25/11/12: Spent a majority of the week doing five-minute
jobs that turn into three-day jobs. You know the ones, where someone asks you
to do something quick and easy such as running a couple of new cables. Then when
you get into the job, you find a big mess of wires that desperately needs a tidy
up. And another big bunch of wires that doesn't seem to do anything and no-one
seems to know about and also aren't documented anywhere. So you end up spending
days just sorting it all out.
But that's OK. We have a few interesting (in a good way) visitors at Scott
base at present. We have Mark Binns, the CEO from Meridian Energy NZ. They own
the Ross Island wind farm. Due to the great success of the wind farm, the
Americans are keen to have more wind generators installed, so Mark has been having
meetings with them to try and put together a few longer term plans.
We're also lucky enough to have Don McGlashan
here as part of the invited artists programme. He's been the front man behind NZ
bands such as The Muttonbirds, Blam Blam Blam, The Front Lawn and more recently,
I repaired a problem with Don's guitar pickup before he was due to perform at
McMurdo Station. He's also putting on a small concert for us in the Scott Base
bar tomorrow evening.
Many people have been getting out recently to enjoy the blue skies and warm
temperatures. We've had a number of daily highs of 0 degrees C this week.
The Americans have set up their fuel line from the 2 million gallon fuel
storage tanks over the sea ice to the airfield. There are a number of
road crossings for vehicles to cross over the line without damaging it
and creating an environmental disaster. The sign above is of the Kiwi
fuel crossing close to Scott Base. Some of the Americans have a good
sense of humour.
A few of our base staff were out at Cape Bird recently at the northern tip of
Ross Island to open the small accommodation building there for summer science
event staff. Thanks to Joe K for these photos.
There have also been regular Sunday trips to the historic huts which have been
popular with base staff and visitors alike. The huts are preserved in the
condition of how they were left by Captains Scott and Shackleton. The photo
above is of a table in Scott's hut. What's for dinner tonight Captain? Why
it's penguin surprise of course!
Another photo from the large adelie penguin colony at Cape Bird. Look away
kiddies, I've got some bad news about Happy Feet...
18/11/12: I'm sitting here trying to recall what I've done all
week. It's been quite a bit, but one of those weeks where of the days blur into
each other. There was something about chasing a whole heap of radio frequency
interference issues, both with our network, plus I was helping the Americans
with similar issues on their side of things. The problem is that no-one seems to
be looking after radio frequency allocations since the new USAP contractor, Lockheed
Martin, have allegedly made staff cut backs. The radio frequency allocations here
were usually quite ad-hoc and poorly planned, but at least there was some degree of
management. Now it seems to be radio spectrum open season and there are hundreds
of new scientists down here (mainly with the American program) who have all sorts
of things transmitting over all sorts of frequencies at random. So unsurprisingly,
this has created many headaches for 2-way radio networks. Oh well, keeps me busy
(or busier) I guess.
On the plus side, the welcome summer season is blessing us with mostly blue sky
sunny days and warm temperatures. It got up to -6C during the week and I've not
seen it drop below -20C for quite some time. Many of the dirt roads are beginning
to thaw of surface ice and there is already a lot of water pooling. Won't be long
before most of the ground ice melts, leaving us with rivers of water and mud for
a month or so, then it gets dry and dusty.
Our communications operators publish a regular in-house magazine which is filled
mostly with tongue-in-cheek humour, photo competitions and snippets of information.
They've been running short of content, so someone suggested that I submit one of my
ranty Emails. I dug out one I'd written a year ago and they seemed happy enough.
It's on page 2 of the magazine
if anyone is keen for a read.
Why not start with a nice scenery shot of a Pisten Bully 100 on one of the sea
ice roads on the ice shelf not far from Scott Base.
The Americans kindly ran an airport open day for McMurdo and Scott Base people.
You could fully explore the planes inside and out, the whole day was well received.
The photo here is of a C-17 Globemaster, the main workhorse between Christchurch
and McMurdo airport. Thanks to Ray C for these aircraft photos.
The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) own several of these C-130 Hercules
fitted with skis. It has the ability to transport large amounts of cargo and
land on soft snow.
A Basler BT-67 aircraft, which are built from a retrofitted DC-3 airframe. They
are used to transport up to 6 tonnes of cargo large distances, up to 3400km.
Enough to fly from McMurdo Station to the South Pole and back without refuelling.
They're owned by Kenn Borek air and are flown in each season from Canada.
11/11/12: On the social side of things, it's been a fairly fun
week. Strangely enough, the Melbourne Cup annual horse race is yet another of those
events where everyone breaks out into costumes. We held a race horse sweepstake as
I'm sure nearly every workplace around NZ and Australia does. We have a small group
of scientists from Belgium on station who decided to treat the whole base to a Belgian
food evening; they took over the kitchen to prepare an appealing range of their
speciality dishes. Then on Saturday night at the end of the working week, we had a
bar-be-que outside the vehicle workshop. It was delicious, but you had to drink the
beer quickly before it froze in your hand.
Aside from that, work has been busy without being hectic. Quite a welcome change
from this time in 2010. Everything including fixing two-way radio installations in
Hagglunds, repairing GPS units, providing training on how to use HF radio and RADAR,
issuing field communications equipment to science events deploying to the field and
repairing photospectrometers and other scientific instruments. All part of a regular
Many of the Scott Base staff are participating in Movember, the idea of growing a
moustache over November in order to raise money for a cancer research charity.
Unfortunately my previous efforts consist of this embarrassing bum fluff crossed with
wannabe Hitler kind of thing. Doesn't really work.
Today (Sunday) is Veterans Day/Remembrance Day where the many local New Zealand and
American armed forces gather in a ceremony to reflect on their comrades who have
died in the line of duty. This memorial is held annually since the end of World
War 1 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I'm sure that those many
fallen war heroes would have appreciated the punctual binary-like nature of this time
and date. There sure are a lot of ones in this specific time of commemoration.
Though as we all know, decimal 11 is 1011 in binary or 0x0B in hexadecimal. It shows
that I've been writing computer software for far too long. It's also that time of
year where all of our communications operators, who are from the NZ Armed Forces,
attend the ceremony at McMurdo Station. So I'm filling in for their job of answering
the phone and radio plus calling out Search 'n' Rescue when people aren't back by
their sign-in times. In general it's quite a boring job, hence I'm passing the time
by sitting here typing countless pages of pure waffle.
I've received a few requests for more photos of penguins, so here's one taken last
week by Chelsea on a recent trip somewhere over the sea ice.
However, while penguins are annoying and lack intelligence
[Fact: there was a scientific study that concluded that penguins may be as
intelligent as some humans, although I've seen first hand that lumps of ice can
also be as intelligent as some humans]; I do love the many landscapes such as this
view from Castle Rock, photo by Richie H.
The Belgium scientists made a great job of preparing some of their many national
speciality dishes. This formal dining began with an appetiser of creamed tuna
fish and mayonnaise topped with peaches. Definitely an interesting combination.
After the delicious Belgium dinner was consumed, it was straight to the Scott Base
bar to view the Melbourne Cup horse race and see who won the sweepstake. As always,
my random selection was only a second rate race horse, but the first to be loaded
into the pet food factory truck.
While doing a job in one of our wet labs, the scientists were keen to show me the
many fish experiments they had running. This one is the fish treadmill where they
can control the temperature and flow of water to measure the effects on the fish.
We also have a science event who are diving into the ocean below the sea ice to
collect samples. They melt a hole through the sea ice, 1-2m thick, and then
place a small portable hut over the hole that has a hatch in the floor. It's
very common for Weddell seals to emerge from these dive holes for air.
04/11/12: Following the installation of the last few radio
repeater sites for the summer, the workload has now eased to a more manageable level.
A few of the larger science events deployed into the field this week, relieving
pressure on many of the other engineering staff. The ever expanding to-do list
is still somewhat on the chunky side; there's never a shortage of things to be
At least we had great weather for the installation work of the three Dry Valleys
radio sites this week. Couldn't have gone smoother with everything going right
first time, plus we got to see a few nice sites on the way from the helicopter
and various mountain tops.
The approach to Mt Newall from the air. Our Antarctica NZ site is the small green
building on the right hand side. The large white building in the centre belongs to
the Americans. There is a wind generator on the tall tower for the American's
equipment, although the large diameter shaft had broken off in the high winds
over winter, which is why you may notice that the blades are missing.
The eastward view from the helicopter window down one of the many valleys on the
Antarctica mainland, approximately 80km from Scott Base across McMurdo Sound.
Time to deal to a few loose antennas on top of the tower at Mt Cerberus.
We stopped off at the American's refuelling depot at Marble Point on the way back home.
Was a nice day, so made the most of the sunshine and warm temperatures. Their chief
engineer gave me a personal tour of their small base which is permanently manned
during the summer.
Flying home from Marble Point, we spotted a large iceberg trapped in the McMurdo
Sound sea ice. The helicopter pilot gave us a quick flying tour of the berg and
explained it was a remainder of the giant B15
iceberg; the worlds largest recorded iceberg which broke away from the Ross Ice
Shelf in March 2000.
Mt Erebus with the helicopter leaving the Scott Base helicopter pad (foreground).
The Americans have a surplus microwave antenna radome that looks surprisingly similar
to the Amiga boing ball logo. I could make the worlds best most southern Amiga themed
giant bowling alley.
Our chef Damian just makes the best food! In the photo above he's demonstrating
the tantalisingly delicious wonders of pork crackle.