Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Well, the sun is very much gone and the moon has come up, so walking around outdoors is a whole lot easier with so much light to see by. The moon is bright itself, the snow reflects over 90% of the light (high albedo), and we do not have any bright man-made exterior lights to mess with night vision. It pretty much wipes out seeing anything but the brightest aurorae, but it is nice for a (monthly) change to have that navigational aid whilst traipsing about station.

With a (however brief) lull in instrument problems, I have been working hard on catching up with some documentation I will be required to hand over to my replacement in October/November. Summer was so frenetic that I never had or made time to work on some of this stuff, but want to make sure I provide this resource to my replacement, though I have not necessarily been provided a similar resource by others in the past when starting contracts down here.

I don't have any cool photos, and haven't for a while, so will abase myself with this "monthstache" collage I made during the first month or so of the winter. The soup strainer is long gone, perhaps to return, but was fun while it lasted.

“One man with courage makes a majority.”
~Andrew Jackson

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting slammed

Well, I have apparently been working through one of the typical upswings in failures in projects, having had quite a few problems with science equipment in the last week. This has kept me out and about station, and I find myself putting in a lot of time outside staggering across the nascent sastrugi in the dark. Yesterday alone I think I walked just under 5 miles between the station and various outlying science buildings I had to visit.

But, keeping me busy during my peregrinations, if peregrines move slowly and stumble around a lot, have been some pretty regular and decent aurorae. There is still light on the horizon from the sun, but it is still pretty dark. Don't hold your breath waiting for my photos of these upper-atmospheric special effects, though. I don't have a good enough camera of my own to record them, but you can look at the website for the all-sky imagers I support from the University of Nagoya, Japan to see what has been hanging around overhead here.

Tonight we're holding a drive-in in the gymnasium, showing "2001: A Space Odyssey". Tomorrow night the sequel "2010: The Year We Make Contact" will be shown. This will be the first time I see either of these on the big screen, and hope our projector is up to the task.

The urge to prematurely start considering travel and work options has been curtailed by our current satellite schedule, which has us in contact with the rest of the world mostly overnight (locally), which conflicts with very much needed sleep. I'll do my best to keep at posting here, but work and rest definitely reach out and grab precedence with iron talons of priority. The only photos I've been taking of late are of failed electrical components and the like, which aren't all that interesting or evocative of the larger picture of wintering here. I'll send something outward at some point again, though. Fear naught.
“He's a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?”

~John Lennon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Just part of the job

So, with yesterday's glycol leak/spill in the main power plant, we had our first real emergency response for the winter. The engine room was fogged out with vaporized glycol from one of the generators, and we were lucky it was not that big a spill and that nobody got hurt during the initial response and clean-up. My involvement was deploying the fire brigade for SCBA support, but we thankfully did not have to pull anybody out of the scene. I, in particular, got to stand outside in bunker gear for however long it was and do a lot of talking on the radio between my folks on the inside and the rest of the ERT apparatus outside. Oh, and I got to try and keep warm, which is definitely a challenge in that gear at our current outdoor temperatures. Anyhow, hopefully a real response coming like this at a totally unforeseen time will open the eyes of some folks here to the fact that we have to be ready to address any sort of issue like this at any time of the day. I know that realization has certainly shaped my behavior since I started doing this Pole firefighter thing back in "07.

"There thou beholdest the walls of Sparta, and every man a brick."
~Attributed to Lycurgus by Plutarch

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Record setting low

Well, last night we briefly had the ambient temperature bottom out at below -100°F. It actually hit -100.7°F, but did not remain there too long. It didn't actually feel all that bad, since there was virtually no wind. Anyhow, it was the second-earliest date that the century mark has been hit during the years that records have been kept here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cool in many ways

Well, we've been past the -90° F barrier for a while now. I'm not sure how long that will last, or whether we're set to plunge much further towards the century mark. Regardless, it's that time of year that when you come inside after being out for a while, and take off your external layers, you can sort of hold your hands up to them and it feels like a negative fireplace as the cold is perceptible from a fair distance away.

It's actually not all that bad, since the wind is so low right now. The ambient temperature has dropped another 1.3° since I took that screen shot.

One of the cool things about being down here is that technology doesn't seem to go away very quickly. Case in point, we're showing the original "Clash of the Titans" this evening. Is this being shown on Blu-ray, DVD, or some other contemporary media? No, absolutely not: we're watching this classic on vintage Betamax, of which there is a fairly decent collection of movies down here. For those of you in the know, yes, there will be movie previews and a short film. We even did stop-motion animation and special effects to pay homage to Mr. Harryhausen. I can't wait to see what the finished product looks like tonight!
“Wide-sounding Zeus takes away half a man's worth on the day when slavery comes upon him.”
~Homer, The Odyssey

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Douse those lights, you ape!

Today we put the high tech coverings over our windows to prevent light pollution for the upcoming optical data gathering season here at Pole. By "high tech", I mean cardboard-yeah, "spared no expense", to quote John Hammond in Jurassic Park. I've got the two cameras from the University of Nagoya, Japan that will be getting turned on in the coming weeks, and I really hope everything works well with them-one being brand new.

I saw my first star(s) in the sky since last October a few days ago, which was nice. Yes, I realize the sun is a star, but you catch my drift. I have a really nice memory of returning to New Zealand after my first summer down here and seeing a star peek out from between some rainclouds as I walked through the alleyways of the Arts Center to go watch some Spanish dancing at a festival being held that night. Good times...seems like a million years ago.
“The snows that are older than history, the woods where the weird shadows slant: The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery I’ve bade ’em good-by---but I can’t.”
~Robert Service