28/6/2015: If you're after exciting work stories,
you've come to the wrong place. I've spent the vast majority of the
week terminating hundreds of copper cable pairs for the Field Centre
rebuild. A new 100-pair telephone cable will carry new telephone
extensions, public address speaker circuits and other services. All
of this involves much background work which nobody ever sees or cares
about. Including lots of labelling, cable records documentation and
The next event on the calendar is the Americans' 4th of July
celebrations next weekend. This is a massive event for them and they
have three days of different social activities planned, including a
chili cook-off, carnival, probably a dance party at some point,
horse shoe tournament, burrito bar and more. Everyone from Scott
Base has an open invite, so it's fun to have so many interesting
things to see and do for a change. They had some live music planned
as well, but the main guy in their band ended up with a major
thumb injury this week, so they had to come up with some last minute
change in musicians. I'm not doing much music at all this winter,
which is a change to previous years. There just doesn't seem to be
many willing musicians about this year, either at Scott Base or
One of the many cable termination jobs this week was in the new cable
termination cabinet in the Field Centre. Fortunately the project
electrician, Geoff, is handling all of the CAT6 data cabling (the blue
stuff), of which he's making an excellent job, I've been working on
AT&T 110 distribution frame (right) which carries telephone and public
Meanwhile, the Antarctica NZ IT department have been struggling since
October last year to mount some of their new Ethernet switches. If
you've ordered a switch that happens to be deeper than the wall cabinet
so it doesn't physically fit; no problem! Unbolting the cabinet door
and using a couple of cable ties to permanently secure the switch into
the rack is obviously a tidy and professional solution. Plus the money
saved by not wasting time on routing patch cables tidily can then be
spent on a small piece of blue tape to make a nice hand written
Kate, Darryn and Pip were out in the Hagglund this week to find a
pathway over the sea ice to install a piece of science equipment that
measures the rate of sea ice growth. It's a more complex affair than
picking a random line and driving as the sea ice is thin in places and
certain locations have large stress cracks that form in the same place
each year. Because the ice becomes thin near the cracks, they drill
through the ice to check the thickness to see if it's safe to drive on
with the vehicle.
Many solar flares from the sun this week caused the electromagnetic
emissions from the sun to react with the particles in the Earth's upper
atmosphere, causing many bright auroras which were visible on cloudless
days. I tend to spend all of my time working as opposed to taking aurora
photos, but Molly captured this colourful scene on the road intersection
just north of Scott Base.
21/6/2015: Reaching the June solstice, also
known as the middle of winter, is something of a milestone.
Technically we're a few hours away from this yet; the official
point in time is Monday the 22nd of June at 4:39AM.
The annual Scott Base mid-winter dinner on Friday went well, with
the usual array of fancy food, a few speeches and around 20 guests
from McMurdo Station. I only spent until 10PM cleaning up, so
it wasn't quite as bad as previous years. Despite the clean-up
not lasting quite all night, I was still too exhausted to continue
with the after-party and had an early night. I'm obviously becoming
old and boring.
McMurdo Station had their mid-winter dinner party last night,
though I was on fire crew as usual, so a group of us stayed home at
Scott Base and spent the evening watching a poor quality bootlegged
movie filmed by someone holding a video camera in a Chinese cinema.
The people from Scott Base who did attend the McMurdo function
said there was a great selection of food, as expected.
Also as tradition goes, each of the wintering Antarctic stations
sends mid-winter greetings to each other. A copy of ours, complete
with Friday's menu, can be seen here.
A view of the Scott Base mid-winter dinner in the dining room on
On Thursday, each of us received a personalised letter from The
Captain, dated 1935. Whatever could it contain?! In actual fact,
the letter wasn't actually from The Captain; the fact that I was
born 43 years after 1935 was the first subtle hint.
The letter turned out to be a coffee stained invitation to the
McMurdo mid-winter dinner. Certainly a nice gesture, but as usual,
I was stuck on fire crew that night. The story of my life.
Meanwhile, Molly had been out and about with his camera, taking a
few aurora shots. This one is of the hitching rail at Scott Base
where the Hagglunds vehicles are parked up. No, I'm not sure what's
up with that rusty steel drum in the foreground, it's probably
full of rocks and was once used to hold a sign at some point.
Another of Molly's aurora shots, this one includes the Scott Base
vehicle workshop with the attached linkway for foot traffic to/from
the Hillary Field Centre, out of view to the left.
And another group photo. There's actually a method to the madness
behind these increasingly annoying group shots. This winter is
the first to have an ever-changing group of individuals. With
flights scheduled every six weeks, it allows for a partial change
in crew. In our case, we've got contractors coming and going as
part of the Field Centre renovation project. So the idea is that
the traditional winter-over photo will be a montage of different
group photos from throughout the season as the group changes.
15/6/2015: We're in the countdown to both a
significant milestone and event - the winter solstice, also known as
the shortest day; where there is the least number of daylight hours
per day. Except that we have no daylight at all. But this mid-winter
point means that the average temperature will slowly begin to rise
we'll have sunlight again in only two months. The winter solstice is
this Saturday; the Americans at McMurdo Station mark the event with
an evening of fancy dining and parties. We'll be something much the
same here at Scott Base this Friday, though on a smaller scale.
We have an open invite to the McMurdo mid-winter dinner, which is good,
except for the fact that I'm on fire crew this week. As usual. So
I'll probably end up staying here and seeing a few music videos while
downing a few beers.
There's also a selective invite for some of the Americans to come
here to enjoy the Scott Base mid-winter dinner. We were each allowed
to invite one person - except for some people who got told who
they were 'inviting'. Hmmm, I thought the entire point of World
War 2 was to combat fascism? Obviously not.... Anyway, the point
is that there is only space for 20 American guests, though practically
everyone at McMurdo desperately wants to attend the Scott Base
mid-winter dinner. It's particularly awkward because all these
Americans keep hitting you up with comments such as, "You remember
how we lent you that stuff? Yeah, so where's our invite to the Scott
Base dinner?!" As much as it would be nice to have 140 or so
Americans all crammed into our tiny shoe box sized dining room, it's
really not practical to host them all. So awkward moments with the
Americans are a sure thing at this time of the year.
I often wonder, and have suggested, that it would be nicer to have a
traditional NZ barbeque in the vehicle workshop or something with
plenty of beers, with the point being that it's low key and loads of
people can attend. For reasons unknown, the mid-winter tradition
calls for an extremely elaborate multi-course dinner that the chef
spends literally weeks stressing and preparing everything for. Then
on the actual night, the dinner lasts about 40 minutes, and then you
spend the rest of the night and next day washing dishes. It's all very
stressful and very intense. I'm serious about the barbeque; it takes
little preparation, there's little waste as you just cook stuff on
demand and the clean up afterwards is fairly quick and painless.
So that'll be the highlight of this week I'd say; the mid-winter
all-night dishwashing extravaganza. I can barely contain my
The new walls in the Field Centre internal rebuild project are now
almost complete. The three plaster and paint tradespeople who have
been here a week and a half are well into it. They only have until
early June to finish a lot of work, hence they've been doing extra
hours to try and complete it in time.
What used to be the gymnasium area in the Field Centre is now turned
into a kitchen/meeting room area, still in the process of being
painted. The gym equipment has been moved to a number of different
locations over the last few months so people can still use it. This
is the latest version of the temporary gym before the equipment makes
it into the final location in a room downstairs in the field centre.
This is Geoff, the project electrician for the Field Centre rebuild
project. The new cabinets for the computer servers and cable
termination were installed this week into the new computer server
Some photos from the McMurdo Station Galley last Sunday. Some of
the people at my brunch table included Rex (centre) from the NASA
Ground Station, Bill (right of Rex) who is the McMurdo Station
Manager and Laura (far right) from McMurdo Human Resources.
As promised from last week, here are a few shots of the McMurdo Craft
Fair held last Sunday in the galley. There was a smaller than expected
range of things on display, but some of them included a range of
portrait and watercolour paintings.
And as expected, Alan the McMurdo Fire Chief had a range of his
splendid leather craftwork available for purchase.
Some of my work from the week included repair of the Telecom NZ
International server computers. They started crashing constantly
and became unusable so it didn't take long to trace the issue to
leaking capacitors on the main board. It then involved waiting
several months for the new capacitors to arrive on one of the
Over the last few days I've been working on a new telemetry project
for the Otago University's sea ice probe. The probe measures the
rate of growth of sea ice using a string of thermistors that dangle
2m from the ice surface into the ocean below. A data logger measures
the temperature at different depths every ten minutes and records it
to a memory card. This experiment has been running for a number of
years now and the trouble was that someone had to spend a day driving
to and from the probe every few weeks to download the memory card
data. When they messed up this process, several weeks or months of
data would be lost. I suggested there was an better way of doing this,
so provided the concept of using radio telemetry, which they sent
down the parts for in this last cargo flight. I've just finished
setting up the 900MHz spread spectrum base station radio for Crater
Hill which includes a band-pass filter and RS232/RS422 converter for
sending serial data over the cable network back to Scott Base. Due
to be installed next week with a bit of luck if we get a break in
the weather to walk up Crater Hill.
7/6/2015: The week's highlight is certainly
that the single C17 flight arrived; unlike the April flight
being run by the NZ Defence Force. And it didn't only just arrive,
it was exactly to schedule. Say what you like about the US Air Force,
but they certainly deliver.
So on this flight the two building apprentices, Blake and Peter, left
at the end of their contract and were replaced with three new people;
plastering and painting specialists from Wanaka.
Of course we received a bunch of urgent freight and some truly superb
fresh fruit and vegetables. Though it seems that most of the cargo
flight was filled with personal items; the Americans were jokingly
saying they should re-brand the military flight Amazon.com - which is
supposedly where a majority of the personal cargo was originating
from. Was much the same at our end, which included many bottles of
fancy whisky and even a bicycle! Obviously the global Email from
Christchurch management saying that "this flight is for extremely
urgent cargo only!" actually meant the opposite of that. Damn, if
I'd known that, I would probably have arranged some beer deliveries
The other good news is that it's a 2-day weekend, which couldn't have
come at a better time. In the typical trend of Scott Base winters,
everyone is nearly burnt out after working long 6-day weeks.
Right, I'm off to the McMurdo Station craft fair this morning. Not
sure what'll be there, but many of the Americans have a lot of lesser
known talent in art and crafts. I'll get a few photos to share with
you next week.
All the photos this week are from Becky, who actually enjoys photography,
unlike me. This shot is out at the Pegasus Airfield on Wednesday shortly
after the C17 landed just after 5PM.
One of many American cargo trucks transporting cargo to and from the
Pegasus Airfield on Wednesday.
We've had a few mostly pathetic auroras lately; Becky has used long
exposure photography techniques to make them appear much more vivid
than they actually are in real life. Perhaps these photos would be
better titled "here's nothing what auroras actually look like in
Another aurora photo from Becky, the sea ice pressure ridges in front
of Scott Base is illuminated by the electric lighting from Scott
Here's what it looks like driving down one of the roads in the
middle of McMurdo Station in the middle of a typical windy