. Link from the 1962
Z-Fids page.

Norman Eddleston has digitised and put on the Web an audio recording
made around the time of Midwinter 1972. For those of us who were there,
this is quite amusing. There is a link from the 1972 page.
Gerard Baker (this year's chef) has suggested that the Z-Fids community
could identify what artefacts from earlier bases should still be at
Halley VI. He says "There are very few pieces of old bases here at all
and it seems that many were taken from Halley-5 - and we would like to
have them back here where they belong or in Cambridge, but not in
people's houses. For example, the brass Antarctica from the old bar
seems to have turned up in someone's house on Facebook - that, to me,
seems wrong." Seems wrong to me too. If anyone has any thoughts or
information about this, please write in and we will see if we can use
the Z-Fids website to make progress on this.

JATO bottle
Mick Dixon, found this outside the library of Halley II, when he
visited the abandoned base in 1984. As mentioned in the last
Newsletter, he wondered who put it there and when. Murray Roberts
(doctor in 1968) says that it was there in 1968 and came from the C130
Hercules that evacuated John Brotherhood in December 1967. Paul
Whiteman and John Carter have also commented on this story (see page
linked from the 1968 Z-Fids page). Paul says that it used to be used as
an ashtray in the lounge until a visiting aircrew member pointed out
that it was still live!

Z60; Halley Bay Diamond Jubilee Celebration
The 60th anniversary of Halley, Base Z, is fast approaching and plans
are well under way to mark this milestone with a weekend's celebration,
7-9 October 2016 in Northampton. The event will include a gala dinner,
webcast with the wintering Z6 team, exhibition of memorabilia,
nostalgic movies, behind-the-scenes film of Halley-6's construction,
talks from eminent Antarcticans and more. After the success of Z50 the
venue will again be Northampton's Park Inn. All ZFids are welcome as
well as anyone who has ever been to Halley or frankly just adores the
place. For booking forms, latest updates, contact numbers and details
on volunteering go to https://sites.google.com/site/z60celebration/

To help the organisational team gauge potential numbers and to assist
further planning, we urge attendees to send deposits as soon as
possible. The Park Inn is now accepting accommodation bookings for the
weekend. For full details visit the website. For those not staying at
the Park Inn, information is now available on the website about
alternative (cheaper) accommodation nearby.

Merchandise is now available through the website or through the
following link: www.TShirtUK.com

There is a funding mechanism available and a member of the Committee
has been appointed to look at requests from Z Fids who wish to attend
but find that their financial circumstances or mobility make it
somewhat difficult to commit. These requests will be considered and
treated in the strictest confidence by the Committee and should be
addressed to Z60 Committee Chairman, Mr Gordon Devine, 34, Chudleigh,
Freshbrook, Swindon, Wilts SN5 8NQ (01793 344186).

Eliason motor toboggan
Graham Chambers has contributed a picture of the Elsan in 1975.
(Eliason in the Z-Fids Picture Index)

RRS James Clark Ross
Anyone who has sailed on the JCR may be interested to know that Mike
Gloistein (radio officer on the ship) has set up a nice website about
it: www.gm0hcq.com The ship last visited Halley Feb-Mar last year.

Halley Flying Club
Replying to Bob Thomas's contribution on this topic, quoted in the last
Z-Fids Newsletter, Charlie Blossom says "Bob never let the facts get in
the way of a good story! I was actually carrying something in one hand
which only left me able to hold the (vertical) ladder with the other.
I had to let go and grab the next rung in double quick time. I can
still remember the moment when I failed! But what about Shirtcliffe and
Brotherhood man hauling off an ice cliff [see below]. Surely that must
qualify for the flying club roll of honour?"

Christmas Box Hill
When I suggested, in the last Z-Fids Newsletter, that James Broadway's
guess that his 1984 visit was the first since it was discovered was not
correct, I received some feedback confirming this.

Allen Clayton wrote "Your hunch was correct! Mike Taylor and myself
visited Christmas Box Hill during December 1970 with the 'Hobbits',
whilst fixing survey photo-points for my Caird Coast/Coats Land map. We
located the depot that had been left by Bob Thomas only after a series
of three successive approximations by noon transits of the sun,
exaggeratedly plotted on graph-paper. Refraction correction in the
latitude calculation was the big problem, of course. As soon as we were
near Bob's quoted coordinates, we camped and did a square search on skis
separately on both sides of the tent. After about an hour, Mike spotted
the shadow of the collapsed depot. We dug it out during the next day
and re-laid the stack of boxes and fuel cans, helping ourselves to some
of Bob's 'goodies' at the same time. We made a careful note of the
contents of the new depot (which also contained some of our own surplus
supplies to allow for a fast return journey) and re-erected the old
flag as securely as possible. There was an enormous chasm close by,
which Bob named Tetleys Creek; I think he had both brews in mind!"

Ian Bury said: "Mark Vallance and I were on Christmas Box Hill in 1971,
with the Mobsters."

Muff Warden commented that he and John Flick were there in November
1971 but were prevented by open water from reaching the top.

Union Flag blunder
Jim Franks has pointed out that the Midwinter photo of the 2003
wintering team shows the Union Flag upside down. "What distress were
they in, other than usual effects of celebrations?" he wonders.

Hovercraft engine
Paul Whiteman replies to Mike Dixon's comments quoted in the last
Z-Fids Newsletter about the engine used as the hovercraft lift fan.
"This was well after my time but I doubt that it was an Eliason unit as
that was a cast-iron Briggs and Stratton lump guaranteed to induce an
instant hernia if you attempted to lift the toboggan out of where it
had sunk, which was often. Almost certainly a Skidoo unit as they were
all alloy and much lighter and if it was a Rotax definitely so."

Radio Echo-Sounding on the Brunt Ice Shelf
Brian Dorsett-Bailey (brother of Jeremy Bailey, killed in the 1965
crevasse accident) writes: "Following Liz Weeks' notice in Newsletter
34 concerning the "Radio Echo-Sounding on the Brunt Ice Shelf and in
Coates Land", I contacted Liz and she has sent the document to me. I
was very pleased to receive it as I do not recall ever having seen it
before. I do have a copy of "Nature" from 1964 which includes an
article of which my brother was co-author. You may like to mention the
successful outcome of her request in the next issue."

British Antarctic Oral History Project
More edited extracts from the transcripts (see
www.antarctica.ac.uk/oralhistory) are reproduced below. They give three
different accounts of the same incident: the accident to John
Brotherhood and Jim Shirtcliffe in 1967.

John Brotherhood: A fall over the ice cliff
I wanted to do physiological measurements of people manhauling sledges.
It hadn't been done before and that was one of the reasons I was there.
Jim [Shirtcliffe] was willing to be a subject so we planned to do this
manhauling where we would go out to Mobster Creek. The plan was to go
down onto the sea ice, have a look at the emperor penguins and then go
from the sea ice back to Halley Bay and back up the chute there and
back to base. That was a reasonable day's trip. When the day for this
expedition arrived, it was overcast but the visibility was excellent.
The visibility must have been at least 20 miles because you could
actually see the Hinge Zone. I remember that as I pulled the sledge up
the ramp, Fanny Hill was standing at the top of the ramp and he said to
me 'You shouldn't be going out today, Doc, in whiteout.' I think I
probably said to him 'Visibility is pretty good, Fanny.' Anyway Jim and
I went off and we came to Mobster Creek. Jim said 'We have arrived at
the drift now, Doc.' So he went in front, to lead the way down the
drift, and I was at the back of the sledge and we started to proceed
down what we thought was the drift ramp down onto the ice onto the
bottom of the creek.

I can remember Jim saying 'It's getting bloody steep here, Doc.' and
the next thing is we really went over the edge. We had missed the
drift; we had actually gone over a cornice and my recollection of the
reason for that was: we had actually been following a pegged route. So
we had followed a drum line and then followed some pegs to get down
onto the sea ice, but in fact something that I think we weren't ...,
I certainly wasn't aware of: there were two sets of pegs. There were
some pegs that had been put in by the glaciologists for glaciological
surveying and then there were the route marking pegs; and the
glaciologists' pegs didn't actually mark the route. We had taken the
wrong set of pegs, and so instead of going down the drift to the bottom
of the creek, we had just missed the drift.

Jim, I think, landed in the edge of the drift into fairly soft snow and
that broke his fall, very fortunately for both of us. So he just
injured both his ankles pretty badly but I think I must have landed on
something much harder and I jack-knifed and struck my face on my knee.
I can remember I suppose more or less immediately after the fall
saying 'Well that wasn't too good.', saying to Jim that I had injured
my back and I had a lot of pain in my back. Then I don't remember
anything. I lost consciousness and the next thing I remember is waking
up in the tent and Jim offering me a cup of soup or tea or something.
I don't know how long he had been trying to rouse me or whether I woke
up when he roused me, but anyway there we were in the tent. So Jim,
quite remarkably, had managed to get me onto a groundsheet and erect a
tent around us. As I say he had got a brew going. Basically of course
we were then pretty safe because we were protected from the weather and
we had food and warmth."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/202.

Jim Shirtcliffe: A fall over the ice cliff
"He [John Brotherhood] was doing human physiology tests. It's oxygen
and CO2: how much energy you expend; this was his programme, human
physiology. You had to wear a piece of gear over your head and he was
trying to measure how much oxygen you absorbed and CO2 you expired and
he needed to take your weight periodically, I think it was on a daily
basis and your food intake. He was trying to relate one to the other
and of course with this thing over your face, with this hood on, he is
measuring your breath. We knew it was a whiteout condition or at least
I knew it was a whiteout condition and I was not very happy about doing
this circuit. However I knew it had to be because everybody else had
been worked on and I said 'OK come on then. Let's do it now and get it
over and done with'.

When we got to the ramp down onto the sea ice to complete the circuit,
we got disorientated and I took my hood off and so had Bro and we were
standing and looking around and trying to get our bearings and saying
'Where the devil are we then?' And Bro said 'I think that drum over
there marks the route down to the sea ice. You see that's the ramp
surely'? We were looking out and then the cliff that we were standing
on, or this bit of snow we were standing on gave way and we just fell
down onto what was the sea ice underneath. All broken it was because I
dare say the corniced edge, bits had fallen down onto the sea ice below
and made a few pinnacles, because as I fell, one leg went down into
softer snow and the other one stayed on the surface, whereas he was
unfortunate. As he landed he doubled up and one of his knees hit him
right full in the face. We both took a little bit of time to recover.
I said to Bro 'How are you?' and he said 'Oh crikey I'm not too good,
how are you?' and I said 'Well I've done something to my ankle but I'm
not sure what; ah how are you?' And I said 'Crikey your face is a bit
of a mess isn't it?' He had put his teeth right through his lip, and I
said 'Right you are the medical man; what do you recommend; what do you
think?' He said 'Well we can't make it back to base like this' and I
said 'No, so I'll pitch the tent, get you inside and get a meal going
or whatever else and since we have got no radio, we will just have to
wait because on base they know where we are. We'll just have to wait
for somebody to come and get us if the weather improves'.

So Bro was saying 'If you open the medical kit you'll find this ...'
and he was giving me instructions on what to do. He said 'It's not
serious; it's only my teeth gone through my lip'. He didn't look too
good, I'll say that, but I said 'We'll get you in your sleeping bag.'
I got the tent round him or got the tent up and dragged him in and
stuck him in his bag and so on. Then we just lay up there for a day or
so. [The weather] was against us and I knew nobody would come out
looking for us because the whiteout conditions had got even worse. The
first bit of blue sky we heard a voice, somebody saying 'There they
are' and it was Dave [Fanny] Hill who had spotted us; eventually he got
a skidoo and took Bro and me back to base. Ricky [Chinn, the BC] had
been in touch with London and Sir Vivian, and put the situation to him
and he [Fuchs] asked for help from Pole Station."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/49.

Big Al Smith: A fall over the ice cliff
"We had an accident: John Brotherhood and Jim Shirtcliffe. I have
always put doctors down as "hazard rangers" because if anybody's going
to get injured on a base, it's a doctor. He had carried out tests on us
like: energy expenditure, and fat gain and all sorts of weird things.
We did manhauling wearing an energy expenditure recorder. Now they'd
filled in the log book, where they were going. Unfortunately the
weather had turned bad and they never reported back. Ricky came me and
Alan Johnston (who had just returned from the field) and said 'We need
to go look. The weather is not good, but I am worried about these.' So
we both said. 'We will go and look.' There were two routes. We tried
the first route and we couldn't find any signs of them, so it was
obviously the second route. You worked on compass bearings, so if you
were following the same compass bearing, you'd got a fair idea you'd
pick some tracks up. We sledged out to the end, using a sledgewheel for
distances and I'd got a glimpse of tracks. We knew we were getting
close, so what I did is I made snowballs and threw them until they
disappeared, and then I knew I was on the edge. I was on a safety line tied to
the skidoo, just in case I had taken one step too far, and ... we had
to turn back. We couldn't make radio contact with base, so we returned
to base and said 'Well sorry Rick, we were unsuccessful, but we did see
tracks in that area. We're not sure what happened to them.'

Anyway, this storm, it went over in about eighteen or nineteen hours.
As soon as the visibility meant we could see, we went out again, a
group of us. We made tracks to actually come down a ravine and we found
a tent pitched in that area. We thought 'Good God, they are alive'
because there is always a problem of the sea ice going out. 'They are
alive!' and inside was Jim Shirtcliffe who had broken his leg and the
doctor who was in a very bad way. His knee had gone through his face
and damaged it. We weren't quite sure whether he had broken his back so
we treated him that way and brought him back safely using skidoos and
sledges under safe conditions and got him to the surgery."
NERC copyright, reproduced courtesy of BAS Archives Service.
Archives ref AD6/24/1/46.

Clarification: Mike Skidmore
In this section of the last Newsletter was a piece about Mike Skidmore
making a model aeroplane which flew in the lounge. It said that Mike
did this because he was feeling frustrated. Although these were Mike's
words, they were taken a little out of context. Mike has asked me to
point out that the frustration was not because of any kind of sexual
problem but because he could see no further prospect of professional
work as a geologist on the Antarctic mainland during his remaining 
time on base (latter half of 1968), having failed to get to the
Shackletons overland, by dog sledge the previous summer field season
(1967-68). I am happy to do this and apologise for any misunderstanding
there may have been.

Many thanks to all contributors to this Newsletter.

Registrations and email updates
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10 April 2015
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