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Chazd's (Charles Dowdell's) News Burps

This is the online journal of Charles Dowdell.
www.theguysatwork.com
charlesdowdell at gmail.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I found a good quote. "The value of life has to be created by man. It cannot be obtained through luck but only through wisdom."--Kant

I just checked the helo schedule. It looks like I am headed to the top of Mt. Coates tomorrow. Should be good for photos. Today I worked on radios for some heavy equipment, some Cat 95 Tractors and and a D8. When I was in the heavy shop I also stopped and took a shot of the 1957 Tucker sno-cat that a Guy I know is rebuilding. These machines are pretty neat. This place does get you tired. The cold, the sun, the atmosphere. I have yet to see a single person with a bad attitude. The buildings are all heated well, actually too well when you have 3 layers on after you take off big red.

In the picture you can't tell the wind was about 30 or 40 knots and about 10 below zero. It wasn't bad. I am getting used to it. Dress in layers and regulate your body heat. It takes almost constant attention to keep your temperature comfortable.


posted by Charles  # 12:37 AM (1) comments


Sunday, October 29, 2006

I spent a couple more hours in the ham shack last night. Almost is the word. 20 meters isn't working for me. I think I have antenna problems. I did string a 40 meter dipole and I heard folks for the US (NY, OH, and some others). I rigged up the 400 w amp and still couldn't break thru to give a point or two (perhaps a multiplier) to some contesters. I suspect if I had a kilowatt I would have been there. It was close. So, the next time I go up to the shack I should be in business. It is fun talking to some of the guys down here about how terrible it is to be at the pointy end of a pile up... I just pick on them when they start talking like that.

Today I was out on the sea ice. I spent quite a bit of time in a Hagglund, a Swedish made tracked vehicle. I learned how to profile ice with a power auger, determine if cracks are safe, and generally assess ice conditions. It was informative and enjoyable. Some of the folks I live with down here are an absolute hoot. They are so much into the adventure (just like me) and they are in the zone. I was hoping to get a shot or two of some penguins but it was not meant to be today. We did see some more Weddell Seals. Overall, the ice is interesting. It is like the sea. It moves slower and has a different rheology. The dangers and the respect remain the same.

Still no flights to the pole. Nine days it has been contrary to plan. That a long time out of a season as short as summer in Antarctica.


posted by Charles  # 1:52 PM (0) comments


The station is at or near maximum capacity now. There have still been no trips to the pole and all the folks for the pole are here. It is crowded. You have to plan when you do things to make sure you can get them done such as laundry. I hear that we are getting at least 3 trips to pole tomorrow. That will be good. It has been unseasonably cool at pole. The rule is that the LC-130s don't land when it is colder than -50 F. It has been -60F at the pole all last week. Cool indeed.

Here is a picture of me struggling with the Antarctica climate at Gallager's at McMurdo. It is a non-smoking bar. The folks who tend bar are moonlighters. They have regular station jobs but also tend bar for minimum wage. The other picture is after the halloween party at about 11:30 PM. This is sea ice on the Ross Sea. This ice will break up and ships will come in this area in February. Right now they are landing C-17s LC-130s, Twin Otters and Baslers (turbine powered DC-3s) on the ice runway. The runway will move to Wiley field in a couple of months. Wiley is on the "Permanent" Ice Shelf. It is all pretty impressive especially when you realize we have a Microwave Landing System out there for ultra precision approaches. Better equipment than almost every airport in the US.

I got on the air (40 meters and 20 Meters) a couple of hours ago (0300 UTC). I did not make any contacts. However, 20 sounded like it might be opening up. I am going to go back up there in a little bit and try again. We have established a Ham Radio club. We had our first meeting this morning.


posted by Charles  # 1:03 AM (0) comments


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Well, I survived the halloween party. I am still kind of thinking there is a diner around here to have breakfast at midnight....actually there is is.. It is called Midrats. This shall be my first experience with Midrats (midnight rations). It was fun.

Dirty Jobs for science


posted by Charles  # 6:49 AM (0) comments


I went up to "T" Site today. "T" Site stands for "T" Site of all things. It is a restricted area. There is quite a bit of alphabet soup around here. I had to escort the AFRTS folks and fix a problem with one of the field party repeater audio lines. We had to do a little 4-wheeling through some snow to get up there. I drive very cautiously in these area (actually all areas). There are switch backs going up the hills and of course they are covered with ice, no guardrails and it is a quick trip down to the sea ice if you slide off the road. My boss is absolutely fearless I think. My driving did not phase him at all. I had some fun with some 2.4 GHz equipment today at work.

I have my sea ice training Monday it appears. I am looking forward to it.

I am settling in and finding the natural time efficiencies in getting things done at work and outside of work. Tommorow is Sunday, the day off. I am planning on going to the library and exercising.

The truck is the shop's truck. That is the one I get to drive. The other pic is near Bldg 70 (one of the small shelters) up at T-site of a couple of the many towers we use. Most of towers are old HF towers that are not used anymore.


posted by Charles  # 1:45 AM (0) comments


Friday, October 27, 2006

Today was kind of slow. I am getting to see again what happens to me and the organization in a new job situation. I am paying super close attention this time. Some things just happen every time. It is just so predictable. Yet there seems no changing it.

I volunteered to be a peer counselor here at McMurdo. The function is an area of overlap with the miltary although we report to absolutely no one. I am available for private confidential discussions with others as their choice. This is part of a bunch of techniques used to help folks with post traumaic stress syndrome. Getting the horror of something into the rational part of the brain shortly after what we call an "incident" is very important for mental health. I am getting training in this area. It overlaps with our mass casualty training. Saturday night is the big Halloween party which makes the real begining of the Summer here. I am not much one for halloween parties, but I will check it out.

Here is a picture of the outside of my shop. The other pic is a tomato. It is an emergency shelter used on the sea ice. "Mac Ops, Mac Ops... we have reached the tomato 4 souls inside, over. "


posted by Charles  # 1:42 AM (0) comments


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sorry no pic this time. This walk up computer's case was designed for StYle to the point that it won't allow me to fully engage my thumbdrive whose case was designed for StYle.

It was a calm day in the shop. Fixed a bunch o' stuff. It is a harsh continent ya know. That saying is pretty much a cliche' down here. No matter what happens, food complaints, vehicle problems, radio problems. It doesn't matter. The standard answer is that "It is a harsh Continent". I think I even saw a tee shirt that said that. I may be out in the fild tomorrow. My boss said a bunch of us are headed out, some by helo, some by Pisten Bully. My trip to Taylor Dome probably won't happen until the 4th.

I double checked my compass this morning. Yup. I am too close to the magnetic soth pole. One end of needle is pulled down to the point the needle won't spin. I am taking a high quality compass. What they did in the old days was to reweight the needle to compensate.

My drain swirl observations are consistent. No swirl. I thought maybe the other day I saw a little counter clockwise swirl but....

One of the things that makes it harsh hear is that the atmosphere is much thinner at the poles because of the spinning of the earth. The solid part of the earth is effected by this effect creating not a sphere but a ovate spheroid. The diameter is thinner on a polar axis rather than an equatorial axis. The atmosphere is even more affected so even at McMurdo appears to be at sea level we have a much thinner atmosphere than other coastal towns. In other words, the brometric pressure is always lower.


posted by Charles  # 1:32 AM (0) comments


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It turns out I don't have to go out to Taylor Dome for the put-in. I will be on a follow-on flight in an LC-130 (Herc). I don't know the day yet because I have not had my gear manifested yet. The tractors have been out there at Taylor Dome unvisited for the last two years. This is the begining of ITASE phase 2. The tractors similar to the ones pictured but much larger pull sleds with a mechanical shop, berthing, kitchen and the other absolute essentials. We have to get all the equipment ready for another traverse to for the rest of the season. They will be drilling ice and obtaining Ice core samples in key loacations that can provide valuable historical climate data for 100s of thousands of years. I have some radios to install. I am sure after two Antarctic winters there will be some other stuff to repair. My boss said that he noticed my ability to fix things so that is why I got the gig. There may be a lot of other stuff to fix besides radios. You do what you need to do in these camps.

I have to get up at about 3:45 AM so I can participate in a teleconference for 11:00 AM Eastern Time (Wednesday).


posted by Charles  # 1:26 AM (0) comments


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Today I was in the shop. I fixed a radio or two and we spent quite a bit of time screwing around with this huge (geographically) wireless network we are building. One of the problems we have is that we have a pretty mixed bag of various vintages of equipment. Some of the stuff is ancient in terms of wireless LANs. Some is new. The feature sets vary so much it is important not to mix and match in each subnet. Even then functions across the net can cause issues.

I got word today that I am headed out to the ITASE traverse start site at Taylor dome, I believe for the put-in. What that means is I fly out in a twin otter skiplane with the folks who put up the tents and generally "make camp". There will be six of us. We will have to do a lot of hand digging and such. I understand to get one of the Challengers out of the snow it will be a manual process and then we can use that one to get the second one unburied. I have to get the radios working and install a couple more. We will probably have to rely on HF and satelite phone (if available). I don't think I can make the path on VHF. I am not sure. I have a meeting tomorrow to discuss this. I bet they are going to want Internet as well!

The important thing is that this time or another time I will be out in the field at the whim of weather and equipment. I may not post for a day or two or three. Don't panic. It just means I have to go primitive for a bit. I will post when I am in town.

These photos are from my helo ride yesterday. I have hundreds more just from that short trip. That is a great arial shot of McMurdo. Mt Erebus is in the background. Erebus is an active volcano. There have still been no trips to Pole, still too cold. I bet a few of these people would like to get home after being totally isolated since February.


posted by Charles  # 3:29 AM (0) comments


Monday, October 23, 2006

I had high altitude training and I flew out to Lake Bonney to get some radios working. The high altitude training was informative and the theme was again similar to extreme adventuring, stay hydrated, know your limits, look for and be aware of the early signs of danger. The class of course had a lot more content than that but that was the general theme. The trip out to Lake Bonney in the Bell 212 takes about 50 minutes each way although we stopped for fuel at a fuel cache on the way back. Two of us went to the Lake Bonney camp and the other two got dropped off on top of Mt. 1882 to get the repeater going. Using HTs on simplex we got the systems running but we still have a bit of a problem with the Internet link.

It is starting to sink in that I am in Antarctica. I took hundreds of photos today and a whole bunch of cool short videos. Lake Bonney is a very interesting lake for science purposes. There are almost no living things in it and the ones that are living are primordial. There are extremely strict rules of conduct in the area (the Dry Valleys). All pee and human excrement gets retrogaded. You have to carry a pee bottle and use it if you need to to ensure the area stays as pritine as possible. It was definately quite a treat to be there. I had heard that the dry valleys are like the surface of mars or another planet. Now that I have been there I suppose it might be. The ground is a course sand/gravel that gives freely when you walk. It does not pack. The rocks are certainly interesting as well. With all my ECW on and my bunny boots you can't help but feel like an Astronaut. This is a geologist's dream. In fact I saw some of my Geologist friends off at the helo pad as they were off to another part of the dry valleys until December 14th. It will be neat to catch up with them when they get back into town.

Other Science.

Although it is not what I expected the basins and toilets seem to not swirl at all. The water just runs down at the angle that gravity takes it. This needs more study to be sure. I will have an update in a few weeks.

Spit at 25 below does not freeze before it hits the ground. It does freeze shortly after that. The really cold temperatures of the pole and polar plateau get cold enough (I hear) to get a cracking noise when you spit. Those polies are crazy. Folks I eat with here live in tents at these temperatures for months down here. They are very hearty indeed.

The sun being up 24 hours is strange and I don't think anyone can really get totally used to it. It really does stay light 24 hour a day this time of year. There is no twilight. Sometimes you get tricked by thinking there is twilight when the sun goes behind a cloud. It is 9:30 PM right now and it is just as bright as it was when I got up at 5:00 this morning. I have heavy blinds over the windows to help with the human/mental concerns.


posted by Charles  # 4:09 AM (0) comments


Sunday, October 22, 2006

I lived thru a Sunday. I spent a lot of time in the library. We watched the debut of "Emperors of the Ice" last night as part the science lecture. The producers/lecturers gave a talk as well. The documentary will be seen this coming year in the US. It is a National Geographic Special. It is pretty interesting to see a film like this one. It is all staged around McMurdo. To my eyes it isn't that exotic anymore. Don't get me wrong. I find it exciting and all that. However, it is like seeing a documentary about your family Thanksgiving day dinner. It is familiar.

I have a very busy day today. I actually got quadruple booked today with work and training. That has to get worked out this morning.

Here's me in the ham shack. I have a bit of work to do for the shack but we are going to be using 14.243 MHz USB. I will be using the station callsign KC4USV. Schedules are forthcoming.


posted by Charles  # 12:59 PM (2) comments


Saturday, October 21, 2006

It is Sunday. The day off. I slept in to 7:30 AM this morning. I usually get up at 5:00. I had coffee in the galley and talked about the International Trans-Antarctica Scientific Expedition (ITASE) traverse with the crew supervisor. He is an interesting guy with 35 years experience in the arctic. Most of the equipment is buried in the snow (from over the winter) at Taylor dome. They are going to take more equipmnet out in a Herc (LC-130) including a Piston Bully equipped with ice radar on a boom out front. We talked about radio and what they are using for frequencies for the aviation services. The aviation support is provided by a mix of miltary and private contractors. It is good to see that kind of cooperation.

This is a "Delta". This particular unit is configured for cargo. Others have a passenger (PAX) compartment. They have grafitti and stickers on the inside of the PAX compartment. They are McMurdo's equivilent to an urban train. If you squint your eyes while riding (like when you are nodding off) the expereince is almost an identical experience to a subway train ride. They wobble side-to-side just like a train and they have mechanical and engine noises to round out the senses.

This is the ham shack. I will be up there later this afternoon for my first attempt. It will be 8 or 9 PM in the eastern US when I try 20 meters on upper side band (USB) with a kilowatt. Exact frequencies/times are forthcoming. This is just the intro.


posted by Charles  # 5:23 PM (1) comments


I didn't get to do any flying today. We had all the gear ready to go at the helo pad, got weighed and everything and the pilot said he was going to cancel. He was apologetic. He's the boss. He makes that decision and it is him who has to get back in there to get me home in a few hours after we set the equipment up. I don't want to be stranded, although we would be ok because of the training and survival kits etc. The trip will be rescheduled for this coming week. There will be a lot more as well. So I spent most of the day working in the shop fixing all sorts of weird things. I even took a look at a Bridgeport Mill control board. I do like fixing electronics. We had a departmnet meeting today as well. There are about 25 people in the IT department. There is a good mix. My job is a cross discipline job since I work on systems and I am often alone out in the field. I work on a very wide variety of stuff from TVRO dishes with satelite receivers with Cisco 2500 routers to 900 MHz, freq hopping point to points, to field HF rigs, to military gear, to Cisco wireless 802.11x, to Iridium phones, to radio systems that function as regular phones out in the field. There is more variety that I even thought, which is good. I am going to attend "Sea Ice" training Monday. That class will teach me about how to read cracks and conditions for traversing sea ice as well as items such as how to pitch a tent on the ice during high winds. I will also get trained on the Pisten Bully which is a tracked vehicle suitable for traverses.

Today it was about 15 below with 35 knot winds. That wind is a killer.

The big talk on station is whether the first pole flights of the year can happen. It was -64 at pole today and the don't attempt it until it warms to -50. So what may happen is some of the deep field camps might get put-in sooner. I had dinner with a guy I know who is probably leaving for the Western Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) deep field site on Monday. He will be out there for 4 months. He is the medical person. There will be a maximum of 75 people at that camp. It is a 4 hour plane ride in an LC-130 (presumablely longer if they end up going in the DC-3). There is nothing out there. Nothing but flat ice, wind and cold. They have a multi-year project going on out there drilling thousands of feet deep for studies.

It is Saturday night in Mactown and we get one day off a week, Sunday. I am not sure I can handle it. I do have some paper work to do and I did make arrangemnets to get a tour of the hydroponic garden as well as finally get up to the Ham shack. Maybe I will get on the air. The I will see what it is like to be on the other end of a pileup. I will be setting up skeds with folks as I try and burn a hole out of the bottom of the world.

I expect to be going out to the Long Distance Balloon (LDB) out on the ice shelf soon too. It is a big project and I believe it is the principle means of measuring the ozone hole. Speaking of ozone and lack there of we were instructed on UV radiation. We actually are exposed to it all, UVA, UVB, and even UVC. Sunglasses are not for looks down here.

This is one of the small helos (A-Star). We were going to take a Bell 212 today (like the one in the background). Hopefully you have noticed that I have started uploading both hi and low res photos, click on the photo for hi res.


posted by Charles  # 12:46 AM (0) comments


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Here is the radio shop where I work when I am not out in the field working on radio systems.

I live in this building (bldg 210).I share my room with an antenna rigger. The whole floor shares a bathroom. The theme here is largely academic in grounding, the dorms, the science lectures, and the discussions. I suspect a lot of the labor does not recognize it as such.


posted by Charles  # 7:13 PM (2) comments


I feels pretty warm this AM. It might be near zero. I went over to Scott base last night to check it out. Americans are welcome to visit on Thursdays. Some Italians were there as well. Each country has their own distinctive parka. The USAP has the big Red ones. We affectionately call they them "Big Red". The parkas are quite amazing. They have 15 specifically designed pockets.

Next Tuesday we are planning on me flying out by helo to the Dry Valleys, Lake Bonney to be specific. The photos from there will be spectaular.


posted by Charles  # 1:13 PM (0) comments


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This picture is the plane that flew me in last Saturday. It is an US Airforce C-17. As you can see from earlier pics they let me up on the flightdeck for the view. That plane is the most stable aircraft I have ever been on. They land here (this time of year (for a couple more weeks) almost every day (one flight). They turn the plane around in about an hour usually. It brings all of the supplies this time of year including fresh fruits and veggies (freshies), mail, parts and people. I just heard at lunch that the LC-130 flights (on skis) may start to the pole station tommorow. No one has been in or out of the pole since Feb 2006 I think.


posted by Charles  # 7:42 PM (0) comments


Here I am participating in the "Happy Camper School". Did you know that the first sign of hypothermia is a bad attitude?

What an experience.



posted by Charles  # 12:46 AM (0) comments


Wow. What an experience. I have been here only a couple of days and I cannot believe what I have done.

Work is off to a good start. I easily fixed my first real radio repair job, a Motorola MCX-1000. I then gut put into survival school unexpectedly which was good because I can't get in the helos or other aircraft until I get that under my belt. We spent two days training outside. The temps got down to about 25 below with 12 knot winds. The creating of the frosty beard photograph was just a little too easy. It will get posted. I learned a lot and there was a lot to learn in a short time. It was an absolutely unbelievable experience. I slept very well out there. Getting out of the sack is the painful part. We called one person in to get evaced with hypothermia. Other people in my class were with Sir Edmound Hillary in 1957. Yes, its True. Hillary is coming down this season, probabaly to campaign againist the new traverses, which another associate of mine is the crew supervisor. This experience is being in the middle of some very exciting stuff. If that wasn't enough, I was filmed as part of a documentary today and yesterday in my training class. My beard frost was very photogenic. The producer is an emmy award winning producer for documentaries and I heard here speak the other night. My brain is full and the galley just opened.

Best quote heard in out training debrief: "I made a pact with my body. I said; body, don't make me have to get up to pee tonight and I will get you beer tomorrow" Whoo Hooo!

Photos are coming.


posted by Charles  # 12:00 AM (0) comments


Monday, October 16, 2006

Sunlight all the time is weird. I worked until 6 pm and you expect to go out to a dark world (since it is so cold out)only to find is just as bright as you did at lunch. It is like tht 24 hours. There will be getting no used to that. Its just not right.

My first real work day went well. I went up to a site just out of town called "T-site". It was at least 20 below with a 25 mph wind. You have to dress. It looks like I will not be out in the field until after the 24th or so. I can't get into some of the training. I am in fall hazard training tomorrow.


posted by Charles  # 1:45 AM (0) comments


Sunday, October 15, 2006

I have to figure a better way to upload photos. I have lots already. I have video of me getting off the c-17 and a helo taking off and some other stuff and I have only been here two days. We don't have great bandwidth here so you really need to optimize your use-time (currently 5:51 AM Monday)and plan ahead.

Amazing, they said something about 48 hrs being an introduction period. What an experience. I am trying to settle in with a new optimized routine. !8 weeks left to go. I can make it as well as thrive. It is important.

I went to work for about 4.5 hrs on Sunday (normally our day off) I have a bit of a learning curve with some new equipment. I am working on a lot of different radios including FreeWave frequency hoppers (900 Mhz), Cisco wireless bridges (direct sequence 802.11 2.4 Ghz), Iridium phones, Optaphones, Harris RF stuff, Datron PRC-1099, ICOM & Standard HTs (Marine, Aero and Mobile), Motorola GM 300s and a bunch of other stuff. There are 8 VHF/UHF networks out of McMurdo. All of which have a repeater system of some sort usually a mix of VHF and UHF. Things are pretty well documented and standardized. My job is to get these systems working for the summer season after being mothballed for the winter. So that means a lot of site visits. The photos of these sites are absolutely incredible. There are 2 other people doing my job and it appears one of the hobbies is to retreive unusual rocks (If there are any, this place is 98% ice) from these extraordinary locations atop mountains and field camps. In addition to setup and teardown for the season, I have to fix whatever, whenever it breaks.

Overall it is a really strange experience being here. The rocks on the ground, the weather, we might as well be on another planet. And this is the one of the milder places to be! Last night at dinner we had a loud discussion regarding an ethical dilemma that if we lost our supply lifeline, would you kill a human to survive. It didn't seem as hypothetical as these discussions usually are.


posted by Charles  # 12:38 PM (1) comments


Saturday, October 14, 2006






posted by Charles  # 6:42 PM (1) comments


I MADE IT! Seven Continents. Antarctica. McMurdo Station.

I am typing away here at a walk-up computer at McMurdo Station. I arrived about an hour ago. I called Bonnie and I am trying to get to all these things you have to do when you first arrive.

I can hardly believe it. My first impression of Antarctica and McMurdo getting off the plane was that it was prettier than I though it was going to be. McMurdo is pretty much surrounded by mountains which you cannot really appreciate without a panorama. There is a nice light snow cover right now. The temps are mild at only about 5 below. The wind was almost non-existent. The snow squeeks beneath my feet. Someone made sure to let me know it hardly ever this nice here. I have a lot of short movies and pictures to post as I get settled. I am a very happy guy. I will be figuring out why I am here in time. I have lots of journal notes and I am surprised at how many pages I have written so far. I am going to breeze thru the two notebooks that I have. They fit very nicely in a parka pocket.

The ice-flight was the best flight I have ever been on. It was 5 hours, but it felt like 30 minutes. Very nice, lots of pictures to post.

It is strange and exciting and even though I have been working on this for a long time it all seems to happen fast.


posted by Charles  # 12:00 AM (1) comments


Friday, October 13, 2006

I am sitting in the Travel Office at the Antarctica Centre. There are walk up computers to use. We were just told that we have a one hour delay on our flight. We are all in our ECW and man it gets really hot really fast. I am currently in my black bib coveralls, with long underwear. The parka and the rest of the ECW is over at the passenger terminal. I have my bunny boots on which we are required to wear. So far they seem somewhat amazing. They are comfortable and surprisingly easy to walk in considering their size and weight. They say US on the back. They have an air valve on them that must be open during the flight. I was thinking what might happen if we had an explosive decompression in flight. Fragments of boot everywhere?

Bunny boots on ebay for $6.75!?

I am hoping we get going today, but we all have to be prepared for another false alarm. Unlike with commercial flights no one gets upset. We all know it is for safety. I think about screaming passengers in airline terminals ranting and raving about how their flight was delayed or cancelled. I was thinking that maybe we take those folks and get them all on the unsafe flights... it seems that's what they want.

I heard a good quote which has been relating to my recent thoughts and paper journal writings. It goes something like this; "If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, in time it will become you want to do. However, if you are doing what you want to do, but not what you are supposed to do you will not find you want to do it when you get there."

The food has been excellent here in NZ, everywhere. For breakfast yesterday I did find fish.. yes its true. I found salmon and hash as a main course. The hash was really hash browns not the hash we know of in the states. It was excellent.

I really feel like part of the program and have a vastly improved understanding of what station life will be like as this point. Seeing everyone with their ECW on and participating in breakfast discussions regarding past experiences on the ice is exciting. I am rubbing shoulders with some pretty experienced folks who have broken records and moved Antarctica exploration ahead in real measurable ways.


posted by Charles  # 2:18 PM (0) comments


It is 5:00 AM. The shuttle will pick me up to take me to the USAP centre at the airport in 15 minutes. We all have to change into our ECW and hopefully we will launch at 9:00 AM. I am passenger number 62. Yes, they do stamp your passport and yes you have to have your baggage screeened. Antarctica is clearly (in) a strange political and regulatory "state". I can envision Washington folks wasting a lot of time worrying about the extreme exceptions of Antarctica for no real value as compared to worring about things stateside. The current weather at McMurdo is -5F with winds of only 7 mph. Visability is 7 miles. Sounds like a nice day except for the visibility. The flight takes about 6 hours. I am getting comfortable with the idea that I will be in Antarctica today. I think I got my computer working right yesterday. I did have to spend about an hour and a half connected for downloads via dial-up. I went to bed early and I am pretty refreshed at this point.

See you from the ice.


posted by Charles  # 12:07 PM (0) comments


Thursday, October 12, 2006

DELAYED! I got a call at about 4:30 AM saying they have postponed my (the 7th flight this year) flight to the ice by 24 hours. So I am in Christchurch another day. I am going to visit some antique shops I saw. Also I am going to figure out how to easily ftp some pics with common ftp tools and work on my laptop. I didn't sleep much last night so I will turn in early and get out to the Airport at 5:30 Saturday morning and hope we can going this time.

Delays like this are common and they are certainly better than a boomerang. The problem is with the weather forecasting. Modern meteorology really uses techniques that are based on examining where existing weather is moving. This technique works pretty good for Topeka or Toyko, but the world's weather starts on the Antarctican continent. Predicting the weather for more than an a couple of hours at McMurdo is difficult. The metrologists are often called "weather guessers".

It is 7:03 AM Friday right now and I am starved. I have to find a breakfast somewhere. The food has been great in Christchurch. I had fish cakes and fish and chips yesterday. Hopefully, I can find some fish for breakfast.


posted by Charles  # 2:00 PM (0) comments


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At 9:00 AM my time I will be headed to Antarctica unless the trip is scrubbed for weather (twice this year already). The flight might "boomerang" as well. If the pilot decides not to go beyond the "point of no return" we will turn around to Christchurch and then they give me more money for the hotel and we try again. The record is 7 boomerangs. I will be on a Air Force C-17 which is a very nice aircraft. They actually install seats (easily removed) for this mission. The payload space is very flexible. We will exit the aircraft through the huge rear door. The flight will last about 6 hours. There are 69 people on my ice-flight.

I got my ECW gear today. Seems warm enough for Antarctica... The big orange parka has my name on the front. I rejected one of the pairs of light mittens and my carharts, because they were worn to the point of concern. At the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) they say "if you don't have your clothes right you are in deep do do". Clothing is critical. My theory is that the modern exploration of Antarctica all boils down to mobility (aviation, traverse), communications (radio, and procedures) and protection (clothing/shelter/food). I think you could probably make some some sort of survival pyramid with these things.

Once I tried these clothes on today I feel like I am already there. I also hooked up with a guy I emailed and was planning on hooking up with on station www.sethwhite.org. He works with another contractor, but he is doing similar stuff as I am. Turns out he is on my flight. Interestingly, I already met his buddy yesterday.

My computer is having some issues so I could not get it ok'd for use yet. I have to try when I get to Mactown. So pictures aren't as easy not having my ftp tools on my laptop. I will be getting some photos up soon one way or another.

Hopefully, my next post is from McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica!


posted by Charles  # 11:29 PM (0) comments


I am in Christchurch New Zealand. It takes a while to get here and since I crossed the dateline I have to figure out what day it is. The flights were pretty good, only one real delay in LA for an hour or so.

I am working at a hotel lobby computer since I don't seem to have access in my room. The hotel is presumably family owned, small, simple and clean. I ran a couple miles around sunrise this morning around downtown Christchurch. That was very enjoyable. It is warm (maybe 62F this AM) and the air is very clear and clean. The birds really give off stong calls like you would imagine they would in the jungle.

Today I have to get over to the USAP center and get issued my Extreme Cold Weather gear and then tommorow I have my ice-flight. I have met some scientists and some other technical folks along the way, so that is good. I can see McMurdo in the first person at this point even though I have not been there yet.


posted by Charles  # 2:26 PM (0) comments


Monday, October 09, 2006

The following picture shows a camp using Scott tents in the Dry valleys. I hope to be getting into this area. Lots or science means lots of radios. The helos fly you over from McMurdo. Talking to all these folks who just got off the ice is pretty exciting. You can tell it is a thrill for them even when they have done it multiple times.


posted by Charles  # 4:40 PM (0) comments


I have a few hours to kill at the Denver airport. I really can't think of anything that we forgot to pack or that we did not consider. We had ethics training this morning. Interesting. Everyone in my group is excited, both the people you have deployed 10 times and the fingees like me. It was mentioned this morning that it is estimated that less than 22 thousand people have set foot on Antarctica. If you consider that most of these were probably on the peninsula going to the Ross Island and the interior is even more rare.

I took the picture of this jeep the other night. It looks like what my jeep could become if I keep all the body panels in place.


posted by Charles  # 3:22 PM (1) comments


I am meeting more people in the program of course. My orientation class has 35 people in it. We will be traveling together the rest of the way. I am off to LA and New Zealand today. I may not have an opportunity to blog for a day or so. I learned a lot yesterday. I will be developing a new sense of what garbage is I suspect since it is all shipped back to the US from the ice.


posted by Charles  # 8:32 AM (0) comments


Sunday, October 08, 2006

I made it to Denver on my journey to Ross Island Antarctica. I am in training today and part of tomorrow. I got up early and worked out. The Denver elevation (over 5000 feet) is pretty easy to notice when you are working out. I had to take deeper breaths as compared to Greene NY where I usually work out. I met a few people on the way to the ice as well last night, a shuttle driver, greenhouse attendant, a trainer, and some fireman. I will fit in fine with these folks. Everybody is looking for the same adventure as I am. The movie is 10 meg.


Click pic for video

posted by Charles  # 6:59 AM (0) comments


Saturday, October 07, 2006

I will be leaving from Binghamton (my point of departure) on my way to Denver for tonight and tommorow night. Bonnie and I went out for breakfast this morning. I couldn't help but take a couple shots of the farm before we head out. I also went outside last night and looked at the full moon. Starting next week I will not see the night sky for over 4 months, weird. I find it difficult to sleep in sunshine. The good thing is that this will cure me of that and next year I will be able to nap outside in my hammock.

There are no trees and almost no life at all on Antarctica. It is 98% covered by ice. There are bacturium and only the simplest of vegetation in very spotty locations.

Everything has pretty much gone as clockwork (a fast running clock) over that last couple of months, the leave from my regular job, the doctor and dentist appts, all the way to getting my sunglasses which arrived late, but in time yesterday.


posted by Charles  # 9:55 AM (1) comments


Friday, October 06, 2006

Well, it is less than 24 hours before I get underway. I am meeting Bill Hackos in Denver Sunday night for dinner. We always have some good conversations, He is a astrophysicist that turned technical communicator guru. Bonnie and I are packing tonight. The way things went at work today I didn't get home from work until 6:30 tonight. The folks had a pizza lunch for me today. I am still stuffed.

I figured in the next seven days I will have 28 hours of flight time. Not an incredible amount, but certainly a lot more than usual.

This picture shows some folks pulling coaxial radio cable Antarctica style. Photograph by: B.K. Grant, National Science Foundation

New Southpole Station Webcam! This has just come on line. You can see the new station that is just getting finished.


posted by Charles  # 7:33 PM (0) comments


Thursday, October 05, 2006

The following photo is the annual ice runway under construction at McMurdo. Wheeled aircraft use this runway. Runways are somewhat rare in Antarctica. Most landing sites are skiways. The picture was taken September 6, 2006. This is the runway I will be landing on Oct 13th.

Photograph by: Eric Hobday, National Science Foundation


posted by Charles  # 6:39 AM (0) comments


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Interestingly, I am not very nervous about my trip to the bottom of the world. I had tinge of it when I got PQd. Now I am fine. Bring it on. I am looking forward to being on aircraft and being out in a remote camp.

I did get a fur hat yesterday. I heard that I might need a hat in Antarctica. I have a bunch o' packing to do.. two duffle bags. In goes all my jeans and most of my work cloths as well as 1 set of nice clothes for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Saturday night I will be in Denver. I am going to try and blog and paper log everyday as I am deployed. They are going to do a virus scan on my machine in Denver.

The big question is, "Why are you doing this?" The answer is that, "I am not sure." I can tell for certain that it feels as though it is something I must do. I don't really feel I have a choice. It is important and compelling. I hope to have a better answer after I am on the ice.

I will be back.


posted by Charles  # 10:33 AM (0) comments


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I knew there was a reason to take my camera with me this morning. I snapped this photo after I did a double take of one of my "neighbors" interesting endevors. Don't ask me.

Please leave a caption for this photo in the comments.


posted by Charles  # 7:01 PM (3) comments


Monday, October 02, 2006

I am getting pretty excited at this point. I am sure there will be some let-downs etc., but I am sure going to Antarctica will be a positive event. Four days from now I am headed to Washington DC, Denver, LA, Auckland, Christchurch and then finally to McMurdo. With the staging, orientation and crossing the date line it will take me 6 days (or more) to get to the ice.

I was looking at some photos and I ran across this classic. G. Mills (K2LDT) and I were raising a tower on the rover for the Winter VHF/UHF contest. It must have been 1997. Man, it was cold that morning. I guess that Antarctica thing was on my mind.

Rover Tower FN13 Baker Hill


posted by Charles  # 8:19 PM (0) comments


I got the word this morning. My tickets are purchased. I leave for Antarctica on October 7th. My Ice flight (Christchurch to McMurdo, Ross Island Antarctica) is planned for October 13th.

I have a couple of days in Denver.

Ready or not I am hitting the road. I am mostly ready. Am I ready for not seeing the night sky for 4 months? Am I ready for uncertainty in polar weather? Am I ready to meet a whole bunch of new folks? Am I ready to be flying around in Antarctica via Helicopters and ski planes to science camps and remote radio sites? Am I ready for Antarctica?

More importantly is Antarctica ready for me? I like some advice I think about in times like this.

“Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.”

“Audacity, audacity.... always audacity.” Frederick the Great

I truly expect the experience to be a positive one. It is my version of a 21st century Vision Quest. I expect to make new friends.

What does one wear to Antarctica? I mean besides something warm. I will be posting photos again soon.


posted by Charles  # 3:22 PM (0) comments


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