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Ivybridge Community College

Ivybridge Community College

Ivybridge Community College

Former ICC student working in Antarctica ​

Phillip Cummings left Ivybridge Community College in 2008 and after completing a three-year Diploma in Land-Based Technology at Bicton College, he worked for an agricultural engineering company in Modbury. 

In early 2015 he applied to British Antarctic Survey to be a mechanic at one of their bases in Antarctica. Following a successful interview and extensive training (involving trips to Austria and Germany to find snow to practice on), he flew from Heathrow to Cape Town and then to Antarctica in mid-November.

Phillip’s place of work is now Halley Research Station on the 130 metre-thick Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The ice shelf flows slowly out onto the Weddell Sea, where chunks of ice ‘calve’ off as icebergs.

Halley has approximately 70 staff during the summer (late December to early March) and Phillip is one of the 13 over-wintering staff or ‘winterers’. During the winter, this team (pictured) keep the station running.

The temperature at Halley is rarely above 0°C and -10°C is quite usual on sunny summer days. The winter temperature can be as low as -55°C but are normally around -20°C. 

The ship made its last call to Halley in early March, which was the winterers last contact; they are now completely isolated from the outside world, until the new team arrive in November. Phillip will leave Halley in February 2017, after the handover to the new team.

Halley is just about to start 24-hour darkness, which will last for 105 days. The winterers celebrated ‘sun down’ this week with a glass of champagne on top of one of the blue pods – it was -30°C and the champagne froze in the glasses and the oldest member of the team lowered the flag. When the sun comes above the horizon again, the youngest member of the team will raise a new flag.

Phillip says he is having an amazing experience and although there are some things he misses, he is having a fantastic time.