Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Lofty Perspective

Well, weather providing, we'll be rid of ~38 more summer folks today. That will take station population below 200, and it is already getting discernibly quieter around the place. Temperatures were down into the still-not-cold-as-winter-goes -30s F over the weekend, and the sun is starting to get that low-angle look as it continues to sink towards the horizon.

Last week I got to go on a short flight buzzing the station overhead for what is nominally an end-of-season aerial photo documentation flight. Photographers from the station community, I was just a tag-along, take aerial photos of the station to record the state of the buildings, cargo lines, drifting, etc. from overhead. The flight was pretty late at night, but still a nice chance to do something different. I don't think it technically counts as having left the station, so I'm still set for the glory of spending a full 13 months here, unencumbered by the rest of the world. I was taking photos with my wee camera through a dirty window and the disk of the propeller, but some still turned out reasonably well:

The plane we were in was a Twin Otter:

You can see the station is all clad in its new stylish black siding. The part on the roof with the yellow decking is the science lab, with all the access ports for instruments that will mostly be turned on once the sun is good and gone for the winter:

This is a view of the station from the north, but what we'd locally refer to as grid southwest. Grid north is aligned with the Prime Meridian:

A little closer in to the station, we caught a C-130 Hercules landing and on the taxiway. It's amazing how shiny and polished the snow looks, but that's part of its 90% albedo (reflectivity) that helps reject solar energy input and keep this place cold:

Also very cool to see was my first and only glimpse of the original "Old Pole" station that is/was buried until a couple guys in a bulldozer and a tractor fell through the 14 feet of snow accumulated atop the old station (which was abandoned in-place). It was a pretty big deal getting the equipment out, and thankfully neither of the drivers were injured.

So, with the horizon clearing rapidly, it looks like things could be promising to get these summer folks out and on their way. I'm not especially anxious for people to leave, but it will probably be a relief when things settle down here after a very stressful denouement to the season. Having 5 science group site visits in the last 3 weeks of the summer was not something I'd prefer to go through again, but I survived.

“Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments.”
~Marcel Proust


Rachel B said...

Plane ride, fun! You remind me a little bit of the scientists who live out at McDonald Observatory in west Texas. We went way out there (the middle of nowhere) to look at the stars over spring break, which is their busiest time, and we could tell that the people showing us around were astronomers, not tour guides, and although they were wonderful, I could tell they weren't used to all the people!

EthanG said...

Your trip to W. TX sounds really nice. It's good to hear there are some places in the lower 48 that aren't spoiled for astronomy by light pollution.

It is strange coming into contact with tourists when down here. I definitely feel the culture clash between folks that live/work on this station and those who pay small fortunes to come down for just a few hours. Worlds apart...

Take care,

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