Fortunately, we had arrived just in time for dinner, so the first job was to sit down and get to know the winter team over a plate of stew and potatoes. They turned out to be a great crew, well knitted after a long winter, but also very welcoming to a new, unfamiliar face. It must have been very strange for them to suddenly have another 10 people milling around, after all that time having been a completely self-contained unit.
After dinner, I was shown to my room (ensuite, with a bunk bed, but no room-mate as yet…), and then came the inevitable trip to the bar for a welcoming celebration. One by one the new arrivals drifted off to bed, and eventually I was left drinking beer with just a handful of the winterers. Again, they made me feel incredibly welcome.
The following morning I got up with an urgent need for a glass of water. Once that had been dealt with I headed for breakfast in the canteen and then headed off for a Health and Safety briefing with the Base Commander – 9000 miles away from home, and you still can’t escape H&S. Then I was given a quick tour of the base by the Doc (who, assuming everyone is uninjured and unsick, generally has very little else to do). This included a visit to the Comms tower, which would be my office for the next 18 months. The view from the tower has to be the most stunning view of any office in the world.
Finally I had a bit of training on Skidoos and Gators (the little 6-wheeler buggies used for carting stuff around base) and was taken on a walk round Rothera point. This also took in my first seal (a female Weddell seal, with a beautiful 2-week old pup). Tomorrow, I start learning about the field equipment (tents, stoves, sleeping bags and the like) and get to spend the night out in a tent up in the hills above the base. I can’t wait!