Big Ben falls silent for repairs


Big Ben sounded for the final time on 21 August at noon, before they fall silent for a four-year period of restoration work on the Elizabeth Tower.

Members of the public packed into Parliament Square along with dozens of media outlets and a handful of MPs to mark the occasion of the bell’s final chimes.

The clock is to be dismantled piece by piece, with each cog examined and restored, the glass repaired, and the hands removed and refurbished. Though the clock’s mechanism will also be dismantled, at least one clock face will continue to operate via a temporary modern electric system, but scaffolding will cover three of the four clock faces by the end of October.There were cheers and applause from the crowds as the final chime rang out.

Here’s my report with their London correspondent Richard Bestic for CGTN, formerly known as CCTV-NEWS, an English speaking 24-hour news channel for China.


Landing on Blue Iced runway, Antarctica


In this age of modern air travel, it is relatively easy for anyone with the means to book a flight to almost any corner of the Earth. Unless that corner is Antarctica, a place where you cannot simply pave a runway and start landing planes.


Boarding the Russian cargo Ilyushin il-76 is like climbing into another world, a throw back to pre-cold war days. It’s an exhilarating experience knowing your that next foot on terra firma is going to be on the frozen continent. Our destination was Union Glacier and the famous “Blue-iced runway”. The airport is operated by a company called Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), who provide expedition support and tours to the interior of Antarctica.

The runway is located approximately 5 miles from base camp (79.767° S and 82.867° W) and blue ice: dense, intensely blue glacier ice formed when snow falls onto glaciers gets compacted and recrystallizes. It only operates during the months of November to January when the weather is the least hostile. It is the only facility of its kind in Antarctica. It was certified by the Chilean Directorate General of Civil Aviation in December 2008.

I  have been very fortunate to have flown in and out of Union Glacier over the past six years and without doubt, the thrill does not wane.

Frozen in Time

It was one of those passing social media fads -The Mannequin Challenge – it was all the range in late 2016, even in the USA Presidential election, nominee Hilary Clinton posed in one.

So there I was, sitting down sipping my iced tea in Union Glacier camp in Antarctica, when I suggested to a bunch of hardened marathon runners that we should have a go and attempt to create our own Antarctic Mannequin Challenge – with my news head on, I suggested we could set the new World record for the Southern most challenge – after all we were only 600 miles from the South Pole and no other silly fools were going to do it.

Of course the athletes already had the advantage of being ‘frozen to a spot’ with temperatures hovering at around ¯20°C. Right on cue, the runners stood still and we managed to get it in one attempt!

On arriving back in London, the news editor at Reuters thought this was indeed newsworthy and the story was quickly out, making the news in bulletins around the globe. Strangely, it did as well as the main story I had gone to cover, that of the Antarctic Ice Marathon!




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