Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Still buzzing...louder now

The pace of science support work here at Pole seems to just keep ratcheting up. I've got two grantees here currently, and two more on the way next week. One grantee is installing a new instrument that I didn't know about yesterday, so I'm going to be the caretaker for 20 total instruments (22 if some wayward photometers arrive) over the next year. Toss all that together with the usual amount of support for everything else, as well as the fire brigade work I have to do, and I'm not lacking things to keep me busy.

The sun is perceptibly lower than just a few weeks ago, and our temperatures are starting to decrease. It has been in the -20s F quite a lot lately. It's still nothing like winter, but many of the outdoors activities to support these visiting scientists (who didn't come during the earlier, warmer months) will be that much more difficult because of the colder temperatures.

The station in general is making the final push to get jobs completed and people not staying for winter off on their merry way. We've lots of cargo that needs to arrive, including lots of fuel to actually sustain the station through the winter isolation, and lots of cargo that needs to get flown out to meet the resupply vessel. For some strange reason, though, in the last week we have had numerous flights where McMurdo has sent "sleigh riders" on brief little morale trips to the Pole. About a dozen come in on a plane, and go right back out with it when it leaves. Now, they don't really have enough time to be a direct burden on the station since they're he so briefly, but the fact that they are taking up space on Herc flights that could be used for incoming/outgoing cargo seems wrong to me (a Polie). We've tools and batteries and numerous things still in the logistics pipeline for the science lab here that we really could use more than somebody from McMurdo could use 20 minutes on-station at Amundsen-Scott. The fact that we're behind in the flight schedule, and consequently behind on getting enough fuel, but McMurdo is choosing to send their people on a recreational excursion seems irresponsible and ill-considered. If not having non-working people on-station at McMurdo was a contributing factor in the change of the R&R policy for wintering Polies, then why are non-working McMurdo people allowed to occupy space in the logistical pipeline for Pole and potentially displace important equipment/fuel needed for this station? Having spent the summer here at Pole working in much colder, higher-altitude, drier conditions than McMurdo, where is my morale flight going to? The Dry Valleys or the crater of Mount Erebus would be great. But, I know that is not in the cards, and would just settle for the program doing what needs to be done to ensure this station, my home for the coming 10 months, has what it needs to survive the winter. Having a warm, functioning station all the way through to November will do wonders for my morale.

"Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism."
~Carl Sagan

“Reason and judgment are the qualities of a leader.”

“In soft regions are born soft men.”


J. Reaves said...

To play devil's advocate, there is a differecne between PAX and cargo. Pax have to go in the PAX seats and cargo in he cargo area. So if the seats are empty I doubt it detracts from cargo to put some sleigh-riders in them for a quick visit to Pole.

Becky said...

You can load up a Herc with Pax or cargo and there aren't any permanent seats. They all slide in and out.
Sounds like someone got a bright idea and didn't bother to think it through. But then, I always thought that the decision makers on the Ice were mental midgets.
I will be very upset if you come home as a corpseicle because some yahoos got view of the pole-and-globe.

EthanG said...

It probably won't make or break Pole's winter, but it displays some very misplaced priorities, to say the least.

I'm still waiting for my flight to the Dry Valleys. What gives?

Rev Chong said...

The wall mount seats take up no cargo room, just adds weight. Most of the sleigh ride folks are MCM winter overs who get no r and r.
Are you going to post any video of the band playing or the SPIFF?

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