Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ice people part3

Caleb is a carpenter from Fairbanks Alaska. A lot of people here come from Alaska.
Aaron is a carpenter from Florida who is here with his wife Michelle. Last year he was a painter. They'll work in Alaska this summer.

Sheri and Galen. Just a couple of crazy carpenter/surfers. He is from California, and she is from Maine. They have been coming down here forever.


Skuas hang out looking for food. They dive bomb the unwary coming out of the galley with food trays. It is a great form of entertainment.
Because of the carp shop barbecues that we hold on the the deck, skuas think that it is agood place to hang out. Closest thing we have to a dog down here.

View of cargo storage in the Snow Dump. Snow may have been dumped there before, but not anymore. The name stayed. There is also a storage area called the ballfield, which I thought was just a euphenism, however baseball is actually played there. Last year the carp shop won the tournament. There were five medivacs from that game. Medivac means that an injury requires you to be sent on a five hour flight to New Zealand. Ice people work hard and play even harder.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lisa's Photos

Peeling paint and snow on Delta Sharon (a vehicle)

Fuel tank on the Ross Sea ice

Peeling paint with a view

Fuel tank with Delta Sharon reflection

Shovel handle with a view
These photos taken by Lisa Keller, a lead fuels operator, or fuelie as they are known down here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's A Harsh Continent, Ya Know

Hut Point with Scott's Hut in the foreground and McMurdo Station behind. The four large dark buildings are the Upper Case dorms.
John, Karen, Mel and Lisa

Karen and Lisa at Hut Point with Ob (Observation) Hill visible in the background.

Saturday evening started with a small gathering in my dorm room with Karen and Lisa conducting a research experiment vital to the ongoing health and morale of McMurdo Station workers. It was a complete success.
There was a big snowstorm Saturday on station with lots of wind and blowing snow. But the great part was that it was really warm and fairly wet which was unusual. It was a bit like the Northeastern/Midwestern snowstorms of home. Lots of people were out playing in it with snowball fights, etc. Even though you would think that it snows all the time down here, it doesn't much in the summer. The ground usually consists of hard pack snow and ice, so this was a real treat.
After our research was done, some of us hiked to Hut Point. It is a short hike that goes to Scott's Hut out on the edge of the Ross Sea. Along the way Mel wanted to lay down in the deep, powdery snow, so we did. It's fine to lay down in the snow here, better if you do it on purpose and better yet if you eventually get up.
Scott's Hut is a historic monument administered by the New Zealand Historic Trust along with two other huts further away. It is preserved as it was in the early 1900's when the explorers Scott and Shackleton used it, although at different times. Scott was beaten by about a month to be the first man to make it to the South Pole by Amundsen. On Scott's return after this disappointment, he and a few others lay down in the snow and did not get up. Of course, a lot of things are named after him down here, because that is what we do. Scott Base, the New Zealand Research Station , is only two miles from McMurdo.
After the hike some of us took a sauna. Yes, we have a sauna. One sauna for 1200 people.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ice People part 2

John is a carpenter who worked with me tearing up the bowling alley. He's Austrailian but now lives in New Zealand and will be working at the South Pole dismantling the Dome which is the old research station there. His wife Isabelle, a metal worker, is also here.
Erika is a carpenter helper who will be joining her boyfriend Eric at Wais Divide. Eric is the carpenter foreman there.

Josh Rose, aka Sticky, is a carpenter here for his third season. HIs parents run a maple syrup operation in Vermont.

Blowing Snow

It is crazy windy and snowy out today, but warm. I'm still waiting to go to WAIS Divide. We have been delayed by weather for a week and a half. We are now scheduled for monday. These are pictures from last year when I was at Siple Dome. Siple Dome is a refueling stop for airplanes about 500 miles from McMurdo. It is pretty small with a 2 or 3 person crew and a runway. It is 360 degrees of flat white. Wais Divide is also flat and white but is a much bigger camp. I was at Siple Dome for a week last year. There were about seven or eight carpenters there, and our main job was to dig out the Jamesway and move it. A Jamesway is a World War Two/Korean War era enclosure like the ones you see on the old MASH TV show. These things are over fifty years old but still perform great. They dissasemble and set up easily. They are slowly being phased out and replaced with a newer type shelter called a RAC tent. RAC tents have a similar look to Jamesways. Anything that sits out here will drift over with snow. Some tents are taken down each year. Some aren't. The ones that aren't have to be dug out approximatey every three years or so and moved to higher ground. It's a lot of work. It took us two days just to dig this one out with probably five or six people working all day. We lucked out in that the weather was unusually warm. A lot of the time I worked in just a thermal shirt and sweater. Pants optional. The best nights sleep I've ever had in a tent was here at Siple Dome. I was there for Christmas. I went out cross country skiing, came back for drinks and a lamb dinner. Then a nice long nap. Not too shabby.

Siple Dome field camp
My tent at Siple Dome

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Waiting On WAIS Divide

Today is Sunday. We are one day ahead and six hours behind Eastern Standard Time right now. If it is noon Sunday here, it is six pm Sat. in Cincinnati. I am emailing you from the future, put it looks pretty much just like the past. Everyone loves Sun. because it is most peoples only day off. There is a big brunch on Sundays from 10:30 till 1:00. People go skiing, hiking, or just relax and watch movies. A lot of people have been out late on Sat. night blowing off steam after a 54 hour/six day work week. There are two bars and a coffeehouse/wine bar which is a nice alternative to the bars. There is a huge amount of carpenters this year, although some have already left for the south pole. We topped out at 65, but there will probably be less than a handful here during the winter. One of the things that the carps do is put in, maintain and take out the deep field camps. I am probably leaving tuesday for the WAIS Divide field camp put in and will be gone at least two weeks. It is about 800 miles from McMurdo out on the West Antarctica ice sheet. I think WAIS stands for West Antarctica Ice Survey. It is where the researchers drill deep and take ice core samples as a record of changes in Antarctica. It is a 3 1/2 hour ride on a air force Hercules (or Herc) C-17 prop plane. I flew out of Christchurch, NZ on a bigger C-130 airforce jet. They are basically big, loud military cargo planes. We were suppose to leave a week ago to go to WAIS, but we keep getting delayed because of weather. There is a lot of hurry up and wait going on here. I may or may not be flying this Tuesday. I'll be there for 2-3 weeks or longer. Sometimes because of bad weather you can get stuck at field camps for a long, long time. It is advisable to bring along a good book, some good beer or both.

Ice People

There are a lot of great people down here. There are just some of the people I work with. Lauren is a carp helper in the carpenter shop. She always has a big smile and a laugh to go with it. People wear a lot of fun hats here.
DJ is a fuelie. A fulie lays hose, fills tanks, etc. Fuelies are pretty important because everything in McMurdo including the powerplant, vehicles and planes run on fuel. In his other life DJ is a graphic designer in Atlanta.

Mel is the fuels coordinator here,. but back in LA she is a masseuse. This picture was taken after the Halloween party where she went dressed as "Mystique", one of the X-men characters. She was entirely blue. Ice people like to have fun.

The Last Bowler in Antarctica

I've had an interesting couple of days at work. Because the building where it was housed was condemned last year, I've been taking apart the bowling alley to put it in storage for future re-use. The alley is two lanes and was built in 1961 by the Brunswick company and is one, if not the only, hand set bowling alley still in use in the world. It is the end of an era and a lot of people are pretty sad to see it go, but it hopefully will be reasembled in the future. I and another carpenter were the last persons to bowl on these lanes before it was dismantled. Demolition is always fun, but this was a rare treat. Kind of like taking a big, wooden puzzle apart. The top picture is of the mechanical pin setter that volunteers would load after each throw. Slightly dangerous job as you don't want to be standing there when a ball hits the pins, but hey, this is a harsh continent as they say down here.