Friday, March 27, 2009

Sunset Dinner

Temperature: -50.3C
Wind Chill: -69.0C
Wind Speed: 11.3 kts

One of the big traditions down here, and one that a lot of people look forward to, is sunset dinner, which we had on the 20th. Since the sun was supposed to start setting that week, it gave us the excuse to dress up, and have, yet, another outrageous meal down here! The meal also came with a roaring can see depicted by the computer screen above the table!

Part of the tradition, as well, was to remember those who had lost their lives while working down here. There was a smaller table set aside for three individuals, with food and drink at each setting, and their pictures, which are normally hanging in the main hallway on station, were brought into the dining hall as well. The three men that joined our meal had different times that they had worked down here, ranging from 1966 up to the year 2000.

While the dinner was supposed to mark the sunset, and potentially the best time to take some pictures, we didn't really get out and start shooting some pretty spectacular pictures until a few days later...

The shots at Spoolhenge were awesome a few days ago,

as were the shots taken out at ARO a couple days later.

We figured that was the last time we were going to see the sun, since the next couple days were obscured by a lot of cloud cover, especially around the horizon. We were pleasantly surprised, however, when yesterday we looked outside and found a very distinct glow right at the horizon. A couple of us grabbed cameras, extra gloves and hand warmers, and headed out towards ARO. The wind wasn't blowing too hard, so I felt it necessary to climb the tower and see about some pictures from up there.

Needless to say, when I got up to the top, and finished snapping pictures, I took some time to clean off some of the instrumentation that had been covered with flying obstacles!

The shots at the bottom were just as spectacular, especially with the formations of drifts in the foreground...

At this point, fingers were numb, and camera batteries had just about been exhausted, so it was time for a trip back indoors for a nice cup of hot chocolate! We'll see what the next couple of days have in store for us....

Capt. Splash

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Old Pole Closure

Temperature: -55.8C
Wind Chill: -76.5C
Wind Speed: 12 kts

This is the year it finally happened...the NSF decided to close, or cave in the entrance to Old Pole. Old Pole is not the Dome that scientists, workers, and other Polies vacated when the new station went up. Old Pole was where everybody lived before the Dome was built. Right now, due to snow drifts, it sits under about 20 feet of snow. NSF thought it would be best, since this place is constantly shifting and the buildings below the ice might not be structurally sound, that it would be safer to collapse the entrance to keep people from trying to go down to Old Pole and see how they used to do it back in the day.

Last week, on Saturday, a crew of us went out to take out a culvert that indicated the entrance to the old station. We hooked a cable from the dozer to the culvert, and well...

hauled it right out!

We then proceeded to try and fill in the remainder of the entrance, and smooth out the area around the hole.

Unfortunately, we hit a snag...our trusty dozer, "Pearl", found a pocket of loose snow and proceeded to sink on us!

When we tried to pull her out....

okay, not really. We were just pulling the tow cable out for the other dozer. We hooked up to her back, and tried pulling her the way she had come, but the problem got worse. Luckily, the treads on the sides of Pearl are wider than the cab, so Boyd had no problems getting out of Pearl, should she start to sink more.

Since backing out wasn't working, we tried hooking the second dozer up to her front end, and pulling her out that way, but that didn't fix the problem either.

What finally fixed the issue was bringing one of the loaders over, and digging a sloped path for Pearl to work her way up.

That finally fixed the sinkage factor, and Pearl is content inside the machine shop. We decided it would be in our best interest to let nature take over and fill in the space we created on her own. Didn't really want to risk finding another pocket!

I will leave you with this image...the sun is beginning to set down here, and we are getting ready to see some really beautiful skies!!

Take care
Capt. Splash

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Skiway Flags

Temperature: -49.5C
Wind Chill: -65.1C
Wind Speed: 7.8 kts

Aside from the booze lug, that also took place last week, we had to pull all the flags off their posts marking the ski way and its approach. There were two teams of three that went out in LMCs, which are transports on tracks instead of tires. Weeks, Jude and myself were in one LMC,

while the other housed Chrissy, Nathan and Ross.

Before we could leave, we really needed to make sure we took the right tools for the ski way...

and then we were off...out of the garage, and headed towards the ski way.

The other LMC was charged with gathering all the flags on the north end of the ski way, which left the south end for us to head for, which was fine by me. The south end started about four miles away from the station. I was actually going to leave the South Pole!! It was nice being out away from the station for a bit, because once we turned around to look back at the station, we could hardly see it!!

yep, you can kind of see the station to the right of the bend in the tracks! But, really, aside from the station...there's not a lot out here! We took some time to take some pictures of the area,

but then we had to get down to business...which is harder to do in Big Red than you would think!

To be honest, we did have to pull flags all day last Friday, and we did. Unfortunately, none of that is documented!

On the way back, Weeks gave me a shot at the controls of the LMC, which took a little getting used to. Both tracks operated independently of one another, the right track had a little more power to it than the left track, and the throttle kept slipping to a slower rpm, so it was a constant juggling act to keep the LMC straight, but it was still fun to drive....and what could I possibly hit out here!?

I still continue to do things down here that I know I can't do anywhere else in the world!

Capt. Splash