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:
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My 'possum in the headlights' impression while working at the Satellite Earth