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