Friday, October 31, 2008

Just guess

Yea, there's a Basler headed our direction today, but not from McMurdo full of eager beaver replacements for us at Pole. This is actually the second Basler to come down to the Ice, and is just stopping through here briefly to refuel before wining off for McMurdo. The situation would almost be comical at this point, if it weren't for all the hassle this delay will cause folks trying to readjust travel plans or transitions to new jobs off-Ice.

Speaking of travel, I'm still doing my best to make up my mind about travel plans, not that I'm going anywhere anytime soon. If I were a samurai, I'd be a failure in that regard.

"In the words of the ancients,
one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths.
It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit
to break through to the other side."

~Yamamoto Tsunetomo, The Hagakure

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So it begins...or continues to not begin

Yup, the Basler was canceled for us at Pole here today because of bad weather in McMurdo. If this lasts long enough for the good weather here to fail then get nice in McMurdo, we'll have the first volley of "weather pong" delaying redeployment. It should be noted that a lot of this situation was due to budget shortfalls. I'm sure The Powers That Be have made every possible sacrifice to ensure that the people in the field aren't carrying the lion's share of the burden that financial challenge might entail...

I've got until Monday to decide about ditching Oz/SE Asia for the Atlantic, but will probably opt not to further complicate my life by trying to cancel and readjust my travel plans. Besides, I've really been looking forward to bagging my 32nd to 36th countries and 6th continent for my travel resume.

“I know not how to defeat others; I know only how to win over myself.”
~Yaju Munenori, Sword Instructor to the Tokugawa Shogunate

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Decisions, decisions... Having pretty much just finished making all my plans for this trip to NZ, Oz, and SE Asia, why-oh why-did I have to finally get notice today of an opening on the Stad Amsterdam for a 19-day trans-Atlantic voyage from the Canary Islands to St. Martin in the Caribbean?!?!?!

I'm still here at Pole doing the work thing until any of my replacements eventually show up. Allegedly the new Aurora Tech will be in tomorrow, but the other two come in later.

I wonder if I can get a charge number in my time card for "weeping and gnashing of teeth"...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

non-optimal schedules

Well, despite having loads of people planning the station opening sequence all winter, things aren't really working out so smoothly now we're actually in the process. The Basler crews got down here and then had to take two full days off flights. Then, there's days this week where Pole isn't the primary destination for the Basler. I guess we're an alternate destination for the flights should the weather at Siple Dome or WAIS Divide be inclement. It seems strange to prioritize opening field camps, where there were no winter crews, when you've got a major station like Pole with 57 winterovers that might like to leave after 9-13 months (or longer in some cases) on the Ice. Rumors are rampant here, and you just have to let them slide off you. Flight changes seemed to be happening nearly hourly yesterday, so who knows what the next few days will pan out to be like.

Regardless, the prospect of having a delayed return to the World is turning out to be quite a bummer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Summer folk here

Sixteen souls joined the station yesterday. I didn't meet the plane since I was doing the usual daily checks. It's going to be the same case today. I really wish I had a psychology or sociology degree to bounce all this station opening stuff off of; it'd be good at least to identify whatever phobias and neuroses are bouncing around in my own head.

We just got word that the next Basler has taken off from McMurdo, so in about 4 hours we'll have another 16 or so new folk rattling around the station. The weather is clear and gorgeous today, so they shouldn't have any problem on this end of things. I think the Met folks have a good forecast for the next couple days at least, but there's unfortunately not another Basler scheduled to come to Pole until Thursday. Oh well, I'd just like my guys to whom I have to turn over my duties to show up on time.

We (Sunday Select Cinema) showed Dr. No last night, and I keep having images off all these tropical rivers on Jamaica running through my head. I guess some of those scenes were at Ocho Rios, which would be cool to visit sometime.

How about this afternoon?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Look, boss, the plane(s)!

Well, we had some visitors fly by yesterday afternoon. Some FAA guys and whatever other important folks buzzed the ski-way here at Pole allegedly doing some sort of verification of the air transport infrastructure. They came in at less than 100 feet off the deck, and we couldn't see them until they flew through the exhaust plume of the power plant. They did about 4-5 passes of the ski-way before winging back off to McMurdo. I can't say I really see the utility of this flight to Pole, but I'm sure the folks on the plane had a fun time.

Hey, as I was writing this we had the Basler arrive at Pole. Happy coincidence, though it was actually a bit underwhelming. I'm finding it hard to get excited about the station opening back up again, particularly with all my concerns about my professional career's future looming large back in the World. Regardless of my personal baggage, here are some pics of the event:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Well, we were supposed to see the Basler (turboprop-equipped DC-3) and Twin Otter aircraft today, but weather apparently intervened. And here I was, all ready to post a picture or two of something new on the blog... Oh well, I've got loads of work still to finish before they let me get on with this trip I've got in the works.

I actually got notification that my flights had been booked yesterday, so I went ahead and made a good number of the reservations I'll need for the trip itself. I still think it's going to be really interesting to get home after all this time on New Year's Eve. I'll probably have been underway for some ridiculous length of time, and will just fall asleep in the car on the way home from Wichita, but who knows what might be shaking in my sleepy little hometown on the range?

I keep getting words of commiseration from folks that are looking or know other people who are looking for jobs. It doesn't seem to be a great time to be unemployed and trying to remedy the situation. Why did all you folks on the outside have to go and mess up the economy so badly while we were down here toiling away on the Ice? That wasn't very polite of you. I guess the upshot of the situation is that if I can't find another job straight away then I might be able to talk myself into taking another trip to bag my 7th continent: Africa!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
~Mark Twain

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Working weekend

Well, things were hopping here at Pole for me over the 2-day weekend most of the station enjoyed. While the children were still nestled all snug in their beds, I was sweeping and mopping the mezzanine and my work area in the science lab. That took about three hours of my morning, and about 1.5 hours of my afternoon were taken up by cleaning on of the janitor's closets, which was very much in need of a large amount of scrubbing. The whole station will be working on Mega House Mouse today, which will hopefully get most of the rest of the facility spruced up and ready for the new occupants to commence habitation.

Tomorrow, weather providing, we'll have the Basler pass through and a Twin Otter spend the night.

I'm in the final throes of document updates and turnover report writing, but there still is a lot of work to be done before I pull up stakes and rejoin the World for a while.

Nothing is as certain as that the vices of leisure are gotten rid of by being busy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Busy before big week

Well, once I get myself ready to go this morning I'm going to start in on the very large amount of cleaning that in my share of opening this station up for the summer. Every week we have had routine "house mouse" duties to keep the station in relatively tidy order, but spring is upon us-almost summer-and we have to get the place ready for some company.

My turnover to the 3 people replacing me in various capacities is going to be an interesting process. I don't know exactly how I'm going to juggle every body's schedules, but hopefully everything will sort itself out on its own. I'm nearing the completion of all the document updates necessary to turn the reins over to the new guys, and I'll gladly be shot of that stuff once it is indeed through.

The bands have continued to practice, and between the two of them (Picardis and the Irish band) we are adding 3 new songs to the combined set list. I believe we're at just a couple days short of 3 weeks until that concert is currently scheduled to happen.

Tuesday a Basler and Twin Otter aircraft will make appearances at Pole. The Basler will continue on to McMurdo after refueling here, but the slower Twin Otter will spend the night and continue on to McMurdo the next morning. This schedule is all naturally dependent upon the weather. Once those aircraft reach McMurodo then the personnel scheduled to come down before the main station opening with the C-130 aircraft will start flying. Again, the weather has primacy in this schedule.

Hopefully things will go fairly as well as planned, because I've started the booking process for my airfare to facilitate this great trip to Australia (Sydney, Alice Springs, Darwin) and SE Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia). I should be getting home on New Year's Eve, so that will be quite a weird time to be reinserted into my past life. I'm just waiting for confirmation about the airfare from the company travel agent to book my tours, hostels, and Cambodian visa before I drop the rest of the cash, though I may cave and go ahead and do that today if I have the time while the satellite is up.

Anyhow, things are going to get really interesting here pretty quick. I'll try to keep a better stream of updates coming as station opening and turnover gets underway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

bright sunshiney day

Today the sky is very clear, and the light outside sure looks like it did during our summer months. We've continued to have C-17 flights to McMurod shuttle people down to the Ice for the summer season, and next week the Basler and Twin Otter aircraft should make their arrival on the Ice. Everybody, well, most folks, are hurriedly getting all that last minute work done before the people they have to turnover to show up.

I'm trying to go ahead with travel plans, and can't quite make myself stop applying for jobs. My travel agent really needs to get back to me with airfare, so that I can get on with making all the other arrangements for tours and accommodations and the like.

Our bands keep practicing and sounding better and better. The Irish band is adding another song or two to the existing set, which will be significantly different than anything we've done before. I won't spoil it for any folks that might be headed this direction. That music event at station opening is going to be one awesome way to make an exit after a year down here. It still remains a bit surreal being a part of something like this. Hopefully folks will appreciate all the hard work the band members have put in over the course of the last 9 months.

Friday, October 10, 2008

decisions, decisions

Nothing new to report work-wise or really otherwise here at South Pole. I'm just in the throes of indecision about whether to start booking airfares and such for this trip home I conceived via NZ, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. ARRGH! Why does the economy have to tank just as I'm about to get my first day off in nearly a year?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

same ol' situation

Well, I'm still here and still working at essentially the same tasks. A C-17 flight to McMurdo got "boomeranged" (turned back to Christchurch without landing in Antarctica) this morning, so the huge crowd of people headed for the Ice sitting around in New Zealand didn't get any smaller.

Monday night we wrapped up recording the last tracks for the Irish band and Picardis recording project. It's amazing how well they turned out, and doubly amazing to find myself doing this when in February I wasn't a singer or much of a guitar player. We're now back to the normal practice schedule in preparation for a concert to be given for the opening of the station for the summer season. Considering that we'll have a bunch of new people with a bunch of energy, it will probably be the best gig in which I'll ever have a chance to play.

I'm starting to slowly develop a plan for some travel immediately following my redeployment from the Ice. Yesterday I decided that I'd probably add on a quick couple of days into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, which has me pretty excited. I have a lot of decisions to make before I lock into any trips, though. Not getting any replies to my various job applications is somewhat stressing, but I may take it as an opportunity to be unfettered by employment and see a bit of the world for a few months following this super-ultra-mega-marathon of workdays on the Ice.

Nothing is as certain as that the vices of leisure are gotten rid of by being busy.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

WX Delay

Well, the paid vacation goes on for the folks backing up in Christchurch that are trying to deploy to the Ice. The delay today is due to the fact that there are 38-kt sustained winds with 58-kt gusts and ~100m of visibility in McMurdo. So, the folks on that first flight, ~118 or so of the 400, are on-call every morning to get to the airport and deploy. The rest are just picking up their per diem every day and enjoying the fair city of Christchurch. I think some of them have probably been paid to not work already more days than I've had in the last year. Oh well, it's not their fault.

After a few days inside the ping pong ball here, the overcast is pretty much gone and the light isn't totally flat. I actually like it when the light goes that flat, because it is almost a surreal uniformity that takes over ground (well, ice) and sky. It always reminds me of the loading program in the movie "The Matrix" where the characters are just walking around in featureless white space, until they want something like "guns, lots of guns".

I didn't have time to pack anything up for our first post office of the year, but have been sorting and packing some here and there since then. I unloaded a bunch of my WWII history books I've already read that an uncle sent down this summer. I've still got 6 to go, so some of them may come a-travelin' with me if I can't get through them all. Right now I'm reading a really good one called "Winged Victory" that chronicles the history of the Army Air Force (AAF).

The bands have almost finished our recording project, and things are sounding pretty decent. A couple nights ago we did a bunch of background vocals for the various songs that needed them. It was pretty fun singing along with 5 other guys into one microphone. After that was finished up our ringleader and I stuck around and did harmony parts for "Authority Song", which was a really educational experience. We heard the size of the song just balloon, and essentially did the musical equivalent of making hamburgers into steakburgers. How's that for a dated, bizarre metaphor?

Well, the grindstone is missing me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

South Pole: Endgame

Well, yesterday we had the first attempted flight into McMurdo Station to open the summer 2008-09 season in Antarctica. Unfortunately the flight "boomeranged", turning back to Christchurch, New Zealand without landing at MacTown. I worked some of the flight following here, which likely sounds a whole lot more exciting than it is in actuality.

Work continues apace here at Pole, and some of the station opening activities have begun already. I'm thick into document update mode, and hope to get that all polished off in relatively short order. I finally managed to get those photometers off the roof after a few days gradual thawing, in addition to a little elbow grease facilitated by a pry bar.

I'm still trying to make some plans for travel once I leave, but am increasingly leery of the economic situation. I guess if things really tank then this trip could be a last hurrah for a while. It'd be a shame to lose the opportunity to see some "far off" lands whilst on this side of the planet. Besides, I've only spent like $15 down here since the station closed for winter. I need to re-acclimate to being a good little mindless consumer if I'm going to rejoin The World for a while.

“A man knows nothing if he knows not
That wealth oft begets an ape.”

~Old Norse quote
(I originally found this a few years ago in "The Long Ships" by Frans Bengtsson)