25/9/2016: A change to daylight savings time, a week to
go until the scheduled start of the summer 2016/2017 season and only a month
until I'm hopefully back home in NZ. Everyone at Scott Base is simultaneously
on the end of season wind down while trying to take care of those jobs that get
procrastinated over all season and left until the last moment. Things such as
inventory spreadsheets, orders for the large stuff that needs to be sent on
the container ship in January, and more.
This September has been overly nice compared to previous years. While ambient
temperatures have warmed to around -25C, previous Septembers have sprung a lot
of surprise nasty weather with the less usual combination of both cold
temperatures in the -40s and strong winds. But so far there's been a lot of
blue skies, reasonable temperatures and moderate winds.
Another milestone this week was passing the equinox of 12 hours equal
A job at our radio site on Crater Hill during the week was actually very pleasant
for a change. You tend to forget how nice the place is with a bit of sunlight.
Temperatures on top of the 300m high hill around the -20C mark and no wind made
the job worthwhile.
I've probably taken this same shot a dozen times over the years. The wind farm
adds a nice element of interest to an otherwise boring photo of ice and rocks.
It was even worth yet another photo of Scott Base during the walk up Crater Hill
during the week.
Becky was sorting out some food this morning for her five day traverse to Marble
Point with the Americans next week.
Keith the chef with a freshly made fruit bread loaf ready for the oven.
Thursday's dinner was a nice treat with one of my favourite dishes, pork belly.
The six week old lettuces are holding up not too badly, there was even a few
nice semi-wilted green leaves under the funky brown ones.
One of yesterday's jobs was designing and building a remote monitoring circuit
for a new public address amplifier. Because having a set of relay contacts in
the equipment that you can connect to monitoring equipment seems to be too
simple anymore, it's somehow necessary to instead have a 2Hz square wave output
meaning that the amplifier is healthy. So this device holds a set of relay
contacts open when it sees the square wave output from the amplifier. If this
signal disappears, the relay de-energises, closing the contacts and creating an
alert on the remote monitoring equipment.
One of the guys here last winter is friends with the good folks at
McLeod's Brewery from Waipu who
arranged to send me a case of their craft beers in exchange for some photos
with the Scott Base sign. Although it's only usually available in the North
Island, their Traders Scotch Ale
has become one of my new favourite beers.
18/9/2016: Two weeks to go until main body and the start of
the new summer season, and about a month to go until it's time to go home to
The usual last minute mad rush of trying to get the last jobs done hasn't been at
all bad this year, things have actually fallen into place quite nicely without
the usual dramas of too many things left to be done.
Despite the return of sunlight and now having sunrise/sunset times the same as
New Zealand at present, people are still wary and run-down due to the relentless
six day per week work schedule. Needless to say, everyone's looking forward to
getting home and are often talking about the first things they're going to do when
they get back. Desires range from standing in the rain to mowing the lawn to
visiting a nice restaurant. The things you miss often defies belief.
Windy Wednesday bought wind. Nothing dramatic, but enough to get loose surface
Andy completed the project of installing new membrane housings this week in the
reverse osmosis plant that turns sea water into fresh water for drinking and
washing. The plant, originally installed around the early 1990s, has apparently
been in dire need of replacement for years. It's one of those things that gets
bought up every year, and then inevitably falls into the too hard basket.
Meanwhile, various sections of the plant keep being replaced with something more
modern and new, so by the time they actually get around to replacing it in the
year 2587, it'll have been rebuilt from new several times over.
The coarse sock filter in the reverse osmosis plant filters out larger debris from
the sea water before it goes through various other filter stages prior to the
900 PSI high pressure membranes. The sock filter gets cleaned out each day as it
quickly builds up with various forms of marine life, some of which glow in the dark.
I tried taking a photo of the glowing blue specs, though neither my camera nor
photography skills were cutting the mustard that day.
An ongoing project of mine for the past couple of weeks has been the tidy up of
the Cape Bird 12V DC system. This is the new solar regulation, telemetry and
12V DC distribution board. It started off as just a solar regulator replacement.
I then added radio telemetry for remote monitoring. So then I had to write
installation instructions so that some bone head wouldn't say "Well, there was
nothing to say not to install it in the ocean, so...." I've never been
to the site so was basing everything from random photos I'd found. The more I
looked at photos, the worse the condition of the wiring and everything. So I've
ended up re-doing just about everything to make a kit of parts and detailed
instructions for someone to carry out this coming summer. By which time I'll be
in my garden having barbeques and beers.
This is one of the many photos from Cape Bird Hut that I was basing my design
from. As you can clearly see, the battery cabling is anything but professional,
and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Of course it'd be a shame
to make half the job nice, while the rest of it looks like crap. So I made up
new battery cables to deal to this too. Along with everything else.
And this is Cape Bird Hut, which I've never been to and probably never will
either. It's where tourists go to watch penguins and make a mess of DC
11/9/2016: I think I'm happier now than I usually am at this point
in the season. For a start, a number of jobs I've had in pipeline have taken much
less time than expected to complete, probably because there's been less interruptions
than usual; meaning I'll actually achieve everything I wanted to get done this winter.
Secondly, various friends and colleagues have sent me both expected and unexpected
packages of some excellent craft beer, enough for one nice beer every couple of days.
This rare treat is a definite morale booster.
Another rarity for this time of the year is that most of the Scott Base team are not
experiencing the all too frequent "I'll do nothing all year then act all surprised when
I suddenly have to achieve 12 months of work in three weeks, so I'll get everyone else to
do it for me". Everyone seems to be well on top of their workload for a change. Partly
because there's been almost no engineering project work on this winter, and the crew
generally seem motivated for a change.
A job I have in progress right now is designing and building a new DC distribution
system for the remote hut at Cape Bird. Having never been there myself, I've had to
do it all based on a few photos. The Cape Bird hut is used for summer research,
which I think is another name for "a place to send tourists to look at penguins", given
that they always send a lot of people there to complete various maintenance tasks and
the only result seems to be a bunch of photos of penguins. This new DC system includes
a more efficient solar regulator and also telemetry so that battery voltages and solar
charge currents can be remotely interrogated by radio.
Andy's aurora photo featuring the Field Centre.
Andy's aurora photo from the water tanks, featuring the Scott Base power house and
They went out to Captain Shackleton's historic hut at Cape Royds
during the week to check that it hadn't blown away. Which it hadn't, just as it also
hasn't for the past 108 years.
Looking up to the summit of Mt Erebus from Cape Royds
on the western side of Ross Island.
Hagglunds by an iceberg frozen in the sea ice.
The phenomenon known as sun dogs is caused by ice crystals in the air refracting
the low elevation sunlight. The apparent origin of the name is because the halo-like
refraction follows the sun. In the same way that a towed trailer follows your car, meaning
your trailer needs to be renamed a car dog. Seriously, some of the people who come up with
these ridiculous names need a smack in the face.
Another photo from Becky, taken somewhere on the way to Cape Royds.
4/9/2016: The sunlight is officially back at Scott Base and the
rush is on to get various projects finished before the arrival of main body in only
four weeks. From past experience it's one of those blink-and-you-miss-it times of the
year, there's a month left to get stuff done and then suddenly winter is over and the
new crew of the 2016-2017 season have arrived at the start of October.
Unfortunately there's very little opportunity to get anything productive done once
main body hits. All of a sudden the place is overwhelmed with around 40 to 50 new and
excited people running around the place causing general mayhem. Then you've got to
start training the new people. Then fire training starts, which is a solid week of
constant fire drills, in which you get nothing at all achieved. By this stage you're
itching to get out of here and back home to New Zealand. Management don't want you
about anymore because you're suddenly just a piece of trash taking up valuable bed
space. The new people want you gone because they're all too eager to get stuck in
to their new jobs. Plus they're either overwhelmed with all the new information, or
think they know it all after 5 minutes of arriving. Either way, by this stage you have
no hope or desire of trying to pass on a year or more of knowledge in the space of two
weeks, so it's home or bust.
And Happy Fathers' Day to my father, Earl, if you're reading this. I think he enjoys
talking on the phone about as much as I do, which is usually as little as possible. Our
six monthly telephone conversations mostly consist of: "What's been happening there?" "Not
much." "You?" "Not much either." "Hmmm, OK....seeya". Of course I can fully sympathise
with him; while growing up whenever the phone rang, it would be greeted by angry shouts
of "Who the f*** wants what this time!" I'd have to agree at times that telephones are
all too often another way to annoy people remotely. Which isn't always the case of
course, it's still great to get social calls from friends and family, including my cousins
in Australia who called a few weeks back - which reminds me, thanks for sending the pesto
almonds! Despite being addressed to The South Pole, it somehow still made it here to
Scott Base, 1300km north of the South Pole.
A couple of nice photos from Becky from yesterday on the trip to Cape Evans, which I
wasn't on because I was on fire crew again, and cooking dinner. This is one of the
Hagglunds by an iceberg frozen in the sea ice somewhere on the way to Cape Evans.
This is probably someone having a fierce stare-down with an iceberg. "Grrrr, I'm
watching you! This place ain't big enough for the two of us."
I've got no idea what the hell this is about, some kind of danger map that someone's
drawn on the whiteboard for reasons unknown. At the top is either three giant daisies
in a rock garden, or a crude sketch of the wind farm in unusually rough terrain.
The blue teeth at the bottom obviously represent a giant band saw blade where the sea
ice currently is. Falling off The Road on the way to 'Murica' (to see the Americans
at McMurdo Station?) is dangerous if you fall onto a giant band saw blade along the
way. Be careful of this.
Joe from Aotea Electric has been working hard this week on installing the LED lighting
to the new Field Centre warm porch. He's got about half of it installed now and you
need sunglasses inside. Can't say it's not bright enough.
Meanwhile, I'm going around Scott Base taking random photos inside and the occasional
shot out the window, then interleaving them here so that it looks as though I'm
actually taking an interest in all this when in actual fact it's just a bunch of
crap photos acting as space fillers on my web server's disk storage array. If
you were curious, this is Mt Terror as seen at 11AM today with the sea ice pressure
ridges in the centre of the shot.
Another sneaky interleaving action shot. The Leighs Construction guys are working
hard to try and achieve several months of interior construction work in the space
of four weeks. This is the metal framing on a linkway before it gets lined with
Without doubt, the most photographed volcano on Ross Island - Mt Erebus. With some
shipping containers appealingly stored in the foreground.
There's been a lot less snow this winter compared to previous seasons. In 2011 the
snow buildup in this same section was deep enough to walk onto the roof of the power
house building on the left.