Amiga Technical Resource

Working in Antarctica

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, 2014-2015 and 2016 seasons are also available.

Select month to view:
October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011

Anthony-ScottBase-small.jpg (10124 bytes)
May 2011
  • 23/5/11: Now that there's completely no light outside, apart from the occasional full moon on cloudless days, there's even less interesting things to write about. Photos taken outside no longer cut the mustard, unless you enjoy looking at black rectangles. You'd expect the lack of daylight to be depressing, though it's not too bad considering 99% of my work is inside anyhow. Unless you look out the window, you barely even notice it's pitch black at mid day.

    On the positive side, there's always plenty going on within Scott Base. Practically all of it is work related, so it may or may not be interesting. Too bad, here it is anyway...

    Skidoos_workshop.jpg (111395 bytes)
    The floor of our vehicle maintenance workshop is littered with Skidoos at the moment. We have about 15 of them in total. The winter works programme involves a thorough service of every vehicle on station, which range from Caterpillar bulldozers, to Toyota Landcruisers, to Skidoos.

    Skidoo_service.jpg (100379 bytes)
    Our vehicle mechanic, Grant, does an amazing job with the Skidoos, plus everything else vehicle related. And yes, the workshop is always this tidy. I just walked in during lunchtime trying to find interesting things to photograph. Grant's attention to detail never fails to impress.

    Reverse_osmosis.jpg (80956 bytes)
    Scott Base reverse osmosis plant. It produces all of our fresh water for drinking, washing and cleaning; in total we use around 1800 litres per day between 15 people. In simple terms, it works by taking in salt water from the ocean and forcing it under very high pressure through a series of fine filters. The two large light brown cylinders in the centre are the low pressure pre-filters which take out the larger impurities. The five white vertical tubes on the right are the high pressure final filters.

    Main_boilers.jpg (93690 bytes)
    The two boilers in the main power house. Practically all of our electricity is produced by the wind farm, though all heating is done using diesel. The boilers pictured above circulate hot water at 55 degrees C through Scott Base which is then used for air heating and domestic hot water heating.

    Generators1-2.jpg (94341 bytes)
    Two of the three 200kW diesel generators on station. They are seldom used as most of our power comes from the wind farm. During periods of low wind, we use electricity produced by McMurdo station. The typical Scott Base load is around 100kW while the larger McMurdo station is typically 1500kW. While these diesel engines are running, the boilers (2nd above) shut off and heat from the engines is used to heat Scott Base to maximise the use of the fuel.

  • 7/5/11: A long awaited long weekend. The first Saturday in every month is a rest day, else it's 6-day working weeks. Lots of productivity in our engineering department, though little else of great interest.

    Aurora_7-5-11.jpg (34426 bytes)
    Some nice auroras seen outside at 2AM during outside equipment and building checks. These are a naturally occuring green light pattern in the sky caused by the collision of charged atmospheric particles in the ionosphere and are only visible near the Earth's polar regions.

    DuckSeason.jpg (50077 bytes)
    Also the first day of the annual duck hunting season in New Zealand. Our own version of this included cardboard cutout ducks, pretend guns and a camouflage tent. Still a bit of light about at 11:30AM.

  • 1/5/11: First day of the month. Chilliest I've seen it outside at -40 degrees C this morning. Last night one of the guys threw a cup of water into the outside air which instantly froze with an eerie shimmering sound as it blew away in the form of fine ice crystals. One of those things that's hard to believe until you experience it first hand.

    SES_sunset_28-4-11.jpg (53679 bytes)
    Satellite Earth Station in the fading light at 1PM a couple of days ago. I was using the last of the daylight to polish off a few outside jobs that popped up.

    Crater_Hill_crater.jpg (54419 bytes)
    The remaining outside jobs included a stroll up to the Crater Hill radio site after lunch. Here's a photo of the Crater Hill crater, presumably it used to be a volcano. Mt Erebus, which is an active volcano, clearly visible top centre in the background.

    CRH_temperature_sender.jpg (61848 bytes)
    One of the Crater Hill jobs included installation of the newly constructed remote temperature monitoring unit, plus one of the same units at the Satellite Earth Station. From Scott Base, the indoor and outdoor temperatures at these two sites can now be monitored, logged and alarms raised if indoor temperatures fall too low as as result of a heating failure or other issues.

    Anthony_SES_28-4-11.jpg (73153 bytes)
    My 'possum in the headlights' impression while working at the Satellite Earth Station.