Tuesday, October 30, 2012

They're back . . .

So, this happened.

(I'm still at least 25 feet away from them, and they didn't take the slightest notice of me.  We operate under the Antarctic Treaty, and while there's no rule about exact distance, the guideline is that if our presence is affecting their behavior, we're too close.  So we stay far enough away that they either don't notice or don't care)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No big deal

Just hangin' out on the ice, chillin' with some penguins.  No big deal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The big orange thing returns

Another month, and another visit from the LMG, our pudgy orange link to the world.  This cruise brought in the first batch of scientists for the summer season, swelling our ranks temporarily to 35 people.  I set up my Go-Pro and took this time-lapse of it's arrival.

The arrival wasn't without incident; due to on-shore wind patterns and unseasonably cold temperatures, the ocean here has frozen solid.  Most guesses have put the current ice thickness at between one and two feet, which for a Class 1 icebreaker such as the Gould is pretty hard to get through.  Just getting to station was a struggle for it, and it had to do all those manuvers in the harbor to break up the ice enough so it could dock.

The ice has messed up the science schedule for this cruise as well.  The plan HAD been for the ship to dock, spend a night here, and the next day take off to spend 5 days doing coring and sampling of the ocean floor a few dozen miles to the south.  But the ice has been so thick and problematic that they couldn't even get more than a mile away from station; after spending a day trying to get out, they turned around and came back.

So they're still here, sitting at the dock while they figure out what to do.  At this point, fuel is becoming an issue; punching through the ice takes an amazing amount of gas, just getting that mile away from station through the ice burned over 10,000 gallons.  So rather than try and go out and come back to station again, which might not leave them with enough fuel to get home. they may leave us earlier than planned, and do the science on the way north to PA.  No one is sure yet, and everything is a little chaotic while we try and sort it out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making a new laptop case

A couple months ago, we had to go through our stock of Mustang suits and coats, those giant orange things we have to wear when we go boating or do any work in close proximity to the ocean.  We needed to do an over-all inspection of them, and sort out ones that were no longer safe to use.  They're not cheap, and they are extremely durable, but after enough time exposed to UV and weather some of them can start to deteriorate and we can't use them anymore.  For the most part, we throw them away, but a few of them we cut up to get interesting parts from.

A couple weeks ago I went for a rummage in the remnents box, and came up with an big collection of interesting bits.  The patches were highly sought after by everyone on station, but I ended up with a couple of them, along with a good length of zipper, some pockets, and a few square feet of material

Before I actually did anything with it, I had to . . . uh, learn how to sew.  Carolyn was nice enough to give a quick lesson on basic techniques, as well as showing us all how to thread and adjust the sewing machine.

With my head now full of knowledge, I got to work; I decided to blatantly copy Carolyn and make a case for my little laptop. I had no clue what I was doing going in to it, and hardly anything in mind of what I wanted the overall design to look like.  So this took about ten times as long as it should have, because most of the time was spent fiddling around trying to figure out exactly what material I had to work with and how everything would fit.  And most time-consuming, sorting out what the order of operations was going to be, which resulted in quite a number of screw-ups as I had to rip out a few feet of stitching because I missed a step.

After about 6 solid evenings of occupying the sewing machine, I came out with this!  Overall I'm really happy with how it turned out; I feel like I incorporated most of the identifying features from the mustang suits, and I was able to re-use enough of the factory stitching that the whole thing almost looks like it was built this way by the manufacturer.

The little pocket on the front is just the right size for the small power supply and maybe some headphones, and the large pocket on the back can easily hold my e-reader, or something else of size.

I'm not completely done with it, I still want to add a shoulder-strap and handle.  Ideally I want to incorporate some of the metal D-rings I pulled off the duck-tails from the float coats as attachment points, and maybe make the shoulder strap pad out of some remaining orange material.

22,595 Cups

Less than a year ago (perhaps 9 months by many estimations), our station took delivery of a new fancy-dancy computer controlled Expresso machine.  This was supposedly an industrial-quality unit; it cost over $2,000 and was intended to be a bullet-proof way for people to feed their coffee addiction.

It broke down on us in six months. And despite all of the maintenance team's best efforts (all two of us), it needs new parts which aren't going to be here for a while.  This left a galley full of caffeine addicts nervously starring at the spot on our kitchen counter that it used to occupy, wondering how long they can subsist on the air pots.

But as we were digging into the machine trying to figure out what was wrong, we noticed something interesting; as this thing was quite fancy, full of lots of blinky lights and LCD readouts, if you went into the maintenance mode it would give you a grand total of how many times the machine had been used.

22,595 times.  This poor little machine, no doubt intended for very small offices or even a household firmly in the more-money-than-brains financial segment, had brewed 22,595 cups of coffee in the six months or so before it gave up the ghost.

And even better, the machine even kept track of exactly what it brewed:

8,192 Double Espressos
5,798 Double Coffees
4,988 Single Coffees
2,814 Single Espressos
3,660 Steams
1,046 Miscellaneous (Hot water, powers, etc)

Not that this station has a coffee addiction problem or anything.


Monday, October 15, 2012

9 degrees this morning, which is the coldest temperature that I've experienced in the last 3 or 4 years.  I thought I signed up for a summer?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rec Boating; Ur doin' it wrong

We were foiled by an iced over harbor on our day off today, but that didn't stop us from having a boating adventure.  Fueled by whimsy, boredom, and not insignificant quantities of alcohol, we all gathered in the garage in preparation to set off.

Carolyn had some problems getting her float coat on.
 With everyone aboard, even though Carolyn hadn't figured out which hole her head went through on the float coat, we set off!  Due to the shallowness of the water, we had to paddle our way out of the harbor.

Also it prevented our driver from spilling his beer.
 I quickly took command of our vessel, which everyone was okay with as long as my face didn't have to be in the picture.

It was a fun-filled afternoon!  We saw some whales and penguins:

It may have just been dirty ice.  Or a drill press.  We're not sure.

And I went water-skiing!

But as tends to happen in small populations, things quickly went all Lord-of-the-Flies and our once happy society devolved into battles to the death.

I was absolutly not making lightsaber noises while swinging the oar at my boat-mates.

But before we could finish each other off, mother nature intervened with a MASSIVE wave, which swamped our boat and tossed us overboard.  And then we all died.

Yet still not a drop of beer was spilled.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Another beautiful day in Paradise

 Due to the nature of how the ocean currents move around our location, bringing down warm water from South America, we get a lot of overcast days here at Palmer; in fact, we hadn't had a single clear day since I'd gotten on station two weeks ago.  But today, everything cleared up and the winds died for a while, allowing us to take in the absurd location that we call home.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The rarest of all Antarctic birds

Another Saturday, another Housemouse.

Because Palmer Station is too small to have any dedicated janitorial or cleaning staff, every Saturday the station shuts down early and everyone picks a chore out of the hat in a ritual we call "Housemouse".  This was my assignment for this most recent Housemouse, to clean the top floor of the Bio-Lab building, where about half the dorm rooms are.  It all looks pretty standard, until you get to the last item; "Restock Cornish Game Hen Room...".  Restock the what room?

All of the dorm rooms on the third floor of the Bio-Lab building have hand-paintings of various Antarctic birds on the doors.  I'm currently in room 206, the Macaroni Penguin room.

All of the rooms, including the bathrooms get this treatment.  This one is a little bit of an inside joke, as the Sheathbill is usually referred to as the "Sh*t Chicken" because of their tendency to congregate near the station's sewer outflow pipe.

But the oddest room of the bunch has an even odder story behind it.

Quite a number of years ago over the winter, when the station got it's yearly resupply of frozen food, amoung the usual assortment of frozen meats, vegetables, pastries and cooking supplies was included an obscean number of cornish game hens.  As in, more than we would normally consume in ten years.  The cause of this is lost to time, but speculation is that whomever was ordering them assumed they were bought each, when in reality they were sold by the case.  Whatever the reason, we ended up with about a thousand pounds of little frozen birds, and nowhere near enough room for them in the freezers.

So a plot was devised.  The third-floor janitor's closet in the Bio-Lab building had a vent to the outside, and was to be used as an impromptu freezer.  It was emptied of it's cleaning supplies, linens and vacuum cleaners, and stuffed full of frozen cornish game hens. The hatch to the outside was then opened, exposing the room to the winter air.

It remained like this for a short time only, while the large freezers were re-arranged and storage space for all of these things was found.  So while that room served it's function for only a few days before reverting back to a boring old janitor's closet, it has forever been importalized in station culture as:

The Cornish Game Hen room.