Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let rage reign!

August is more familiarly dubbed "Angry August" here at the South Pole over the winter. We'll just see whether or not that moniker holds true this year or not. Farewell, Cryin' July!

The wind has been up and down over the past week, and so has the temperature. We lost the moon, and today have also passed back into twilight, though the sun won't be up for a couple more months. It won't be until the end of this month that the all-sky cameras I run will be shut down for the season. Walking around station, at least the portions I transit most often that are not groomed, is an exercise in tripping and stumbling. The sastrugi keep being refreshed before we can walk a nice path into them.

I woke up from what was probably my best night's sleep in quite a while Saturday morning. I don't think I moved a bit once I turned out my lamp, and woke only 3 minutes before my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, instead of waking up at least once during the night. I felt pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which was such a departure from the norm. It was a welcome surprise, because by this time in the year the constant toll of unrelieved workdays really can leave the/my body feeling pretty beaten down. Despite getting progressively more physically fatigued, I find that the time I spend in the gym helps keep me going through the last few months of the winter. I definitely need that physical outlet to offload all the stress that builds up as time goes on. I may start doing the 300 Workout again as a change from the current lifting schedule I've been following most of the winter. Doing that workout is tough enough, but do it at this altitude with virtually no humidity, and it becomes a serious aerobic challenge as well. I topped out one time at a heart rate of 198 bpm in 2008, which was a little distressing to say the least, but was usually somewhere between 150 and 160 bpm. It'll be a fun challenge again, for sure.

“It is not possible to fight beyond your strength, even if you strive.”
~Homer, "The Iliad"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The trough of the wave

The last couple days have been lovely and calm, though the temperature has dropped back into the -80°s F. People have been digging out the massive amount of drifting that occurred during the last blast of storms, partially in a hurried attempt to get things serviceable before the next storm hits. That is forecast to hit on Wednesday, so we'll see what happens. I dug my building high trench down to the window for that GPS receiver for the third time in 8 days on Saturday. It took 4 straight hours of digging by hand, and I started it by walking up the drift and directly onto the roof of the building, then excavated down to the base of the building. The ol' body was/is certainly feeling that much heavy exertion this late in a long season. Since this chasm I keep being required to create is associated with the VIPER Control Room, I may have to start referring to my excavation as "The Snake Pit"...

We watched the mid-winter Antarctic film festival entries from a bunch of stations, including Pole, on Saturday night. Even if some films were a little weird, it was neat to see the other stations. I think the martial arts movie we made a while back, which was entered in the "open" category, is up on YouTube now.
"Asps...very dangerous. You go first."
~Sallah, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fantastic Environs

Our wind is still howling across the Antarctic Plateau here at South Pole Station. It has been getting up into the 30-knot range, and seems to be pretty sustained. There is currently a lot of blowing snow in the air, which diminishes visibility, but the moon being out helps out a bunch. Today the path to ARO actually seemed a bit more smooth than as of late, so I guess we've currently got a lot of snow filling in the low spots. I'm sure it will blow back out again in short order.

Another weird phenomenon here, especially when it is windy, is how much static charge the blowing snow/ice can deposit on the buildings/structures. I've got a couple sensors down right now because there has likely been a large enough static charge deposited on the sensor platform that it is affecting the grounding situation. Part of me wants to go out and touch the platform to see whether I'd get a big shock, but at least thus far I've had other things to keep me diverted from self-electrocution.

Every so often I get a craving for something different down here (imagine that...), and currently it is a huge yen to play the classic dungeon-crawl, hack-and-slash, "I-cast-magic-missile" computer game "Diablo II". It seems like unplugging from reality and heading off to smite those that deserve smiting would be quite a bit of fun. Sadly, I don't have access to the game, or my characters from when I played it way back when, but I at least got the guitar tab for its cool theme song off the 'net.

Other than that, I'm still plowing through all the junk, I mean project-specific spare equipment, in order to update inventories for all 13 manuals I'm working on bringing up to date. The science lab's mezzanine is looking pretty cluttered with things spread out all over the place, but hopefully it will condense back down pretty compactly when I finish. I could condense it a lot more with a +5 battle axe or chain lightning...
"He grunted with satisfaction. The feel of the hilt cheered him and gave him a glow of confidence. Whatever webs of conspiracy were drawn about him, whatever trickery and treachery ensnared him, this knife was real. The great muscles of his right arm swelled in anticipation of murderous blows."
~Robert E. Howard (The Hour of the Dragon)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What a blast!

Our winds set some records on Friday. The wind speed topped out at 42 kts/48 mph, which broke the previous peak wind speed record from 1978 of 32 kts/37 mph. The average wind speed on the same day tied the previous highest average record wind speed of 24.2kts/27.8mph, which had been set in 1962. Drifts have grown and changed, and I've fallen down the one by the station in a different way each time I've come back from ARO for the last 3 days. The wind is still higher than usual, but it's nowhere near the tear-the-doors-off-the-hinges speed it was. The physio-altitude has been near 12,000 feet above sea level (equivalent), which has not been too bad, except when you go do workouts in the gym like I just did and make yourself seriously light-headed.

I managed to sneak in an instrument calibration yesterday atop ARO, and it was pleasant to do it with the ambient temperature ~40°F warmer than when I did the same calibration last month. The moon also popped up yesterday, so there was actually some light to work by as well.

I just started reading a book sent to me about the history of space science/astronomy here at Pole. It is interesting dealing with the offspring of projects from back in the day that are still ongoing. Shoot, I've got a radio receiver here that predates me by 2 years, so I'm still getting to serve directly with some remnants of "the old breed".

“As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart sustaineth him; and the steadiness of his mind beareth him out.”

~Akhenaton, King of Egypt, 14th century B.C.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ho hum

It's blowing again here at Pole, much to detriment of the walking conditions outside. The sastrugi move in mysterious ways, and seem to have their prioritized agenda item of creating tripping hazards for human beings well in hand.

Travel planning is going well. I'm ready to start booking stuff to get locked in for some much-needed decompression and cultural immersion. It's nice to have that light shining brightly at the end of the tunnel.

People seem to be doing a pretty good job, at least they are in public, avoiding the stereotyped "cryin' July" here at Pole. I guess the month is not yet half over, though. Maybe the crew will pull through angry August without too much strife, too.

Really, things are pretty much in the just-past-mid-winter groove.

“Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another's might.”
~Aeschylus, "The Libation Bearers"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's official

When all was said and done for our recent cold spell, the official lows for each day were as follows:
July 1st: -73.3C/-99.9F
July 2nd: -73.6C/-100.5F
July 3rd: -74.3C/-101.7F
July 4th: -75.0C/-103.0F

It is now back to more clement temperatures about 30-40° (F) warmer.

In two weekends I'll help with the 48-hour film festival that happens down on this continent this time of year. I'm not sure what I'll be doing in front or behind the camera, but it should be fun (as I can swing it around work).

The moon is down again, so it is back to the usual stumble around station. Jupiter was low on the horizon a while back, which always looks like somebody with a red lamp way out in the distance when I first see it. The sun is about 22° below the horizon, and rising.

I have been hitting my body maintenance products a lot lately. I'm talking about saline nasal spray, saline nasal gel, eye drops, hand lotion, lip balm, etc. It is just an attempt to do whatever I can to help reduce the negative effects the low humidity here has on the body. Plus, I brought it all down, so should use it up while I'm here.

Well, I just was delivered a fresh strawberry from the greenhouse, so I'm going to savor the smell a while before it disappears down my gullet.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
~"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Frigid 4th

We're having a nice cold snap here at the South Pole, with temperatures regularly dropping below -100°F over the last couple days. It will be interesting to see what our actual lowest low works out to be when all is said and done with this winter. The aurora australis has also been pretty active, and there have been many more displays recently that seem to cover a very large portion of the sky.

At work I have continued to prepare and revise science project manuals, which has also included trying to actually go through the spare parts lists for each of the projects and get them in better order. It's kind of like doing archaeology with some of this stuff, which doesn't look like it has been used in years and years. I just keep fighting the good fight, and hopefully it all works out well in the end.

“Except a person be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave.”
~Mark Twain