Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pics at last

Well, future job prospects are looming massively in my mind right now. I've been searching around and gotten a few applications out. I'm currently working on one for a company that does operations engineering work for the International Space Station. The super-cool thing is that they are located in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium! I might have a problem eating too many chocolate-covered Belgian waffles if I end up there...

The temperatures didn't warm up this week, and we're still sitting in the -90F range. It's disconcerting how much degradation the insulating capabilities of some of my gear, particularly my mittens, have declined as they are used more as the season progresses. I wish I could have taken a time-lapse movie of my Carhartt overalls to see how the wear accumulated on them. Mine are in a lot better shape than some other folks', but they definitely won't be in too good a shape by the time I get back to the CDC in Christchurch.

Last night we had a teleconference with a science team for the Mars Phoenix Lander. They were celebrating not only the Martian solstice, but also the first successful wet chemistry analysis performed on the red planet's surface. One of their team was down here for a few seasons, so they thought it might be cool to have the South Pole of Earth talk to folks working with a robotic spacecraft in the Arctic region of Mars. We talked for about 1.5 hours and went through some slides with pictures from both incredible places in the Solar System. I definitely was heartened by their optimism that the discovery of water portends for manned visits to the fourth planet. They also lifted my spirits by saying that in one hour a properly trained astronaut could have done all the science performed in the first 90 days of the Mars Exploration Rovers' mission. This is why I need to get that geology degree sometime soon.

Below are a few pictures from Son of Polestock. Thanks go to C.A. and R.S. for the photos. You can also see some other pics at Steffen's blog.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Past the tipping point

Well, mid-winter's day has come and gone, and we're now on the downhill of this season. Allegedly it only gets more difficult from here on out, but so far the psychological challenges haven't been all that bad.

The Son of Polestock concert was pretty fun, though people in the audience didn't seem to have a lot of energy. That wasn't totally surprising given how much fun a lot of them had engaged in the night before. The Re-Tardis played pretty well, and I definitely enjoyed singing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Suzie Q", and "Blue Suede Shoes". I'm not sure when the next gig will be, but we definitely hope to be able to throw a concert for station opening when the summer crew arrives. Maybe the audience would be a bit livelier then. Some folks got some good photos of me in some really styling duds, so I'll see if I can get their permission to post them here in a future installment.

It's in the mid-negative 90s F today, and it definitely feels colder than the -80s F. I was wrong that I assumed that after a certain point that cold just feels cold.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Son of Polestock

Head over to Tim's blog at The Frozen Desert for the link to get the media player necessary to listen into the live audio feed from the bottom of the world this weekend. He's also got all the equivalent times for when the concert will begin for you folks out there in the world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Group hug...I mean, photo!

Well, this afternoon most of the station gathered at Destination Alpha (skiway entrance of the elevated station) to have a mid-winter group photo taken. I guess, like during the holidays in December, stations in Antarctica and the Arctic exchange greetings with each other. It seemed like we had pretty good turnout (of the 60 total people here this winter), and I look forward to seeing what other stations' greetings are like.

Tonight is the last full practice for The Re-Tardis before our big mid-winter gig on Saturday night. Today we finally got some video posted to the common hard drive here at Pole from the first Polestock, and that's got me all fired up to do it again.

With the July 1st deadline looming in the near future, I've been thinking a lot about my astronaut application and general future plans for travel, life, and employment. It's great to have options, but I can't quite follow the samurai maxim and make my decision concerning "what's next" within seven breaths.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Midway approaches

Well, June 21st marks the half-way point of the winter, so I naturally chose a book on the battle of Midway from the small library of World War II history that one of my uncles sent me during the summer. It has been really nice to read so much on a subject that I find fascinating, and I definitely have gotten some good new information out of these books.

In a similar line of investigation, I showed the film "Flags of Our Fathers" last night for the Sunday Select Cinema feature presentation. Next week will be "Letters from Iwo Jima". "Flags" definitely delivered a multi-fisted emotional combination that left a few eyes in the TV room a bit better hydrated than they normally would be. I read the book while still at home during summer 2007, and it was great to finally get to see the other half of the story on film. The first film I saw in a theater after redeploying from my first season on the Ice was "Letters from Iwo Jima" in the lovely Embassy Theater in Wellington, New Zealand.

We have a waxing moon here, which will be full soon, and the light on the sastrugi really reminds me of being at see on the Soren Larsen. In a lot of ways this experience at Pole is very similar to a long sea voyage, except we're in a stationary environment.

Much work will be done throughout the course of the week to prepare for the mid-winter concert on Saturday, which has been dubbed "Son of Polestock". I'll send links out about catching an Internet broadcast of the concert as that information becomes available.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Off to an exciting start

Well, here in our time zone I turned 30 years old at 12:59 AM this morning. Funny thing was, at 12:58:40 AM an oxygen alarm sounded and I was running to get my SCBA gear on and lead the fire brigade as necessary. It turned out to just be a sensor that had failed, but we still deployed a few firefighters, myself included, to be on hand in case there was in fact a displaced oxygen environment inside the cryogenics building. So, I was pretty wired up after that and didn't get to sleep until after 2:30 AM. Being who I am, I was up at 6 o'clock as usual to start another work day (#142 since I had a day off). People around the station definitely seem to be pretty tired after their little early morning adventure.

The Re-Tardis seems to be handily bashing its way through spacetime towards the concert next weekend. Our songs are really getting honed to performance quality, and I personally am to the point where sheet music isn't absolutely necessary for the 11 songs we've added since last time.

The moon is up, and it's a whole different ballgame working outside again. I've got a few projects that I have been postponing until there was better light outside that I'll get to attempt to take care of now.

So, I'll sign off with a sated state of mind as I polish off the last of my birthday banana nut bread (I gave up desserts and a bunch of other unhealthy foods over a month ago).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dig Dug

Well, I managed to excavate and uninstall a little data recorder from a buried GPS system out in the ice today. I didn't have the moon, but there was an aurora directly overhead that helped illuminate the scene a bit. We really took our 24-hour illumination for granted this summer. It makes it so much easier when you don't have to rely upon headlamps that have power cables freezing stiff and don't have to worry about light pollution protocols so you don't mess up your other

Re-Tardis is really stepping up the practices, and our sound is really getting locked in for the mid-winter's party. Last night we added Dead Flowers by The Rolling Stones to our set list.

I've been watching "The Flight of the Conchords", and have really been enjoying them just as much as the last time I saw them back home. It's a quality show.

I'm da Boom King!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

toasty, and not of the psych-type

Today we have a high pressure system moving through, and the temperatures have leaped up into the -40s F. It was nice to not be cold at all while doing a nice walk out to all the three labs in the Dark Sector to take relative humidity measurements inside them. Cutting away from the flag lines between the Dark Sector Lab and Ice Cube Lab was a little sketchy, since I didn't know what all sorts of excavations and whatnot might be out that direction.

Yesterday I embarked upon my argosy of training three new firefighters for the brigade. Two have no experience whatsoever, but the third has been to fire school (for the Ice) a couple times. Still, it's pretty much square one right now, with a long way to go before I can feel safe sending them into an emergency scene on SCBA.

The Re-Tardis is coming along really well with our new set. Each practice we sound better and better, and I'm reaching the point where I don't really use my sheet music to play along with. Singing continues to be a real joy, and the guitar just becomes more natural all the time. I know I have a long way to go on both of them, but still it is amazing how much improvement can be wrought in just a number of months.

I have a birthday fast approaching, and shortly thereafter we'll be at mid-winter. It's amazing how long the summer seemed, when we've been here even longer this winter, and have 5 months even left to go. I feel very much together, no sign of "toast", and am still amazed regularly at how we can adapt to such strange environments so quickly.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembring the Longest Day during my longest night

Well, though it was 64 years ago, the actions that took place on June 6, 1944 and the following weeks have been on my mind a lot lately. Since I've been reading so many World War II history books while down on the Ice, the trials and tribulations of the people that face the horrors of that conflict have been a focus of many a long hour's contemplation. I have also been think a lot about how lucky I have been to have had the opportunities to go travel to so many of these places (including the Normandy beaches) that I have studied about so much. Actually going to a place and experiencing it first-hand really makes all the difference in getting a handle on all that you might have read or seen on TV or in movies. Real travel, not tourism, is an act of self-education, rather than simple diversion. I definitely look forward eagerly to whatever chances I will have to travel before my next job after this experience on the Ice comes to a conclusion, whatever they may be. Hopefully the next job and travel will be synonymous. I reflect on all the opportunities that I have, and all the opportunities that so many were denied by world conflicts and economics, and I feel very, very lucky to have landed on planet Earth as I did in the late 1970s.

I'd pour a libation to the fallen, if it were not a violation of the Antarctic Treaty.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Flight of the science tech.

Well, the string of hardware and software failures continues here at South Pole. I can't remember the last day I didn't have something mess up on me. Tossed into the mix was my rotation as dishwasher for Saturday, which was just more work tossed on top of all my regular work for science support. The nice thing is, having been totally wasted down on the Ice for an entire summer as a Dining Attendant (DA), I have nearly superhuman pot and pan scrubbing and dish washing skills. Anyhow, thanks to some kind folks that stood in while I did my daily checks, everything got done in time. A very nice person stood in for me at the end of my shift so that I could be in attendance for practice with Re-Tardis. After all, that's a community service activity-right? Anyhow, Pole is lots of work and significantly less play, but it's still good to be here. The sky outside today was extremely clear, and it's wonderful to see all the stars and the sweep of the Milky Way.