Thursday, 21 February 2008

Overpopulation

Two things have changed since I was last at Halley. More vehicles, and more - and more - support staff. Perhaps too many of both? That's not entirely fair - there is no doubt that the enormous John Deere and Challenger tractors that have appeared make the job of hauling cargo up from the ship far easier. While a sno-cat struggles along with one sledge of cargo behind it, a Challenger trips along merrily with half a dozen (burning more than a gallon of fuel a mile as it does so, by the way).

However, in the old days everyone drove the sno-cats and helped with the cargo work - now we employ drivers, and extra mechanics. There would have been one vehicles manager, and outgoing and incoming wintering mechanics last time I was here. Now the little empire based at the garage runs well into double figures. They drive round in circles all day flattening snow to keep themselves busy.

We've got two doctors on base, whose combined official duties this year have been splinting a broken finger. We have three base GA's (that's BAS-slang for binmen) for an unfathomable reason, though there is little enough work for one. Waste handling in the winter is the doctor's job. We have three base commanders. It used to be the case that a winterer would be asked to do the winter BC duties on top of their normal job - now someone is employed specifically for the job. Vicky, the permanent BC, is kept busy enough (and she has an admin assistant to help her these days too), but there ain't a lot to keep the outgoing and incoming winter BC's busy.

The cooks have plenty to do. There are more mouths to feed after all. But where everyone used to take turns to help with gash - washing up - we now have three St Helenians to run around after us. They're nice blokes, but is it progress to have someone else do your laundry for you?

We even have a dedicated science manager these days, though there is little science left to manage.

It's all a big vicious circle. Except it's not vicious really, it's just a bit daft. We've got newer, bigger tractors to make things more efficient; so we need drivers to drive them, mechanics to mend them, managers to manage the drivers and mechanics, managers to manage the managers, chefs to fry their chips, domestic helpers to do their laundry, comms managers to give them internet access; doctors to splint their fingers; we need to build a bigger, better base to house them and employ plumbers and electricians and generator mechanics to look after all the plant. But do we do any more science? I think not.

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