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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