Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fire Team- Antarctic Softball Champions 2009!

The yearly softball tournament at The Ballfield (in outdoor cargo storage area).

4 teams- fire, carp shop, shuttles, et al

Fire is champion!

Only one injury this year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

34 degrees and partly cloudy

Monday, December 28, 2009

Joining the Antarctic Boxing Team!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Summer solstice-
2 months til sunset!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Time to do some shopping for Winter season...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Celestial Navigation

New York Air National Guard Lt Colonel Samantha East teaches a course on the rare science of celestial navigation

Small ice crack Weddell seal cub nuzzles against its mother

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pressure Ridges, cont.

Melt pool and Erebus Ice cave full of deep blue light

Looking south across Ross Ice Shelf towards White Island. Road flag on bamboo pole in foreground.

Peak of Mount Discovery visible above low cloud layer

Friday, December 11, 2009

More pics from Pressure Ridges

Scott Base in background:

The sun is out 24-7 but freeze-thaw cycles caused by overcast days and lower temperatures brought in by weather fronts form these icicles. In a week or two melting and crack formation will make it unsafe to travel through the pressure ridge area.

Castle Rock in left background (an old cinder cone). Mt Erebus looms in right background with its top covered in cloud and vented gases.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Easy three day weekend of reading, writing, and talking to friends back home...
At last, I have found the Elusive Bellydancing Class I Actually Have Time For!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Life in McMurdo

Every now and then this message will unexpectedly come over the radio:
“Attention all stations, this is the firehouse with an emergency announcement. Power conservation has reached a critical state! Activate your power reduction plan immediately. Again, power conservation critical - activate your power reduction plan immediately. Time now xx:xx.”
Translation: turn off all your lights, radios, and TVs, or everything's going to go black!
Until recently McMurdo station ran on several large generators. Last year a massive power-plant replacement project began and we were cut back to 2 generators (+ an outdoor "cat-in-the-box" backup generator) producing 1400kw or so for the town. Occasionally usage will exceed production capacity and unless effective power reduction measures are taken immediately, the generator dumps a feeder and a third of the town or so will be blacked out for a good while. On Sept 3rd, we came within 7kw of shutdown. I'm not sure, but I think 7kw equates to about 4 of those little space heaters people like to run in their rooms when it's neg 80 outside. At the last moment enough people got word to shut off unneccesary electrical draws and we avoided a mess. Life on the edge!
Last year a catastrophic failure occurred in one of the main generators. It stretched into a long and interesting hazmat/MCI/fire coverage event as skeleton fire crews raced back and forth between covering incoming flights and mitigating a big hazmat spill. The SCBA compressor choose this moment to give up the ghost, further complicating an already sticky situation.
Since Mainbody things have been running pretty well on the 2 main gen.s and the cat in the box. We still have "momentaries", as they say in Maine, as feeders are endlessly switched back and forth to allow preventative maintenance of the machinery.
It's been very cool to watch the erection of three windmills above the town on Crater Hill (also home to T-site, the off-limits communications/antennae array for the station). They've been blasting footings and assembling the structures for a couple weeks now. So far one is spinning and looks operational, a second's fully assembled, and a third is up but on delay due to some key parts arriving broken. I'd like to look into the special challenges involved in building on permafrost on a volcano and keeping such machinery working through huge temperature extremes, months of unfiltered UV radiation, and some of the strongest winds on Earth. When the wind-power project is complete it should meet all the electric needs of Scott Base and power 25-30% of McMurdo!
Along with the new windmills, a re-vamped power plant is currently being outfitted with another Six generators of similar capacity to the current ones. There used to be more than 2 generators, but apparently they were dissasembled and shipped away. Why we were left with inadequate power supply, and why we will have such an excess supply in the future are questions that occupy many a McMurdo mind on long, cold nights. Personally, I suspect that oil has been discovered in McMurdo Sound and refining operations will begin as soon as the Antarctic Treaty expires.
At least building on Ross Island is simplified by the fact that, although we're sort of part of the Ring of Fire, Ross Island sits over a hot spot very similar to Hawaii. Mt Erebus is a huge shield volcano- broad and wide with thin, flowing lava that really doesn't create explosive eruptions. Antarctica in general is one of the least seismically active places on Earth, so buildings and other structures don't have to be engineered to withstand quakes. That said, infrastructure in McMurdo is pretty old on average... a couple of roofs on residential buildings failed to stand up to the winds and snow last winter! One of the town's structurally unsound central buildings has been condemned this year and FD volunteers have just finished gutting it out in preparation for demolition. Sadly, it used to hold a bowling alley, pottery kiln, and bouldering cave.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

You know it's windy in Antarctica when your snowmobile blows away...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Until the 1990's, McMurdo fire was run by the Navy. Firefighters lived in the firehouse and worked in the firehouse (and partied in the firehouse).
Still in love with out open-cab tanker in Antarctica...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pressure Ridges

Visited the pressure ridges near Scott Base recently. Pics courtesy of Mike on I-Drive

The northern edge of the extensive, flowing Ross Ice Shelf is folded and broken up into beautiful ice ridges when it meets the shore of Ross Island.

Weddell seals use the areas of open water in the pressure ridges as breathing holes. They are the only mammals that venture far under the Ice Shelf, therefore they have few natural enemies. Most seal species live to forty years, but Weddells wear down their teeth by chewing the ice around their breathing holes to keep them open. After about twenty years their teeth are severly worn and they starve.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I.... am a Librarian

Excerpt from a neat book I found while working at the library. It's got a lot of crazy ideas and a couple good ones:

"Here’s an exercise to try at home….
Watch the second hand as it passes around the face of the clock. Picture the moment of your death, perhaps many decades into the future, or perhaps only a few years or months (who can know?). Wait for the second hand to reach the top of the clock face, then watch as it records the passing of one minute of your life. Now imagine the clock counting down the minutes of your life to the moment of your death. Try this exercise picturing this moment a few decades in the future, then repeat it picturing the moment next year. Repeat it picturing the moment of your death next month. Next week. Tonight. After all, you never know.
Now observe the minute and hour hands on the clock. What were you doing at this time twenty-four hours ago? Forty-eight hours ago? One month ago? What will you be doing at this time next week?
Imagine that the moment of your death is one month away. Consider- if you knew this was true, what would you be doing right now? What would you be doing at this time tomorrow? Repeat this step, imagining your death to be one year away. Does this make very much difference to your thoughts about what you would do today and tomorrow if you knew the date of your death?
Compare your activities over the last twenty-four hours to the activities you would have chosen if you had known you would leave this world in one month or one year. Compare your activities over the last month, the last year, the last decade, to those you would have chosen if you had known that on this day you only had thirty days or twelve months left to live. How different would your life have been if you had known the date of your approaching death? Would you be ready to die in a month or a year, having lived the life that you have?
Chances are… that most of the people who read this text and participate in this exercise will live for many more years afterwards. But, still, look at the second hand of the clock, and follow it as it records the passing minutes, counting down the minutes of your life that remain to you as they slip away. Are you living the life that you want to live? Are you living a life that, at any given moment, you could look back upon with satisfaction if you suddenly realized it was about to end? Are you living the sort of life that you would wish upon a human being, a life that is exciting and full, that is well spent, every minute of it? If the answer is no, what can you do in the time that still remains to you- however long or short that may be- to make your life more like the one you would like to live? For we all have a limited amount of time granted to us in this world- we should use it with this in mind.

...If you find, looking back upon your life, that you have spent years living without any consideration of your mortality, this is not really unusual, for our social/cultural environment does not encourage us to think much about the limits that nature places on our lives. Death and aging are denied and hidden away as if they were shameful and embarrassing. The older members of our society are hidden away in “retirement homes” like lepers in leper colonies. The billboards, magazines, photos, and television commercials that meet our eyes at every turn show only images of healthy men and women in the prime of their life. …When a man dies, the rituals which once would have celebrated his life and brought the subject of human mortality to those who survived him are now often regarded as mere inconveniences. …there is no time for death in today’s busy world of corporate mergers and record-breaking conspicuous consumption.
And indeed if we were to stop and ponder the subject, perhaps we would find that when we seriously consider the limits of our time on this planet, keeping up with the television comedies and having a good resume seem less important than they did before. Our cultural silence about human mortality allows us to forget how much weight the individual moments of our lives carry, adding up as they do to our lives themselves. Thus we squander countless hours watching television or balancing checkbooks, hours that in retrospect we might have better spent walking on the seashore with our loved ones, cooking gourmet meals for our children and friends, writing fiction, or hitchkiking across South America. The reality of our future death is not easy for any of us to come to terms with, but it is surely better that we consider this now than regret not doing so when it is too late.
Our denial of death has a deeper significance, beyond its function as a reaction to our fear of mortality and a selective blindness that helps us preserve the status quo. It is a symptom of our ongoing struggle to escape the cycles of change in nature and establish an unnatural permanence in the world. Our mortality is frightening evidence that we do not have control over everything; thus we are quick to ignore it, if we cannot do away with it altogether- a feat towards which our medical researches are working… it is worth questioning whether this would even be desirable.
Since the dawn of western civilization, men and women have hungered for the domination of not only the world and each other, but also for the domination of the seasons, of time itself. We speak of the eternal grandeur of gods and empires. And we design our cities and corporations to exist into infinity. We build monuments, spyscrapers, which we intend to stand forever as a testimony of our victory over the sands of time. But this victory can only come at a price, at this price; that though nothing passes away, nothing comes to be, either-that the world we create is a static, standardized place that can hold no surprises for us any more. We would do well to be wary of fulfilling our own darkest dreams by creating such a dystopia, a frozen world in which no one must fear death anymore, for everyone exists forever and no one lives for even an instant. "

-From Days of War, Nights of Love… Crimethink