Saturday, April 26, 2008

Huh, weird. Still have tubes.

You know, I didn't think I'd really have this much internet access down here. It's surprisingly connected. But the Santiago airport had a plethora of free wi-fi, the hotel here had free wi-fi, and the Raytheon terminal here at the port has computers for use as well (which is where I am now). And just about every single little shop and store and wherever has free wi-fi, just wandering down the street, my ipod is constantly chirping with new networks found. In some ways, it shows just how relatively un-wired the USA actually is, for all of our first-world status.

But in a way I'm almost a little disappointed. Staying connected to my tubes makes this whole thing feel like a bit less of an . . . I dunno. Less remote and less strange. It stays as my connection to reality. And in all actuality, I was sort of looking forward to being cut off.

The ship will have no internet, that's for sure. I'm going aboard in about ten minutes or so, for a tour and safety thing and whatever. I know we leave tomorrow morning, but I'm not sure what goes on until then.

Sorry about the spamming of posts in the last couple days, but I keep thinking I'm finally out of contact, and then discovering "Oh, wait, no, I've got a signal here"

So this might be my last post for a week, but probably not. No more pics yet, as my camera is in my luggage. I really should have brought a point and shoot.
Alright, so I'm sitting here at my hotel in Punta Aranus (PA) now. I've spent the last day and a half or more sitting around airports and it airplanes and on buses and shuttles, and it's amazing how tired that makes you. So I'm keeping this short, maybe I'll flesh out the events more later.

The flight from Santiago to PA was beautiful, absolutely amazing views. Chile is a very, very bumpy place. And of course, there I was twisting around like a pretzel in the economy cabin trying to wrestle around my camera and swap lenses and not lose anything. I think I did get some good pictures, but I don't have the time or energy to go through them right now, I'll sort through them and post the good ones when I can.

I'm in this hotel for the night, then tomorrow at 10am we're issued our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. Then we board the ship (the Gould) at 2pm, have the safety briefing and orientation, then spend the night on the ship, and sail the next morning, hopefully getting to Palmer by the 1st or 2nd. PA is a funny little place, it saw it's heyday as a port town, a stop for most all shipping lines, but fell apart when the Panama Canal opened and ships no longer needed to go around the tip of South America. It's on it's way back, mostly as a tourist stop and for a lot of ecological and marine research and baseing, but there's still some remnants around of what it once was.

Anyway, just a couple pictures that I've snapped while on my way down, click them for descriptions:







Friday, April 25, 2008


So I'm delayed a bit in Santiago, but I'm not sure sure for how long. I guess there was an airline screwup and a couple of guys reservations didn't get booked for the flight down to PA. I think they're going to put us on a later flight, but no word on how much later. Weirdly, there seem to be a ton of free hotspots at the airport here. I'm typing this all on my iPod, given that these are open, unsecured networks, and who knows who's out there sniffing packets and trying to do drive-by installs.

The nine-hour flight down from Dallas was bumpy, but pretty sweet. I had three seats to myself, and a power outlet under my seat. Spent most of the flight watching Dr Who.

No idea how long I'll be here. We're all sitting in the Raytheon guys office, can't really go a anywhere as we're waiting on word from the airlines or something. I'll try to update when I can.

Only now is the strangeness of this whole trip rreally starting to sink in.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And now the real journy starts?

Alright, so I'm sitting here at the RPSC (Raytheon Polar Services Corp) headquarters waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport to being my trek down to Palmer.

The last couple days have been the usual sort of corporate stuff that you go through getting hired at any company, nothing bad, most people seem pretty good.

They did go over, in detail, about what sort of things are and aren't allowed on the internet connection down there. It is technically a US Government connection, and they're pretty bandwith-limited (although I haven't been able to get a straight answer from anyone on exactly what the connection is like), so they have a whole list of specifically banned apps.

At the top of the list is:

-Skype or any other VoIP services
-Any P2P services, they mentioned KaZaa and Morpheous by name, but basically anything on that gnutella network, and probably bit torrent as well
-Online and network gaming, so absolutely no TF2 :(
-No streaming video (Specifically, no Youtube, or watching any streaming TV shows, even legally, off broadcaster's sites)

iTunes and other legal services they did say are okay, but they also stressed that due to how limited the bandwith is, they ask people to limit their DLing to off-peak hours and not do massive bulk downloads at once.

So given that I won't be able to download TV shows the usual way, anything new that I want to see will either need to be DLed by someone here, and mailed down once a month on some DVDs, or bought on iTunes. So I think I'll be asking for iTunes giftcards and things (electronic ones) if anyone wants to show how much they miss me by heaping monetary gifts my way.

As for if you want to mail stuff to me, I STILL haven't gotten a straight answer on exactly what the mailing address there is for larger packages. But I think flat mail and very small packages can go through the RPSC headquarters here in Denver.

Again, this is FLAT MAIL AND VERY SMALL PACKAGES ONLY! Basically, letters or padded envelopes of 2lbs or less. I THINK that very small boxes might be okay as well, as long as they're small enough that, say, you could fit them into a pocket or small purse.

Anyway, send to:
Brendan Pope
Palmer Station
C/o Raytheon Polar Services
7400 South Tucson Way
Centennial, CO

The mail is flown down to PA at the southern tip of Chile, and then goes to the station on the monthly supply vessel. So we only get mail once a month down there. The resupply ship leaves from Chile at the end of every month, and they say that to get your mail on that ship, you should mail the package at least two weeks in advance of the sailing. And even then, mail is pretty flaky and can be unreliable. So don't send anything time critical, and ABSOLUTELY no foods and stuff.

Anyway, I'm probably going to be out of touch for about a week, maybe a bit more. I've got a day of traveling to get me to PA, where I MIGHT have internet. But after that it's 4-10 days on the USS Gould to get down to the station, depending on weather and sea ice conditions (the Gould is an icebreaker, but breaking through sea ice is very slow). And even then, it'll probably be a couple days on station going through orientation and training before I can actually get online.

So, you may not hear from me for a bit, but I'll post and update when I can.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here I go!

So, this morning (technically yesterday), my dad and Bri dropped me off at O'Hare for my flight out to Denver. So far, this whole thing doesn't quite feel out of the ordinary yet. It's only a couple months ago that I was living my dull little life, answering the phone and helping people with their computers, but now here I am, on my way to the ice. It still seems a bit distant.

The traveling was okay. I mean, it's traveling. The usual mess of annoying people and cramped seats and waiting around and various mess-ups.

Tomorrow, the 23rd, I've got a bunch of stuff to do at the Polar Services headquarters, including the long and absurdly boring psych eval. On the upside, the hotel that they're putting me up at has free wi-fi, and doesn't seem to have blocked the ports for BitTorrent, so I've got another 36 hours or so of downloading that I can do, should at least allow me to finish up Dr Who and Torchwood episodes.

Anyway, here's a lame little arms-length shot of me at DIA waiting for the shuttle.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Travel timeline

Okay, so just FYI, here's what the travel week will look like for me:

-10:45am Tuesday, April 22nd - Fly out of O'Hare

-Get into Denver, CO, and get picked up at the airport and go to the Raytheon Polar Services Corporation (RPSC) headquarters, where they'll set me up with travel funds and things. Free hotel for the night

-April 23rd - Spend the day filling out paperwork and going through various corperate initiation in Denver, including the mandatory Psychiatric Evaluation to make sure I'm not going to go all Jack-Nicholsen-in-The-Shineing on people

-April 24th - Fly out of Denver at 3:45pm. Get into Dallas at 6:20pm for a three-hour stopover, and fly out of Dallas at 9:30pm for an over-night flight to Santiago

-April 25th - Get into Santiago, Chile, at 8am. A Raytheon guy meets me there and walks me through Customs, then I get on a 10am flight for Punta Arenas, getting in at 2:15pm. Again, greeted by a Raytheon person, who takes me to the docks where I meet people, and we all go out for dinner.

-April 26th - Spend the day in Punta Arenas, getting all my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear issued to me. Spend the night on the USS Gould, the icebreaker that takes me down.

-April 27th - Ship departs at 8am, and then it'll be four days on a flat-bottomed ship through some of the roughest seas in the world. I should get into Palmer Station by the 1st or 2nd of May, but probably won't have time to actually get on these tubes until after I've been there a couple days and gotten situated.