Sunday, February 24, 2013

It seems I have a theme

It was my turn to clean and refill the juice machine this week. Do my labels communicate clearly enough what they are?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Drinking fountain

My boss asked me to put up a warning sign while the drinking fountain was out of commission for a couple days. How'd I do?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Antenna Moving

I have a loosely defined job description, with few official duties.  The bulk of my day consists of the "Other duties as assigned", that catch-all that employers like to put into any job posting to make it clear that you need to be able to do whatever they ask of you.  When this is combined with the fact that I was never in the Army, and therefor never learned "Never volunteer for ANYTHING", my hand usually shoots up before our station manager is done saying "Okay, we need someone to...".  I'll happily signed up for any task, before I have any clue what it is.

And this week, that task was antenna moving.

Behind the station, roughly a mile and change up the glacier, we have a couple of antennas for local radio communication.  Because they're anchored into the glacial ice, every so often we have to re-anchor the supports and move them around to avoid any newly forming fissures.

So that morning, we packed up what we would need, took a gas-powered ice drill and set off for the glacier.

There are no paths in this part of the world, just a half-mile of basketball sized rocks to scramble over.  Good, solid boots are critcal here, no one wants a twisted or broken ankle.  Watch where you step.

The glacier itself was no less sketchy.  A summer's worth of melt has cut large undgulations and channels into it, and the surface is unpredictable.

Maybe it wasn't a bad thing that the station's resident motorcycle addict and speed freak didn't drive.

Halfway up the glacier we came to the snowmobile we leave parked up here, mostly for usage during and Search and Rescue missions, but also for situations like this.  We loaded the heavy things were were carrying (mostly the ice drill and some other tools) into the little cargo basket on back, and Sarah drove it the rest of the way up to the top of the glacier.  The rest of us had to hoof it the whole way, but once we got there the view was spectacular.

We have two main antennas up here; the Very Low Frequency (VLF) antenna, and then the Channel 27/28 repeter, which is used to expand our local radio communication range.  The VLF was still on solid ice, and just needed the guy wire anchors repositioned and tightened, but the repeter was going to have to be moved.  We inspected both of them, and set to work.
Shouldn't one of us be leaning on a shovel?

It was like that Iwo-Jima flag raising, but in reverse.
Hey, carrying heavy things around!  I can do this job!
I was the only person who'd thought ahead to bring hearing protection, so most of the hole-drilling fell to me.  We had two augers coupled together, making the total drill shaft length over six feet.  Not bad once you have it going, but a pain to get started.

Yup, this is what I quit my desk job for.
How many other people get this view when they're working?
After a few instances of us accidently getting all ~6 feet of the drill stuck in the ice, we figured out that we had to pull it completely out more freuquently to clear out all the slush. This was often a two-man job, even though I was the only one with earplugs. Poor Glen was half deaf by the end of it.

The whole process took most of a solid day up on the glacier, carrying heavy things around and drilling out ice holes.  We were again able to use the snowmobile to ferry some of the stuff part of the way back, but the rest of it was hiked.  Seemed much shorter on the way back, though.
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

I had tea on a British Navy ship

It's not a cruise ship, but we'll take what we can get.  A couple weeks ago the HMS Protector dropped by for a visit, in the midst of some pretty nasty weather.  In spite of the blowing snow and rain, we piled into our Zodiacs to go out and say hello.

In comparison to our wee little LMG, this thing was giant.  I've been so accustomed to the cramped rear deck of the LMG that I'd had no idea what something with a really spacious area can feel like.  They could easily play two or three games of basketball out here when all the stuff is cleared away, and from talking to some of the mates, they often do.

The joke onboard was that the crane was their primary weapon.

The bridge was similarly proportioned, very well equipped and exceedingly comfortable.  These settings would have been just as reasonable on a good cruise ship, and on a warship they were almost out of place.


Below decks was similar, clean and orderly but somehow a touch more upscale than you would expect.


In a break from Naval tradition, this is one of the few British Naval ships where Officers and Enlisted personnel eat in the same area, at the same time.  The Captain and XO do have their own unofficial designated seats, but besides them the dining area is open, friendly, bright and as with the rest of the ship, much nicer than you would expect.

Complete with the seemingly mandatory fake plants

Once we got a little deeper into the ship, things began to look more like what I was expecting.  As this is a ship of the British Navy, and officially classified as a warship, they do have a contingent of Royal Marines on board, and all the goodies that they would need for some small land operations. 

Man, other kid's toys are always better than ours.

On one of the lower decks, arranged between the various cargo pallets and shipping containers, there were scattered bits of recreational equipment.  It seems that having an actual road bike with a little treadmill doohicky on the back is probably much lighter and easier to move than the stationary bikes we have in our gym on station.

From talking to the sailors, this ship is a highly, highly coveted assignment, especially among the enlisted men.  The living standards are much more comfortable than on a typical Navy ship, there's only two people to a room instead of the typical 10-40 that you might find on many other vessels.  The recreation opportunities are ample, it's spacious and most work a four weeks on/two weeks off rotation.  This crew obviously took pride in their ship.

Looking back at station from one of the upper decks.  Glorious, typical Antarctic weather.

And because this was, of course, the British Navy, what was the next mandatory course of action?  It was time to have tea and biscuits, because even in this frozen ocean, they still remember what proper civilized people do.

Man I don't even LIKE tea, but I will drink some just to say that I had tea on a British Navy ship.
THIS is what the Navy is like?!  I thought it was all swabbing poop decks and people yelling at you.
A classic game that is apparently the cause of, and resolution to, many small and not-so-small disputes on board.

We were there guests for the better part of an hour as they showed us around and socialized a bit.  All of us were very impressed with the ship; it was obviously very well appointed and designed with it's task in mind.  And frankly, if THIS was what service in the British Navy was like?  I might have to learn the Queen's English and sign up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh yes.

You may commence being jealous of me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Flossing Seal

We tied up the Point Sur a few days ago, and this leopard seal decided that the stern line was his own personal chew toy.  They're so cute that you almost forget how easily they can kill you if they felt like it.  :)

Friday, February 1, 2013


Woah, it's not orange!

Wait a minute, that's not the LMG!

The R/V Point Sur showed up a couple of days ago, one of the few ships besides the LMG that will tie up to our peir.  This ship is also operated by the USAP and NSF, it's sort of an experiment to see how much science can be done with smaller, less expensive vessels along the Antarctic Peninsula. 

The LMG is a good science-capable ship, but for many of the tasks it's much more than needed, and is also quite expensive.  It costs $35,000 per day to run the LMG, while the Point Sur is only $14,000 per day.  For things like field camp put-ins, wildlife tagging and water sampling, it's perfectly capable and gives WAY more range and capabilities than we have operating from Zodiac boats based around station.  It also frees the LMG up to continue other longer-range science, such as the ongoing LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) project.

Although given how long it's been since anyone besides the LMG has tied to our peir, we ran into a bit of a problem.
Aaaaaalmost . . . nope, can't reach.

The LMG is so large and has such a deep draft that we have to hold it far off the pier with two bumpers to prevent it's hull from smacking into some underwater rocks.  But the Point Sur is vastly smaller, and it's gangway wasn't long enough to bridge this much gap.   Eventually we decided to take off the two outer fenders, which allowed it to tie up, offload some people, and deliver to us the most important cargo of all.

FRESHIES, the most precious commodity on the whole continent. 

But the Point Sur also dropped off some people, more than they were expecting to.  One of the science groups on the ship had expected to get dropped off at some islands over in the Weddell Sea, but they were thwarted by ice and couldn't put in their field camp.  So instead they're here on station, and we simply don't have the bed space for them.  Our absolute maximum capacity of beds is 46 people if EVERYONE has a room mate, and with the inclusion of this group, we're at 54. 

So they're living outside for now.
For lease; exclusive waterfront property, great location!

They've pitched tents all over the station. Some on the cargo deck behind GWR, others in the "backyard", the hills behind the station at the base of the glacier.  It's about what they expected; the plan was for them to have been camping for three weeks on the other side of the peninsula, far from any sort of station that could provide them with hot showers and food.  So even though they're in tents, this is considered luxury.

It's fun having this many people around, but it is getting kind of crowded.  This is the most people that have been on station for more than an hour since the Bahia sank back in 1989.
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