Sunday, October 31, 2010

Internal Resources

Random shot about Pole: Winter crew photos back to the original IGY crew (foreground), stretching back to this past winter's 2010 crew. I think it is pretty cool to have that historical record on display, not to mention being a part of it.

Well, we’ve still no flights and the weather doesn’t (for now) look to be cooperating to get 20-something folks on their merry ways today. We have pretty lousy visibility at Pole today, but it should clear just about the time the weather at McMurdo goes bad again. Some folks are getting pretty antsy, but those are mostly folks that are not being made to do much work, if at all, and have not worked in a while. Personally, I could use some down time, but it is most definitely not in the cards, as I’m still the only person here running my science projects, and still have all my turnover to do. At least I have a really great trip planned for the voyage home.

I had to move out of my room of 9 months in A1 this past week. I got relocated to a smaller room in A4, which does not have much of a view out the window. Oh well, whatever.

Old room view: fine if you ignore the smoking shack and outhouse in the foreground. Since the sun came up I had enjoyed watching the flags flapping and snow blowing in the wind, which is about as close as watching trees sway and grass ripple back in the green world.

New room view: The wall (of B1).

All these delays and such are really just reminders of how the continent rules the roost, and that despite all our “improvements” in operations, we really are not in charge down here or anywhere when the weather decides to do something adverse. A sobering reminder of this was the fact that there were no survivors of the helicopter crash that happened this week during operations supporting the Dumont d'Urville French research station. My heart and many others here and around the world, go out to the families, friends, and co-workers of the loved and lost.

“Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light
Don't give in without a fight.”

~Pink Floyd

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orbit 1 complete. Orbit 2 commencing.

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve worked for one solid year with no days off from work. If I haven’t earned a little rest after this contract concludes, I don’t know what it must take for a fellah like me to get a break. 365 days at work (with no R & R), and still functioning well; I’ll pat myself on the back for that accomplishment.

We have been doing lots of emergency response turnover and training with the new crew folks that have actually arrived for summer. Only one person from the winter crew went out on a Basler, so the 2010 winter folks are still a notionally intact unit on station. Perhaps in the next few days we will get a couple more planeloads of folks that have been stuck cooling their heels in McMurdo for the last week or longer. I don’t feel too badly for them, though, since I spent 2 weeks working there while on the way down last year, waiting for the flight to come and start work on 28 October 2009... Yeah, that feels like ancient history.

Some folks are getting antsy, and the pre-redeployment jitters have set in. I still do not feel like my departure, though it be roughly 1.5 weeks away, is coming anytime soon. There is still just too much work to do before I leave. At least I got to vacuum my berthing room in a spare 30 minutes this morning. I generally do not feel like departure is near until I’m out on the actual flight line and forced to put on my Big Red parka for the first time since I last flew on a Herc.

"I think the real reason so many youngsters are clamoring for freedom of some vague sort, is because of unrest and dissatisfaction with present conditions; I don't believe this machine age gives full satisfaction in a spiritual way, if the term may be allowed.”
~Robert E. Howard

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The weather cries “havoc”...

...and unleashes the dogs of delays.

The third Basler got here last night, and stayed because of cold temperatures at Pole and bad weather at McMurdo. The weather is not improving, and the forecast is not predicting a change for a while, so flight delays are the watchword here on the Ice. We’re up to about 95 people at Pole right now, and a huge invasion will happen once the Hercs start flying.

Winterovers got to start mailing their packages out yesterday, though they are not going anywhere, like the winterovers. I got all my (5) boxes shipped off, and will probably send one more small box from Christchurch to get down to my “fighting weight” for the super-mega-awesome trip home.

The station does not feel too crowded, though there are definitely a lot more people around. Unfortunately, several new folks felt the need to provide commentary during my showing of “Return of the Jedi” last night, which was really annoying. They also took the best seats in the B1 TV room, so won no friends from those few of us who have been constant Sunday night movie watchers for 9 months now. It is interesting to see how a new group of people move into your “home” and start to make it theirs. It is probably one of the more effective ways of providing the impetus for folks still thinking in terms of the stasis of winter to finally flip the switch and realize it is time to go. Being at consecutive day of work #362...yeah, a break is in order. But, that all has to happen in its own time, and there is zero reason to chafe against the weather and things that are totally out of one’s hands.

I hope everybody had a great time back home over the weekend, and wish I could have joined (3-dimensionally) in the festivities.
“We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions - love, antipathy, charity, or malice - and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.”
~Milan Kundera

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The invasion has begun (meekly)

We got the first flight of passengers as of two afternoons ago. The increase of station population by 15 has not really made things much different. The second Basler was supposed to arrive yesterday, but the flight was postponed due to “forecast” weather (it was beautiful). Today, though, it’s blowing and the visibility is pretty low. The flight has been delayed already this morning, and I’m dubious if it will happen. But, one never knows.

With these new filthy people (no offense intended) arriving, I opted to get the free flu shot. It’s not uncommon for winterovers to get ill once new people with new germs arrive, and I’m not talking “gettin’ ill” in the old school Run DMC way, either. By this point people that have been here from 9 to 13 months are getting pretty fatigued, and you start to see some folks moving pretty slowly or stiffly around station.

I have been in project manual and report writing mode for the last couple days, and feel liberated when I get a chance to leave my computer and go do something a bit less tedious. I am definitely ready for my “to do” list to be much closer to complete, so have to keep at it like I am. When you run this many different instruments for this many projects, the administrative overhead becomes pretty cumbersome. To work on a single project, even a larger one, would be a relief (I think).
“Thick as autumnal leaves, or driving sand,
The moving squadrons blacken all the strand.”

~Homer, The Iliad

Saturday, October 16, 2010

They came, they left

South Pole Station finally had two Baslers pass through in transit to McMurdo Station yesterday. We actually had both of them on the deck at the same time for refueling, which was a bit unusual. Nobody on the flights stayed here. We should probably receive our first summer crew via Basler flights on Monday, if the weather cooperates.

Seeing new faces was not really all that much of a shocker this time. I think a lot of the bright-shiny of a first winter wears off rather rapidly upon returning for successive contracts. If you want to see what working every day for (almost) a year does to a body, including burning over 1,000 data DVDs for a single project, scope out my lovely raccoon eyes. Fatigue: it does a body ill.

"All fled—all done, so lift me on the pyre—
The Feast is over, and the lamps expire."

~Robert E. Howard

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PrĂȘt a porter?

What you see is the roughly 20 pounds of gear that I have typically worn throughout the summer and winter while here at Pole. I also wear another light thermal top, too. If it’s particularly chilly, I’ll add another expedition-weight fleece top. The overalls sure take a beating, even just from walking around station.

Somewhere up north there are Basler aircraft trying to head this direction. The weather has been pretty lousy lately, with lowered visibility here at Pole. I’m not sure what the weather up at Rothera Station has been like, which is the first stop for the planes as they head to Pole on their way to McMurdo. The planes have to come here first, because they do not have enough range for a direct flight from Rothera to McMurdo.

We’ve been watching the Star Wars saga some in the last week. I don’t know exactly how much different my childhood would have been without Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but it certainly would have not been the same. It is amazing how many places a good imagination can turn the hay loft of a barn into on a summer afternoon, with the bugs buzzing outside and the breeze stirring the vibrant green of the trees’ leaves.

The last plant I saw living outside was a tree next to one of the hangar buildings at the Christchurch Airport. My flight to McMurdo was one year ago, tomorrow (14 October). Since then, the only living things I’ve seen outside have been of the bipedal human sort. I do not recall the last animal I saw, but one of our (now deceased) cats was probably the last one I was in any contact with before coming here. Though it will be fun to see these different aspects of the world again, it is amazing how quickly one readjusts to seeing them daily. I guess it’s the same quickness of adjustment one goes through adapting again to this environment, after having been here sufficiently numerous times to get used to it. Anyhow, it will be interesting to experience it all again, but it will happen in its due time. Now is not the time of the season to become impatient.
“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it but the way the atoms are put together. The cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff; we are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
~Carl Sagan

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Still here, still busy

Sorry for the dearth of posts as of late. The pace of work remains high during this final push towards station opening, which is right around the corner. This morning I shoveled the Viper Control Room's roof for what will hopefully be the last time, as well as checked out SCBA rigs deployed out in some of the Dark Sector buildings. I'm off to run yet another weekly fire brigade meeting in a few minutes. There isn't terribly much new to write of, just that I finally counted up and found I'm currently working on at least 17 different manuals, reports, and other documents that have to be completed in a very short time. Some of these have been under revision since before mid-winter, so no, I haven't been procrastinating.
"Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price."
~Sun Tzu