Thursday, October 15, 2009

Extended Stay

Twin Otter making its way over to our "terminal"

Temperature: -46.0C
Wind Chill: -63.5C
Wind Speed: 11.1 kts

So, everybody was pretty happy to see the Basler and the Twin Otter land at the beginning of the week. I'll have to retract my earlier statement when I said the Otter fueled up and followed the Basler to McMurdo. The plane and its crew wound up staying at Pole for a couple days due to mechanical issues...Yikes!

They worked the plane away from the fuel pit, and parked it close to the Cargo office so the pilots and mechanic could work on it. Some of our crew assisted them as well, providing heaters, and an old parachute that provided a little bit of shelter from the winds!

The mechanic had a pretty good idea that he knew what the problem was, and the fix was pretty easy. Once he got the wing pulled apart, and swapped out the engine parts he needed to, Julian, Lexi and Lyndsey (sorry if I butchered spelling here) put the wing back together, and were looking at the following day to try taking off.

Because I know absolutely nothing about engines...and even less about them in planes, I figured it would be a good idea to offer my assistance. Before long, Julian had me up on a ladder by the wing unbolting one of the panels he needed to get into. I am ashamed to say that the little panel opening just above the ladder was what he had me working on, and it took a painfully long time for me to get anywhere with it....but I was "helping"!! I have never gotten to partially dismantle a plane before...Julian, thanks!!

I went absolutely nowhere near technical with my descriptions, so if there is something any of you three want to elaborate on, please feel free! If I botched your names, too, let me's all fair game!

The Otter and its crew made it safely to McMurdo, and as soon as the weather is favorable, we will start increasing our population on station. Planes will start flying in sometime in the next couple days as long as the conditions are right, and summer will get underway down here. It will be great to see some new faces, and that was confirmed by the fact that nobody minded that the Otter was grounded here for a couple extra days!! I'm really glad the plane had its issues once they were on the ground here, and not somewhere between here and the coast!

You three take care...we'll see you in MacTown in about three weeks!

Capt. Splash

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Crossing Beacon is Lit!!!

View of the Day

Temperature: -56.0
Wind Chill: -69.9
Wind Speed: 5.2 kts

These were words none of us had heard in about nine months..."The crossing beacon is lit, please stay clear of the skiway". We haven't seen a plane since February, and we got two in today!!

The first was a Basler, running recon to see what conditions were like down here. All they were doing was checking to see that they could start sending planes in with passengers. So, they landed around 1:30 this afternoon.

Logan, our station manager went out to greet the crew

and we set about the task of refueling their plane, so they could make the rest of their journey.

As soon as they landed, it seemed like they were gone again, heading towards their final stop on the coast, McMurdo.

Then, it was the Twin Otter's turn to land. About thirty minutes after the Basler left, the Twin Otter came in on final approach.

Once it taxied to a stop outside our fuel pits, we loaded it up with fuel for its trip further south (if you can believe that! We are on the very bottom of the world, and yet some things are still south of us!!)

There was contemplation of the Otter crew staying at Pole overnight and continuing on in the morning, but the weather conditions today are too favorable. As soon as they get the fuel they need, they will head on to McMurdo as well.

We haven't seen a plane or another soul for nine months, and there was some contemplation of smuggling ourselves on board either of the two flights, but now both flights are gone. We are all still here, though, left with the fact that in a few days, our station population will more than double for the first time since February! This could get pretty interesting....

To everybody back home...take care and we'll see you soon!
Capt. Splash

Friday, October 9, 2009

More Balloon Launches!!

today's view

Temperature: -57.8C
Wind Chill: -81.2C
Wind Speed: 15.2 kts

Okay, I'm a slacker! There's a lot to catch up on, too...guest ozone balloon launchers, power plant watches, station openings...

One of the SPT (South Pole Telescope) scientists came out to watch a balloon launch, probably didn't expect to be a part of the launch, but then that's the beauty of this place...opportunities are where you find them!

Good old Ross is holding the balloon, while Cully is at his usual post, holding the payload. The payload is a radio package that will send temperature, pressure, and ozone data back down to us during the launch.

When Ross releases the balloon, the wind will take it pretty quickly. Cully has a lot of slack on his end, so he'll run under the balloon until the balloon has enough lift to keep the payload from slamming into the ice!

The balloon is off...

and we watch it as it disappears in a matter of a few minutes! You can barely see it in the upper right of the second pic. The visibility was pretty bad that day. A week later, Cully and I launched a balloon that rose up to just under 30km, and we could still see it at 27km! Yeah, some days down here are just perfect!!

I wound up going out to SPT, to hassle the guys as they tried to repair part of their telescope. Here's Ross as he troubleshoots a bit of the inner workings of the telescope's heating system.

Ross and his supervisor, Erik, going through a couple additional possibilities to fix the issue before Ross and I leave and head back to the station, because you don't want to make this trip more times than absolutely necessary!!

I can't help but think of Darth Vader with this picture of Ross and Erik!

What I might do is break up this blog, stop this one here, and do the power plant portion in a couple days...

The season is coming to a close, and we are about a week away from receiving our first visitors for the summer...which means I'll be seeing scenery in another color other than white before too long!!

See everybody soon!!
Capt. Splash

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brightness on the Horizon

visual of the day

Temperature: -58.2C
Wind Chill: -77.7C
Wind Speed: 9.7 kts

I don't think there are any stars left in the sky. All we have now is the light from the sun on the horizon. But it sure makes the walk out to ARO a lot easier! This weekend, if you read Cully's blog, we saw around 40 kts of wind. I wound up wandering out to ARO along with Cully, and his pictures show this a lot better than mine do, but there was very limited visibility this past Saturday...

when this is a better day for seeing where you are going!

The sun is really trying to come up down here, but it will still take some time before we actually see it.

A couple weeks ago, we had a situation with our building heater...just that it wouldn't come on! After a little trouble shooting, the problem was discovered. A fan belt broke, and once we got that fixed, the heater was back in business. I suppose if we didn't get the heater fixed, the inside of ARO might have looked like the outside,

I thought about taking a picture the day I write a post, so you all can see what we see, and it bears a striking resemblance to what you can see from the NOAA webcam down here. The sky is bright enough that we have put that back up, and it is transmitting. You might only be able to see still shots, but throughout the summer you should be able to see some activity!

Google: NOAA South Pole Webcam, and you should get taken to it.

Hope everyone continues to have a good year! Take care!

Capt. Splash

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Misc. Duties and Tower Shots

Temperature: -49.7C
Wind Chill: -72.6C
Wind Speed: 18.8 kts

I didn't intend to leave August out of the blog just happened! Sorry folks, I'm not trying to imply nothing note worthy happened all last month. I just didn't get any pictures of anything going on! There were a few final aurora pictures that I will throw in here a little later on.

There are a few things that I do down here that fall outside the realm of my original job description, but they are jobs that I enjoy being a part of. One of them is a monthly maintenance task that was given to our heavy machine operator, Boyd, but that's a thankless task to do alone, so I usually try to make myself available, help him out...dipping fuel tanks.

We do this every month to make sure that the amount of fuel left over matches what we expected. There are five tanks (three on the ground, and two above them) in each bank, and nine banks.

That's a lot of dipping...and that's just in the fuel arch. We have twelve tanks out at the edge of our station, what folks affectionately call "the End of the World".

The last couple months, a couple other winter overs have tackled the fuel arch, and Boyd and I have gone out to get the emergency tanks at the end of the world.

Some of the tanks are the right size to put a measureing stick down inside, get the reading that way. There are five, though, that require a tape to be dropped down inside, which takes a little longer to get the reading. Problem is, if the wind is blowing, any extra time up on those tanks seems like an eternity!

The last couple times we have gone out, though, there have been extra hands, helping write down levels which helps us out tremendously!!

The sunlight is starting to creep over the horizon, and a few days ago was the last opportunity to catch the glow from the sun on one side of the station and the setting moon on the other. I almost missed it, too. I had to get up to the top of our tower, and got half the moon as it was dipping below the horizon.

The Doc, Ella, stitched together some of my panoramic shots into a couple nice images...thanks Ella!!

Some of the shots came out pretty blurry. I had to slip off the mittens to take some of the shots, and the tripod I was using was slipping through the platform at the top of the tower...but I figure for -95F and 20 knot winds, these pictures didn't come out half bad!!

There's more to follow, and I can almost guarantee there will not be as long a stretch until my next posting! Hard to believe that in a couple months from now I will be comfortable in considerably less, this year went by fast!!

With the sun coming up, I am starting to look forward to new folks arriving on station, as well as my next adventure (still need to figure out where and what that will be!), but there is still plenty left to do down here, and I will try to keep everyone up to speed. One of my last shots of ARO, the Milky Way and an aurora...

As promised, I leave you with a couple aurora shots from last month, and the early stages of the sunrise...

Everybody take care, see everybody soon!

Capt. Splash

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Curries & Turkey....Because We Can!!!

Temperature: -56.4C
Wind Chill: -78.1C
Wind Speed: 13.1kts

This past weekend was crazy with food! Our resident SPT (South Pole Telescope) scientist, Ross made plans to make some curry on Saturday, and I was able to swing by the galley and get some photos of him, as well as others, working on various items to add to the table! Tripp and Erin were back there, working on a glazed tart...

there's your glaze...

and there's your tart!

Ross was working on his curry, and he had three different curries that he made that night. There was a chicken curry, veggie curry, and a spicy chicken curry!!

I even got mixed up in it a little bit, stirring up what I could!

Cully knows how to make naan bread,

so he set about making plenty of bread for everybody!

We feasted that night, between the curry and the dessert! The next day didn't let up at all on us either. Ella, our doctor on station,

decided that turkey, stuffing,mashed potatoes & gray, asparagus, cranberries...and 9 pumpkin pies (along with a loaf of pumpkin bread) were in order!

I'll back up a little bit...our aurora tech, Jonathon, was talking about how the hens we get for dinners and lunches are great, but that they were so small. Ella decided to fix that...and Johnny got his turkey!!

...actually, we all got some of that turkey!

We hit a record for the year so far in terms of temperatures this weekend...-96F ambient temp! What better way to deal with those kinds of temperatures than to load up on curry, followed the next day by a Thanksgiving meal that reminds you that home is where you make it! I might not want to leave this place in three months!!

Hope all is well up north! Cheers-

Capt. Splash