24/4/2016: So what's been happening this week? Well, with
no parts in due to the cancellation of the April cargo flight, a lot of jobs are
on hold. There's not a lot of project work happening and the annual maintenance is
mostly complete. So the answer is that not much is happening. I'm getting into
some early development project work - writing software for modules I don't have
so can't test anything. Fun times.
The Americans' Death and Taxes party last Saturday was considerably more
eventful than this past week. My band played a set of live music at the Carpenters'
Workshop. From left to right is Mark on bass, Julie on backing guitar, Zac
on drums, myself on guitar and vocals and Ursula on keyboards.
Another view of the Death and Taxes party live music performance.
Today is the official last sunrise/sunset. Due to the low angle of the sun,
there's still plenty of ambient light either side of the sunrise at 12:33PM and
set at 1:08PM.
Anthony Powell continues to capture some great night shots, the TAE Hut in the
foreground, looking south towards Black Island and Mt Discovery. Spot the
Iridium satellite flare to the left.
17/4/2016: It's been a very deja-vu-ish week with the
cancellation of the single cargo flight being provided by the NZ Air Force. This
time last year I was writing about exactly
the same thing where the Australian passenger flight was exactly on time, but the
NZ Air Force flight had a week of weather delays followed by a complete cancellation
due to a reported mechanical failure of the aircraft. While we didn't have any super
critical cargo on the flight, it was more of an annoyance of not being able to get any
fresh food delivered and various jobs have been delayed six weeks until the US Air
Force make the cargo flight in June.
The Americans at McMurdo Station have been affected in much the same way. Though it's
only bought us more flack. First was the wave of many frivolous remarks from the
Americans how the NZ Government had spent
$26 million dollars on changing the flag
but we've still got the same flag. Now we're hearing the same relentless joke over
Q: What are two things native to New Zealand that can't fly?
A: The kiwi bird and the NZ Air Force
It's also around five days until the last of the sunshine, we're down to 4 hours and
40 minutes daylight today.
It's not all gloom and depression however. The good news is that the McMurdo carpenters
hosted a fantastic live music party last night. The bad news was that I was stuck on
Scott Base fire crew, as usual. But good news that I managed to exchange crew duty
with a reluctant someone, which was fortunate as my band was part of the live music
for the evening. So managed to have a great time in the end, but as usual, such a
pain in the arse trying to make it happen.
Mt Erebus at mid-day yesterday. We've actually had a brilliant run of weather recently.
A fairly constant -30C and light winds.
One Hagglunds Bandvagn 206 remanufactured by Hellgeth Engineering, Germany, parked at
the hitching rail. Read all about this type of vehicle here.
Yet another group photo. The official version is one with the NZ flag that the
government spent $26 million dollars changing, and we've still got the same flag.
This is the unofficial version of the photo with the significantly more fun flag.
I'm pictured far right - I think I was getting bored at posing for photos at the
time so was looking at some antenna jobs on the roof of the building.
This is Gracie and Jen, two of the McMurdo 'fuelies'. Apparently they'd been
wanting to stage a certain photo shot for a long time....
So they borrowed me at lunchtime yesterday where we went to the McMurdo bulk fuel
Where they pointed out (as everyone regularly does) that there's a two million
gallon fuel tank with a designation of J-5. For those that don't know, my
nickname in Antarctica is Johnny 5, which everyone here knows me by,
which is frequently abbreviated to J5.
And this was one of the poses of me with this fuel tank that they'd been wanting
to stage for a long time. With Jen involved, a simple pose is never enough, hence
the outrageous (for me) decorations.
This is professional photographer, Anthony Powell, whose photos (below) I often
borrow/steal as I have no interest in photography myself while he enjoys taking a
range of excellent pictures. He's on a mission with his quad-copter that has a
camera mounted underneath, which gets some great aerial shots. The issue is that
the radio controlled aircraft isn't that happy operating at -30C. He has to bring
it inside to warm it up before it will fly, though once it's in the air it
operates happily enough with a range of about 1km.
Anthony Powell captured this photo outside Scott Base one night this week. Nothing
much happening other than a vague aurora in the distance.
Then in the space of three minutes, the sky was lit up like this.
10/4/2016: The departure of eight early-winter staff on
Thursday following the recent completion of construction/expansion work has left the
place suddenly desolate. We're now down to 11 people on station, meaning the weekly
rotation of fire duty, kitchen duty and various other additional tasks on top of
your paid job happens even more frequently. The number seven (days in a week) is
not a multiple of eleven (people on station) which means there are some weeks
where you're doing a lot extra on most evenings. Fancy a bit of time off work to
help maintain that all important work/life balance? Sorry!
Fortunately I'm using the infrequent time between "additional duties" and
correlations with breaks in the weather to spend a bit of time with some of my
friends from McMurdo Station. I'm quite enjoying the social scene which this week
has ranged from a sushi making/eating party to practicing music.
The shift out of daylight savings time last weekend has resulted in the evening
daylight becoming even shorter; today's sunset at 4:20PM and sunrise at 9:25AM. Just
15 days from the last sunrise/sunset. Daily temperatures seem a little chillier
than usual for this time of the year, now often in the -30C range with frequent dips
It's also the group photo time of the year. This was last week with all 19 of the
early winter crew here. I'm pictured centre front, sitting on the rock since everyone
was moaning I was standing too tall or too low or in a bad place. A bit like
Goldilocks with the porridge. Someone back home was recently asking if I still wear
my shorts in Antarctica. There's your answer.
These are the eight departing people getting dressed to leave on Thursday. As usual it
was a mixed feelings moment with some people quite eager to return home, but I think
all of them were quite sad to be leaving. Some of them will be returning in August
to continue the next stage of the construction work they started this year.
The departing crew leaving Scott Base in a Hagglunds for Pegasus Airfield where the
Australian A-319 Airbus had them in Christchurch later that evening.
It was a nice day for the flight on Thursday, no wind and clear skies. Those are
the days they usually cancel the flights on for some reason, but this one time they
saw fit to fly on a nice day.
Spot teh relly guud speling. What's up with that then? We have these telephone directory
lists by all the phones everywhere that have a large line in the top centre that reads:
"DIAL 6700 FOR HELP". In bold. And in red. But
for some reason this is not enough. Not to mention the two times I called 6700 for
help in the summer when I was in the field because no-one was answering any of the radio
channels, none of the four communications operators answered, so I had to daemon-dial
random Scott Base numbers from in the field via the radio network until I eventually
found someone who could be bothered answering the phone. Anyway, despite the fact that
you're clearly unlikely to receive any help by dialling the comms operator, who has gone
off to catch a movie or something, they still felt the need to have the same communications
operators print all these labels and stick them to all the phones. Not only are some of
them spelt wrong, most of them immediately fell off because the surface wasn't cleaned
first and most were stuck on at a big angle that makes the phones look like crap. And
that label tape doesn't come cheap, over $30 each per cartridge of a few meters of tape.
I'm so pleased our dearly beloved country is defended by the hands of such kwality
Defence Force Personnel.
- Copy of the Oxford English dictionary on base... check!
- Online dictionary available... check!
- Google auto-spelling correction in case you still somehow can't manage the previous two... check!
- NZ Defence Force personnel with basic literacy skills... ohhhhhhhhhh...
I wish I could say this was a one-off thing, but it's not. It happens all the time!
The photo below is the result of different NZ Defence Force personnel tasked with
printing hundreds of pages for new sign-out book a couple of years ago.
"Should we take one second to check the single line of text before printing these
hundreds of pages? Nope, that's one second less Faceb**k surfing time."
O for awesome. Or maybe you should have picked an 'N' for needed to stay in school.
3/4/2016: The first Saturday in each month forming a 2-day
'long' weekend has come as a welcome break as always. Before the Leighs Construction
guys leave next week, we thought the long weekend would be an ideal time to hold the
annual Scott Base mini golf, this time with a horror theme. This involves people
spending a day to make some props and set up a golf hole in a section of Scott Base,
we did the golf thing with many American visitors last night, then clean up today.
I always seem to have too much on as it is, so instead of exhausting my limited
creativity on a golf hole, I helped a few other people with theirs. One example was
writing a bit of computer software which would play a random scary sound when a
golf ball was sunk into a hole.
The place is still a bit of a mess this morning. I'm off to practice some music
soon with the Americans at McMurdo Station, so I'd better type quickly....
Karl made a scary clown face golf hole using some waste foam from the Field Centre
construction project and some epoxy resin.
Jason's Workshop Massacre golf hole proved to be popular. Nice use of some old
overalls from the rag bin.
Grubb's golf hole, called "Clowns and Rabbits" featured just that. Despite the simple
course, the detailed artwork made up for it. He used a video projector to help sketch
the base image onto some old wooden crate sides, then painted them up.
I don't dress up very often, but I felt obliged to make some kind of an effort for the
Americans' Easter party last Saturday night. I found a Santa costume and some rabbit ears,
hence Santa Bunny was born.
Anthony Powell captured this faint aurora on camera at 2AM on Thursday.
Becky stole my chair at Base Meeting. I'm getting quite fat again, which made her
I did a few jobs out and about this week, including checking the fibre and power cables
on the way to the Satellite Station. You can see them going around the side of the
hill, left of centre.
Since a passing iceberg damaged the old NIWA tide gauge support (left), Andy made a new
one (right), meaning that the tide gauge
is nearly back in action again.
Scooter refuelled the 'Square Frame' recreational hut during the week. Despite the diesel
heater running on near maximum, it's still below zero degrees inside at present. Perhaps
time to have something with insulation that works at -30C?