Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wipe out

Well, I’ve hit a period of not being able to sleep very well for about the last week.  I usually have at least one of these over the course of the winter.  I hit the sack around 9:30-10:00 PM, but then wake up sometime in the 1 or 2 o’clock hours, sometimes getting back to sleep but most times just tossing and turning.  I’m sure it will pass, and am not going to get any medication for it, but will just continue my clean living (same wake-up, no alcohol, exercise, etc.) and weather the storm until it passes.

Most folks are enjoying a 2-day weekend this week, but I’m still on the job.  I believe I am now at 208 consecutive days of work for this contract.  With early scheduling for station opening happening on October 27, that means I have likely…aw, you do the math.  I have a ways to go.

I have been keeping tabs on the SpaceX launch of the Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station, and am thrilled it has been a success thus far.  It would be great to be involved with space flight again, manned or otherwise.  Perhaps that is in my future for after this contract.

The auroras keep coming here at Pole.  I enjoyed doing some outdoor work by their green illumination yesterday out near the edge of the Clean Air Sector.  I don’t know what it is about this year, I must have been eating my carrots, but it seems it has been much easier to see than winters past.  I’m of the old school mind that letting one’s eyes adjust is superior to using head lamps for the usual transiting between buildings and work sites, but perhaps my practice of walking down the beer can (sorry, vertical tower, or whatever the official name for the metal cylinder that links the elevated station to the sub-ice arches is) with both-yes, both-eyes closed is working quite well.  It’s not actually that difficult, since each flight of steps has seven steps.  Yes, I do peek briefly if needed.  Anyhow, it seems to be working.

Sorry for the dearth of photos, I will try to take some, but I really don’t do the aurora photo thing.  Having done this a couple times before, it can be difficult to find new images to capture, but I’m going to give it the old college try.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
~”Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lights, cameras, & action

If you would like to see what the aurora australis has been up to here at Pole this season, check out this webpage for links to movies from cameras I support this season.  There have been some auroras pretty much every day, even if they have not been as big as I have seen them in the past.

The weeks really seem to be clipping by at a rapid pace now.  There is still a long time to go, but that is OK.  It was recently announced that opening will be targeted for October 27, with from one to three LC-130 flights (no Baslers) depositing a bunch of pigmented and energetic invaders in 1-3 fell swoops.  No winterovers are currently scheduled to leave on opening day, but there is plenty of time for tickets on the Plane of Shame to be sold.  We are supposed to find out in several weeks what the new redeployment process will look like.  Hopefully personal travel flexibility is not done away with in a misplaced effort to cut costs, since the employee-travelers absorb the extra expenditure and the prospect of visiting vastly different lands and cultures after a year’s sequestration here at Pole is always oh-so motivating.

We will be having our mass/multiple casualty incident (MCI) drill this month.  I get less and less spun-up about that sort of thing, since you really just respond in the same way and adapt to the (typically) more difficult specifics of the scenario.  With 2.5 years of doing the fire brigade leader gig here, I think I have “started” to figure out how to get the job done effectively.

“Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.”
~Cato the Elder (234 BC - 149 BC), from Plutarch, Lives

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sleepless in South Pole

Well, we had a (false) low-oxygen alarm go off at 1:30 in the morning here today.  After standing down, I have been unable to get back to sleep, so just went to work after a couple hours of trying to resume the night's slumbers.  For whatever reason(s), it seems most of these alarms go off at night, which is lousy for numerous reasons.  I've never understood why the low O2 alarm is so quiet; it really makes getting people that are asleep up quickly a lot more difficult.  Anyhow, it's going to be a long haul to the end of the now-extended work day.

Ah, the joys of being constantly on-call at South Pole...

"The walls of Sparta were its young men, and its borders the points of their spears."
~King Agesilaos

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Frequent lights in the sky

 Aurora season is well underway, despite what seems to be a long-lingering gray twilight still on the horizon.  None of the aurora displays I have seen thus far have been spectacularly large, but they occur pretty much daily.  My cameras are capturing good images thus far, and the new one already revealed a pulsating aurora phenomenon the project had hoped to observe (i.e. it takes pictures with short time in between).

Last week I ended up being the person to plan and coordinate the monthly emergency response drill for the entire station.  It was a rather realistic scenario with a small simulated fire in one of the berthing wings of the elevated station.  I was very glad that discussion afterward centered on lessons learned from the exercise, as opposed to how unreasonable the scenario might have been or problems with execution of the drill.  I have definitely been a participant in drills in the past when those sorts of issues drowned out other practical topics.  Since this is my third full year of running the fire brigade, I have been getting some other folks trained on how to run the team if I were unavailable.  Redundancy is definitely a good thing.  But, I will step back into the role for next month’s multiple/mass casualty incident (MCI) drill, since those are usually a bit more challenging.

The contract turnover process is (still) ongoing, with quite a lot of correspondence about some of the final, pending issues to resolve.  With luck, those will be taken care of in the next week or so.  I guess it is a learning process for everybody, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be frustrating at times.  A good thing is that most people working for the subcontractors have all been squared away with minimal ongoing problems.

One major way I offload stress down here is by working out, and I really feel my routine is a good one this year.  With heavier weights 2 days, circuit workouts 2 days, and 2days of cardio work in a given week, it feels sustainable for the long haul through winter.  Regardless, the longer one stays here with low oxygen and humidity, the more the incremental lack of full muscle recovery there probably is.  I’m sure in 5 months I’ll be quite fatigued, but that will come as no surprise.

My movie night continues to be fun.  Last week’s feature was a personal favorite: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.  Honestly, I think few films fulfill what they set out to accomplish better than this one.  I’ve always loved those movies, and spent plenty of time playing Indy as a kid.  “Temple of Doom” was singularly responsible for the phase I went through artistically, when I pretty much included spikes and lava in all my drawings.  Watching the movie also made me regret not bringing my fedora down again, though traveling with it was a bit of a challenge at times.  One of my aunts kindly sent me a basic archaeology book this summer, which I am definitely looking forward to reading soon.  Right now I’m still finishing up reading the last book in the Song of Ice and Fire series: “A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin.  There is nothing wrong with casting one’s mind elsewhere while down here, without a doubt. 
“Books in a colony play a different part in your existence from what they do in Europe; there is a whole side of your life which they alone take charge of; and on this account, according to their quality, you feel more grateful to them, or more indignant with them, than you will ever do in civilized countries.”
~Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), “Out of Africa”