Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fuel Line Haul

Temperature: -41.9C
Wind Chill: -56.9C
Wind Speed: 9.1 kts

About a week after the last plane left, it was time to haul in all the fuel hoses for the winter. After all, we aren't going to see another plane for eight months! The first day wasn't too bad, we worked on the smaller hose lengths right next to the flight line.

The second day, however, all we had left was the line that went from the terminal all the way around the station, and ended by the Dome. That was quite a cold day! I actually put on my Carhartts for both of those days!

On this day, we needed the help of one of the heavy machine operators. We wound up using about four of these spools, and the first two were doubled up with hose! One person was directing the machinery, there were up to four people around the spool, keeping it rolling,

and then the rest of the crew would run in front, making sure the fuel was out of the line left to roll. Any remainders were waiting to spell whoever needed it.

I felt a little guilty taking pictures while everyone else was working on the line, so I gave the camera to Emily for a bit...

When the rolling was done, we split tasks, and some of us made sure that the fuel line was draining into a container as we rolled up the last of the hose. While we were capping our end...

a couple people worked on closing the connection the hose was attached to.

Once the line was on the spool,

there was time to gather another drink for the road...

and realize that we were done!!!

The crew that held on til the very end...

(from left: Emily, Steele, Robert, Erik, Ross, me, Dave, and Damien in front)

(Boyd, the Heavy Machine Operator)
Those not pictured, but definitely helping out, were Monte, another Erik, and Genevieve.

Once all was said and done, Boyd took the spool off into the casually growing expanse of white!

I don't think I have ever slept so soundly that after either of those days! But, it is done...until eight months from now, when we have to drag all that hose back out! It won't be nearly as rough, though. All the fuel is out of the lines, we just have to drop it and connect hoses. The worst is behind us!

A couple of us, myself included, sustained small amounts of frostbite on our fingers and faces, but aside from that, no major problems with prolonged exposure to the elements! Bring on the winter!!! :)

*on a side note, this past week, I think we touched -90F for a brief time, but I am still looking at Celsius to see where we wind up on that scale this winter!

Capt. Splash

Monday, February 16, 2009

Station Closing

Temperature: -44.2C
Wind Chill: -59.4C
Wind Speed: 8.7 kts

Station Population: 43

That about wraps it up for the summer. The last six people left this afternoon, and now there are only 43 of us left. Our second doctor came in on the first flight this morning, and the other six left about an hour after that!

That really stinks, too, because I wanted to say goodbye to the Fuelies and didn't get out to the flight line in time. I was down in the fuel arch, transferring fuel from the plane to one of our storage tanks for the winter. During the first flight, Cricket(Kristina) was down in the arch with me, but for the second flight, I made sure that the fuel was going to the right tank,

that we were getting fuel from the plane, which we could tell by looking through the site glass,

and that the valves that needed to be were opened!

We transferred 2900 gallons of fuel, and when I got the call to close valves again, I did, and beat feet to get out to the flight line...but when I got there, they were already loading passengers onto the plane, so I got to watch them walk away!

I had already said my farewells to Dan, since he left on Saturday

(from left) Cully, Logan, Dan, Erik, Cricket

but I didn't get to see Cricket or Buttercup(Andrew) off.

Hopefully I will see them again next summer on my way out!

Once they were loaded, it was time to bid the last plane for eight months goodbye!

It didn't start to sink in right away, and probably still hasn't yet completely, that we were looking at the last flight. So far, this was the normal routine for the pilots to follow, but then they circled,

came in from behind the station,

and did a final flyover above us, and then headed towards McMurdo!

All that was left to do was watch it fly away, and then head back home, where the moon was visible above the station.

Looking forward to the winter season with a pretty solid crew of people down here. Sure the galley is a lot quieter now, but the group will be a lot closer, and we have already had our first bonding experience...watching The Thing, once we were sure there was no way for us to get another plane in here!

Capt. Splash

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fuelie Forever

Temperature: -42.6C
Wind Chill: -59.9C
Wind Speed: 12.3 kts

I took a little break today around 11 o'clock to go down to the flight line. Two of his crew and I went to wish him well. The guy on the left, Dog, and John on the right came out to see off Travis, or Moose, as his friends liked to call him.

I was on the flight line for a couple reasons, though. A couple of us have gotten Fuelie training for opening next summer, and I wanted to come back out to see if any of the previous week's information had sunk in! While I was there, though, I got some pretty good shots of planes and what I would be doing in about eight months.

don't worry, the plane will get a little closer than that. I just liked the shot of it landing.

The first two flights that I got to hang out for, Dan was in charge of getting the fuel line out to the plane. The Engineer on board would actually hook up the fuel line, but there is a second cable that Dan is carrying that acts like a ground so there isn't a lot of current built up between the plane and our fuel line. Those propeller blades are still moving!

Dan will follow the Engineer out to the plane, they will hook up both lines, then Dan will come back to the pump house, make sure there is positive flow. When the Engineer gives the "high idle" sign, Dan will engage a booster pump that we use for the C-130 Hercs, ramping the flow up close to 200 gallons a minute! While the flow is going, the Engineer has the thankless job of sitting under the wing, watching the flow, and making sure everything is going according to plan. While he does that, our Cargo department either adds cargo to the plane's payload, or takes off cargo for us, which, with any luck is either mail or freshies!

When they have offloaded enough fuel (usually around 3000 gallons), Dan will go back out, and pull our lines back towards the pump house.

Once the fuel has been offloaded, any passengers are loaded onto the plane, and the plane gets ready to take off. One of the steps with this I noticed (actually was told about and then noticed) is they check the mechanics of the skis on the plane, before they go anywhere, by lifting them...

setting them back down, and at that point they are a couple minutes from getting underway. Today, we had three flights around noon, and I stayed to be an extra pair of hands for the first two, which was fun...but the third one was where I think I got to do a lot more! Cricket, the Fuelie Supervisor, had me run through setting up the fuel lines, opening appropriate valves, closing others, in order to get the fuel from the plane to our fuel arch for winter. She checked my work, and everything was good to go. I then got to go out to the pit, and help her bring in the plane. I got to do this before R&R, too, but this time my camera didn't freeze!

At this point, it was time to head back to ARO and do some afternoon daily checks, but I got in a little Fuelie time today, and that was a lot of fun. I really like the days they have, even if it is one of the colder jobs on station. They get to play with C-130s, Baslers and Twin Otters! What a deal!! Our second day of training, we fueled a Basler. Those pictures are coming...

Take care
Capt. Splash

Monday, February 9, 2009

U-Barrel Fiasco

Temperature: -42.6C
Wind Chill: -57.2C
Wind Speed: 8.5 kts

Alright, I know I owe some of you an explanation as to what happened when the Waste Department came out to ARO. For those of you that don't know the whole story, I will explain. Several years ago, the ARO building used to have plumbing in it, then there was a very unfortunate, messy situation with the holding tank, so we decided to get rid of plumbing and put in a barrel with a hose leading up to the bathroom on the second floor. The theory was simple...when the barrel is full, remove it from the hose, add another barrel in its place and repeat the process. No problem.

Fast forward to 2009, the barrel has been removed, replaced, and Waste has been called to come collect! They show up with a loader and I start to signal the driver to come forward, but I have overshot, putting the claw to pick up the barrel behind it. I signal for the driver to back up, which they do, but the claw catches the back of the barrel, pulling it off the pallet it's on, and dangerously close to the edge of the loading dock. Not wanting a spill, I grabbed the barrel, but I couldn't keep it from tipping off the loading dock. Unfortunately, it pulled me over the edge with it! I had enough time, though, to avoid the barrel and jumped away from it, landing on the tangerine in my coat. I discovered that later when I noticed mush in my pocket. There was a lot of good news, though. The barrel lid stayed on, there was no spill, and the barrel didn't roll underneath ARO...that would have been a pain!! The other good news was that I didn't land on or underneath the barrel. When the loader operator realized I was okay, they were regretting not having a camera. I knew better than to go after a 55 gallon drum, but I really didn't want to find out if the barrel was going to survive the drop...luckily it was soft snow!

I hope you found that amusing. Cully has almost talked me into recreating it so he can get a couple pictures!

Capt. Splash

Departures and Open House

Temperature: -42.3C
Wind Chill: -56.4C
Wind Speed: 7.9 kts

We have had a lot of people leave over the last week and a half.

Last week, we hit under 200 population here for the first time all season! A lot of really fun people left, and good friends, too! The bad news is that they are gone now, but the good news is we will probably see a lot of them again next summer!

The first to leave were the Ice Cube Drillers...some of them were people that I had met before,

but a couple were folks that I met once I got down here...like the Swedish Bikini Team!

Some of the time a group of us would go out to say goodbye to a lot of people

and sometimes a group of us would say goodbye to one person.

In about a week, only Cully and Robert, in the tan jacket, will be left...Flint was who we were saying goodbye to (to the left of Cully), Sheri left today (far left) and Paul leaves later this week. The plan is to line 'em up,

load 'em up

and take off

Hopefully, we will see a lot of those people in about eight months! In the mean time, Cully and I threw an Open House out at ARO for whoever wanted to see the place, what we do, just come and hang out for a couple hours. We had a really good turnout, too.

Quite a few people showed up, ran through a great majority of our drinks and food, went on a couple of tours of the building, and generally had a good time! The turnout was better than I could have hoped for. It was a pretty fun night.

I had also let it slip to a few people there that I had recently gotten promoted, about the middle of January, and one of those people was our winter over site manager Logan, who is sitting down in the back corner of this picture...and yes, Kevin is really standing in front of an open window in Antarctica! There was no other window open, so no cross breeze...all good! Kevin, Bill (standing with the bottle) and John, seated in the front of the picture, are all siding carpenters so they have the coldest job on station. I spent the day under the station with their crew during my R&R and it was a lot of fun, but boy was it cold! John was actually our bouncer for the night, but he was pretty bored, with all the scientist-types around!

Logan hauled me out in the middle of the room about halfway through the night, turned down the music, and made sure that everyone at the party realized that I had gotten promoted, which I was not expecting but was really cool! But he even went one better than that. The following morning, I went into the galley for brunch, and a couple people, who had not been out to ARO, came up to me and congratulated me on my promotion as well. When I went over to a table to talk to some of my friends, they started singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"! I was questioning my sanity when I glanced up at the TV monitors in the galley that scroll through daily weather, safety announcements and flight schedules. At the bottom of the flight schedule screen was an announcement that I had gotten promoted, so he made sure everyone that was on station knew about it. People are still congratulating me! It was off the screen when I had my camera again, but this basically paraphrased what everyone else got to see.

The last week has been pretty interesting. The winter overs are anxious to get the winter started, and I am too for that matter. We are all looking forward to the station being at a population of 45 instead of 270, which is where it has been for the last three months. On the other hand, we have been around the summer crew for that long, every day. It will be, and has been, bittersweet on the flightline, watching friends take off. The station has a lot more people to lose, and by Sunday, we will have watched our last flight take off. Looking forward to station closing, and the winter over screening of "The Thing"!!!!!

Capt. Splash