Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bloody Flux

No, we’ve not had an outbreak of dysentery here at Pole. ‘Tis the season for the constantly changing schedule of flights and plans for when the station will open and all that lovely jazz. The rumor mill is always grinding away on and about the Ice, but it reaches a fevered pitch during the transitional periods of stations opening and closing around winter. Some folks really get their hearts set on THE date they are SUPPOSED TO leave after a winter. As Phil Hartman playing Ed McMahon would say: “WRRRROONNNG!!!” That’s a great way to get all riled up and achieve nothing. It’s better to make like the astronauts in “The Right Stuff” and maintain and even strain. Or, you can make like Orphan Annie and remember the sun will come out {still be out, to be accurate}...tomorrow, even if the flights don’t arrive on time. Daddy Warbucks will eventually come to the rescue, so fear naught. Sorry, I’m not sure why I’m dragging out the pop culture references today.

Station opening work continues apace here, and the sun continues its slow climb up into the lovely blue sky. It is always interesting to see the gradual changes in how the sastrugi look, as their lighting angle shifts throughout the day, as well as from day to day. With the sun back up and being able to see to the horizon, this landscape always reminds me of the ocean, which is what this place is, if you froze the (desalinated) ocean and hiked it up a couple miles into the sky.

I’ve had some exciting and happy news from home in the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, being here precludes my direct involvement in the festivities, but that is simply something that one has to accept down here. It is just a good reminder that life goes on in anybody’s absence, which is the way it is, has always been, and ever will be.
“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
~Dr. Seuss

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not there yet

Though the sun is up, it really is not imparting any great amount of warmth to us yet. The last several days have been quite cold again, reaching -97°F yesterday with an absolutely gorgeously clear (not a cloud in sight, save the power plant and furnace exhaust plumes) sky allowing heat to dump back into the atmosphere. It got overcast and windy again, and the temperature today is 30-or-so degrees warmer.

I got to go on a wild goose chase on the cargo berms and in the science milvans (think cargo shipping containers) this week trying to track down capital inventory. There is so much junk just essentially abandoned out on these raised platforms of compacted snow. I saw a crate for a project I used to support that was shut down in 2008. Why that’s still here, I have no clue. I’m sure there is plenty of stuff that could/should disappear, but once things make it down here, they tend to stick around: like the buried Old Pole station and the utilidor arches from the Dome days that were not removed this summer. We leave quite a legacy for future generations, or the ocean when this all falls in there in however many millennia.

I am feeling a bit under the weather, with quite a lot of sinus congestion and aches and pains. With David Lynch’s “Dune” the Sunday night movie today, I wonder how much a Fremen stillsuit would help counteract the deleterious effects this place has on one’s body. You’d have all the recycled water you wanted to drink, and it would probably be fairly humid inside, so your mucus membranes would be happier than their usual, unprotected and desiccated selves. But, despite the fatigue and relatively rough condition my body is in (nothing different than last time I wintered), I am still enjoying having the oh-so-convenient weight room/gym at my ready disposal after work. Coupling that with all the walking my jobs have entailed this year, and I’m in pretty decent shape. In fact, I currently tip the scales at about 8 pounds more than I have ever weighed, and it is most definitely NOT due to being fat. I will definitely miss that “bene” of living here at Pole.

“The basic rule is this: Never support weakness; always support strength.”
~The Bene Gesserit Coda, "Heretics of Dune"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Polar Pixels

There is yet no sign of the sun today for us folks at Pole. The sky is overcast and the wind is blowing a nice, stiff breeze. The temperatures are warmer than as of late, though, which is nice. Here are a few more pictures from a couple days ago:

Wind-carved sastrugi surface:

The growing glow of sunrise, which is not glowing so much today:

The heavily-drifted ARO, like the old song lyric "Sign says...":

Deluxe accommodations inside ARO, including plumbing minus the water. The flowery stool and funnel just run into a big barrel downstairs, and can only handle #1. If you must #2 you do it in a plastic bag or hoof it back to the station where the plumbing has that modern convenience running water in it. What a great use of taxpayer dollars:

"Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."
~Carl Sagan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remarkable Parallels

We watched the excellent Moon last Sunday, which was directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son!). It has the elements necessary to become an annual movie-must here at Pole over the winter. The protagonist is a contract worker in a remote location, with minimal telecommunications link to the outside world. He spends lots of time on a treadmill and has hobbies, some tedious, to keep him occupied. He lets his personal appearance go towards the Grizzly Adams end of the spectrum. His nose bleeds when he blows it. Those, my friends, are all common aspects of spending a year or winter at Pole. Folks that get toasty over the summer, and never stay for winter, don’t really have any ground to stand on about feeling isolated, since there are so many people around and in and out over the season. Winter is a different ballgame, and Moon really reminds me of this place every time I see it. Now, if we only had robots voiced by Kevin Spacey...
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
~Carl Sagan

Friday, September 10, 2010

Come on a {brief photo} safari with me

I had a little photography work to do for a project out in the Dark Sector, so took the opportunity of the beautiful morning to snap a few photos for myself while out and about.

Here is a view back to the station from atop the Viper Control Room. Visible is the beginning of the building-high trench I've kept shoveled clear to keep one of my projects running over the course of the winter.

Turning to my right by about 90° is a view of the crescent moon fixin' to eat Venus. That building in the foreground houses electrical transfer equipment (and probably some networking gear) for the buildings in the Dark sector. The building's deck was way off the ground until winter and wind came along and deposited some drifts that are well over head-high on me.

After walking the kilometer back to the Elevated Station from Viper, one encounters the drift and general elevation of the whole ground level that has happened since station closing in February. I'm pretty sure this drift is significantly larger than after last winter. This skiway-side entrance to the station is generally referred to as Destination Alpha or DA.

I'm standing underneath the Elevated Station, and the upwind drift is on my right. This area has drifted in smoothly since 2008, when it was a bunch of pits between the big I-beams that provide the footing for the buildings pillars.

Turning about 90° to my left is the view downwind under the gym wing of the station. On the left are a bunch of the reserve fuel tanks that got hauled back in from the End of the World (i.e. the far downwind edge of the station's perimeter).

Anyhow, I'll try to get more pictures posted around the increasing amount of work going on here. We're on the verge of a major push to do all the station opening activities, so there will be ample opportunities while out and about doing ever more snow shoveling to snap the odd photo of what this place looks like when not all groomed out and convenient for the summer visitors/crew.
“Dreams, dreams, without dreams a man is a bird without wings. And now I’m very close to the greatest dream of mankind. In every century men were looking at the dark blue sky and dreaming.”
~Sergei Pavlovich Korolev

Monday, September 6, 2010

Keeping on the keeping on, etc.

We keep getting more and more photons flying around here at Pole, but no sun yet, not for a couple more weeks. I believe today we actually entered what is considered to be civil twilight. The temperatures have been pretty cold (-90s F), but we are supposed to have some alternating days of storms this week that will yo-yo the temperature accordingly. It’s blowing right now, and the temperature is about 20°F warmer than yesterday.

Last weekend some folks put on a play by Jean-Paul Sartre titled “No Exit”. I didn’t get a chance to attend, but I heard it was pretty enjoyable. In typical Pole fashion, as I gather, it became a bibulous event.

Watching “Aliens” was pleasant on Sunday night, though we got out pretty late since it was the special edition with a bunch of extra footage. I particularly liked the added scenes with the suitcase cannons, with their rapidly-plunging ammunition counts. That’s such a great flick! It really made me want to see “Avatar” on the big screen, preferably in 3D. Watching the legally downloaded version of that here on an inadequate computer was more like watching the Avatar slide show. Mr. Cameron definitely knows how to build worlds in cinema.

I have been working on a lot of extra tasks that need to get done before the station opens. Yesterday, despite the cold temperatures, I walked the length of a flag line to my antennas about 0.5 miles beyond ARO, on the edge of the Clean Air Sector. I raised the flag poles and replaced poles and flags that had been blown away over the winter. It was kind of nice for a change, and I got to hear lots of snow making “whoompf!” sounds as I disturbed its crystal structure and it collapsed. It’s a little disconcerting the first couple times you hear it, particularly in the dark, but was no big deal yesterday.
“Perseverance, dear my lord, Keeps honor bright.”
~William Shakespeare