Having got back from the Isle of Wight I went into BAS HQ for a day, as there were a couple of urgent jobs that needed to be done. I had mixed feelings about this day…
First up was a trip to the BAS dentist. Despite having been given a clean bill of health by my own dentist only a month or two ago, all wintering staff are also required to have an in-house check-up. The BAS dentist was renowned for taking a rather robust approach to oral hygiene – one of my colleagues who went South last year told me that she turned up for her quick ‘check-up’, but left a couple of hours later her mouth numb and one of her wisdom teeth missing.
There was no need for concern – not only was I declared orally fit, but Ben said he wished that all of the teeth going South were as healthy as mine. One less thing to worry about! We had a chat whilst we were waiting for some x-rays to develop – interestingly, he had originally started training as a vet, then turned to marine biology before eventually settling on dentistry. He had also been to the Antarctic a few times as the BAS dentist – he was evidently another person who struggled to settle down!
The second appointment of the day was rather more appealing, and required me to head up to the BAS kit store to get fitted out with all of my clothing for the trip. To anyone with a fondness for the outdoors and outdoor gear this would have been a pretty good experience, but frankly, it made for one of the best afternoons of my life. The job involved wading through an enormous pile of thermal, fleecy and windproof layers, trying each one for size and ticking them off on a long list.
Intriguingly, the BAS kit stores are located on the top floor of a warehouse with a corrugated iron roof. Being July, the temperature in the room was already generously warm and therefore my trial run with the full set of winter gear had to be cut short for fear of death by hyperthermia (not a good ailment to suffer, as the BAS doctors aren’t too experienced in dealing with it!). However, I then had to move onto work gear such as insulated boiler-suits and hard hats, then various types of footwear with fleecy linings, and finally onto gloves, hats, snow goggles, glacier glasses – the list was endless. The only disappointment was that I wouldn’t see any of it again for a few months. It was all stuffed into a huge kitbag, ready to meet me in Punta Arenas (Chile) in time for the flight South.
Last appointment of the day was less exciting, but interesting nonetheless. It was an introduction to the BAS archives, which, amongst shelves of other paraphernalia, contain boxes of photos of people on the bases dating right back to the early days of British Antarctic operations.
Fortunately (after such a busy day) I’ve got next week off to recover. Then off to Bristol for the low point of the training season – a Novell Netware course. Ah well, it’s got to be done.