Monday, March 29, 2010

M-O-O-N, moon...

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blustery few days

The winds are still sustained and gusting over 20 knots here at Pole. I have an instrument I need to calibrate atop ARO, but can not safely attempt to do so with the threat of the winds making parts of the test apparatus take flight. So, I'll wait for a window in the forecast for (probably) on Monday to sneak this in before the next storm system rolls through. Hopefully we will have a break late next week as well, so I can get on with removing some of the instruments from atop ARO that are not able to spend the winter outside.

The sastrugi are moving and reproducing with all this wind, which is making walking around station that much more difficult. Drifts windward and leeward drifts of buildings are changing rapidly. It is amazing how much deposition can happen in just a few days' time of elevated wind, not to mention how much will undoubtedly have accumulated by the time the sun comes back up.

Tonight we hold the first half of the Indiana Jones Drive-In Marathon on the big screen in the gymnasium here at Pole: "Raiders of the Lost ARK" and "The Temple of Doom". I'll be sporting my Indy togs I put together for the Halloween party last year. If you're going to go to the effort to bring a fedora to the bottom of the planet, you might as well get the most use out of it as you can, right?

Reviewing my photos, I really didn't end up with many of the final days of the sun here before it set last weekend. We've had solid overcast for days now, so who knows what colors we might have missed in the sky in the interim.

A thermonuclear sunset detonates over the ceremonial pole marker:

Atop the science wing doing pre-season checks for frost on all-sky camera domes:

Anyhow, it would be great if Mother Nature would relent and let me get on with the work I need to before it gets much darker or colder, but there is no use worrying about what I could do to change the circumstances. Things will get done when they get done.

“Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.”


Monday, March 22, 2010

Twilight Falls

Stop reading now if you think this is related to the vampire schlock that has pervaded popular media for a couple years now.

We have had the last kiss of sunshine for half a year here at the South Pole. Refractive effects of the atmosphere kept the image of the fiery orb visible for a while once it was below the horizon, but with the overcast we have now that is gone as well. There is still plenty of light, and will continue to be so, but that descent through nautical twilight into astronomical twilight is just beginning. We did have some nice pastel colors in the sky with sunset, but there were quite a few clouds. I think I have a few photos from when the sun was still higher, but photo ops haven't been all that great when I've been thinking about them. I'll post what I have when I get a chance.

There was a big meal and dance party Saturday night to celebrate the sunset, but I did not attend. Finding out at the end of my normal 12-hour workday that I was going to have to work in the middle of the night for one of my new and balky projects, I was pretty much put off participating in any festivities. Instead, in the intervening hours, I spent 3 hours working out in the gymnasium by myself and watched one of my favorite movies (now nearly 10 years old): Gladiator. I've just passed my 150th consecutive day of work, which inevitably changes a person's perception.

The temperatures seem to be leveling off some in the -60s to -70s°F range, probably thanks to the cloud cover. We have had light winds, but nothing too blustery for a couple weeks now.

Later this week I will begin the end-of-summer work for one of my projects at the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO), which is always a cold and arduous task at the bookends of winter. I have to do the reverse while it is still pretty dark and cold before the yearly ozone depletion event begins, too. In a month or so the first of my all-sky aurora cameras will be turned on.

So, having had my one sunset of this year, I settle into the experience of another winter at Pole. Eventually I will have my first sunrise of 2010, but that is many months off, and I will have much work and fun here before that comes to pass.

The night is a tunnel, a hole into tomorrow.
~Lady Jessica (Dune, Frank Herbert)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In transition

The sun slides ever closer and closer to the horizon here, and the temperatures are going right along with it. Couple the decreased solar input with a wind from the “east” (the higher altitude regions of east Antarctica where it’s already colder), and we’ve got temperatures back down in the -70s °F ballpark, pushing -80°F. The neat thing is that will feel warm once we’ve had a cold snap in the -90s °F for a while.

I have yet to really bundle up much more than I did for summer, yet. I do regularly wear a fleece jacket under my work coat, and with the high winds we had for a while there I started wearing my wind-proof balaclava under my fleece gaiter and stocking cap. I’ve been wearing mitts instead of gloves for quite a while; the only exception(s) being when I have to wear my bunker gear for emergency response purposes outside. Those fireman’s gloves are totally not appropriate wear for these temperatures, even with liners and hand warmers underneath.

I have started reading through the glaciology textbooks I brought down, which are sure interesting. This is all part of considering potentially making a career/profession change when I leave here in November. Even if I don’t make the leap, it’s interesting stuff nonetheless.

“Few things are brought to a successful issue by impetuous desire, but most by calm and prudent forethought.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Still windy

Well, this morning heralded yet another windy, stormy day here at Pole. It's been doing this for maybe 4 days now, almost non-stop. It is amazing how quickly the drifts and sastrugi can develop under the influence of wind, hence blowing snow. Walking around on un-groomed paths in the last few days reminded me how tiring and awkward it is in the winter, when you can't see very well the surface you are walking on a lot of the time. I'm of the group of winterovers that advocates just letting your eyes adjust to the darkness, which a lot of the time isn't all that dark due to the moon, stars, and auroras, instead of using headlamps and flashlights and the like all the time.

Concerning storms of a different kind, it is definitely interesting reading all the news concerning the next era of NASA's manned space flight program. I just wonder what the state of the industry/field will be come next November when I leave and have to assess what options I want to pursue for future employment. It's a very dynamic situation, so I'm doing my best not to worry about it until the time comes.

Last night found a lounge-full of us watching 3 episodes of "Battlestar Galactica", which continues to deliver a good storyline. I have no idea how long it will take us to get through all the seasons at this rate, but again, we've plenty of time before anybody is going anywhere. I don't consider that a bad thing, whatsoever.

“The secret to happiness is freedom... And the secret to freedom is courage.”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Settling in

This week has really not had anything too terribly exciting happen. Work continues apace in all aspects of the station. Yesterday we had an all-station emergency response drill, which took a chunk out of the morning. The fire brigade didn't really have much to do, but I did (despite being a team lead) end up having to help backboard one of the simulated patients. With temperatures finally going below -60° F, it was pretty darn cold outside in firefighting bunker gear. The gloves are the worst culprit: 1) since they're gloves, not mittens and 2) they're made to keep heat out, not keep it in.

I've also been trying to squeeze in more reading around other work/play, and just finished the excellent "World without End" by Ken Follett. I'm also about to finish a really good book about Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and the Black Sheep Squadron. It's interesting how both books were either gifts or recommendations from uncles of mine. Thanks gents!

"Education is no substitute for intelligence. That elusive quality is defined only in part by puzzle-solving ability. It is in the creation of new puzzles reflecting what your senses report that you round out the definitions."
~Mentat Text One, "Heretics of Dune"

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pretty quiet

There really has not been loads of excitement here at Pole in the last week. Work continues apace as we complete the station closing activities, and of course all the normal work continues to be done as well. Last week I had my first stint in the dish pit, cleaning up after the galley and its "customers" as part of the rotation everybody on-station has to follow.

Sunday night again has become the night to go to the B1 lounge and watch a good movie, which will be preceded by real movie previews and a short film orchestrated by yours truly and one of my friends. This past weekend it was the sci-fi classic "Starship Troopers", which I hadn't watched in quite a few years. We've had good turnout thus far, and it is a really nice way to punctuate the week's end as my work days continue to pile up in an unbroken chain between Oct. "09 and Nov. "10. I'm currently at 125 days and counting. I finally got around to watching the first season of "Deadwood", and really liked it. Some of us are also watching the new version of "Battlestar Galactica", of which I've only seen the very first episode, but like a lot thus far. I'm still hitting the gym 6 times per week, and may participate in a boxing/mixed martial arts club one of the guys may put on here starting I'm not sure when. Thus far there are no bands that I know of, but do hope something will coalesce before too long. I love how much freedom there is to shape what little free time into whatever I want it to be down here.

Temperatures seem to be solidly hovering in the -50° F range now, and the sun continues its spiral to the horizon.

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.”
~Robert Heinlein