On the 30th of August 2010 I began a new role of telecommunications technician for Scott Base,
Antarctica NZ, Telecom NZ and Downer Engineering.
It began with a tightly packed four weeks of a variety of training before flying south
to the ice on the 30th of September. The contract length of the position is
around 13 months, hence it is known as 'wintering over'.
Below is a blog of progress and interesting events along the way, oldest at the bottom and
most current at the top. Note that these are my own personal views and experiences which may
not reflect the views of Antarctica NZ, Telecom NZ or Downer Engineering.
Diaries from the 2012-2013,
2016 seasons are also available.
Select month to view:
27/3/11: Almost another month gone already. With so much to
do, the days are flying past surprisingly quickly. The days are steadily getting
shorter, now completely dark outside by 11:30PM but there are some fantastic sunrises
and sunsets to see. The sea ice that broke out at the front of Scott Base has now
re-frozen, 500mm thick in places already. Aside from that, bugger all interesting
stuff to note this week.
The wind farm had a record month, producing over 300MW-hours. Each turbine can produce
a maximum of 330kW, the total output being around 1MW. Here's a photo I took a few weeks
ago while on a job.
Lots of air ducting being replaced in the administration area at present. The
ceiling of my workshop is in lots of pieces.
And we had Colonel Gaddafi call in for dinner this evening. He looked surprisingly
similar to our chef, Lance, with a moustache drawn on with green pen.
20/3/11: Day time temperatures are getting somewhat nippy.
Between -20C and -30C most of the time, the week's high was -16C. Throw
in 20 knots of wind for a windchill factor of around -45C, brrrr! It's steadily
getting darker in the evenings now. At the moment it's around 12 hours
each of daylight and darkness, the hours of daylight getting shorter with each
Nothing significant to mention from the week. Lots of project work underway
which everyone seems to getting stuck into with plenty of enthusiasm. I spent
a majority of the week writing technical documentation and updating copper
cable records. The fact that little or none of the technical documentation has
been kept up to date in the last 4-5 years does not make the job any easier.
You can't trust any of the records when doing a fault finding job, so in order
to get things current, you need to spend a lot of time investigating what
literally thousands of copper pairs are connected to and updating records
accordingly. It's extremely time consuming.
On the plus side, I think I managed to take my very first photo which wasn't
a complete failure. The sunset above was taken at 9:30PM last Tuesday out the
door of my workshop. I'm chalking up my success to the million monkeys with a
million camera theory; eventually you're bound to get something usable.
Meanwhile, Lance, our chef, has a pet hydroponics project underway. He purchased
"Budzilla" at the end of the summer season and is currently growing lettuce, chives,
oregano and tomatoes.
Various whiteboards around the base which carried important notes and messages
during the summer now feature quirky and amusing comments and sketches. The photo
above of the dining room whiteboard with a reference to Rob McPhail (see
18/1/11), the Helicopters NZ pilot who
worked here over summer.
13/3/11: With only 14 of us on station, there's much less
activity and excitement than during summer, so far less interesting things to
report. This weekend was our first two-day weekend, Saturday and Sunday off.
Naturally I couldn't resist getting my teeth into another one of my planned
projects instead of sitting around doing bugger all; this time a rack-mounted
hold music player for our telephone network. These are productive times for
all of Scott Base however, many winter projects are in full swing. At the
moment we have an air handler (large fan + heater unit) and switchboard
upgrade in progress.
Our water engineer, Steve Williams, is much more into photography than I am. And
unlike me, he actually knows how to use a camera. He takes some pretty stunning
pictures, such as the one above of sea ice in the mist.
Another project on the go; a new unit that generates music for callers on hold.
Should have it finished and in service today.
A temporary air handler running in the main corridor to keep the building warm while
the main air handler is replaced with a more efficient modern unit. For some reason
there is a picture of ET (the alien) stuck to the plastic duct (centre).
11/3/11: Last week's fibre optic cable inspection
between Scott Base at the Satellite Earth Station revealed that a snow drift was
pulling on the 25-pair copper cable that carries telephone and data between Scott
Base and Arrival Heights. The cable was stretched extremely tight to the point
that damage would have been likely, so a dig out was in order.
Here's Victoria giving me a hand to carefully dig out the cables, which includes
the 3000V power cable to the Satellite Station and the fibre optic cables. The
25-pair copper is the thin one by itself which looks as though it's about to snap.
6/3/11: Yesterday we watched the final flight of the summer season
depart and celebrated the occasion with a sparkling wine toast. That's it, no transport
in or out until at least August. Good, finally some peace and quiet!
Fantastic weather today, Sunday. Ideal for a routine inspection of the fibre optic cable
route plus a few interesting photos along the way.
Yet another shot of Scott Base, note the open ocean which tonight has a thin crust of
ice forming over it already. The horizontal white line in the sea ice is the road to
the Pegasus airfield. Due to further ice breakout over the last few days, the road is
A windswept snow drift on the way to the Satellite Earth Station, Mt Erebus in the
4/3/11: The excitement of last week has calmed down at last.
Things are beginning to resemble a somewhat more calm and collected state, so this
week has been great for productivity. It's also starting to get dark at nights.
Not complete darkness in the small hours yet, though not far from it.
Many penguins and seals about locally following the ice breakout.