Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Temp: -38.0C

Wind Chill: -47.3C

Wind Speed: 4.3 kts

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!! We are going to have our dinner Saturday evening, but best wishes to everyone!

Today we had a balloon launch scheduled, and Cully and I hit the schedule from two different sides. I wandered over to ARO to take care of the morning daily routine.

Downstairs we have a gas chromatograph, we affectionately call “Big Blue” that is measuring halocarbons (CFCs and HCFCs) in the atmosphere, and it has carrier gases hooked up to it that help the flow of those halocarbons through the instrument so they can be properly identified.

The other instrument downstairs is measuring CO2 in the air. It also has carrier gases that help send the CO2 through to be analyzed.

Once these two instruments have been checked, along with the gas levels in the bottles that are hooked up to them, I went upstairs to check on the instruments upstairs. There are a few different particle counters that were checked to make sure they were operating normally, after which I went over to the Dobson instrument to take a few ozone measurements. This can be done by either measuring the amount of ozone from the ground to space, through a hatch we conveniently placed on the roof, or through a periscope that obtains a direct reading from the sun, in which case we will wheel the Dobson over to the window that gives us that direct path, depending on the time of day. There are wavelengths that the Dobson instrument reads that are characteristic of ozone, and the amount of interference the instrument detects at those wavelengths will quantify the amount of ozone there.

This is a good day to do a Dobson reading since the balloon launch should corroborate that value. When I got to the BIF (Balloon Inflation Facility), Cully had warmed up the pump for the instrumentation we were going to attach to the balloon, he had inflated the balloon, and we were almost ready to launch. We finally attached warmed batteries to the pump to help keep it warm as long as possible on it’s trip up into the stratosphere, and then it was time to let ‘er go!

After that we prepped a couple more pumps for the next couple launches and got ready to go to lunch. Cully wound up back at ARO while I got to spend the afternoon going through Emergency Power Plant procedures, basically familiarizing us with how to activate the emergency power system if the main power shuts down. We got all the theory and the identification of different generators, control panels as well as water and glycol heat exchanging paths…tomorrow we go through the practical application. What this means is that I am going to try to talk Cully into letting me do a lot of the morning daily checks since I won’t be there in the afternoon! The good news about being in a meeting all afternoon: I got out of house mouse detail this week…woo hoo, no scrubbing toilets until next week!!

Our day got extended a little bit longer than normal today since our supervisor, Brian, came in this evening around 1015. He was scheduled for the earlier flight, but nobody at the station got word of a few of the passengers getting bumped to the later flight.

Oh well, there were three folks on the earlier flight that got a tour of the whole operation, The Dark Sector, Ice Cube, and they ended with us, so Cully and I gave them a tour of ARO, gave them a couple vials of the cleanest air in the world. They were military gentlemen, too, so they dug the station patches we gave them as well! Brian’s plane arrived, and after a trip to the galley to grab some food, we all decided that it was time to end the day. Brian had started his travel in New Zealand a little after midnight the night before! Tomorrow’s another day….although you wouldn’t know it, the sun still hasn’t set!


Capt Splash

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Day in the Life Of

Temp: -36.0

Wind Chill: -47.4

Wind Speed: 6.5 kts

A typical day at work for Cully and I is to walk over to ARO, run up to the solar instruments on the roof, make sure that wires aren’t tangled and that they are actually tracking the sun. If they are off by a little, then we have to adjust them. That usually takes about five minutes, and then it’s indoors to make sure that the internal instrumentation is working properly. We usually have a little bit of time to get caught up on business email from around the station, as well as our contacts back in Boulder. It’s usually pushing lunch time so we head back for some warm food…and a couple games of ping pong of course (I’m not mentioning a lot about the war that has started between Cully and I because his lead has increased quite substantially, and I don’t want to talk about it!) J

When Cully and I got back from lunch, we had to try and get a few boxes of samples ready to ship back to Scripps. What used to be an open cargo area for us yesterday is now packed with crates full of air samples that Amy and Johan (our predecessors) had sampled over the winter, but could not ship out. Don’t worry, we’ll do the same thing to our relief next year!!

….and yes, he was actually outside for a few seconds dressed like that, along with gloves and a hat, of course! Not me! I had on jeans, long sleeved shirt, gloves and hat! I’m going to use the fact that he was moving as my excuse why the picture is so blurry!

Cully had a fire drill to go to, so I finished the last Dobson measurement for the day, and came back to the station for dinner. After that, I got sucked into a very brutal, networked game of Battle Field 2 with some friends. Four computers linked together with people set about trying to destroy one another…nothing builds camaraderie like annhialation! Unfortunately for me, I forgot I needed to check one of the solar instruments later on in the evening, so I went back out to ARO, fiddled around for a little while with that, and then came back. On the way in the second time, I decided to feature my shadow in a couple pics.

These were taken around 1030 last night, but they are about the only time this year that my shadow would have made it into the picture with the Dome. I really need to get myself a different camera!! J

Tomorrow I am slated to help out in the galley making pies…should be interesting!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ice Cube

Air temp: -36.1C
Wind Chill: -49.1C
Wind Speed: 9.3 kts

Oh boy, do I need a different camera! This was the first shot that I took on the way out to the Ice Cube site, and regrettably it was my last. The batteries that I had just replaced decided to die on me when I tried (yet again) to get a picture of one of the project's starter holes. Ice Cube is in the process of drilling 80 holes in various locations on their site. The holes are drilled to the bottom of the ice layer, 9,000ft down, and sensors are put in place to start giving the scientists feedback on what they are studying...which I will go into at a later date. It's how I keep you interested!

What we were doing yesterday was walking through both the drill site with various Ice Cube drillers, and the building that is housing all the electronic support for the project. " We" refers to the emergency response team that is going to conduct an emergency drill on site early next week, so what we were doing was getting familiar with the location, as well as contacts once we got on scene. All this is supposed to make the drill run smoothly. I'll let you know how that turns out!

We almost had a real drill this past weekend. After a fun filled couple hours of volleyball, one of the other scientists and I were walking down the hallway, on our way to the kitchen when he smelled something burning. We followed it to the laundry room, and luckily there was already a couple people in there. They smelled it, too, and one of the guys unplugged the washing machine (took care of the potential fire), and the washer was set aside until it could be repaired. The problem, you ask? The person using the washer, who now has smoky clothes for another week, overloaded it and their clothes jammed the free-moving spinner. I'm just glad someone was in there doing laundry at the time! It reminds me of a time, back home...well, mom and dad remember that story, we'll leave it at that!

Capt. Splash

Monday, November 24, 2008

Air Sample Day

Air temp : -35.6C
Wind chill: -51.3C
Wind speed: 12.8 kts

Okay, so the air sample was actually taken yesterday, but by the time we took the sample, the internet was down for the day!
Cully and I had a morning full of daily checks to do out at ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory). We decided to head back to the station at about 1230-ish for some lunch, after which we got pulled towards the direction of the gym, where a lonely ping pong table sat, just waiting to be played! Cully and I decided last year that if I wound up on the ice with him for a year, that there would be an epic battle over the table....scoreboards, T-shirts, trophies, everything! Right now, the game tally is pretty close, but it's a long year, anything can happen. We'll keep you posted!
After we recovered, it was time to head back out to ARO and take some air samples. I went the long way, around the old dome, and then on towards the Clean Air Sector.

I wanted to get a couple pictures along the way. Unfortunately, I waited too long and the snow had blown over the majority of what I wanted to show you, but I'm sure they will happen again, and get bigger as well. If you have followed other Antarctica blogs, you might have heard about sustrugi, but as the wind blows the snow around, it forms some pretty interesting shapes (as well as walking obstacles) when it finally stays put. I found some sustrugi that was developed by somebody's footprints. The person's weight compacted the snow, and the wind blew around the footprints...pretty cool!

I caught up to Cully on his way out behind ARO where the Clean Air Sector is located, and he went through the steps of retrieving air from that location. The trick for us, so we didn't contaminate the sample, was to turn on the pump inside the case and stand downwind for about 10 minutes. When Cully was ready, he went up to the case, having already exhaled all the air out of his lungs (so that if he did anything right by the samples, he would breath in rather than out), opened the box and started the air flow into the flasks, and then hustled back downwind to start breathing again. Two to three minutes later, he went back to the case to turn off the pump. Once the pump was turned off, he could start breathing again, and close up the flasks and come back inside.

Yesterday was a pretty normal day, but today, we are walking over to a project site called Ice Cube, to get a familiarization tour of the area. We are going to have an emergency drill sometime on the 2nd of December on that facility, so we figured it would be a good idea to head over there and see what we could use to our advantage. Let you know how the walk through goes tomorrow!

Capt Splash

Friday, November 21, 2008

South Pole

Temp: -41 deg C

Wind chill: -51 deg C

Well, here I am, Capt. Splash arrives at South Pole! A few of us that had gone through training together got to spend a day or two in Christchurch. Unfortunately, we only got to spend those two days, then it was on to the ice.

We got stuck in McMurdo for about ten days due to weather conditions both at McMurdo and at Pole, which led to us taking a few opportunities to do some climbing up Observation Hill,

as well as helping out some of the scientists that were involved in observing the animals under the ice. Some of the life was like animals that I had seen before, sponges, anemones…but then there were things like this!

There was also time to venture off the base for a few hours. There was Scott Base, the New Zealand facility that was about a half hour walk away. A few of us went to some ice caves nearby that were awesome to be in.

(there is a disclaimer here, though. I have never been inside an ice cave before so I have no basis for comparison!)

Anywho, our ten days were up, and we had harassed McMurdo enough, so we begrudgingly got on a Basler, (note that the smoking snow on the other side of the plane is an active volcano, Mt Erabus) and flew for about four hours before we touched down at beautiful South Pole!!

Pole has an elevation of about 9,000 feet, which sounds great until you start to climb steps…after a couple stops you make it to the second level of wherever you are, and it starts to sink in where you are! There is a lot of science going on down here, and what the NOAA technician, Patrick(Cully), and I will be working on will deal with the atmosphere. We will run and maintain instruments that will monitor trace pollutants in the air, launch ozone balloons throughout the year, as well as collect our own air samples that will either be sent back to the US for analysis, or overseas where we have collaboration from other organizations.

While there is work to be done, there is also time for relaxing, taking a load off, or just down-right having some fun!

Things went at a pretty fast pace for the first two weeks. We had an emergency drill to conduct the day after we got here, as well as absorb as much information from the two people we are replacing down here as we could. Since we were delayed getting down here, though, the week and a half to two week turnover lasted about five days. We did have some help from an old winter-over that is back in the main office in Boulder and he just left a couple days ago. Things have started slowing down somewhat, and I am getting into a rhythm here. I am looking forward to heading into 2009 down here, and am ecstatic that I don’t have to live out of a bag for a while! This is going to be an interesting year, and I hope that people stay with either this blog or Cully’s blog into next year. We’ll try to let you know what we’re up to!