Monday, June 14, 2010

The Sleeper Awakes!

Well, as I wrote previously, this has been a very busy time for this science tech/fire brigade lead at South Pole. Most folks think winter here is less busy than summer, and for most that maxim holds true. Well, having had a bunch of new projects to support given to me at the very end of the summer that has made that statement about placid winters even less applicable for my work.

A couple weeks ago I had a transmitter I support fry some components and wiring inside one of its seven amplifiers, and spent about 1.5 weeks rebuilding wiring and connectors before it was ready to be tested and put (successfully) back into service with the other six amps. Fingers crossed that the thing keeps working!

The fire brigade is gaining a new member, so I’m spooling up to get him through all the basic review training so he can respond to real alarms with us and join the on-call rotation. We recently had the drinking policy for the fire brigade revised to no drinking at all while on-call, which I totally agree with and was happy to hear come down from the Powers That BE in Denver HQ.

In the last week I had my birthday, which was only the second winter birthday I’ve ever had (being from the Northern Hemisphere). I got a few little gifts and many well-wishes, and even a birthday cake from the galley crew, which was nice. I hadn’t eaten any desserts since I was in McMurdo in October, but made a rare exception (my one instance for the winter) and had a piece of my own cake.

We are fast approaching the summer/winter solstice, and this Friday there will be the big Mid-Winter Dinner. I’ll probably take a rain check, since I don’t really dig those functions down here. I’m not sure what night we’ll have it, but Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” will probably be shown at some point over the weekend. That’s one of those Pole winter traditions that I can get behind. Last Sunday night we watched “Rocky” and had personalized commentary from one woman here who grew up in Philly and actually lived just around the corner from the pet shop that figured in the story fairly prominently, so that was interesting.

I keep hitting the gym 6 days per week, which is a nice stress relief activity. Still, with not so much oxygen and very little moisture here, one’s body doesn’t seem to be able to recover fully from exertions. I’m beginning to feel the real winter physical fatigue start to set in, which I’m sure is not helped by having worked at Pole (inside and outside) for 229 days straight as of this Monday.

But, slight indications of an end being in sight have started cropping up already. Last week we were asked by HR to verify whether or not our home airports on record with the company were correct, so they are inevitably starting to think about the whole airfare credit and travel options for us that will be redeploying from the Ice in several months. With mid-winter approaching, it is also the time of mid-season evaluations, which figure on how your performance bonus will shape up come the end of the season.

Really, there has not bee too terribly much of note here. A lot of spending a winter here involves just putting your head down, doing your work, taking as good a care of your body/mind as you can, and letting the weeks slip by.

“The value of self-government at an individual level cannot be overestimated.”
~BuSab Manual, "Whipping Star" by Frank Herbert

4 comments:

Desert Tortise said...

Birthday? Birthday? A very merry un-birthday to you! In my experience, cake fixes everything.

Becky said...

No dessert all season? I'm impressed. As a baker I have be saddened by this behavior, but it is impressive.
And if the cake doesn't fix everything a nice nap can often help.

Pablo (yo) said...

Happy birthday!!!!

Why do you have little oxigen? How high is the base?

EthanG said...

Physical altitude is about 9,300 ft above sea level. Strong low pressure systems can depress the pressure to a much higher "physiological altitude" equivalent. Right now we're at 11,000 ft. above seal level equivalent physio altitude.

Yeah, no desserts save b-day cake, sorry.