Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Easy day of cleaning bays, truck checks, inventorying ambo, EMS scenario, PT, lunch, then inspections, and compressor training.
Originally we had a flight scheduled to come into Pegasus today, take out winterovers, and bring in our new summer people. But it was cancelled by snow. Condition 2 out on the Ice Runway today, not looking good for the winterovers....

(Condition 3= good weather, free travel
Condition 2= no recreational travel= wind 48-55 knots, OR windchill -75 to -100, OR visibility < 1/4 mile
Condition 1= all personnel must stay indoors where they are until weather clears, except in emergency situations = sustained winds > 55 knots OR < neg 100 windchill OR visibility < 100'
debris such as small rocks, sheet metal, etc tends to get picked up and flung around, so bad time to be outside.

As Rob 1.2 (?) says, its not THAT the wind's blowing, it's WHAT the wind's blowing

Monday, September 28, 2009

Warm enough for Snow today!
Winterovers are unsettled because their flight out's tomorrow though...

First scheduled Pegasus airfield coverage for me tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Medevac Article from NY Times

NZ Air Force Medevacs Sick Man From Antarctic

NY Times

'September 21, 2009'

Published: September 21, 2009
Filed at 7:38 a.m. ET
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- An American working at a U.S. scientific base on the frozen continent of Antarctica has suffered heart problems and was being evacuated to New Zealand, the New Zealand air force said Monday.
The air force was asked to help Sunday and sent a Hercules C130 airplane on the 16-hour return flight, New Zealand Sq. Ldr. Richard Beaton said in a statement. The man suffered cardiac problems at the McMurdo base and was being flown to a hospital in Christchurch, southern New Zealand, for treatment.
He had been working as part of the U.S. Antarctic Program and was in a serious but stable condition, Beaton said. The man's name and hometown were not immediately available, nor was more information about his illness.
''He needed immediate evacuation from here for treatment'' but was stabilized for the flight, Raytheon Polar Services operations manager Kerry Chuck told The Associated Press by telephone from McMurdo.
Colorado-based Raytheon provides communications, logistics and other support services for the U.S. National Science Foundation's programs in Antarctica.
Two New Zealand defense force medics and two civilian medical staff were also on board the Hercules C130 airplane to provide medical aid during the flight back to New Zealand, Beaton said.
''Medical evacuation is a capability the air force can deliver as and when required,'' said Beaton. ''Our crews are experienced flying in and out of Antarctica and this task doesn't present any issues for us.''

Crack Spackling

One of the AFD duties is... crack spackling
Tidal movements, wind, waves, glacial movements, etc. make the 6'-12' thick sea ice shift and crack. We take our 3500 gallon tanker out and dump loads of freshwater onto the ice to fill in cracks that run across roads.
Today we also assisted in building the Ice Runway. In September, when the sea ice is thick and stable, Fleet Ops spends weeks scraping and leveling out a 10,000' runway for LC-130s. C-17s, and smaller planes. The surface of polar snow gets wind-blown into sastrugi- waves similar to the ripples on a sanddune, but on a larger scale, which have to be knocked down with heavy equipment. The Ice Runway provides a close, convenient landing spot right next to the station until the ice starts to melt in Nov/Dec.
Today it was nice- about 20 below and calm. We ran water out through a couple 2 1/2s to fill in three 3' wide crevasses that the dozer had pushed soft snow into. Once we shut down the lines we have to walk them out and roll them immediately or theyll freeze solid.
Working outside in turnout gear at 20 or 30 below in calm weather is surprisingly comfortable; it feels like Maine except that you have to watch each other's cheeks for frostbite and it's difficult to keep fingers warm unless you draw them out of the fingers of your glove and make a fist. They have some really good iron/salt chemical hand warmers here, but your fingers still freeze after a while. One of our guys got some frostnip on his cheek a week ago and its still healing. And if you go for a hike on a windy day, even if you're dressed in ECW (extreme cold weather gear), you really understand quickly what frail little animals humans are. I've had the same feeling trying to hold myself still against the force of fast, deep water, or when a wave tumbles me off my surfboard and holds me under for an uncomfortably long time. Wrapped up in a lethal force like that you start to wonder how long you could hold out if you had to, before giving up. Then you come up for air or wander into a warm comfy building and wonder how on Earth did Steven Callahan, Shackleton, and Mawson do it? Daily life in America, with its MVAs and crime, is probably a lot more dangerous than life here in McMurdo. But here most of those little distractions and competitions of hectic modern city life get stripped away and you get to be close to nature and think a little about your humble place in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shoveled snow today.. what else?

Monday, September 21, 2009

hot chocolate coffee and 4 square after a busy day conducting a Medevac at Pegasus

Sunday, September 20, 2009


btw, remember all my posts and info are susceptible to the occasional FNGy mistake :)

(FNGy- "fin-jee" - Ice term; F---ing New Guy/Girl)

So what's involved in a Medevac from Antarctica?

Here's some insights from a recent discussion...

So what's involved in a Medevac from Antarctica?

1)EMS is called. Dispatch/EMS notifies medical immediately and gives a basic patient report. Medical personnel (the doc, nurse/labtech/xray tech/pharmicist) respond to the clinic if they're off-duty at the time. EMS treats and transports.
2)Medical clinic stabilizes patient, performs basic tests such as xray and labs, administers medications and conducts basic procedures. EMS assists as requested.
3)Early in treatment patient is triaged and a medevac decision is made by the medical team.
4)Ongoing treatment of patient.
If Medevac is called for, several station departments go to work to get ready for the flight. At this time of year for instance, no regular flights are coming in. This year there are two airfields at McMurdo: an annual sea ice runway for the warm season which is still under construction, and the year-round runways at Pegasus airfield. Because Pegasus is not active it must be supplied with electricity and basic infrastructure for the flight. Pegasus runway has to be groomed. The road to Pegasus (a 1-2 hr trip depending on conditions) passes over the rugged land-to-sea-ice Transition and the ARFF vehicles need to put in service and gotten past the Transition and out to Pegasus. On the other end, a medical crew preferably including a doc needs to be assembled in Christchurch, NZ. NZ or the US supplies a C17 (5 hr flight 1-way) or an LC130 (8 hr flight) and flight crew. Then the weather needs to be decent (by Antarctic standards).

What does all this cost? According to my sources, scheduled C130 flights to the Ice run around $150-200,000. A Medevac is more in the neighborhood of $1mil. So what's the cap on your health insurance policy?
Up to 18.5mil in ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) funds to Raytheon via the NSF and Obama for use in Antarctica. Prime uses to include The Traverse (annual overland supply trip from the Ross Sea at McMurdo to the South Pole Station) and INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
Embarking on an endeavor to converse with someone who's spent a career fighting fire in the extreme cold.

We have some good innovations down here, but I know there's more we could do.

Startin with firehouse.com...
Had an interesting call last night... not to be a dork, but firefighting in Antarctica is everything I hoped it would be... you wouldn't believe the stories you hear down here

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One call today- smoke alarm going off at Building #141... gonna be slow til Mainbody flights start up

Friday, September 18, 2009

Aurora Australis

We saw some faint auroras last night around 0100 high in the northern sky. They were visible as light white bands that dimmed and brightened as they shifted against the backdrop of stars.

Auroras are the result of interaction between gas particles of the earth' s upper atmosphere and solar wind (a constant stream of plasma traveling out from the sun at 250mile/sec). They occur 50-150 miles above the surface. Atmospheric atoms such as oxygen are excited by the solar winds and emit light of characteristic colors. Oxygen emits red and green light, nitrogen emits light blue-purple light, and neon emits a rare orange light. Astronomers are able to deduct the chemical composition of fawaray galaxies by measuring the electromagnetic frequency (ie color) of the light that reaches us from their direction.

Imagine poking a copper wire into the top of an orange, then bending the wire down and around and sticking its other end into the bottom of the orange. Your result would be a good model of the Earth's magnetic field. The geometry of this field means that solar wind speeds are greatest and excite atmospheric particles the most near the poles, especially during the equinoxes when the earth is straight on its axis. While most auroras are observed at high latitudes, in 1859 an aurora occured over the skies of Boston that was bright enough to read a book by. Such a powerful magnetic storm today would produce trillions of watts of electricity and disrupt telecommunications, air traffic control, power grids, and GPS systems.

Additionally, some of the outer planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, have very strong magnetic fields that produce spectacular auroras in alien skies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Playing the Market from Antarctica

Playing the stock market in Antarctica... Bottom of the earth, periods of 24 hr darkness, temperatures down to -100, limited internet connectivity and phone communications that are... as I understand it so far... transmitted across McMurdo Sound by microwave to a communications outpost at Black Island, beamed up to a satellite, received in Australia, and sent via underwater cable to the States.
Sounds like a good idea, right?
So far anyway(knock on wood)... oh well dont bet what you cant afford to lose.

Feeling a little fuzzy today after a week of The Cold from Hell. Not sure what it was but an acquaintance got so wiped by it he sat down outside his work building to rest and decided it was a good idea to take a nap there (-30 that day). Fortunately a coworker came along. Been up for 3 days coughing, station store's closed... the doc took a look at me and offered me my first taste of Schedule IIIs. Vicodin woohoo! Turned it down though, jeez all i wanted was some Nyquil! Hope they add this strain to the flu shot brew for next year.

Feeling better now. My Kelly day's tomorrow so I get three days off. Did a P90X cardio workout today followed by Abs. Thinking about a hike to Castle Rock this week. Explanation: We work 24 on 24 off and each of us has an assigned Kelly day that we get off. Mine is Thursday so I'm always off on Thursdays. The way it works out this month is that I work this Tuesday, off Thursday, work Sat, Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun, Tues, then get my Thursday off again and so forth.

Shift change is at 0800 every day, so we're expected to be at the station by 0745 to get our gear on the truck we're assigned to for the day, tag in, and check our MSA pack over, relieve the offgoing person assigned to that seat and get a briefing from them. Our first shift was Tuesday. We spent the morning cleaning the station and fixing equipment (it breaks down fast and frequently here). We have a 1 hour workout then lunch. We spent the afternoon doing Driver/Operator and Dispatch training. The remainder of the shift, 1700-0800, is our own time to spend as we see fit. At 0800 the second day we do shift swap including a group briefing with the oncoming crew, then we have the day to ourselves.

After working an ungodly number of hours/wk the past 18 months, it's really, really great to have Time to do simple things like read, workout, and hang out with people.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

happy to answer any questions!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nacreous Clouds

Beautiful nacreous clouds tonight... description and example pics from wiki (antarctic pics to follow):

Polar stratospheric clouds, also known as nacreous clouds, are clouds in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 50,000–80,000 ft. They are implicated in the formation of ozone holes; their effects on ozone depletion arise because they support chemical reactions that produce active chlorine which catalyzes ozone destruction, and also because they remove gaseous nitric acid, perturbing nitrogen and chlorine cycles in a way which increases ozone destruction.

The stratosphere is very dry; unlike the troposphere, it rarely allows clouds to form. In the extreme cold of the polar winter, however, stratospheric clouds of different types may form, which are classified according to their physical state and chemical composition.
Due to their high altitude and the curvature of the surface of the Earth, these clouds will receive sunlight from below the horizon and reflect it to the ground, shining brightly well before dawn or after dusk.
PSCs form at very low temperatures, below −78 °C. These temperatures can occur in the lower stratosphere in polar winter. In the Antarctic, temperatures below −88 °C frequently cause type II PSCs. Such low temperatures are rarer in the Arctic. In the Northern hemisphere, the generation of lee waves by mountains may locally cool the lower stratosphere and lead to the formation of PSCs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Weather in McMurdo

Negative 100 windchill yesterday, -91 today! Winterovers say its about the coldest weather all winter.

Antarctica is the highest, driest, and coldest continent. Snow accumulates continuously at the pole and is compressed gradually into a pancake ice sheet which is about 3miles thick at the pole and thins to nothign at the edges where it melts/breaks away. Like glass, even though it seems solid, ice flows. The weight of 3 miles of ice causes ice to flow outward from the zone of accumulation at the pole towards the edges of the ice sheet. Most ice caps and glaciers are wet-bottom; pressure causes a lubricating layer of meltwater to form beneath the glacier. Because Antarctica is so cold, it is covered in dry-bottom ice. Some scientists fear that global warming could convert Antarctic ice to the wet-bottom variety and accelerate flow and melting at the edges. The Antarctic ice sheet holds 61% of the world's freshwater.

South Pole is considered high elevation (9,186ft - note: the difference between 9186ft and 3 miles is due to the weight of the ice pressing the bedrock down- the ice is thicker than the elevation of the pole is high). Weather at the Pole tends to be calm, cold, and sunny. An enormous force is created by the Pole's altitude and the density of the cold air there which results in "Katabatic winds" ("downslope winds") which often exceed hurricane force at shore locations such as McMurdo. (Cold dense air warms as it travels downslope and in warmer regions can become hot and dry; another example of a katabatic wind is the Santa Anas fueling the fires in California. In Antarctica everything is so cold that the warming effect is negligible. It is very very dry here though). Pics from wiki.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

McMurdo Station and Ross Island

With a summer pop of 1100 McMurdo Station is the largest base in Antarctica and the main transit point for half the continent. The station is located on a peninsular extension of Ross island, a volcanic island that lies on the Ice Shelf-Seasonal Sea Ice Transition and is distinguished by the southernmost bare ground accessible by sea. Mt Erebus, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and the southernmost active volcano in the world, is one of the two main volcanoes on Ross Island. During summer months Erebus coats the town and everything in it with a continuous outpouring of abrasive volcanic ash. Ross island contains 3 airfields, a summer ice pier, and the heads of land routes to neaby NZ the South Pole. The station is populated by scientists and a large support staff.

Some background on the Antarctic Fire Department

AFD is a full time department working 24 on 24 off with a crew of about a dozen during the austral winter and around 50 during the austral summer. We have three stations- station 1 in McMurdo town, station 2 at the airfield, and station 3 covering the South Pole town/airfield. We are equipped for crash rescue, structural firefighting, hazmat, and EMS. Abundance of hazardous materials, importance of individual buildings to station operation, climatic extremes, limited staff and water supply, and lack of mutual aid all mean we have to respond and mitigate incidents with all possible speed. Apparatus include 2 engines, 2 ambos, 6 ARFF vehicles, and a command unit.