29/9/2013: Following the final preparations
for the new summer crew arriving on Thursday, it's a sure sign
that our season is nearly at an end. I can't say that I'm
looking forward to the inevitable interruptions to our peace
and quiet. By this time next week we'll have gone from 12
people on station to over 50; providing the weather remains
calm and all of the flights proceed as scheduled. Even the
experts seem to be unable to accurately predict the weather at
the best of times, so who knows. September is often very cold
and windy, while it's been relatively mild to date.
They also had the final party of winter last night at the
McMurdo Carpenter's workshop. My band performed a set of live
music which had a few initial issues of the sound mixing being
all messed up and the battery in our fiddle player's amplifier
going flat in mid-performance. Went fine after some emergency
battery replacements. Top tip of the day is always fit fresh
batteries prior to a live performance.
It had been a while since I'd inspected the fibre optic and
power cable route between Scott Base and the satellite station.
These cables are elevated out of the moving snow and ice pack on
metal stands to minimise damage to the cable. The weather
forecast for Friday was light winds, so an ideal time to do the
job. But on top of the hill it was gusting to 40 knots. Never
trust the forecast.
The Satellite Earth Station is the ball-shaped radome visible
on the hill above the ice pool in the foreground.
Last weekend we moved out of our staff accommodation bedrooms
where we'd been for the last 12 months and into the 'Q-Hut'
science events accommodation area. These rooms are 3-4 times
bigger than the staff accommodation rooms and can accommodate
5-6 people each. Bad news if you have a snorer, which usually
Two years ago the bar had purchased many cases of apple cider.
Unfortunately it was not a popular selling product, so they
were just going to chuck it out. Fortunately the culture of
recycling and sustainability is very much a part of Scott Base
life, so not wanting to create unnecessary waste; we invited
the Americans to a 'flippy cup' tournament. This is a silly
drinking game which involves drinking cider from paper cups,
placing the empty cup on the edge of the table and flipping
it with your finger so that it lands upside-down on the table.
At the end of the night everyone was a winner thanks to this
creative recycling scheme.
For reasons unknown, I've included a photo of travelling down
the road to Scott Base. The American 'fleet ops' department
make a superb job of keeping the roads smooth and level while
removing sections of hard slippery ice.
22/9/2013: More of the same old thing
of finalising various jobs this week. Would be nice to leave
the new guys with something other than a confusing mess.
The weather people had some interesting facts to share; if our
present September daily average temperature continues the trend
of -19C, we'll have the warmest September on record. September
is generally very cold and windy, though we're enjoying
temperatures above minus 8C at times and there have been
comparatively few days of strong winds. Yesterday also marked
the point where we have more daylight hours than dark hours,
with sunrise at 6:46AM and setting at 6:51PM. The final sunset
is three weeks away, 1:06AM on the 23rd of October, after which
it'll be 24 hour daylight for the duration of the summer
The final 'winter' party of the season is scheduled for next
Saturday evening at the McMurdo Carpenter's Workshop. The
Americans usually run this popular 'Carp Shop Party' event in
either August or September, which essentially consists of live
music and beer; sometimes with an art and crafts show
beforehand. This will also be the final gig for our band, so
we're working on a few new songs at present which we hope to
be ready for next Saturday. It's only around three weeks until
various winter people begin leaving the ice.
Last night we were invited to the "Boss Hog barbecue" at the
McMurdo Firehouse; world famous on Ross Island. For some reason
I didn't take any photos of the most delicious steaks I've ever
dined on, but here's a picture of the fire truck inside the
Firehouse. It's kept warm inside and ready to go at short
notice. The Americans have a dedicated fire crew who perform
a 24 hour watch. Apparently they've attended nine minor station
fires this season, including a clothes dryer fire and ceiling
fire caused by a faulty electric light fitting.
"Quick, someone call me an ambulance!" "OK, you're an
In case you're still mystified, this is Boss Hog; and he sure
knows how to barbeque a good steak. His last name is Hogberg
and he's the fire chief/boss, hence the name. I did ask if
they had a Bo Duke or Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane working there.
He didn't seem nearly as amused as I was.
The wind farm continues to do its thing of producing up to 1MW
of electricity. One of the turbines has been plagued with
issues this winter, requiring Molly, the Scott Base electrician,
to spend a considerable amount of time to keep it operating.
The U-shaped kink in the steel fuel line at the bottom of the
photo is for thermal expansion/contraction strain relief. This
pipeline carries fuel from the McMurdo bulk fuel store and after
transitioning to flexible hose, carries fuel to aircraft at the
Pegasus Airfield and William's Airfield.
15/9/2013: With only three weeks until
the influx of main body arriving in the first week of October,
the focus has been on sorting out what I won't have time to
complete and write up enough detailed documentation so that
the next guy doing my job can easily pick up from where I left
off from various projects. It feels quite underwhelming to
have spent so much time and dedication throughout the week
and all I've got to show for my efforts are some sets of
schematic sheets, diagrams and notes. There's an idea,
perhaps I'll just order a heap of expensive random components
that don't relate to anything and not do any documentation at
all. Oh wait, that's what they did last winter. Yes, being
stuck here for a year is guaranteed to make you more cynical
Perhaps my other crowning achievement for the week was
dominating the sewing machine of terror. Let's face facts;
most people have no idea how to do clothing repairs more
advanced than using a staple gun and a half-arsed job with a
needle and thread while pretending you know what you're doing.
Without a doubt, I am part of this majority. So all winter
I've been saving up my clothing repairs with the hope that the
new AHT conservators also do textiles conservation, which can
sometimes be the case, then have them mend all my clothing.
But unfortunately the new conservators have as much sewing
non-ability as I do, plus I was rapidly running out of clothes
to wear that didn't have gaping holes in the arse. So
yesterday I mustered enough courage to tackle the much feared
Scott Base sewing machine. My last use of such a machine was
more than 20 years ago during home economics class at school,
but I quickly figured out the basics and proudly had it
running properly without too much effort and with zero
fatalities. First job, a pair of ripped shorts. I thought
I was making a brilliant job until the final inspection
revealed that I'd sewed the inside pockets together, and also
sewed the back of the shorts to the front. Tip #1, invert
all of the pockets first and regularly keep an eye on what's
being stitched together. Long story short, many successful
clothing repairs! So long as no one looks too close, or
notices that I couldn't work out how to change thread colour
to match the fabric, I'm good to go.
This week's photos are all from Becky, the station manager
who somehow manages to get out while the weather is nice and
take some decent photos. It always seems to work out that
I'm forever stuck on fire crew while the weather is half
Farewell to Antarctica NZ CEO Lou Sanson, who celebrated his
last day with the company this week. He's moving to an
upper management position
with the NZ Department of Conservation. Here's a photo of
Lou by the Scott Base sign a couple of weeks ago during his
final visit here.
This is the Australian owned
aircraft that performed the three spring flights between
Christchurch and Pegasus Airfield at the beginning of the
month. It's very comfortable for passengers, but has very
limited cargo carrying abilities when compared to the
Boeing C-17 Globemaster.
The stairs seen above were a cause of major issues.
Apparently there was some kind of bridge that went between
the aircraft door and the top of the stairs, but it was
nowhere to be found. Fortunately they discovered this
before the flight arrived, so the McMurdo carpenters made
a speedy job of making a replacment bridge.
The Americans continue to use Ivan the Terra Bus for passenger
transport between McMurdo and Pegasus Airfield, a journey of
approximately 40km. They had planned to retire Ivan a year
or two ago, but they've had numerous troubles with the large
new vehicles they bought in 2010.
Light winds and moist air creates a thick sheet of ground fog
on the ice shelf. Mt Terror in the distance, the sea ice
pressure ridges in the foreground.
Another stunning panoramic photo from Becky, click on the
image above to see the wide view from Crater Hill. In the
foreground, Observation Hill is on the left, McMurdo Station
bottom centre and Arrival Heights on the right side.
8/9/2013: After a week of people movements
we're now down to 12 on station. The flight last Sunday
delivered the two new Heritage Trust staff plus three visitors
who ended up getting stuck here a few days longer than expected
due to the typical weather delays. The three departing conservators
had their wishes granted for one more day here in order to pack
up and get things tidied - which I thought was unusual as they had
known the departure date at least a month or two in advance, so not
sure why they had so many overdue last minute things on the agenda.
But anyway, now that the bustle of activity from the week has
calmed down, it's time to enjoy an overdue relaxing Sunday.
Monday night's barbeque in the vehicle workshop to welcome the
visitors and new conservators went down a treat.
One of the benefits of using the welding bay for the barbeque
is that the extract fan avoids setting off the fire alarm.
Graeme also discovered that the oxy-acetylene cutting torch
adds that instant flame grilled touch to the food.
On the rare occasions it's not too cloudy; the daily sunsets
remain a pleasant welcome to the morning. We're now at the point
of 'normal' daylight hours - sunrise at 8:30AM, setting at 5:20PM.
It'll be 24 hour sunlight again in six weeks.
Mike took advantage of the clear sky and light winds last weekend
to go kite skiing on the sea ice out the front of Scott Base.
White Island visible in the background.
Meanwhile, I received news that it was 8-Wired craft brewery week
at Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn in Christchurch this week.
Fortunately I had one bottle of 8-Wired Big Smoke left to remotely
celebrate the occasion. This tasty little fellow went out the door
for a 20-minute chilling before dinner time. With a huge thanks to
Andi, Paula, Dave and Matt I've had a generous supply of delicious
craft beer since the start of winter, enough for one bottle per
1/9/2013: As I write this, the first
flight of the three 'Springfly' flights is due to land at
Pegasus airfield in around 40 minutes. We've got a couple
of managers visiting from Christchurch who are here for a
four day visit. We also have two new AHT conservators who
will stay until late in summer and will be working at Captain
Scott's Discovery Hut, located next to McMurdo Station.
The remaining three conservators here have a rushed three day
hand over before they depart on Thursday; the final flight
until the main body flights begin in the first week of
Meanwhile, it's been work as usual at Scott Base. Many people
have been working hard on general cleaning before the managers
arrive today, though generally the place was already in pretty
I've had a busy week myself with the live music we performed
at McMurdo last night as a farewell party for quite a few of
their staff who are leaving either today or over the coming
week. The performance itself went well, loads of fun. The
practice sessions during the week got a little interesting. We
had one final session on Friday evening, though it was extremely
stormy through to Saturday afternoon. Got there OK on Friday
night, but as partly expected, I got stuck at McMurdo for the
night as the weather was unsafe for outside travel. No worries,
camped out in the bedroom of one of my band members. Was kind
of hard to sleep; I didn't realise they had opening windows in
most of their rooms, and many of these leak. So when there are
strong winds, it howls through the window all night. Then in
morning you need to shovel the snow out of the bedroom. Wow,
I didn't know we had it so good in comparison here at Scott
Two weeks after the first sunrise on the 19th of August, we
finally saw sunshine for the first time this morning
at 11 o'clock. Although it's risen over the hills recently,
we've been surrounded in thick cloud over the past week,
which has finally cleared leaving us with a spectacular start
After four months of darkness, everyone was delighted by the
first sightings of the sun. Even the usually sleepy Tim the
Hobbit showed a rare glimpse of excitement as he took photos
of the phenomenon that is taken for granted anywhere else in
Not that I could resist taking a few touristy first sunshine
photos either. After spending a dismal few months in darkness,
you tend to forget how nice the place looks on a clear day like
The clear morning made Black Island and Mt Discovery appear
unusually close, they're actually around 30-40km away.
Since the pressure ridges on the sea ice have re-formed on
as they always do at this time of year, they're now open for
recreational walks. I happened to come across a bit of
American wildlife walking through the buckled sea ice last
Sunday. The Americans need to be part of a guided tour group
such as this one.
I snapped this crappy photo of Scott Base while strolling in
the pressure ridges. This is the same kind of cloudy sky
that's been over us for the past week, hiding the sunshine.
Damian the chef has a flash camera which takes nice panorama
photos, such as this one of a Hagglund on his recent trip to
Cape Evans. Click on the photo to see the full thing.