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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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Earthlink email is working again for the time being. The yahoo address is good for backup if I don't respond.


posted by Charles  # 11:53 AM (0) comments


It has been a pretty exciting day. The photos speak for themselves. Well, almost. I was out in the dry valleys fixing a repeater and was along for the ride measuring the ice edge. We saw whales, seals, and penguins.

I went up to the hamshack and I talked with Alex from the Russian Vostok Station. That is good DX for Antartica ham radio. Vostok Station holds the record for the coldest temerature ever recorded on earth. It was -129 degrees below zero F in 1983. That is cold. It does get colder than -100 at the pole but -129 is really something.

It is exciting here, but I do miss home and Bonnie.

I have having serious problems with my earthlink email again (The problems is entirely at Earthlink's end). If you need to get a hold of me use chazd13736@yahoo.com


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


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Deltas do get stuck. These pics I pulled off the public domain drive here on station.

I volunteered to be a tour guide for the three or so cruise ships that will come into McMurdo this year. That will be interesting.


posted by Charles  # 12:51 AM (0) comments


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Today was kind of slow. I fixed a bunch of stuff and got soem stuff done but overall it was pretty slow.

There is an ice cream machine in the galley named "Frosty Boy". It is a self serve soft ice cream machine that dispenses vanilla ice cream. When Frosty Boy is broken or out of premix the Antarcticans become restless and irritable. It is important to ensure Frosty Boy is functioning.

Here is a picture of me on the ham tower the other day. It is only 30 feet. The other picture is of the bowling alley machine. The lanes are really warped and the pins are set by hand. It truely is a museum piece. I heard Brunswick wanted to buy it back.


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


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Isn't ice amazing.

Today was a good day off. It even felt like a day off. My activities for today started with a fantastic breakfast as an encore from an awesome Thankgiving feast last night. I had my favorite food in the whole world as shown in the photo, smoked salmon with red onions and capers, two custom fried eggs, a salt bagel, a fresh biscuit, cranberry juice, coffee, a slice of melon and some assorted cheeses. I had Mike take this photo of my breakfast. Antarctica is very harsh, just not this morning. Note the two "green brains", one in my pocket and one on the table.

After that we went up to the ham shack as a encore of my most-excellent contacts last night from Japan, Patriot Hills Antarctica and Pacific marine mobiles. I got my climbing harness on and climbed the tower to rotate the tri-band antenna more towards North America. The 20 meter amateur radio band is tricky down here. We have to follow the dark line. We are still experimenting with some very challenging radio propagation solar cycles. Currently things are pretty much at the unfavorable trough for shortwave conditions, which normally run on an eleven year cycle. (more on that...science payload 3 on the LDB this year).

I also got to see a world premiere of Werner Herzog's movie "Rescue Dawn". It will be released by MGM in March. Herzog is in Antarctica creating a film here about us, science, and the drama. The movie I saw today was a very moving movie. It will be something you will want to see if you like real life drama. Herzog appears to be a "bridge" producer between documentaries and feature films and he discussed with us the nature of doing just that. I could easily identify with what he described as his role. He is by all accounts a very special individual. I don't say that lightly. His life's experiences are profound.

Tonight for dinner I really hit it off with more of the ANITA team. I had a great talk with the PI (principal investigator). They are doing some great stuff. I have a personal invitation for the launch. http://amanda.uci.edu/~anita/

I am off to watch another Herzog film right now.


posted by Charles  # 12:57 AM (0) comments


Friday, November 24, 2006

Today is Saturday. This is the day the station celebrates Thanksgiving. Since I did not reserve a seating slot because I was out of town I asked what I was supposed to do. I was told to attend the 7:00 PM seating. I will meet up with a co-worker at the 7:00 PM seating since he just got back into town after 10 days at WAIS (West Antarctica Ice Sheet) deep field camp. The day after he got back to McMurdo he went up on top of a new repeater site mountain called Mt. Aztec. Everything keeps moving around here, especially the Comms guys.

The experience out at Taylor Dome was something worthy of deep reflection. It was more harsh than I originally expected. I am surprised a little that I didn't expect it to be as harsh as it was, but it was. The camp was not totally organized as it might have been (definition of a camp I suppose). It reminded me a little of what someone tells you what a visit to Sub-Saharian Africa is like. It always seems deeper and worse than can be adequately described. The pictures show something different than what you feel. I was exhausted from altitude, cold and exertion. It was between -30 and -40 in that picture of me next to my tent. It was snowing and blowing (and this was a nice day) I took my hat off for the picture. Of course there were discussions of what it must have been like for the early explorers dragging their man sledges day after day after day and setting up and tearing down camp everyday.

Walking on the polar plateau is very similar to the conditions on the Ross Ice Shelf. It is an interesting experience for the senses. You walk along on what feels and sounds like styrofoam. It is loud and squeaky with quite high pitched noises eminating very much like when you twist a piece of solid-dense styrofoam. When a tractor or a heavy piece of equipment comes by the vibrations are felt for perhaps 20 or 30 meters or more if it is particularly heavy. Often the surface appears quite smooth although there are small ridges of what is called "sastrugi". The waves of sastrugi are filled in with the softer fresh blowing snow that often looks identical to the the very hard older snow. Your feet get a little wobblely since your brain does not get a visual warning of the surface density. Your boots sink in 0 to 4 inches in the area where we were.

The third picture down is the ITASE kitchen (not to be confused with a galley). it is on skis so it can be towed along with everthing else. There were 12 of us eating in the kitchen. There are bunks, a stove, DNF (Do Not Freeze) provisions, bunks and other stuff in there.

The plan for this years traverse I believe is halfway to pole. Science is conducted along the way.

I got on my manpack SSB radio out at Taylor Dome. Nothing. I spent some time today at the hamshack. So far today, nothing. The radio is amazingly quite when the bands are not open. I will be back in to try and find the band open up. It does open on 20 meters but it has been fairly unpredictable. I will be on 14.243 MHz and 40 meters around 7.290 MHz. The callsign is KC4USV.

I hit it off with one of the lead scientists. He is using his special RADAR to profile the ice below. The RADAR operates at 3 MHz. He has been doing the traverses since 2000. http://www.stolaf.edu/other/cegsic/itase2/


posted by Charles  # 9:09 PM (0) comments


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for the family and friends I have back home. I am thankful for the molecules that bring warmth through combustion. I am thankful for the molecules that make me warm through digestion. I am thankful for water that gives rejuvination. I am thankful for the person that lifted the other side of a load when they saw I was struggling. I am thankful for being there so I could help someone with a load when I saw they were struggling. It is that simple.

I am back at McMurdo Station, (AKA, Mactown, The Rock, Mud Town and others.)

My experience out at Taylor Dome was extreme. It was an experience I shall not easy discard as I make decisions and realize what is important. It was a focusing experience. It was a part of a peak experience.

McMurdo is not Antarctica. Antarctica is out there in the deep field camps.

I slept out in my tent on the polar plateau at -30 degrees. I worked on the roofs at -40 degrees. I got the radios installed, worked on some solar stuff and generally "got 'r dun."

The weather was a little dicey (common saying). But the plane successully landed at Taylor dome and I am back from my awesome twin otter flights to and from 8500 feet elevation on the polar plateau. The attitude effects are amplified due to the rarified air and ambient cold temperatures. I had a bit of a headache and fatigue, but nothing else. Help is along way off at these sites. Basically, if something bad happens to you. You will die. There were 12 people at camp. The cook fed us all in a shelter on skis and a few have to stand while you eat. It is very tight. The flight back to Mactown was going to happen Friday morning or the next weather opportunity was looking like next Tuesday.

I have two days off here at McMurdo now for Thanksgiving.


posted by Charles  # 10:42 PM (0) comments


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The reality has finally hit. I will be away for the holidays. We will all get through it that's for sure, but reality has a way of resisting all other thought. Not only will I be away from home and NY, the United States, I will even be away from "Antarctica". I will be at the very small camp at Taylor dome almost for sure. In actuality is is probably better to be out in the field camp (tell ya the truth) than here. The culture and customs are very strong in Mactown. It is like having your holiday at a stranger's house (not by their invitation).

I told my boss about what I had heard the temperatures were at Taylor dome and he assured me those were windchill temperature. That doesn't count. I go by real temperatures. It probably won't be colder than -25F. I feel a lot more confident.

Work is going well. I get the chance to fix all sorts of electronic stuff. I was working on solar panels, transmit combiners and PRC-1099s today.

My ankle really went around the bend today (pun intended). It is almost totally better. I almost signed up for a Thanksgiving 5K run but decided I had better wait. The ground is very rocky and irregular around here. It is a dangerous place to run even if you are not having issues with ankles.

These are some recent pics of diving right next to the ice shelf just outside of town.


posted by Charles  # 1:46 AM (1) comments


Monday, November 20, 2006

Weather hold again. This time we made it to the shuttle van to go to the ice runway. I heard that it is between -40 and -70 degrees F at Taylor Dome and the heater is not working in the living module. I am ready. Getting my ECW on and taking it off is a pain in the neck. A small price to pay. There is a possibility we will fly this afternoon.

Here is a really nice picture of an adelie at Cape Evans.


posted by Charles  # 5:19 PM (0) comments


I have to start getting into my ECW gear for the flight. That takes a while. Maybe we won't cancel today. It seems ok here at McMurdo.


posted by Charles  # 12:32 PM (0) comments


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weather cancellation again. The weather is quite unpredictable here. We are going to try again Tuesday. Rumor has it that we will fly Thursday. Who knows. We celebrate Thanksgiving down here on Saturday so we can have two days off in a row. During the summer season we get three two-day weekends. One of these is for Thanksgiving. The other two are for Christmas and New Year's.


posted by Charles  # 5:20 PM (0) comments


I spent the afternoon at the Crary Laboratory. These critters, yes living, are in the scientific aquarium. I was encouraged to pick them up and hold them. I jumped at the chance. I also spent time with the seabed cores just brought back by the Andrill project. They are currently at 200 meters into the seabed. They are trying to get down 1200+ meters this season.

I went into the shop today to cut a dipole antenna special for 14.243 MHz. I will be transmitting with a solar recharged manpack transceiver from my tent. I will be using the callsign KC4/N2TYQ.

I probably won't post tomorrow morning before my flight. Unless my flight is delayed or cancelled again I will be back in town Wednesday or Thursday.


posted by Charles  # 12:49 AM (0) comments


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Yesterday six emperor penguins decided to walk on through the airfield on their way to who knows where. I saw them. I did not get as close as this shuttle driver did who got this picture. These emperor penguins get big. They are 3 foot high, plus. Someone remarked that they are like small humans.

My flight to Taylor Dome is set for 7:15 AM (McMurdo Local Time which is +18 hours Eastern Time) again in a Twin Otter skiplane. I expect to be back Wednesday or Thursday. It may be longer if weather gets bad. I plan on sleeping outside in a tent. I have to install a few radios and a special GPS unit. Other than that I will be messing with the ham radios and helping out with whatever needs to be done at the camp. Expect some good pictures on my return.


posted by Charles  # 6:47 PM (0) comments


Friday, November 17, 2006

I am on Weather hold for my trip to Taylor Dome. Maybe I won't get there until next week. We don't fly on Sunday normally.


posted by Charles  # 3:26 PM (0) comments


Today is the day I head out to Taylor Dome on a twin otter skiplane. I have been having fun at work fixing radios and troubleshooting system issues all week. There are a lot of radios down here thats for sure. And there is a great variety. I have been reflecting on the three things that I believe make this place hospitible: Communications, Mobility, and Shelter. I find these three items to be a key classification system to understand and optimize sucesss in operating in such a harsh environment. I expect to sleep outside tonight. It will be between -25 and -40. It will be the coldest I have camped out I think. -25 below has been my coldest experience in happy camper school a few weeks ago. Before that it was with Jeff in Alfred NY. We did not have a thermometer but it was definately well below zero that night. That was few years ago but you have a tendency to remember them. Since then I have learned a lot about cold weather. Most of the lessons have come in the last month. A real good lesson is that "Don't get cold." That may sound over simple but the fact of the matter is that when you get cold it takes a lot of work to get warm again. You must pay attention to getting cool or too hot and constantly regulate your temperature buy adding or removing layers.

I will not be blogging for a couple of days. Weather plays a big part. I may be delayed by a week or even more. I don't expect to be out there past Monday. I will only be in contact by HF radio or sporadic irridum satellite phone. I will be in a deep field camp.

Here is a picture of a Basler.


posted by Charles  # 12:28 PM (0) comments


Thursday, November 16, 2006

It is Thursday night. It is American night over at Scott Base (the New Zealand base). It is a couple miles away. I didn't much feel like going so I didn't. My ankle is a lot better. Today a co-worker and installed a radio with a battery/solar charger in a fuel pump house. Of course that was just a small fraction of what was done today.

I received a satellite call from the folks out at Taylor Dome. They said I can slept in a heated module or with some of others who are camping outside. They said it was cold. That means (it takes a while to figure what cold means with all the unspoken context) it is between 25 and 50 below. I told them I will decide when I get there. I have to help them decide whether to dig up an antenna they see 5 feet of. The rest is buried in the snow. I am pretty sure it is a minimum of 35 feet tall which means 30 feet is under snow since 1996 (when it was supposedly installed).

It does not snow a lot here but it did today. The snow really gets moved around a lot. In McMurdo, snow and volcanic ash get blown around interchangablely and snow banks are a parfait of ash and ice. The ash isn't dirt. There is nothing growing in it. It is powdered rock. It gets in your eyes sometimes since the wind is almost always blowing.

Here is a picture I borrowed from the public domain drive on our intranet. This penguin was just below town last Saturday. Here they come. They will be coming right into town here pretty soon.


posted by Charles  # 2:53 AM (0) comments


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another busy day. I am all set to go out to Taylor Dome on Saturday. Hopefully I will be getting back to McMurdo on Monday. I am scheduled to go out on a Twin Otter. I am pretty excited about being on the Twin Otter. I am not sure why. Hopefully I can get a ride back on a Basler which is a turbine powered DC-3. Last night's science lecture was about Antarctica past and future. A scientist who has been coming down since 1962 led the discussion with a lot of his personal photos. His photos included the first fossils found in Antarctica, petrified logs and all sorts of interesting geological content.

My ankle is much better. I went up to T-site today to check on a connection for the NASA folks. The picture out the truck window is on the road up to T-site. It is hard to judge heights from photos. It is at least 1000 feet down to the Ross Ice shelf. The other picture shows some of the hellium tanks for the Long Distance Balloon (LDB) project. The LDBs are launched in Antarctica sort of as a "poor man's" spacecraft. The winds go around Antarctica with sufficient reliability to launch very large balloons that can carry payloads of 6 tons and keep them at the edge of space for weeks. On top of that they can terminate the mission at their discretion and jettison the payload for recovery. They are launching a neutrino detector this year. I am not sure what else.


posted by Charles  # 1:23 AM (0) comments


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The guys got off the mountain last night. They had quite a time. They almost broke into the survival bags. They left the bags and some tools to come back and get them another time. I understand they had all their ECW on. That is extraordinarily unusual. One of my co-workers is out at WAIS divide (a deep-field camp). He called in on a satellite phone (we get thirty seconds of some poor reception because of the satellite being so low on the horizon. There was a pretty nasty storm going on so there was no work getting done outside. I shipped him a new HF antenna today and some climbing gear.

My ankle is getting a lot better. It is turning black today. I guess that is a good sign. The paper work is worse than the injury. --more on that one--

I worked on the NASA system today. The NASA guys were really pleased that I managed to get the stuff going even without the correct components. There is often talk of McGyver down here. You have to fix what you have to fix with what you have to fix it with. It is a challenge and a treat because that means you can spend some time fixing stuff that you would send back to the manufacturer or throw away back home.

The food here is great when you consider that 90 percent of it is regular institutional food that is way past its expiration date. We get almost all of the foodstuff from vessel, meaning we get many tons of it in February. We use that food and other food that is older the next year or the year after or so on. Some of the stories I have heard about expiration dates is hilarious. But really, the food is good. I filled out a comment card for the galley crew expressing my appreciation. They did appreciate the comment. It is on the bulletin board.

I am planning on getting on the ham bands this coming sunday when I am out at Taylor Dome. That would be rere DX to be sure. We would probably even QSL. It will be about 9 PM Next Saturday in the Eastern US. I will try 14.243 MHz. We have a spot figured out on 40 meters as well I think at 7.090 MHz. We are in ITU region 3 here. The rules get tricky for someone who hasn't spent any time trying to figure out the rules. I will be using KC4/N2TYQ. I will be using a Datron PRC-1099 with a dipole. I think it has 50 watts output. I might hit New Zealand. I am hoping for more.

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posted by Charles  # 1:33 AM (0) comments


Monday, November 13, 2006

I went to medical about my ankle. The flight surgeon was quite helpful and informative. I have a minor/moderate sprain. I don't think I have ever twisted my foot so bad before. It was a good warning for me. It means that although I have been very careful I have not been careful enough. I worked in the shop today hobbling around while everyone was out in the field. My ankle is already a lot better now that I have an ace bandage on it. The startling thing has been that I can't walk as fast. People are passing me, yikes! I should be headed out to the field later this week. It got kind of nasty out there today anyway. It is 7:15 right now and four of my co workers are still on the mountains. The weather has closed in and they can't get them off. They were supposed to be picked up about 4:00. One of them sounded kind of cold up there. Whenever we get dropped off by a helo we get survival bags which includes a tent, sleeping bag, shovel, camp stove and food. I am sure hoping they won't have to be out there too long, breaking into the survival bags. The department has had an excellent history of not having to get into the survival bags. You also don't have to worry about the gloom of night. You just have to worry about the unpredicable nasty-ass weather. Storms can last up to about 3 days. The pilots and everyone else is concerned about your safety, you have had training, you have a radio and folks know where you are. Compared to a couple of people camping or mountain climbing this is much safer and secure. We have infrastructure.

Werner Herzog the director of documentaries like "Grizzly Man" is on the ice and I was supposed to fix him up with some radios today. We also received some Distinguished Visitors (DVs) today for whom we set up some wireless. Senator McCain was down last year. It was also weird getting a phone call from someone out in the field who was having a problem with their HF radio. That is fun work helping someone with an HF radio problem.

This is a picture of McMurdo General Hospital, AKA Medical.


posted by Charles  # 1:08 AM (0) comments


Saturday, November 11, 2006

I twisted my ankle Saturday. I am OK, but I will be taking it easy for a few days I am sure.

The culture here is somewhat refreshing. People are polite and friendly and when you are driving around they wave to you. People who don't want to be here are not here. Living in close quarters with something and having much in common (being in Antarctica) allows people to connect better it seems.

The bird is a Skua. http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/birds/skuas.shtml They can get very aggresive. They will see you carrying food and then attack you. They are a good sign of summer and they are very skilled at getting their way with humans. The other picture was taken at about midnight. That is about as low as the sun gets. It is so weird. We still call it nighttime. I understand what folks say about short term memory loss on the ice. It definately seems to have affected me. We carry small green memo books which we call green brains.


posted by Charles  # 9:33 PM (3) comments


It is the weekend again. The day off tomorrow. I hurt my ankle today. I thought I may had to work on Sunday but I got the job done this evening. I had to get a new type of GPS out of a crawler that it was in for testing. I will be installing the same GPS when I get out to Taylor Dome next week for the lead traverse vehicle. I think it is a Pisten Bully with advanced crevasse radar.

Today I also went up to Mt. Bird (yes, the correct spelling). We got the machine installed, but it was not good weather at its companion site so the system is only part up. It was pretty windy for the ride in the Bell 212. We got blown around quite a bit. But on the mountain at 6000 ft the weather was great. I had to shed a couple of layers after working a bit.

The picture of the rock is Big Razorback Island in McMurdo Sound.

The Bell 212 helo is the twin engine equivalent to the "Huey". I think the Huey is a Bell 205.


posted by Charles  # 1:21 AM (0) comments


Friday, November 10, 2006

Tomorrow I am supposed to got up on top of Mt. Bird. The helo schedule comes out in the early evening. We are headed out to Mt. Bird because there are large penguin rookeries around this area. We are setting up a repeater system on Mt Terror, Mt. Erebus and Mt. Bird for scientists studying the birds. My co-workers are going up on the other two mountains that tie this system together. Just about everybody in my shop will be on a mountain tomorrow. I spent most of today trying to get some NASA equipment working, scrounging parts from other broken gear and looking and digging through specs to see if components will work. You have to work with what you have. Getting parts is too far off. Our deadline for getting material to Port Huneme CA is Dec. 1. Those materials will then come down by vessel (ship) in January. It is going to be so weird seeing ships at the ice pier. It is all ice now. Generally 3 meters thick. We land C-17s and LC-130s on the ice as well as have D8 dozers out there and all that. The big hope is that the sound may break up totally of ice this year. It hasn't happened in something like 5 or 6 years. There was a huge iceburg called B-15 preventing the sea ice breakup and a combination of weather prevented a open sea with floe ice. The Coast Guard cutter has had to work to keep the channel free. We can only hope. Folks are looking forward to the possibility of seeing a liquid McMurdo Sound. It doesn't happen that often.

These pictures are a repeater system on what we call a "Lunar Lander" and a nice shot of one of the glaciers in the dry valleys.


posted by Charles  # 2:35 AM (1) comments


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Things are going well. I am busy. Last night I watched the 2004-2005 McMurdo Film Festival Video. Even with all this activity there is time for video production for some folks. Some of the videos were a real hoot.

Today I get my hair cut. Haircuts are free, but getting a appointment can be tough especially if you cannot predict where you are going to be all the time as with my job.

I gave a department presentation on sun protection yesterday. It only takes a couple of minutes to get sunburned down here. It is a great paradox to get sunburn and frost nip at the same time. Did you know that the UVA band starts at 750,000 GHz and that UVC is a concern here since we have no ozone in the atmosphere.

These pictures are of the A-Star helo and a nice shot of the Taylor Valley in the Dry Valley region of Antarctica. It really is quite breath taking.


posted by Charles  # 12:33 PM (0) comments


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

***I am having problems with my earthlink webmail. If you have to get a hold of me try chazd13736@yahoo.com***


posted by Charles  # 1:16 PM (0) comments


The days are running together. I have to regroup somehow. People all seem to agree that the days are difficult to distinguish one day from another. Perhaps because there is no darkness to demarcate. Also people often talk about the vivid dreams you experience on the ice. I had some very vivid dreams before I had heard about the prevelance of significant dreams here. Someone suggested that since we are so close to the magnetic pole that interferes with your physiology. I don't know what it is, but I dream a vivid dream almost everynight (actually every sleeping period). Being here is still kind of surreal. Which is also a common comment. I can already imagine what Christchurch will be like. What a blast of aromas and organics it will be.

Last night I went to a small open discussion regarding global warming with a whole bunch of scientists. It was interesting to say the least. I have not yet formed many opinions on the subject other than it is clear that we are warming rather than staying the same temerature or getting colder. It is not yet warmer than what we would predict the periodical climate change would suggest. There is a lot more C02 in the atmosphere. Other than that, I am still unsold on anything.

I had fall protection training yesterday (I think it was). I am good to go up towers. The tallest tower on the continent is about 100 feet high. I doubt I will have to climb anything 20 feet high let alone a hundred foot tower. There is a lot of competition to get to do the climbing on something like that around here. I did figure out how my brain plays tricks on me an height. I have to concentrate on horizontal planes rather that vertical ones. Sometimes the vertical lines are obvious and the horizontal ones are hidden.

Tonight was my first "Hut" visit. I walked the 15 minutes over to Discovery Hut with a keyholder to get in and look around. There was a guestbook to sign. What a thrill to sign the book. I feel really accomplished with that one. Such simple events really make an experience. I was there, really there. The following pictures are inside and outside the hut. Scott built the hut in 1901. Shackelton and Scott both used the hut in subsequent expeditions. Rather than go into the back shivering details of these early expeditions I will try and give you a few links. Of course the books and journals are best.

http://www.ast.leeds.ac.uk/haverah/spaseman/scotdisc.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_Expedition

http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/scotia/gooant/gooant030201.htm

My impression of the hut was that it was almost new. In thinking about it I realized that 1902 wasn't that old of a house. My house in Victor NY was 100 years older than the hut. As far as houses go the hut isn't that old. Which meant in my feeble ultraviolet bombarded brain that the expeditions of these folks wasn't that long ago. It really wasn't. Antarctica is really terra nova still. The other impression I got was from the smell. It smells of soot and burnt seal blubber. There are frozen seals still in and around the hut. The blubber smell is slightly fleshy, but an oily flesh smell. It is not overpowering, but the smell does turn on the center part of your brain where there are deep feelings that only a smell can conjure. You can hear the coughs of the men and see the smoke and experience what must have been very quiet most of the time.

There are other huts in the area, but they can be a little more difficult to get to and gain access. I hope to get to both Cape Evans and Cape Royds. I have to plan for Cape Evans before the end of November because we can't count on the sea ice being good enough for the traverse after the end of November.


posted by Charles  # 2:10 AM (0) comments


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Yesterday and today we are having some significant comms (Antarctica speak for radio) issues to deal with. The diversity of equipment I have to work on is great. Everyday I get to learn about a new radio of some sort. Today I worked on complex NASA equipment for monitoring spacecraft telemetry.

Last night at dinner I was laughed at by a janitor (with a degree) by saying that we are doing all this for science. He thought I was joking. I was not. There is a purpose to all of what is done down here, the dishes, the toilets, the radios, the aircraft are elements of a grand mission of discovery. It is to push human understanding forward. I suppose if you didn't see or appreciate that fact this might be a tough place to work. If you do see it... it is a calling. I spent some time trying to figure out his purpose. Sure the program can not all be perfectly focused on science (no human endevor of science could ever be), but the overall thrust is clearly and sincerely focused on science of many different disciplines. We are here for the same reason we send spacecraft to other planets. This is a special place on earth in this regard. The best place to get the reasons why we are here is the official website www.usap.gov

The vehicle show is a 1957 Tucker Sno-cat. This one unlike the previous one I took a picture of it is fully functional and an original to the program. Much of the stuff here that was brought here since the early 1900s is still here. If it is useful there is no need to retrograde (send back to the US). The other picture shows an exciting sight... Far off on the bulding top there is a bird. This is exciting for experienced people. This is a sure sign of summer. It is a Skua (Skoo UH)


posted by Charles  # 12:34 AM (0) comments


Monday, November 06, 2006

The Sunday night science lecture was about the Andrill project. The "Andrillians" have a drill rig on the ice shelf afew miles from staion. They are drilling thru the ice shelf, than after 1200 feet of water they are going to go thru 1500 feet of sea floor. It is a real engineering challenge to get these geological samples. The ice shelf moves (both with tides and laterally), sea currents and all the unknowns oof what the strata is below. I am planning on attending a "briefing" tonight that has a more informal meeting of interested people. One of the things that makes this project a little different is there is grant money for outreach and education. So they have a wbsite and a means to find out a lot more about the project. www.andrill.org

I had my Matttrack and Pisten Bully training. I have been somewhat fascinated by tracked machines. I don't know why. They are just cool. They aren't very smooth or fast. They can go just about anywhere though. The Pisten Bully is very German. It is remarkably similar to my Holder c500 Tractor. I am all checked out and ready to use these machines to get to some of our radio sites.


posted by Charles  # 12:30 PM (0) comments


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Today is Sunday. The day off for most people. I am working between 65 and 70 hrs a week. I don't have to worry about what is for dinner. I don't have to commute to work except out to the field. It is a managable lifestyle. You give up freedoms and privacy to be in the program. You gain insight, expererience and a whole lot more. Everyone here is a character. It is not uncommon to be having a dinner conversation with someone who is working as a General Assistant (GA) who has advanced degrees or has sailed around the world or both and more. Tales of ship wrecks, travel in Mongolia and life in remote Montana or Romania is all pretty much normal.

Today I donated my Grandfather's book to the McMurdo Library. It is a translation of Immanual Kant's "Anthopology from a Pragmatic Point of View" from the 1700's. As far as I know it is the only translation. It is a mix of personality profile, pyschology and philosophy from the author who brought you "Critique of Pure Reason" and "The Categorical Imperative", or as I might call it "Pitfalls of the Golden Rule".

The library is very eclectic as you might imagine. The book will be safe here and I am sure someone will find it insightful.

Good Quote: "He who is anxiously concerned over losing his life will never enjoy life"---Kant

I find that to be a good notion when you are leaning over the lip of a mountain top in Antarctica working on radio equipment. I am very careful. I am not very anxious. That only detracts the brain from the work at hand and being careful.

I noticed yesterday my flight weight is 33 pounds greater than my body weight. I am wearing 33 pounds of clothes out in the field.

The pictures are of the very crowded ramp on the Pegasus Ice Runway as I flew over in the A Star Helicopter and some Emperor Penguins shot by some other folk on station.


posted by Charles  # 9:10 PM (0) comments


I went up to Mt Coates yesterday. The system is all tested and back up and running. I asked for close support with the helo since I knew it wasn't going to take me too long to get system going again. The pilot agreed. So we landed, turned off the machine and he enjoyed a bit of a break. Saturday is dress down day for the pilots. I had him pose with his jacket open so you can see his Hawaiian shirt. The weather was closing in on us. The ceiling was coming down fast so it was pretty good that we got in and out. Our flight plan was for 2 hours on the deck. I think we finished in about 20 minutes. The Eurocopter AS 350 is a 3-bladed machine that is pretty sporty. I sat in the front seat and the visibility is great. I am a lot less intimidated by the prospect of flying a helicopter now after technical discussions with the pilots. You do have to "fly" a helo all the time for the most part compared to a fixed wing. I spent the rest of the day working on a cross-band UHF-VHF repeater system in the shop that will go up on mountains on this side of the sound.

The picture shows what you might think is a freezer door. Wrong. It is common to use these freezer doors as entrance doors to buildings. This is (as marked) the exit. Specifically, this is the door in the helo pad briefing room. The doors open in rather than out so you can open them after a herbie (Hurricane Blizzard) comes thru and piles snow around the buildngs. The other picture shows Mt. Coates on our approach. Look closely and you will see the repeater on the left newar the point. We have two repeaters up there all powered by solar.


posted by Charles  # 12:44 PM (0) comments


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