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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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I am still connected getting the lunch menu from the ice. It is tough to decide. mactown food versus home. Hmmm...

Mactown menu

Thursday - February 1 | LUNCH 11am-1pm Roast Pork Loin w/Gravy Beef Chili Vegetable Ragout DINNER 5pm - 7:30pm Thai Beef Stir Fry Teriyaki Grilled Chicken w/Pineapple Vegetarian Buddha's Delite

posted by Charles  # 11:56 PM (0) comments


I am in LA. I missed my connection. I did manage to get the red-eye out tonight. So it looks like I get to spend another night on a plane. I slept last night. I probably got 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I caught up with a fellow ice person last night for the flight. We were recounting the experience. Our experiences and impressions were very similar. He was saying that he can't describe a lot of it. He went on to say that even looking at his photos, they didn't tell what he was experiencing. We agreed about how strange it was meeting the winter-overs we were taking over for when we got there in October. "They had that weird stare and they talked ok and everything but there was no emotional content to what they were saying". There is a zombie like quality to some people who spend a lot of time on the ice.

After a couple of weeks at pole he was medivaced to McMurdo for altitude sickness (there were quite a few this year). It got better and went back to pole. This guy is a body builder and you wouldn't expect anything to bring that guy down.

This is a picture I took day-before-yesterday of some fata-morgana. Fata-morgana is Antarctican for mirage. This is looking across about 40 miles of sea-ice. The temperature inversion causes this really cool elongations and inversions. I have seen small mountains upside down. It is pretty freaky when you are walking into work and you see these things.

I have taken and saved about 35 GB of photos and videos. I have not sorted through many of them myself. It will take quite a while.


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


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I am in Auckland. I have really been enjoying sampling this and that. It is like I was gone for years. It was only 4 1/2 months. It sure is hot here. It must be 75 with a gentle breeze.

I had to give back all my ECW and Big Red last night. Those pockets were some of my safest storage places. I will miss the big red.

It is really quite a treat to have some bandwidth here too.

That C-17 is really quite an aircraft. That aircraft supports the entire USAP program (except for a few C-130s) in between the one annual cargo ship. It is is a very stable aircraft. The picture of me with the C-17 is out at Pegasus runway about an hour ride out on the permanant ice via "Ivan the Terra Bus". The annual ice-runway is used until the ice goes bad and it becomes the shipping channel as it is currently being used.


posted by Charles  # 11:18 PM (0) comments


I made it to Christchurch. It has been a real treat so far. I went to Baileys last night, a traditional pub for ice-people going back to Scott's and Shackelton's time (we get a discount). I have been soaking it in. I had some unexpected feelings. What a world we all live in! Wake up people.


posted by Charles  # 2:49 PM (0) comments


Monday, January 29, 2007

I didn't sleep well last night mostly because I had to dismantle my window shade system for my room inspection today. The sun coming in at 3:00 AM just wouldn't let me get back to sleep.

I am supposed to be heading out at 12:15 with an estimated launch at 4:00 PM. There could be a delay. You just never know.

I have to get rid of my keys this morning. I accumulated quite a few on a key ring while I was here. I also have a few last minute things to do in the shop.

Here is a picture of the shipping channel. It will soon start getting colder and in August they will be landing the first flight on this area of sea-ice.

I took a walk around town this morning. What a great experience.


posted by Charles  # 12:02 PM (0) comments


I am all checked in and weighed. My check-in bag weighed 69 pounds. I am allowed 75 pounds. It is a good thing I sent 15 pounds back in the mail. I didn't ask what my body weighed with my carry on bag and ECW. I am going on a diet again. My survial diet down here has definately added five pounds. My flight weight wearing my helmet and extreme cold weather (ECW) gear has been 194. I figure 30 pounds for clothes. On these intercontinental flights they want your weight with your ECW and your carry-on. We first put our check-in bags on the scale and then you and your other stuff step on the scale. It occured to me that there might be a modesty issue involved for some folks, but for folks like me doing my job those aspects were lost months ago if you had any.

We had our IT department party tonight. I am shown bartending in the the "Coffee House". I was getting a lot of information about what life was like in the former Soviet-union in the '80s and '90s. In our department we have folks from Africa, Latvia, Croatia, Mexico, Ohio and other very strange and foreign lands. Being here on the ice has been a good concentrated experience for world travel (since I have not been doing much for the last few years). I will be trimming my beard and getting a haircut soon. **I won't get into the haircut scandal here on station.** Us folks in Comms (sometimes appropriately called "Kommz") are a wing of IT that gets their hands dirty. We take risks and connect what is known in telecommunications as the "last mile".

I am apprehensive about going back to the real world. I have been repeatedly told about the sensory rush I will get in New Zealand with all the biological stuff. I have fully acclimated to things here in 4 months. It all seems very normal. There certainly isn't much life here outside of the sea. In fact there is almost nothing living down this part of the globe besides scientists. I have been in the field. It is harsh out there. In town it is pretty tame.

The "Palmer" came upto the ice-pier as planned this morning. http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/support/nathpalm.jsp We had to go aboard today to get a wireless telephone hooked up.

My transport/flight isn't until 12:15 noon. So I will probably post in a few hours before I leave the ice.

.

posted by Charles  # 2:34 AM (0) comments


Sunday, January 28, 2007

I am packed. I have to get some travel money from the finance office and ask (again) about some reimbursments that have not materialized in 4 months.

I didn't know a single person here 4 months ago. I have definately got to know a few folks in the course of this adventure. I have made good contacts. It is hard to decide what to do in the last time here. Should I take more photos? Probably. Should I go work more on the ham radio? Probably. Should I just relax? Probably.


posted by Charles  # 12:02 PM (0) comments


Saturday, January 27, 2007

I am packing today. My name has appeared on the C-17 PAX manifest. I have to "bag-drag" tomorrow and then fly the next day. It has been a long time I have been here in some ways and short in others. It is confusing when I think about it. Also on my day off today I will be trying 14.243 MHz to contact North America. I have heard the band might be open 6 PM east coast time. I have not made a North American contact in the time I have been down here, so far.

I looked at the correolis effects here and at pole. There is a pronounced clockwise swirl in the sink at pole. Here at McMurdo (I suspect because of the sink design) it is not so pronounced. We have different fixtures at Pole and McMurdo (like everything else).

I went to Mt. Bird yesterday to uninstall our seasonal cross-banded VHF/UHF repeater. That appears to be my last mission on the ice. We saw some orcas, seals and penguins on the ride out there. I was reflective on what has changed with me doing this job for the last 4 months. I am certainly a lot less intimidated in piloting a helo myself. I may try it up in Syracuse. Controls are somewhat backwards compared to a fixed wing. There have been other changes too. Flying this coming year will be fun. I got a lot of great advice from a friend here on the ice.

It will be impossible for me to sum this experience up in a paragraph or two. I am not sure it can be summed up. I am waiting for some huge answers to come to me--nothing. Not much is coming to me in the way of answers. Not yet anyway. I definately have been enlightened. I believe there will be some culmination at some point and I still have a lot of success coming my way.

The photos show Cape Evans from the air (see the hut) and the open water that was all ice 9 feet + thick along the north shore of Ross Island a few months back. It is a big difference between October and February.

The other picture shows two hovercrafts that were launched off the Spirit of Enderby. The Spirit of Enderby is basically a Russian work boat turned into a high priced tourist ship for the Antarctic. It can't make it all the way into town. The ice is still a little too tight for a ship like the Enderby. The tours of McMurdo were cancelled becuase of the timing/logistics of getting passengers ashore in the hovercrafts. I took the picture with a long lens from the helo pad. The guy stood there for about 5 minutes in this position. The helo techs, pilots, and I were laughing at him... "He looks like he has come to either rescue or conquer all of us in town." Take your pick. We are all tired.


posted by Charles  # 1:51 PM (0) comments


Friday, January 26, 2007

I went to New Harbor yesterday. The temperatures were in the 40s I bet. It didn't seem at all like Antarctica. It was quite a treat. I drank some water coming off the glacier. The Spirit of Enderby, a cruise ship, is bringing ashore passengers via their hovercrafts this morning at McMurdo. I was scheduled to be a tour guide, but I am scheduled to fly to Mt. Bird this morning.

I am surprised at how routine these trips are out to the field now. They are always a thrill but, it is fun when you know the pilots well and it all makes a better time for everybody. There is always fun conversation over the intercom.

It is hard to believe I will be on the C-17 in 3 days on my way home. It is interesting to note that the distance between McMurdo and Christchurch is approximately the same distance between NYC and Los Angeles. Of course, getting to New Zealand is the first leg of a long trip. I do have to spend a night in New Zealand. It is required. The scheduling between international, local, and ice (military) flights appropriately needs some elasticity.


posted by Charles  # 11:41 AM (0) comments


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Today I am headed to the New Harbor camp on the other side of McMurdo sound to "pull out." New Harbor is often used to study seals and other diving efforts. We bring the radio equipment back into heated space for the the winter. Experience has shown that temps below -40 will negatively impact unpowered electronic devices. So we don't let much gear sit outside in the winter.

I am getting ready to come home. Bonnie and I are planning on staying low for a while. I am hearing more discussion about favorite foods and the "hummmms" that support a claim of a particular food being a favorite. I am looking forward to dill pickles, iceburg lettuce, bananas, tomatoes and some other stuff yet unidentified.

The picture of the seal was taken from the public domain shared drive here. I took the picture of the 9-meter satellite dish at Pole and the unusual lichen that can sometimes found in the dry valleys.


posted by Charles  # 11:52 AM (0) comments


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It is difficult to comprehend that I will be leaving in 5 days. I have three missions to complete and I have to finish up other stuff around here. Folks are starting to say goodbye. We are exchanging personal email addresses and talking more about plans off the ice. A lot of folks travel in the off season. I know people who are going the following places for extended periods of time: New Guinea, Indonesia, Africa, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Cook Islands, South America and others. It all appears to come to an end quite abruptly. I am a little apprehensive about being off the ice with all the traffic, advertisements, chaos and everything. I have not seen or heard a radio or television commercial in 4 months. I have not seen the night sky or the sun or plant life in the same time. It is hard to decide what I need to do before I am suddenly in New Zealand.

I have a feeling that my taxi driver in Christchurch will be an individual named Derrick. It was weird; when I was there 4 months ago it always turned out that he was my driver as I had to shuttle between my hotel and the USAP facility 4 or 5 times. He is a native looking kind of middle aged man with large sideburns, glasses and New Zealand cottny way of speaking. I am concerned about the traffic. I have heard stories of folks getting hit by cars just as they get off the ice, because of disorientation, excitement and cars on the weird side of the road.

I really missed the 24 hour internet access at pole. You get so accustomed to things. Although the connections are slow I can get quick answers to questions.

This picture was at pole. I like it because it is a good ol' Rochester Thermometer.


posted by Charles  # 12:19 PM (0) comments


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More folks are coming in from the field. ITASE is done for the year and those folks are back. ANDRILL is all wrapped up. The Meteorite hunters are done and they gave a presentation last night. We collected about 700 hundred meteorites this year. The Antartician meteorites are generally the most pristine on the planet. It is fun to catch up with these folks as they all come back into town after meeting them earlier in the season. Everyone learns something.

I am hearing a lot of "Where have you been Charlie?" I was out of town for a week on a business trip to Pole.

This is a hallway in the new South Pole Station.


posted by Charles  # 11:57 AM (0) comments


Monday, January 22, 2007

Being back in McMurdo is more of a sensory treat than I expected. I can only imagine what New Zealand will be like. I have my Ice flight on January 30th. It is all subject to change, delays and equipment failures.

I have a lot to do in this last week.

I made freinds with an ex-senior chief from the navy and he said when he left some of the ships he was on he couldn't look back. There have been a lot of people who have left impressions on me here. Almost all of these impressions were generously shared experiences of which I am grateful.


posted by Charles  # 11:54 AM (0) comments


Sunday, January 21, 2007

I just arrived at McMurdo. It was agreat flight on the LC-130. They call us "Talking Cargo". The air is so dense here. There is dirt (Well.. volcanic ashhh Hummm)it is above zero and there is humidity. What else could you want. It didn't seem like such a difference on the way out. The big city lights of McMurdo are really something to the Polies. It is good to be here. I am going to have a beer. I already had my first shower in a week... How nice.

I found the geographic pole a great place to meditate. Not that I meditate a lot. I just noticed that when I get in these deep thinking spells, I am mediating. I just didn't know what it was called. The pole was awesome!


posted by Charles  # 11:37 PM (0) comments


Today I am supposed to leave the pole at 11:30 AM. Delays and flight changes are common. It is all part of the deal. They announce to the whole station when a plane takes off from McMurdo, when it gets to the last checkpoint and when it lands. So it is pretty easy to be there when you need to get on. All the LC-130s (hercs) unload and load hot at Pole. They do not shut the engines off. I have to say it is the first time I got off a running airplane. It is windy and there are a lot of fumes with those 4 big turboprops.

I still have a lot to do when I get back to McMurdo. The first thing is to take a shower. Showers are restricted to 2 minutes twice a week at pole. At McMurdo I can take as long as I want, but conservation is encouraged. In the deep field camps showers are basically impossible. It is so dry it really doesn't become a real problem.

I got this picture yesterday on my way out to the RF building. It is a piece of the C-130 that crashed here in the 1970s. They are digging it up so they can make the skiway longer.


posted by Charles  # 1:05 PM (0) comments


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ice Cube was interesting. It was about a mile walk over to the Ice Cube Lab. I walked off the trail straight across the sastrugi right towards the geographic pole which was fun. I went to bed early on my Saturday night and got up early on my Sunday morning. Today is theoretically my day off. I am currently in the shop and I just downloaded some schematics so I can get some equipment repaired. Later today I will be going out to the RF building. Since there are no flights (except for a single twin otter for expiditioners) scheduled for today that reduces the risks of serious comms problems. We have a satelite tech who gets to worry about the satellites.

These pics are me with a DOM http://www.icecube.wisc.edu/info/how/dom.php and an extreme close up of the pole at the pole. I wandered around in the tunnels last night. It is a spooky place. Access is good. Nothing is locked at pole. Not even your room is locked. Not that a lot of our stuff at McMurdo is locked, but even compared to McMurdo there is nothing locked here.

I am supposed to head back to McMurdo tomorrow. I believe I am leaving the shop in better shape than I found it a week ago. I am soo much better after having a week to adjust to the incredible dryness and altitude change. I can still get winded running up two flights of stairs but I am now sleeping well and feel normal.


posted by Charles  # 2:30 PM (0) comments


Friday, January 19, 2007

Today I will getting a tour of the Ice-cube project. Ice cube is a huge array to hopefully detect neutrinos. You say so what if we detect neutrinos? ... let me give you a potential outcome. If we can create and modulate a neutrino effectively it will make all of our satellite communications obsolete. We will be able to send a signal through anything we want, including the earth. Of course the physicists will be able to use neutrino detection as means to help figure out the begining of time and space. But the radio thing is a neat idea too. http://icecube.wisc.edu/

Last night I got on 20 meters and worked my new friend at Patriot Hills Antarctica. He is the radio guy for an expedition company. He gave me the heads up of adventurers headed our way. We have a few more treking over ice to get to pole. Most do just the last hundred miles. Some do over 600 miles. His company flies folks in from Argentina on Russian jets that land on a blue ice runway at Patriot Hills. It does cost them a little money of course.

This is the dining room in between meals at the New South Pole station.


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


Thursday, January 18, 2007

This photo was taken out the galley (here at pole sometimes called the dining room) window. It is the area called the "back yard". You can see some old snow sculptures, some camping expiditioners that just arrived and the geographic south pole.

Station life surrounds (especially in my department) the satellites rising and setting. It is interesting that in a place that has 24 sunlight and no visible moon the culture surrounds an artifical satellite rise and set. Sleep and meals and other activities are scheduled around the visibility of the satellites. You may hear in the galley "Well, I might as well wait till the satellite rises since I am up now"

This place is so much like a sci fi story waiting to play out. The scenes are built, the characters are cast, the lighting is set. We just need a story.

I got another radio call last night. The air-to-ground radio system was out with planes in the air. Luckily, I didn't have to walk out to the RF building a mile away to get it going again.

The prime minister of New Zealand will be arriving today with the head of the NSF and some other folks. I suspect I won't be having dinner with them.


posted by Charles  # 12:58 PM (0) comments


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here is a screen shot of a screenshot.. of a ...jeepers. Oh well.

The old pic was taken 95 years ago to the day. It is Scott and his men with Amundsen's tent after reaching the pole. We just had a few expitionors reach the station. They have been sking pulling sledges for (I guess) the last 2 degrees. The Prime Minister of New Zealand will be here tomorrow.

It is much stranger than I though having limited connectivity with the outside world. I am about to lose the satellite. See you in the next pass.


posted by Charles  # 3:13 PM (0) comments


Hopefully the folks who wanted to see me on the webcam did. Now I have to see if steering the camera for my personal amusement will get me in trouble. The picture of the buiding is what I was looking at for the webcam (the other side of the lens). It is the NOAA building. I am not going to tell you what the sign I was next to said. You have to come to the pole yourself. Ok. Ok... it says basically "No vehicles past this point" There are a lot of buried wires that the comms tech doesn't like to have to splice.

We have been reminded here that it was 95 years ago today 1/17/12 that Scott arrived at 90 South. Upon seeing Amundsen’s tent his words: “The Pole….Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority….Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it”. It is a good time to reflect on the heroic age of polar exploration.

There is a whole bunch of nothing out there.

The pole is a lot different from McMurdo. The culture is different. The place is different. The culture here is of a very large deep field camp. Pole people naturally pitch in. Pole peolple understand the harshness of Antarctica. Pole people know each other a lot better than folks at McMurdo.


posted by Charles  # 12:19 PM (1) comments


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I am getting used to the physio-altitude here. Avoiding coffee and alcohol really makes a difference when your body is trying to create more of the good stuff that moves oxygen from your lungs to your body. I walked around a bit last night but I also had to work. I am on call 24/7 here and I am responsible for all the radios systems, analog and digital telephone systems, air-nav equipment. I am also the guy who works on the web cams including the one that appears on the USAP website. Yesterday I had to splice a recently un-buried telephone cable, reset the the TACAN (air-nav beacon) and get one of the channels of the trunked UHF radio system working. I am also trying to clean up the shop and get some of the lower priority work done too.

The picture shows me at the entrance of the dome. Originally it was build at ground (ice) level but the polar plateau slowly (but surely) engulfs everything with the unrelenting cover of snow, which turns hard enough to use an excavator to dig things out. The other picture shows the beer can. It is an enclosed open staircase at least 6 stories high. It goes several stories under ground (well snow). There are interconnected tunnels down there over to the dome, a bar (the old gym) and the power plant.

I work on the 1st floor of the new station. I eat and sleep on the second floor.

I am planning to go out to the webcam approximately 55 minutes earlier than this post tomorrow. So that would be noon Wednesday on the east coat of the US. I apoligize if I am not there because I had to do something for work. Somebody take a screen shot for me please.


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


Monday, January 15, 2007

I am at South Pole Station!

The new station is really incredible. This place is not like a building it is much more like a space ship or something. There is always a little vibration and sounds of machinery and ventalation. I am so lucky to be here in this time frame. The new station is fully inhabited and the dome is starting to get torn down this winter. I went straight away to the dome. It really is quite the structure. It stays about 60 below zero in there and the related tunnels. It only feels like -30 or so because there is no wind. None. It is extremely quiet.

I am concentrating getting my body adjusted to the physio-altitude. I ended up not taking Diamox and I am fine. I knew what it was going to be like and have taken the precautionary steps. I should be almost 100 percent today on my first full day on station. Southpole is an inside place. I have not yet gone outside, but I suspect I will tonight and get down to the actual pole. I got on the ham radio last night and talked with a couple of folks in New Zealand.

These pictures are not of the new station. They are in the connected older parts and connected dome. They will be gone soon. I lot of history is there. I have heard conflicting stories of where the dome is going to end up. Florida was one of the places. I think it would make a good night club and restaurant and you get a free meal if you ever visited it on the ice.


posted by Charles  # 1:17 PM (0) comments


Saturday, January 13, 2007

My mission went well yesterday. We went to White Island and an area near Williams Cliff to check for decent radio paths for some of our problematic links. We had some promising results. I will be going to pole tomorrow. I still have to check the times and bag-drag. I will be getting on 20 meters on 14.243 at about 000 hrs UTC over the next week. I am hearing that they are getting a signal into the United States. Although I may have to climb a tower at Pole to fix the 6 element beam. We will see. My email and blogging will be out of schedule a bit. The South Pole has only 11 hours of satellite visibility for our Internet and phone connection. They have a great ham radio station and from what I hear it can be very different from McMurdo. It will be a great thrill to see the dome and the new station. I will be posting a time I will appear in front of the webcam after I get down there. The temps at pole are fairly warm at -20 or -30 F.


posted by Charles  # 12:29 PM (0) comments


Friday, January 12, 2007

I am flying this morning. We are getting off the beaten trail. We are going to Mt Heine on White Island and Williams Cliff on the side of Mt. Erebus. We are trying to determine if we have a found a better radio location at these two points. We are taking GPS, maps, a 900 Meg radio and ice axes. It will make the network simpler if I can prove these spots will work. Cravasses are common near Williams Cliff so we are on high-guard about where we will set the helo down. We may not set down at all. Cravasses are really problematic down here. They are hundreds of feet deep and they are very often covered with snow. Sometimes the snow may be 6 or 10 feet thick and may support equipment for a while. Then one day the equipment breaks through. Ice radar is normally used for traverses.


posted by Charles  # 12:27 PM (0) comments


Thursday, January 11, 2007

I am getting ready for my trip to pole. I will probably have to bag-drag sunday night. Bag-drag is a process where you get weighed and submit most of your luggage. You keep just enough stuff so when your flight is delayed you have it with you. I will be there for 7 days. I will start taking some diamox today to (hopefully) prevent altitude sickness. One part of me says don't take it since I haven't had a problem. The other side of me says I should take it.

I still can't really believe I am here. I have adjusted, thats for sure. But I can see differences in my senses and what I choose to sense. My sense of smell is heightened. Very little smells in Antarctica. When you smell something it is very noticable. I am in denial about the sun being up 24 hours. I sleep in a darkened room and pretend we have days and nights. If I am out late and go outside it is still a shocker.

You can't help but make friends here. Everyone has to work so closely.

Wintering over starts in early march this year. There will be no supply shipments or means to get on or off the continent for 8 months. It is dark for six of those months. I have noticed some peculiarities with folks who have wintered a few times.


posted by Charles  # 12:19 PM (0) comments


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I am getting mentally prepared for re-integration when I return. I still have quite a bit to do before I head back, but it it won't be long now. The ships are in! I got aboard the Polar Sea last night and I was one of the fortunate few who was able to purchase a hat and a patch from the ship's store. If you look close at the picture you will see two UHF antennas I installed on the ships railing near the bridge a few days ago. The peir the ship is moored to is a huge block of ice covered with fine volcanic sand (fines). It is the ice pier of McMurdo. Town was really hopping last night with over 100 coast guard folks ashore to spoil and pillage.

I got approval for a couple of missions to recce some potential new radio sites to make our networks simpler. Simple is better. Complex is problematic. The skill is understanding why things are complicated without having to start over. There may be a reason for the complexity. There may not be a reason. When you learn why it was complicated (or not) you can then apply that to a new simpler model. This principle can be applied to organizations, radio systems, and anything else that is created by organizations of man.

I head to the pole in a few days. I will do a comprehensive experiment regarding the coreolis effect and report on it.


posted by Charles  # 12:22 PM (0) comments


Monday, January 08, 2007

There were quite a few penguins up in town in the last couple of days. They just come right up to people seemingly because they are just curious. They are definately strange. The antics you see the penguins do on TV are for real. The music and the anthropomorphic dialog are not. The statements regarding the penguin's moral and ethical constitution are also added in the editing phase of film production. (just so you know).

There are also Weddell seals everywhere. Someone said they are in fat city this time of year because they don't have to worry much about a couple of holes in the ice to fight over. There are cracks and plenty of holes near the pressure ridges.

Last night I was on the 20 meter amateur radio band working a very large pile up across the Pacific and I made contact with a expedition coordinator in Patriot Hills Antarctica. Patriot Hills is quite a ways from here certainly, and I knew that the Polar first helicopter team was to be moving through the camp at this location about now. I discovered through my contact on ham radio the news of the team actually making it to the pole. I had heard about it before the world. The news is out now. K2ARB at patriot hills (KC4/K2ARB) and I had quite a chit-chat about staying warm and the goings-on on continent. I was hoping I could have talked with the pilots on the team but they had already moved on. That was great ham radio. The folks listening had a great listen I am sure.

Bonnie has hurt her ankle. That is not a good thing.


posted by Charles  # 11:25 PM (0) comments


Saturday, January 06, 2007

My normal Saturday at the office?

As with almost all of my days here in Antarctica, yesterday was an interesting day. In most of the science camps around Ross Island and the Dry Vallys we use UHF 2-way radios with a telephone interface to connect with the McMurdo telephone network. The telephone suddenly stopped working out at the penguin rookery at Cape Royds a day or so ago. So we left the shop at about 8:00 AM to take an A-star to get it working again. We landed in 30 knot winds at Cape Royds. In a case like this the pilot not only keeps the engine running he keeps the throttle up as we get out so he has somewhere to go (up and away) if it gusts. Well anyway, we got the telephone working again after about an hour or two after getting both ends of the link spruced up. It is a tricky (but good) path using knife edge defraction off Tent Island to get the signal back to town. The winds on the ridge where we have the antenna were about 60 knots. I was again reminded about Antarctica being the windiest continent. There are about 25,000 penguins at this rookery. It is one of the smaller ones of the rookeries on Ross Island. The chicks ae hatching now. The seals are waiting in the water and the skuas are flying around looking to feed their chicks with the chicks of penguins. The penguins are fun to watch. Their body shape and mannerisms form a whimsical and comical experience just aching for a soundtrack. Goofy and "an unintention design" that works are descriptions that fit.

Our pick up flight was delayed because of high winds as the winds picked up over 40 knots at the LZ. You never know how long you will be stranded. It may be for a couple of days. We passed the time and eventually in the afternoon they sent a Bell 212 to pick us up. The winds had diminished to under 30 knots at this point. So we loaded up into the 212 and took off only to run into a fog bank/snow storm. Although the ride was bumpy it was the lack of visibility that forced the pilot to set the ship down (very nicely) at Cape Evans near Scott Hut. We spent an hour or so on the ground. Using weather reports from around the area we found a hole and took off only to have to set down off the tip of Big Razorback island on the sea ice for about 10 minutes. We arrived back at McMurdo just ahead of a significant snow squall and quiting time. Folks listening in on all the radio traffic during our day join you vicariously in the experience. The truck was waiting for us back at the helo pad. That was nice.

The Antarctican

The archetypical Antarctican is a 38 year old male. He has a beard. He has a cross of personalities you are familiar with in American culture. He can remind you of a cast member in a Mad Max movie ready for more adventure in a harsh dusty environment and may appear to adhere to the social norms and rule-of-land although you can't be sure. He wears his sunglass-googles on his hat. His skin makes him look older and tired. You really can't determine if his skin is sunburned, ice nipped, or just dried out and cracking. You determine that if this person just gets a good night sleep he will be ok. This individual is also a little like McGiver. He can fix stuff that desperately needs to be thrown away. He will fix it the right way if he can. If he can't, he will fix it anyway perhaps using advice from another trade after extended discussion over coffee and a blue tray. He wears the same clothes day after day. Except on his day off when he does laundry. He wears a factory aged "Mt. Erebus Ross Island" T-shirt and blue jeans. Othertimes it is the uniform of issued special black carhart bib overalls with a gray polar fleece shirt with a tan neck gaitor around the neck looking like a fashion accessory. He walks heavy. This garb is of course inside buildings, shelters or tents. Big red obliterates any other identifiable clothing otherwise. He showers a couple times a week. Although for some reason he really never comes clean.


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


Friday, January 05, 2007

I was going to post a satellite image of McMurdo Sound and the ross sea but the clouds are too thick to make it worthwhile. http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?RossSea

Select 250M resolution, zoom in and crop the image. You will see the channel very clearly the ships are cutting (after the clouds dissipate). The image is updated everyday. I am going to look at the pier this morning. The ODEN may be in. The Polar Sea is planning on being in on the 10th. We have had very strong southerly winds the past few days. This is what everyone is hoping for. The brash ice in the channel is moving out to sea and the possibilities of more of the sea ice breaking and moving out is possible. The sound may clear out this year. I think 1999 was the last year it cleared. Already this year the shipping channel is very clear of brash ice. That means orcas will be swimming right up to town.

I just looked at the helo schedule. I have an early launch over to the Penguin rookery over at cape royds. Shackelton hut is also at royds.


posted by Charles  # 11:50 AM (0) comments


Thursday, January 04, 2007

It seems sort of weird to want to talk about work all the time. But, then again that is where the majority of time is spent. The other time is largely down-time and although rejuvinating largely uneventful.

We haven't had any planes for a while. People are getting annoyed with the delays leaving the ice. Commercial flight delays are pretty common for sure. The ice flights run on a schedule but the delays differ from commercial since they may be delayed a week or more based on weather and equipment. Hopefully we have a flight in from Christchurch this Saturday, maybe Sunday.

I have a meeting this morning regarding re-deployment (going home). A lot of folks take vacation when they get off the ice. Several people I know will be taking at least a month in Africa this time. It is somewhat common to purchase a round-the-world airline ticket. Generally, you have a year or 6 months to take flights (number of flights limited) around the world. If you start in the southern hemisphere going east you must stay in the southern hemisphere going east. I have heard of stories where people get off the ice and go their seperate ways only to unexpectedly to meet up with others off the ice in places like Mongolia.

The first picture was taken in town as part of my walk to work. The second picture shows a storm we had the other day (very mild for Antarctica standards) in the absolute middle of Summer.


posted by Charles  # 12:40 PM (0) comments


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