Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Still pluggin' away

Well, my voice is holding out after even more days of solid talking about how to do this job.  There has yet to be any emergency response turnover, which is a bit disconcerting, but I guess the priority is just to get winterovers turned over and out of here (and off the payroll).  Flights have been pretty sparse the last few days, but we’ve got a Herc scheduled to arrive at midnight tonight.  We’ll see… 

No plans yet, but I got a gift certificate for HanmerSprings last night at the winterover medal ceremony.  I also got my third lapel pin and the third winter silver bar device for the Antarctic Service Medal.  It was a pretty succinct affair, and roughly 25% of folks on the crew didn’t show up.  Three folks had already departed the station.
"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."
~John Wooden

Monday, October 29, 2012

Puff pastry all day long

Yup, it's turnover time here at Pole.  We have not done a bit of emergency response turnover, but I have had a couple solid days of running through my science position with my new supervisor and the replacement technician.  I'm not scheduled to leave here on Nov. 3 (weather providing).  I have yet to package my boxes, since the post office has not been made available to process that for folks on my scheduled flight.  I still need to have my travel sorted out as well, but some of that is my fault as I haven't committed to a date to depart Chch yet.  All in all, it hasn't been that weird having new folks show up here.  I guess I knew what to expect.  Things feel a lot different with the station and program right now, and it will be interesting to see how the coming seasons go for folks still here/in the mix.

“We have no future because our present is too volatile. We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition.”
~William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Friday, October 26, 2012

Beginning of the End (Take 3)

At last a skier (LC-130 aircraft) finally arrived at Pole with 29 passengers.  How would you feel if your community experienced an instantaneous 58% population increase?  None of the winter crew went out on this flight, and will have to wait until the next one…whenever that is (likely Tuesday). 

The conditions are supposed to deteriorate into a pretty nice storm for a few days, so who knows when exactly the weather gods will smile upon us again.  All we can do is ritually sacrifice a few FNGs and hope for the best.  Regardless, the pool of faces and voices will now be diluted from the pond of winter, and there will be plenty to do to get turnover completed and maybe actually start to figure out how much vacation-type travel will get done (if any) on the way home before I find myself in Christchurch.  This year certainly has been different than the others previous...
“Thick as autumnal leaves, or driving sand,
The moving squadrons blacken all the strand.”
~Homer, The Iliad 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Yup, it's the season to strain the equanimity of some of our more fragile denizens of South Pole.  All flights are now cancelled for today and that first Herc has already been cancelled for Pole tomorrow.  Flexibility and resilience of mind are certainly required to avoid losing "it" at the end of a (summer-) winter here.  I usually find it a pretty entertaining part of the season for just that reason.  Stay tuned!
"Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be."
~Miguel de Cervantes

Maybe visitors tomorrow

Late-breaking word is the first Herc is to arrive tomorrow with (as I write this) 29 passengers.  I don't believe anybody is currently going to go out on that flight.  But, there is still time to win a ticket on the annual Plane of Shame!  Whether they actually arrive tomorrow will remain TBD, for me at least, until they're on the ground.

Cleaning house

That plane did arrive and take back off for McMurdo the other day (photo below).  In the time since then we have had a Twin Otter crew arrive, spend one night, and then take off for McMurdo.  We also have had a Basler here the last couple days that is waiting for weather to clear at the Davis Australian station before it heads there, with a planned departure early this afternoon.  If things go as planned, we will have another Basler/Twin Otter arrive here from Rothera today.  Weather is supposed to deteriorate at Pole for late today and the next several days, with higher winds/lower visibility, so it is uncertain whether station opening with the first LC-130 flight from McMurdo will happen on time.  No sweat on this end of things; it happens when it happens.
Cleaning has been eating up a lot of time the last several days.  Monday was the big station-wide MEGAMOUSE cleaning, though some cleaning had been going on the week previous.  I have been working on a lot of straightening up in the science lab, and finally spent some time cleaning my berthing room last night.  I currently do not have to change rooms to make space for an incoming summer person, which is different than years previous, but I wanted to have only touch-up cleaning to do since I will have to wait until the last minute with packing since I will need some of my stuff right up until the post office opens for winterover outgoing package mail.  I prefer to carry as little with me on the (however circuitous) long road home.  Some of the cleaning of public spaces always has to be done right before folks arrive, since those areas easily look dirty with minimal traffic.

I'm still hanging in there on the whole "what's next" on the travel and career (including astronaut candidate selection) fronts.  Patience is definitely a virtuous skill I've been forced to hone doing this sort of deployment, and I think it is probably a good skill to have with how uncertain life is in general so much of the time.  I'm not really beset by any uncontrollable cravings for food, as usual, but there are definitely some movies I'd like to see from the past year (dollar theater, here I come) and yet to open.  It will be interesting to see what seems remarkable or different in the world once I return yet again.  The

“Finally, there is this to be said for seasonal work of any kind.  Whenever the hours tend to drag, the customers become tiresome, you have that most wonderful event of all to look forward to and comfort yourself with: termination day.  End of the season.  Out of work again at last and free to starve or thrive, as you make it, in your own style."
~Edward Abbey, Cactus Country

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Up in the air

With short notice I got pulled into Comms here at Pole to support flight communications early this morning.  A Kiwi Herc and C-17 intended to go to McMurdo were both delayed due to weather.  But, there is currently a Basler on its way here from Rothera Station on the peninsula.  By the time I'd left we had yet to establish radio contact with the aircraft.  There was also supposed to be a Twin Otter arriving today here at Pole, but it has delayed departure for at least a day due to weather concerns.  Things a starting to look a lot like summer will be here shortly.  I'm definitely ready to get new people here, do turnover, and leave.  Greater adventures await elsewhere.

“Inveniam viam aut faciam” / “I shall find a way or make one.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TCOB...It's alright.

So, assignments are now out for the MEGA MOUSE house mouse cleaning done in and around the station.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to just clean my work centers like some, but am on a team tasked to clean the recycling room, laundry, and computer lab.  It probably won’t be too terribly bad, but it definitely will take some time to finish properly.  I’m pretty much squared away and ready to begin turnover, with a couple reports just being held back until I find out some final details about things.  In general, I seem to be in a good position with all the final extra issues to attend to on top of the usual 7-days-per-week tasking.

One thing I’m not spending much time on this year is travel planning.  There are all the usual uncertainties about when Pole will open and I will have completed turnover and actually be back in the World once again.  On top of that is the ongoing (awesome, no really!) waiting game regarding the astronaut candidate selection process.  I just found out that the selection dates from here on out have been slipped by a month.  That is, all the dates up to and including the now-June announcement of the people that get the few positions being hired for the new class of AsCans.  The start of work date for them (us) is still set for sometime in August 2013.

Wednesday we are scheduled to get a couple small aircraft in from Rothera Station on their way to McMurdo.  The weather forecast is looking unfavorable for that to happen, but we shall see what we shall see.  It is certainly the time of year for Polies to demonstrate whether they have learned their lessons in patience and resilience.
“I do not think there can be any life so demonstrative of character as that which we had on these expeditions.  One sees a remarkable re-assortment of values.  Under ordinary conditions it can be so easy to carry a point with a little bounce.  Self-assertion is a mask which covers many a weakness.  As a rule, we have neither the time nor the desire to look beneath it, and so it is that commonly we accept people on their own valuation.  Here the outward shows nothing.  It is the inward purpose that counts.  So, the gods dwindle and the humble supplant them.  Pretense is useless.”
~Robert Falcon Scott, Terra Nova Journals

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Swept Away

We’ve got a variety of janitor closets here in the elevated station.  They are where one usually finds most of the implements and cleaning products for house mouse cleaning duties or whatever mess needs to be addressed.

You have your “dry” closets where trash bags and such are kept, which are part of a pair of closets at the upwind end of the A1 and A4 berthing wings.  {Note: Those brooms shed more straw than the stuff they actually sweep up off the floor.}

Their counterparts are the “wet” closets right across the berthing vestibule from the previous closets.  These have a mop sink and sometimes even a mop bucket and mops.  Score!

The B1 berthing wing has the smallest and least ergonomic closets, which sport a mop sink and inward swinging doors (not so convenient, as you have to hold the door open with your posterior while filling/emptying mop buckets).

The B2 wing has two other closets, both with mop sinks.  The one on the first level is pretty basic.

However, the one on the second level is the Pole version of a Presidential Suite janitor closet with a mop sink, wash basin, and one of the highest toilets off the floor in the station.  This is also where we’re supposed to hose down people that might have gotten injured with nasty stuff on them, so we don’t take them to the clinic and contaminate our healthcare facility.  How’s that for station trivia?

"...Free my hands and I'll varnish this floor with your brains!"
~CONAN, The Scarlet Citadel by Robert E. Howard,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Station’s Dirty Laundry

We do get to do one load of laundry per week here at Pole, though I personally get by easily doing it every second week.  This winter there were new high-efficiency washers that were installed.  We have the same old dryers, with only 4 of 6 units available in the laundry room that actually work.  That is the way it has been as long as I have been coming down here, so I’m not entirely sure what is faulty with the inoperable two, but I’ve heard it rumored they run too hot.

So, there is the view when you enter from the level one hallway here in the elevated station.

And, there is the view looking back toward the door.

And, for you really curious cats, here is the view behind the dryers for the sake of completeness.

Like I mentioned, we are allowed one load per week, but there are no controls on whether that rule is adhered to.  The same goes for two 2-minute showers per week, which I think is a stricture that is likely more routinely disregarded.  I prefer one shower of approximately 2 minutes in duration per week, and just use my other 2 minutes “credit” as a buffer if I need to run a slight bit long.
“The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.”
~Frank Herbert

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Holding Pattern…Engage!

I extend my apologies for the lapse in posting.  There really has not been much of note to go on lately besides the usual rigmarole of work.  The push for station opening tasks has begun, but temperatures have still been a bit below the mark for machine operation a good deal of the time.  This still doesn’t keep us robust humans from working outside, so I have done a few extra chores outside including some snow removal from the station roof (look out below!) and tracking down some cargo for next summer out on the berms (long piles of stuff cryptically arrayed in long lines downwind of the station and variously buried under drifted snow).  McMurdo Station opened its summer season with some flights this week, so we (Pole) have had to provide some back-up communications support for that.

The sun is now bright in the grid west window of the gym during my morning workouts.  It sure is nice to be able to skip the harsh fluorescent lighting at long last.   Hopefully the pacific calm of the 4:45-5:45 AM time in there will survive station opening.
“I begin to think that we are too comfortable in the hut, and hope it will not make us slack...”
~Robert Falcon Scott, Terra Nova Journals