28/4/2013: It's been an event packed week with
the first winter medical evacuation of the season on Monday, the last
sunset on Wednesday, the ANZAC morning service on Thursday and a Mexican
themed party last night.
The medical evacuation had been in preparation for a little over a week
for returning a sick American from McMurdo Station to NZ. It involves
the American heavy plant operators working long shifts to clear 2 miles
of snow off the Pegasus Runway on the ice shelf so that the C17 aircraft
can land on the smooth ice. They worked long and hard to have the
runway open at least a day earlier than expected; the entire operation
was very slick. Mind you, they have had enough practice at it; the
medical evacuations seem to be becoming common place every season.
A downside of their efficiency was that the aircraft departed NZ so
early that the fresh food purchased by the Americans didn't make it to the
airport in time. We received two small boxes of tomatoes, feijoas, bananas
and other tasty treats thanks to the good staff at Antarctica NZ in
Christchurch; plus a mail bag.
The last sunset event included a couple of Hagglund trips to Castle
Rock to view the last of the sun which will make its next appearance
at 12:15PM on the 19th of August. Some of the photos made it to New
Zealand TV and national newspapers, which inaccurately reported
"Antarctica New Zealand's 10 Scott Base staff braved -39 degrees
Celsius for their final glimpse of the Sun...". Actually,
Antarctica NZ only have nine staff here; I work for Downer Engineering.
Plus I didn't waste half a day going out to Castle Rock; you could
see the last of the sun perfectly fine from Scott Base with the benefit
of actually getting something productive done.
So now I'm all angry once more due to the inaccuracy and misinformation
of the media, here are some photos from the week.
Our annual ANZAC service at 10AM was shared with about 25 Americans from
McMurdo Station. I broadcasted a recording of The Last Post
traditional bugle music over the PA system. It only seems like two years
ago I was doing exactly the same thing. Oh wait, I was.
Another shot of the 10AM ANZAC service with the flag lowered to half-mast.
After the ANZAC service we invited the Americans inside for coffee, ANZAC
biscuits and sausage rolls.
Despite the sun now being below the horizon until the 19th of August, there
is still plenty of ambient light from around 10AM until 2PM. In the photo
above, the moon sits in the lovely pink sky above White Island in the distance.
Mt Erebus also looks nice; the mid-day sunlight behind the volcano highlights
the smoke plume with an eerie red tinge.
21/4/2013: It's about that time of the year
where it really starts cooling off in the last few days of remaining
sunshine. The temperature gauge read -40C this morning, certainly a
lot nicer to be inside. The live Scott Base weather website is
if anyone is curious about the current conditions.
The final sunset is sometime next week. It's surprising how quickly
each day is becoming darker, with over 25 minutes less daylight every
day. According to today's daily forecast,
sunrise is at 11:09AM and setting at half past two.
Every Saturday after base meeting at 3PM is time for base tasks. This
generally consists of a few people giving someone a hand with something
a bit tricky, snow shovelling, moving bulk food from the store to the
kitchen freezer, time consuming jobs where it's a lot easier with a few
more people, or sometimes when people can't be arsed doing their own job
then they get everyone else to do it for them. In the photo above we're
giving Lex a hand to shift an old steel frame with the telehandler.
Our water engineer, Graeme, has finally got to the bottom of the leek in
the waste water treatment plant that's been there since April Fool's Day.
Looking south with the MF radar transmitter hut in the foreground and Mt
Discovery left of centre in the background.
Dave the power engineer also takes care of compacting and storing the waste
to be returned to NZ on the container ship each February. The old aircraft
hangar building is used for processing the waste and is one of the few
unheated buildings. In the photo above, Dave is compacting cardboard into
wool bales. It's close to -40C working in the hangar and hydraulic press
struggles to operate at these temperatures.
I was giving Tim the Hobbit a hand to repair a clock drifting issue that the
Ionosonde had. This is
an old instrument that has been operating since 1958. It contains a HF
transmitter that sweeps from about 1MHz to 20MHz or so in order to measure
which frequencies are being reflected by the ionosphere at any one time.
It's used in a worldwide network of similar devices for predicting the
propagation of HF radio signals.
Many of the original weather recording instruments from the first days of
Scott Base in 1957 are still used today for the official weather observations.
One of them is this paper chart recorder which plots daily wind speed and
direction. The temperature meter on the wall reads -35.2 degrees Celsius.
14/4/2013: We do this thing where the first
Saturday of each month is a day off in addition to the usual Sunday;
so once per month we get a two-day weekend. The Americans at McMurdo
Station do a similar thing. In previous years Scott Base and McMurdo
have arranged to have the long weekend on the same days in order to
share parties and other social events. But for whatever crazy reason,
it has worked out that our long weekends don't align with that of
McMurdo, so the Americans seem to be getting annoyed that we don't turn
up to their Saturday night events and we don't seem to invite them to any
of ours. Wow, I wouldn't have though it would have been so hard to
collaborate and align these dates, but it doesn't seem to have worked
at all this season.
Anyway, the Americans ran a 'Death and Taxes' party on Saturday to mark
the end of their financial year. Didn't go myself as of course Saturday
was one of our work days, although reportedly they had live music. While
there are generally a number of musicians within the 130 or so American
crew, this year is quite different in that there are very few musicians.
Of the few about, they mainly seem to do solo stuff as opposed to in a
group or band.
Likewise at Scott Base, I miss my band members from the 2011 season.
There are few musical people here, aside from the science technician,
Tim, who looks like a hobbit and seems to have motivational issues. So
to get something musical going, one of the managers at McMurdo, who
happens to be a veteran harmonica player, has started coming over to
Scott Base on Monday nights to play a bit of music with us. Myself
on electric/rhythm guitar and Tim the hobbit on drums. Unfortunately
our new harmonica player doesn't really like any of the music I enjoy
playing (pop, rock) and I don't really like much of the music he likes
(American folk and blues). However, we're all trying to be quite open
in the hopes that we can get something together. We pulled off a nice
version of CCR's Proud Mary and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here
which worked surprisingly well with the harmonica. This Monday we have
another American coming over called "Sandwitch" who plays the trombone.
I really don't know what to expect!
Over winter, the three commonly used vehicles live inside in the field
centre to keep them warm. Access is by way of insulated folding panel
doors which get a lot of use. One of the older doors was scheduled to
be replaced, but the people doing this decided to put it off. Then as
it was getting used normally one day, the door fell to pieces. So the
replacement of the door happened anyway. See what happens when you
Last Sunday was the Scott Base toilet seat painting contest. Obviously
I ran to the other end of the base to avoid this, but I somehow got
dragged in to be the judge. I asked if there were any easily offended
Americans there, which of course there were. It turned out they wanted
me to insult them in a Simon Cowell type of sarcastic way.
Someone had also worked out that we're about half way through the 2012-
2013 season. To celebrate this, Lex wore his dressing gown to breakfast.
He insisted the slippers were safety boots for the workshop. "Tweety's
head is made of steel!"
And of course the days are still getting shorter. Still another week or
so until the final sunset, but for now the sun is rising at 9:50AM and
setting at 4PM. A lovely sunrise this week gave White Island a nice
shade of pink.
7/4/2013: Last week I mentioned that we'd had an
Easter egg hunt which went well. Although there turned out to be more
to it than that. Someone had hidden some chocolate eggs in the
sauna, which contains an electric heater with a collection of
rocks on top. The other person who had the cryptic clues to the
location of the elusive eggs didn't figure out that they led to the
sauna. Meanwhile, someone else decided to use the sauna, so they
turned it on and left it for an hour to heat up. Molly the electrician
happened to be walking nearby and smelled some unusual burning
chocolate odour, looked into the sauna and saw flames coming from the
rocks. So it was quickly turned off and cleaned up. So we even managed
to have our own minor Easter drama in the end.
Otherwise the winter work plods on as usual. No shortage of project
work or routine maintenance to be done.
An unusual activity planned for our day off today is a toilet seat paining
contest with the Americans. It's no wonder that everyone thinks that
people from Antarctica are weirdoes. Instead of being a part of these
preposterous shenanigans, it might be time to run to the other end of
Scott Base and work on some music instead.
The Easter cake made by Marie, one of the winter Antarctic Heritage Trust
conservators. Made from chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.
Last Monday was the 1st of April - April Fool's Day. We put out an
urgent call to our water engineer, Graeme, regarding a big leek in the
waste water treatment plant. After dashing to the water treatment
building, he emerged quickly afterwards with an annoyed "I've been
fooled" expression on his face. Yes, people from Antarctica are
weirdoes because this is the kind of thing we have to do for fun.
A morning photo from the wind farm, thanks to Molly for this.
Yesterday turned out to be fairly calm and warm, only -20C. Time for
the regular inspection of the ground laid cables to our satellite
station 5km away. Nice views of the sunlight bouncing off the
clouds and ice shelf.
The Antarctica mainland was in sunlight despite our cloudy cover;
this photo taken near the satellite station at Arrival Heights.
These rocky hills in the foreground collect very little snow due to
their exposure to the strong winds which keeps much of the ground
A collection of older vehicles stored outside at McMurdo Station
over winter. They're probably due for return to America on the
next cargo ship in February 2014 to be sold. Our power engineer,
Dave, is keen to get his hands on one of the six-wheeled trucks.
Not sure why, these American vehicles are all left-hand drive and
would be problematic to get road registered back in New Zealand.
Snow shovelling over winter is one of those never ending jobs.
Tim, our science technician, took this sunrise photo one morning
during his daily weather measurements. He sent it into the TV
news and it appeared on both TV1 and TV3 news. The two bands of
sunlight seen at each side of the photo is a phenomenon known
as sun dogs
which occur when ice crystals in the air bend rays of light
from the sun.