22/10/2016: Things are settling down after being home for a
couple of days now. I'm back into real world tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping,
gardening and catching up with various people. There wasn't the same levels of anxiety
as with the first couple of times returning to New Zealand from a season in Antarctica.
In the back of your mind you know you're going to experience more than two vehicles on
the roads at the same time, there's going to be green things growing, dogs barking,
children shouting and rain pouring. And because you're mentally prepared to experience
these alien things, the surprise of seeing them again is somehow less daunting.
After being at Scott Base for a little under two years this time, the daily routine and
the way you do things becomes ingrained in your mind. In the otherwise normal routine
of leaving the house a day ago to catch up with friends, my mind was churning through
a horrendous array of detail - Have I signed out? Nope, don't need to. Am I on fire
crew? Nope, none of that anymore. Have I got a charged radio battery? Don't need that.
What's the temperature and wind speed? Who cares, it's going to be above 0C. What's
the weather forecast for the next few hours? Doesn't matter. Do I have enough cold
weather clothing with me? Shorts and T-shirt is more than enough.
Needless to say, it's great to be back. And it couldn't have come any sooner; Scott
Base has just swollen to a population of around 83 people, which is just hideous
compared to the casual life of winter. With the station nearly at maximum capacity,
you're queuing for the coffee machine, queuing for dinner, queuing for a shower. And
there's all these people constantly shouting, and wanting stuff, and managers demanding
things, and dozens of lengthy meetings about all sorts of things you never knew you
needed a meeting for. But never mind, I now have the pleasure of sitting in the sun
and feeling warm for once. Perhaps the most arduous part of the day is deciding
which craft beer to drink first. Now that's much more like it.
Until next time, or not?
It'll be the last sunrise in a day or two at Scott Base and therefore 24 hour sunlight
again until late February. There's been the usual display of colourful sunrises and
sunsets over the past month. In the foreground are the Antarctic Heritage Trust
container labs, which they're using for the restoration of the TAE Hut, the first Scott
Base building from 1957 and the last original building remaining. They're aiming to
have it completed in time for the Scott Base 60th anniversary in January 2017.
On a walk around Hut Point last Sunday, I had Anthony Powell and Scooter point
dramatically at nothing so I could take this cheesy action shot.
The completed ice pier in the foreground, waiting for the fuel supply ship and container
ship to arrive in January. McMurdo Station and Observation Hill in the background.
Between Mark and I, we completed the radio equipment installation work for the beginning
of the summer season just before I left. This is the equipment shelter on Hoopers
Shoulder, on the Western side of Mt Erebus.
The USAP Bell 212 helicopter at the safe landing zone at Hoopers Shoulder. As opposed
to the dangerous landing zone, where the helicopter either slides down the mountain or
is consumed by the liquid hot magma inside the active volcano.
Final images of the Radio Workshop before I left on Wednesday. I was still working on
a bunch of stuff a minute before I was out the door and heading toward the airfield.
We arrived at Pegasus airfield just in time to see the C17 from Christchurch landing.
Then it was another two hours waiting for the explosives to be unloaded in the safe area,
the passengers to depart, the pallets of cargo to be unloaded and the helicopter to
Unloading the Southern Lakes Helicopters Squirrel from the cargo door of the C17.
The C17 was pretty much empty when it departed around 6:30PM on Wednesday with around 10
of us on board and just a bit of checked baggage. Then five and a half hours later we
touched down in Christchurch. And that was the end of that.
20/10/2016: Following a day of weather delay, our departing aircraft
left Pegasus airfield at 6:30PM yesterday and we touched down at Christchurch airport
at exactly midnight. It felt great to be walking in the door of my house a bit before
1AM this morning. More in a day or two once I've sorted out a heap of baggage.
16/10/2016: After another week of putting up with bossy management,
over-enthusiastic new people and new people who are already checking out after only two
weeks, I'm itching to get home more than ever. My handover with Mark has made slow
progress due to various jobs on the go and many fire drills. In the last two weeks I've
probably shown him about half of what he needs to know and as expected he's suffering
from information overload at times. I feel kind of bad for him with having to pull an
executive dump-and-run like this, but if I keep hanging around for "just one more day"
then I'll never get home.
On the plus side, we completed the first radio site setup job for summer at Black Island
during the week.
And I'll going well, I'll be departing Scott Base for home in Christchurch this Tuesday
afternoon together with most of the remaining winter crew.
This is Mark in the Black Island HF receiver site equipment shelter during the week.
To his credit, he's catching on fast and the Black Island job went smoothly.
The USAP Bell 212 helicopter at Scott Base, our transport to the job at Black Island to
install the radio equipment and batteries for the summer season.
Mike from Field Support with a damaged feed plate from the Black Island conical
monopole HF antenna. Wind resonance causes these aluminium plates to eventually
crack after many years, so we replaced it with a new one.
The new plant operators clearing snow from around the Scott Base yard with the
9/10/2016: The entire summer 2016 crew arrived this week, and
unsurprisingly, the general chaos has begun. It's actually not been as bad as previous
years because they haven't had any science groups in yet, meaning quality time to spend
on handovers and fire training, which also began yesterday. It's also been the first
season opening I can remember where there haven't been any flight delays due to weather
or mechanical issues with aircraft; things are actually running on track for once.
The annual winter to summer flag ceremony was also yesterday, marking the change from
winter to summer operations. I've got perhaps another 10 days or so here, after which
I can hopefully get home to a Christchurch summer for more than three months this time.
The second half of the summer 2016 crew arriving at Pegasus Field on Tuesday afternoon.
All fresh and smiley for now.
2/10/2016: I don't think anyone is looking forward to the first
flight of the 2016/2017 season tomorrow. It's not only the major change to the daily
routine of life from the past seven months, but it's also that the influx of some 40
or more people on station means more mess, more disruption, queuing for the coffee
machine, queuing to use the showers, queuing for dinner.
Otherwise the past week has been work as normal, with the emphasis on getting stuff
done before the new people get here next week. Unfortunately a lot of my outstanding
jobs have relied on others doing their bit first. So after they're done with their
procrastination and get it finished at the last minute, my part of the job takes place
after the last minute has elapsed, resulting in a lot of sudden urgent jobs. But
never mind, it's still good to be getting things done and seeing many long term jobs
actually getting finished.
It was also my 38th birthday yesterday, and my seventh consecutive birthday here at
Scott Base. Keith the chef made this nice chocolate cake, and pretty much the entire
McMurdo Station sang me happy birthday as part of the live music at the Carpenters'
Workshop party last night, the final event of the winter season. Apparently I've
become a local celebrity in recent years.
New local area public address system amplifiers that I installed and commissioned
during the week along with various telephone circuits.
The construction project guys have been busy cleaning and painting over the past
week, trying to get the place from looking like a construction site back to its
regular role as a tourist destination with occasional Antarctic science.
Jason operating the telehandler, moving boxes of parts to the old Hangar building