Sunday, August 26, 2012
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Today being the second day of tanker offload, and having gotten up at 4:30 this morning, and having worked for 13 hours today and 13 yesterday, and this being a Sunday (my regular day off)...I am tired.
My job for tanker offload has been "tank dipper," the person that uses a dip tape to measure how much fuel is coming into the fuel tank. Every 1/2 hour I climb to the top of the tank, open the dip port, dip and call in my reading to Control, in the Fuels Barn. The view from on top of the tanks is amazing; I can see the channel in McMurdo Sound where the icebreaker cut through to allow the fuel tanker to dock at the ice pier. Sometimes you can see whales, and yesterday when we were connectin ghte hoses to hte boat, a seal swam up next to the pier where we were standing. He puffed out his nostrils at us, realized that we stunk like fuel, and swam away.
Josh and I got to board the tanker yesterday morning and take fuel samples from the bulk tanks on board, which was exciting. Tanker has been a great time for me; not only do I get to work with the Fuels department (which is the department I'd hope to apply for when/if I come back), but I am doing an important job, where I am utilized and needed and relied upon. Fuels runs a tight ship and they have a very complex system of valves, hoses, tanks and pumps that require constant attention, and even the normally less-than-thrilling amount of intellectual stimulation that provides is vey satisfying. My body has proved itself suited to manual labor; I can deal with being cold, I make sure to keep snacks and water nearby, I don't strain my muscles or get too sore--- but my brain feels like it's locked in a prison during the workday. My saving grace for the 2nd half of the season has been free NPR podcasts, which keep me from going totally brain dead, but that's nothing quite as nice as working with a group of people to solve a problem or execute an operation. I hope I can find a job like that in Boise.
After tanker finishes (later tonight), we get two days off--one to make up for our missed Sunday and one as comp time for our 13-hr workdays.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Hello from the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) divide!
I arrived here, finally, after 5 days of weather delays in McMurdo. It was pretty weird having such a sense of limbo, and getting up super early in the morning at McMurdo, to take an airfield taxi 17 miles out onto the runway on the Ross Ice Shelf, only to spend the entire day in the airport galley on weather delay. Rinse and repeat for 5 days. Luckily I had a good book.
Anyway, I’ve arrived! Actually I arrived a week ago on Friday, but haven’t posted until now. I’m on a field camp rotation at the WAIS field camp, 800 miles from McMurdo in
A little more about WAIS, from my friend Erika who is a GA for the Carpenter’s shop in McMurdo and who came out here for the camp put-in. This is from her blog, www.erikainantarctica.blogspot.com. She does a nice job of summing it up:
WAIS Divide (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) is about 800 miles from McMurdo, about 6000 feet in elevation, and is the location for the drilling of a 10,000 foot ice core. We are here to support the scientists for this specific project along with other scientific research that is being done in and around this area. The idea for this specific ice core project began in 2000 with testing beginning in
At night I sleep in an Arctic Oven, which is a massive, really warm tent that I have all to myself. I have a flattened triwall cardboard box for padding on the ground which is super comfy. (Why yes, it does make me sound like a hobo, thank you very much.) My tent is of the many tents in “
Well, I’ve gotta get myself off to bed. Going to bed is quite an affair, as I have to change my clothes, brush teeth, bundle up, trudge out to tent city, shovel out the tent, arrange my clothes and stuff, and arrange my sleeping bag and mat, which takes longer than you’d think when you have to wrap yourself so tightly that only your nose shows…
Sunday, January 3, 2010
I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year, and get crackin' on those resolutions!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sea Ice Training: For sea ice training we went out in a hagglund, a tracked amphibious vehicle, although the one we were in probably hasn't been able to keep water out for about ten years. The purpose of the training was to teach us how to profile cracks in the ice so that we could tell if they were safe to cross with a vehilce. Using kovack drills, we measured the thickness of the ice, and how wide the crack was. Most of the ice where we were was about six feet deep. At the end of the day we had the treat of being able to go inside an ice cave inside the Eurubus glacier toungh. The ice formations inside were incredibly beutifull.
Happy Camper: Another training. For this one we learned how to construct snow shelters and some basic Antarctic survival skills, then spent the night in tents or snow shelters. I chose to spend the night in a tent, and for the most part had a pretty warm night. Around one a.m. the wind picked up and started shaking the walls of my tent, which we covered in ice from the frozen condensation of my breath, so I got woken up with a nice shower of ice. When I got up in the morning, there was about a -40 degree windchill outside of my tent. We then did radio and whiteout training as I tried to retain feeling in my hands. I had the pleasure of completing my happy camper with two members of the BBC team down here filming a new series, Frozen Planet. The two that I met were Jeff Wilson and Mark Smith. If you watch the special fetures on the "Mountains" episode of Planet Earth, you'll see that they were the ones that filmed the famous snow leppord scene. Overall, it was a great experience.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Tanker Offload is the name we give to the 4 or 5 days of setting up hoses, pipelines, and valves to offload a BUNCH (5 million gallons) of fuel from the fuel tanker ship into our bulk tanks on station. People are working on offload 24 hours a day from before the boat gets here until after it leaves. The GA's are, like always, the temp workers, and Alex Morris (the station Fuels Supervisor) will be taking 3 of us for the dayshift and 3 for nights. They are 12-hr days, beginning at 0545 (that's 5:45am for you civilians) and ending at 1745 (5:45pm). Read = time of massive exhaustion. It looks like if I'm here for tanker (and there's a chance that I won't be because I'm going to WAIS divide next week), I may end up on the night shift, which means I get two days off to "transition to nights" and some time to transition back. We'll see.
The GA's will have 3 jobs during tanker offload: walking the line, dipping tanks, and manning the pier valves. Walking the line is exactly what it sounds like - we walk alongside the hard fuel lines for about 1.2 miles (each way) from the tanker at the ice pier to the bulk tanks at the top of the hill overlooking town. And then we walk down again. FOR 12 HOURS. My iPod will be getting charged a lot if I end up being a linewalker.
Dipping the tank is how we measure how much fuel is in a fuel tank; we use a special tape measure with a weighted bar and thermometer at the bottom, drop it to exactly the bottom of the tank, then read the tape like you'd read an oil dipstick in a car. This seems simple, but does take some finesse. Firstly, the tape is flexible, so if you don't pay attention to exactly when the weight just kisses the bottom of the tank (and for a Madagascar 2 reference, "just a little kiss, like you're kissing your sister"), it will fold down and ruin your reading. And, a fuel-soaked tape and a dry tape look very similar, and if you don't have a guess within a few inches of where the transition from shiny black tape to slightly less shiny black tape is, and you don't have a very clear, sunny day but not too sunny and no wind, it's easy to miss. We are in Antarctica, so you can imagine the chances of a perfect day.
The last task is manning the pier valves. There are 6 valves (if I remember correctly) on hard metal fuel lines at the pier. During tanker, we'll run soft hose from those valves onto the boat. If you're lucky, you will watch the valves for 12 hours and nothing will happen. If you're unlucky, something will happen and you will have a spill or leak on your hands. It's one of those low-probability but high-consequence situations where it really is worth having someone there if something goes awry, because there's about 800 gallons of fuel per minute going through those lines.
Fuel tanker will be exciting, I think, despite the horrendous hours, monotonous tasks, and immense responsibility. Plus we get to carry radios and say things like "Roger that" and "over." Isn't that enough?
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Other beeker project acronyms:
CREAM - The Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass (CREAM) experiment was designed and constructed to measure cosmic ray elemental spectra using a series of ultra long duration balloon (ULDB) flights.
AMANDA - Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Array (the forerunner of the IceCube neutrino telescope project at the South Pole)
SuperDARN - Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), a consortium of 9 nations operating 16 identical radars over the Arctic and Antarctica.
NICL - National Ice Core Laboratory
ANSMET - Antarctic Search for Meteorites
I'm certainly doing fine here and am not desperate to come home or anything, but being in one spot without the freedom to go anywhere, with VERY little free time is taking its toll. I miss my mom, my dog, trees and friends. I think two months might be enough for me at a time - it would be nice to come down for 6 or 8 weeks as a scientist, live at a remote field camp and go back home. It's not like "Antarctica" (the concept, the exoticism, the vastness) has itself become stifiling: I don't think that could ever happen on this white block of ice - it's that being a labor worker in McMurdo has become stifiling. And I'm one of the lucky ones; my job takes me around the continent more than any other first-year job. I feel very fortunate, comparatively. If I could come down in an ideal capacity, it would be as a scientist. I would be down here in a project in which I was emotionally invested, I would see the project through and leave when it was done (as opposed to seeing little bits of projects, working with them in a way that a mercenary fights in a war- not caring about the true meaning or cause, just down to make a buck. I don't like feeling that way about my job, but it's set up to be that way. Sorry for the long metaphor.)
There are still fun things that I'm getting to do, though, like working at the BFC (basically a huge Outdoor Program) and possibly (nothing's for sure yet) going to the South Pole for a few weeks. And the fuel tanker ship and supply vessel offload sound pretty exciting - I love a "final push" mentality about organizations. Maybe that's why I was so good about procrastinating in college. My boss is a good and fair boss, but I don't like not being able to budget and allocate my time, or keep my own schedule. If I could work 10 hours a day on projects, but have a little freedom to push and pull things around in my schedule, I could still get my work done and not feel as much like a piece of equipment and more like a responsible person.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Just like the Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving, he got 4th place! Way to go Josh. Pictures to come.