30/12/12: Into the last two remaining days of
2012 and we're fortunate enough to have three days off work. There
has been a delay in visiting science staff departing as the ice runway
is too soft to land wheeled aircraft. We've had daily temperatures
upwards of +5 degrees Celsius, so I'm hardly surprised the ice shelf
is turning to slush. So for now, they're using Hercules aircraft
fitted with skis to use the runway.
A late flight last night and another that left this morning has
returned passenger movements to just about normal. Not many visitors
on base just now. About half of the Scott Base staff are away on an
overnight camping trip to Black Island, leaving a few of us skeleton
staff here who are stuck on fire crew.
McMurdo Station is holding their annual Ice Stock outdoor live music
party that runs from 4PM on new year's eve to 1AM on new year's day.
Looking forward to that as there's always a great range of music.
Other than that, it's just three days off work. The people still
here on base tend to relax by reading, watching movies and going for
local walks if they're not stuck on fire crew. I'll probably work on
some guitar music over the next few days.
Mt Erebus on a nice day with the ice road heading north to the ski
field (not visible, in the centre of the photo) and various other
destinations, including the Pegasus airfield.
Speaking of the ski field, it opened on Christmas day. The snow was
soft and fun. Coupled with beautiful shorts and T-shirt weather it
was a really enjoyable morning out.
A photo from the base of the ski field, with a large number of
Hagglunds for some reason. The rope tow is about 300m long with
an elevation of some 90m. It's powered by a three phase generator
(orange box on the sled) that drives an electric motor in the tow
container (left hand green container).
They ran the annual summer polar plunge yesterday, which
involves several people spending several days cutting a hole in the
sea ice and installing a ladder. Then the participants climb down
the ladder into the -1.8C water for a few seconds then get out. Not
really my cup of tea, I went and found something more productive to
It looks as though the Americans have made good progress on their
new ice pier, which is the large rectangular brown thing in the
centre of the photo. It's a large chunk of floating ice, 5-10m
thick that the fuels re-supply ship and container ship moor to when
they arrive in February.
I've had a few jobs up Crater Hill recently at our local radio
communications site, mainly improvements and tidy-ups. Here's
the view from the top at 300m. White Island is visible in the
distance, the wind farm in the foreground and Scott Base just
visible on the far left.
24/12/12: Christmas Eve as I write this, we're
into day one of our two-day holiday. We celebrated with a delicious
Christmas lunch yesterday followed by the annual Secret Santa. A few
weeks before hand, everyone drew a name at random then had to make
some kind of gift for under $20. It was actually a lot of fun and
it was surprising how much effort and good ideas went into the secret
The annual Scott Base skirt party was also held last Saturday night.
Decided to give it a miss this year, too many transvestites for my
liking! Looking through the many embarrassing photos from the night,
it was probably a wise decision to relax with a few other homophobes
and spend the night with some great music videos instead.
Yesterday's Christmas lunch was truly a marvel to behold. We were
spoilt with a fine selection of baked ham, salmon, new potatoes,
Cesar salad and a wide range of deserts.
After the dinner, Santa made a surprise visit. In actual fact the real
Santa couldn't make it because he didn't have a permit to enter the area
and for some reason the reindeer don't like the climate of Antarctica
even though they're quite at home at the North Pole in the Arctic.
Somehow they convinced me to play the part of Santa, which I tried to
explain would be a bad thing as I'd say sarcastic and generally
inappropriate things. Although that's what they wanted, so it all
turned out especially well thanks to the help of my two lovely elves.
My elf was kind enough to point out that Santa wasn't able to see due to
some critical beard issues. Santa is clearly in need of another roll of
purple low-tack masking tape.
Someone even made a Secret Santa gift for dear old Santa. However did
they know of my passions for dark beer and pork crackle? Genius!
Sniks make such a fine product, they deserve some free advertising.
Buy a pack from New World or any other good retailer near you today.
The least said about the annual skirt party, the better. This is one
of the many horrific photos I saw; the decision to instead relax over
a few choice music videos was the better choice.
And we even managed to get everyone together in one place for long enough
for a summer staff photo. I'm on the right hand side in the blue shirt.
None of that conformist zipped-up jacket nonsense for me.
16/12/12: We're rapidly approaching that point
where a lot of people are starting to mentally check out for the year.
With the approach of Christmas and the 2-day holiday, some people seem
to struggle to pull together a full day of work, or make an especially
half-arsed job at best. The same thing happens every year, so from
experience it'll get even worse towards Christmas, everyone will be OK
for a few weeks after New Years then will rapidly begin to check out
towards the end of the January. Most of the summer staff will leave
late February, so many of them have only two months left here.
Day-to-day work in the communications department that I look after is
much quieter than last year, which is a good thing as I can work on
planning and design for winter projects. I've still got a couple of
months to organise most of what I need for winter.
With the warm summer temperatures as high as +4C some days, the sea
ice at the front of Scott Base is getting pretty slushy with many melt
pools of water forming. The seals love it. Thanks to Ray for the
During the week, the Americans helped us out with their crane and loader
for the installation of a new waste water processing machine. At present
the waste water processing plant uses a centrifuge to remove suspended
solids in the waste water. Solids extracted are returned to NZ and the
treated water is returned to the ocean. This new machine performs
filtering and bagging and will replace the troublesome centrifuge.
During the week, Ray had another trip to the hut at Cape Bird to
investigate a problem they'd been having. The remote hut is solar powered
with a 24V DC system that runs a 230V AC inverter. A smaller separate 12V
system supplies the communications equipment. Turns out that sometime last
year, someone had installed a new diesel heater with a 12V fan, but the
constant load of the fan was many times more than the solar charging capacity,
hence the batteries would go flat and they'd have no communications out there.
9/12/12: A bulk of my week has been spent tidying
network things up from Tuesday night. The satellite bearer from Scott Base
that carries all telephone and data traffic received an upgrade from
1024kbit/sec to 1536kb/sec in order to transport live video for TV coverage
of the Prime Minister's visit to Scott Base in early 2013. The upgrade work
sounded simple enough, but the network is complex in that there are multiple
data streams that run through many different bits of equipment at both Scott
Base and around New Zealand. There was a lot of reconfiguration required by
many different people. In the process, a few different teams made the most
of the network downtime to change out a few other bits of equipment. To cut
a long story short, there ended up being five new problems, including some
faulty equipment. So at long last we've finally narrowed down all of the
issues and I'm no longer getting interrupted by base staff complaining that
their telephone calls keep dropping.
Ever see that ad on TV in New Zealand where they had some guy telling some
extremely boring story from work and the ad ended with "Join the NZ Police
and get some real work stories". Yeah, sounds like my week, sorry for the
boring work story.
Just noticed that it's barely two weeks to go until Christmas. Really must
finish that Christmas shopping. Not that it's a big effort. I've got one
shop to choose from and it involves less than 10 seconds walking to get
Meanwhile, temperatures continue to soar as we roll towards the middle of
summer. We peaked at +4 degrees C this week. It's Beautiful working
outside these days.
I've been mostly stuck inside for ages, so it was time to find an outside
job to make the most of the nice weather during the week; a routine
inspection of the fibre optic and power cable to our satellite station.
The photo above is the view west from our satellite station to the
Antarctic mainland some 50km away.
Also did a bit of planning work for next month at the American's
"Building 70" communications building, the wind farm visible in the
background. Yeah, if you think it's messy on the outside, wait until you
see inside... No I'm not going to show it as there might be little kids
looking at this and I don't want to mentally scar them for life. In case
you're wondering, the Americans leave the outside light on even though we
have 24hr daylight just in case we have a surprise solar eclipse. I guess
you never know when those sneaky buggers will creep up!
Here's Molly waving at me from one of the wind turbines. Or is he flipping
me off? Hard to tell when he's got gloves on.
A surprising political hot potato of the month has been the Scott Base
sign, see here about three quarters
of the way down the page. The short version is that there's an
organisation called CCAMLR which is made up of various nations and
they're trying to prevent commercial fishing in the Ross Sea.
This failed last week
when Russia and China refused to sign the agreement against commercial
fishing here. So by coincidence or not, the Russians decided to have
a "random inspection" of Ross Island, as they're allowed to do as per
the Antarctic Treaty. They protested that the sign needs to be taken
down as it incorrectly states Scott Base as being the capital of Ross
Island. So the photo above is all that's left of the Scott Base sign.
I'm sure visitors will be equally as attracted by the "Danger: high
voltage cable below" sign. Or not.
While on the subject of sign chaos, the main Scott Base sign seemingly no
longer cuts the mustard either. As part of the Prime Minister's visit,
a new sign that reflects the Maori culture of Scott Base will replace the
existing sign of many years and a large totem pole type of carving will
be installed. The photo above is of Joe trying to dig a hole through
frozen ground to prepare for the new totem pole thingy.
2/12/12: With the departure of singer/songwriter Don
McGlashan from The Muttonbirds on Friday along with some of the longer
term science events people who have been here since September, the base is
temporarily emptying out slightly in a sad kind of way. A few of the Antarctica
NZ management staff are having a bit of a swap around between Christchurch and
Scott Base. Partially so everyone has a bit of work rotation and a change of
scenery. I always wonder how they work out who is going to spend Christmas here
at Scott Base. In many ways it's really nice as you have a couple of days off
work and there's none of that annoying commercial advertising overload that you
have in the real world. On a downside, the separation is somewhat harder for
those with families back home in NZ. We're having Monday the 24th and Tuesday
the 25th off work, so that'll be nice. One of the few public holidays observed
My highlight of the week, second to Don McGlashan's mini-concert in the bar
was a walk around the pressure ridges on evening on a warm and windless night.
The third highlight of the week was a live telephone interview on our radio
station with musician Tony Hill of a Christchurch band, The Triphonics.
They kindly sent me some new music from their upcoming album release for our
After the pressure ridges walk, I went on a random photo mission. The one
above is of a Pisten Bully 100 belonging to some Americans who were visiting
Here are our two electricians, Molly (left) and Ray whom I spotted walking
down the main corridor.
One of my after work projects has been doing something about my lack of guitar
amplifier situation. I resurrected and rebuilt an old public address system
amplifier from the rubbish bin which is now a multi-channel amplifier for our
Unusual wildlife photo of the week: Americans in the pressure ridges. They're
only allowed to visit the ridges on specially guided tour groups while Scott
Base people can visit them anytime. It was a beautiful shorts and T-shirt
evening of -5 degrees C, yet the Americans still wore their extreme weather