Wednesday 8 November
Scotia Sea: Lat -60.64750 N, Long -48.70063 W
Day 15 of the cruise JR161 aboard the British Antarctic Research Ship RSS James Clark Ross
I’ve had a few comments asking if I’m alone at sea, but in fact there are about 60 scientists and crew onboard, including 6 people we are transporting to Signy Island, which is a summer research base in Antarctica. One of these is the youngest member aboard: James Morrison, a 20-year-old carpenter from the Lune Valley in Lancashire. James is one of the few people who will be living and working in Antarctica maintaining and improving the bases and who do a great job allowing vital research to take place. It’s his first time down South and he’s about to start an 18-month stint, so I took the opportunity to catch up with James in the bar and ask him a few questions over a beer.
Signy Research Station
TSB: Hi Jim, what are you drinking?
JRM: Hi Tom. Well, it’s actually a bottle of ale from my neck of the woods. It's really nice - do you want to try some?
TSB: Once a northerner always a northerner, how are you finding life at sea?
JRM: It’s been great so far, I’ve really enjoyed hanging around with all you scientists. It’s been really fun to help out on deck with everybody’s different experiments, and I’ve learnt so much over these past couple of weeks. However as I have no major role on the ship, I do find myself with a lot of quiet time.
TSB: What are you going to be doing in Signy, and what’s the plan for the 18 months you’re there?
JRM: Well, I’m going to be based at Signy for 1 month. While I’m there I will be building a new jetty for the all the ships that bring in the base supplies and the countless number of American tourists. In my free time I’ll be helping to capture baby penguins in order to weigh them, and I also plan to do lots of snowboarding. Then I board an icebreaker vessel to travel 1000 miles south to the Brunt ice-shelf, where I will be living and working for the next 18 months. My job there will be to help construct the new £50 million base - it’s a much bigger base and is active all year round. There are 50 people there in the summer and 21 in the winter. I’ll be there for the rest of my 18-month contract as they are expanding the base so there’s going to be a lot to do.
Halley Base, where Jim will spend 18 months
TSB: So how did you hear about this job and what qualifications do you need?
JRM: Well I’ve gained a lot of experience working with the family company up north, restoring listed churches and other old buildings, and I’ve got a City and Guild’s NVQ in modern joinery and traditional carpentry. Most of my friends back home went to university but that wasn’t the path for me. I saw the job advert when I was visiting friends at an Oxford Uni, whilst I was standing in a queue for the loo at a party and saw the advert on the wall. I ripped it off and found it in my jeans a few days later. I’ve always been up for a bit of an adventure and thought I’d give it a go (the tax-free salary sounded nice as well!).
TSB: But 18 months away is a big commitment how do you think you’ll cope?
JRM: I’ve got to say I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure what to expect, but from what I’ve heard it’s an amazing place and there seems to be a real sense of community down here. There’s lots of cool stuff to do down there such as kite boarding and driving Skidoos We have good communication links, internet, phone etc., so it should be OK to stay in touch with friends and family...not sure what the winters will be like in Halley (9 months have 24 hrs darkness and temperatures of -30!). I’m planning to learn Spanish.
TSB: What essentials have you packed from home, to make things easier?
JRM: 4 jars of mango chutney. We have to cook for ourselves at Signy and I’ve been told the food gets a bit plain after a few months, so I’m hoping to spice it up a bit. Also Lots of DVDs & books.
TSB: What’s with the coat and the pipe?
JRM: That’s the style in Lancashire...Why? Do you not think I look cool?
Jim’s been keeping the whole crew entertained while aboard, we’ll miss him when he gets dropped off at Signy and wish him all the best. He’s happy to answer any questions (carpentry based or otherwise) that may come in. Jim is running his own blog site: www.morecamberc.org/james (please note that C@S is not responsible for the contents of external websites)
More soon - please visit us again in a few days' time for the next installment....