Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You people out in the rest of the world have really been busy in the last few days.

Mad props go to James Cameron and the whole Deepsea Challenger team that got the director of such fine films as “Aliens” and “The Abyss” to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the first (solo) crewed dive to that challenging destination since 1960. They did some really cool engineering with the “vertical torpedo” concept for the vehicle, not to mention developing some new materials to enable the design to work. It was pretty exciting to sit here at the bottom of the planet working at my desk while getting updates about somebody traveling to the bottom of the ocean.

I'd like to also congratulate the people of Marion, Kansas and the other participants from hither and yon on their successful bid to set the world for the most people roasting marshmallows at a single venue. I think the estimate was somewhere around 1,400 people wielding sticks with molten sugar on the end. When life gives you a wind storm and a huge pile of debris, make s'mores. Hopefully Guinness will give them the thumbs up on the new world record (the first of its kind), and not disqualify them due to some arcane rule they just made up about judging giant marshmallow roasting events.

Peeking through the power plant plume toward the radomes and cargo berms:

Sunset colors from the roof while up doing the inspiring task of clearing bathroom and furnace vents:

Leaving ARO, with the nascent bump of its annual leeward drift:

Clearing skies yield some gorgeous colors as the sun continues its slide below the horizon. Temperatures did not fall off as rapidly as predicted last week, but a pretty big drop is possibly in the works for the next day or so. Word of developments for full-timer hiring across the contract turnover is starting to flow, but much remains TBD. This could get interesting.

“His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best.”
~Aeschylus, The Seven Against Thebes

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Settling In

After some windy days with gusts over 30 knots, the skies are clearing and the temps are dropping into the -70°F range as the insulating layer disappears. There is a bit of a rosy glow out there, and it is a nice change of pace from the bi-color white and blue palette of the summer.

I have started working on some acoustic guitar songs to play solo if there might be an open mic night in the future here. I have also been playing around with my little guitar effects device (KORG Pandora PX4D), mostly using a synthesizer setting to play some of the intro music from the seminal dark future classic “Blade Runner”.

This is will be a big week for me. I will lose my job with one government contractor and be hired by another. My extended family will be extended by another person, which is rather exciting. And, we will finish up a successful month of Thursday night movies (the original Pole winter 2012 movie venue) along the theme of martial arts. I present those in no particular order, but you can probably infer what I really care about the most.

In general, the routine here has been laid for this chapter of the winter, and soon enough the winter-only projects will begin as it gets dark enough and a slightly new routine will hold sway until the horizon begins to glow again.

“…this was indeed a serious business: when the snow fell, getting out of here would not be a matter of an hour’s drive {to Sidewinder} but a major operation. They would sit up here in this deserted grand hotel, eating the food that had been left them like creatures in a fairy tale and listening to the bitter wind around their snowbound eaves.”

~ Stephen King, The Shining

Friday, March 16, 2012

Few pics from the 'hood

As promised, here are a few pictures taken out and about at Pole in the last several days.

"The plume" of the power plant, though unsightly, is a welcome omen that electrons are flowing at Pole. The sun continues its yearly plunge over the cryogenics facility.

A bit of wind kicks up ice crystals and drops visibility on the way back to the elevated station from the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO).

A darkened control room for some instruments run by yours truly at the Atmospheric Research Observatory.

Another view of the sun as it descends, shining through the pall of blowing ice and snow.

Two years later, and I'm in the same berthing room, with a slightly different view. The depression where the Dome was has drifted in some, but you can still discern it is lower than the surrounding areas. Vents for the sub-ice arches and the smokers' shack and its outhouse ahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifre present in the foreground.

“Beautiful! Beautiful! Magnificent desolation.”

~Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sparse Pickings

Apologies for the dearth of material posted here of late. Things have been pretty ho-hum for a while, with work and the odd recreational endeavor after work. The sun is getting quite low in the sky, and the temperatures are starting to near -70°F. There will be the usual nice dinner this weekend, as well as an extra day off for those folks that get days off. Those of us who don’t won’t. I have started to get instructions and timelines for transitioning some of my projects to winter science collection, but the first will not be for several weeks yet, since twilight takes a while to get deep enough for observations to begin. With all the solar flares lately, there has been plenty of action for the space weather projects to monitor, so hopefully we’ll keep getting a good deal of that through the winter, when we can actually see the auroras associated with all that.

I intend to get some photos out and about today and over the next few days, so there should be some fodder for posting when we have the satellite connection.
“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dawning of the Temperatures of Aquarius

The usual labors continue apace at South Pole Station. The weather has been a bit variable, regarding wind/visibility, and the temperatures have ventured into the -60s°F range several times in the last few days. Of course, this is the coolest we have seen thus far, but in several months these temperatures will feel relatively warm, compared to those 30-40°F colder coming our way. I hope we will manage to hit -110°F this year, or at least just surpass my "personal best" of -103°F. Regardless, even these temperatures are hard on machinery. The snow mobile a utility technician was riding around on his rounds yesterday was protesting MIGHTILY at running in these temperatures.

I'm not only a big advocate of relying on my legs, which pretty much perform the same regardless of the ambient temperature, but am also a big fan of not using lights outside whilst traversing between buildings. Hopefully some of the first-timers will figure out that not blinding yourself with a flashlight/headlamp lets your eyes adjust much better. With the high-contrast nature of this landscape, dark buildings stand out quite starkly against the snow, if you just have the patience to let your own optics adjust. Biology can trump technology, and I much prefer eating to filling a tank with pre-mix fuel.

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons."

~R. Buckminster Fuller