Yep, Tauntauns…You know, the things on the Empire Strikes Back that Luke Skywalker climbs into to keep warm?…..”And you thought they smelt bad on the outside?”….Oh please, well if you don’t understand you’ve obviously had a deprived childhood and had the misfortune to be under 30 and have grown up only having ‘heros’ on X Factor or Masterchef to look up to..! We had real heros like, erm, Luke SkyWalker, or…er….Percy Thrower, Johnny Ball and stuff…..Right..?
Tauntauns, famous for being not particularly nice to smell but a warm place to rest when dead will be familiar to many of you….and wait for it, I have found their origins, here in the midst of Antarctica, which let’s face it isn’t too dissimilar to planet Hoth…..You don’t know Hoth? oh come on, everyone knows Hoth, huh? surely, it’s why I wanted to come here?…..OK, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion but I found a very large rock the other day whilst out walking to Brooks hut which is exactly like a Tauntauns head…..Feast your eyes on this:
Impressive eh! I told you!
I was on this walk because one of the radios was having issues out at one of the huts, the hut in question is Brooks hut which isn’t far from station (about 10km) but you could be a million miles away at times… The huts we have out in the Vestfold hills here are our little peace of sanity, at weekends we all book them out, pack our kit and wander out in our little groups to get away and take a break from being on station. the two most easily accessible and certainly most popular huts are Watts and Brooks, both within a couple of kms of each other but in different valleys – The norm is to travel out with a pack and a bottle of wine and some cheese….Hard life we have eh 🙂
At each hut we usually have between 4 to 6 bunk beds, some decent sleeping bags, some good cooking facilities, a generator (if required) and a VHF Radio to talk back to station. The radios are bigger than the standard 5w handheld and are similar to those you’d find on a yacht or a 4wd ute, a 25w pre-programmed model (GME TX4800 for those interested) which gives us plenty of range. we use two main channels but one of them is designed to relay messages via the ‘repeater’ stations we have dotted around the hills. Anyway, the one at Brooks was having issues, wasn’t able to transmit properly etc, so I popped out there (with yet another solar panel strapped to my pack) to replace the panel as we figured that the panel wasn’t charging the batteries and they were unable to transmit – To cut a long story short, I got there, I got on the roof to have a look at the panel, tested the voltage at the panel which was fine, traced the poor excuse for wiring back to the edge of the roof of the hut and had found that due to wind blowing the cable around it had worn itself on the edge of the roof capping and shorted itself to the metal hut, not only that but had ‘arc’ed’ a hole into the metal with the constant shorting…. Gaffa tape won the day and the problem was temporarily fixed, I shall be back in the Autumn to cable the hut correctly and ensure that this issue is put to bed properly!
The nights are now starting to ‘glow’ a bit more, we get that slight bit of orange to our evenings and around midnight we’re getting into sunset mode again – January the 18th (tomorrow) is supposedly the first evening where the sun dips below the horizon again for about 20 mins signally the beginning for us of non perpetual sunlight. It doesn’t take that long until we start to see quite a bit of darkness and hopefully some Aurora Australis too!
The sea ice is well and truly not accessible to us anymore, it’s still locked onto the land but I wouldn’t be surprised if I head out in the morning and find it all gone, evidently it can happen quite quickly – the seals are well aware of this and are starting to arrive on the beach in front of the station and play in the water. They’re a bit odd, when I die I’m coming back as a seal, honestly, they do nothing but play and lie about doing nothing….Their fighting can get quite vicious though, they don’t mess about if they want to win – they’re not small either, these are Elephant seals, notably named due to their trunk like snouts and no doubt the fact that some of them are around six metres in length…We’re allowed to get within five metres of these guys and when they rear up it can be quite intimidating as they tower above you, they are enormous….
We have names for the four seals on the beach, they are Barry, Cam, Mong and Marg…They don’t answer when called…
I forgot to mention New years eve, again I noticed it had been ages since my last post which was on the 28th of December so I didn’t have a chance to tell you what we got up to…….
This youtube clip will probably explain it best though 🙂