Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not exactly a desk job

Current McMurdo weather at the time of writing: 8F ambient, -36F wind chill.  Blowing snow and 1/8th mile visibility.

The weather has been uncooperative for the last couple weeks; not necessarily worse than normal, but it's been bad for much longer periods of time. This has lead to a lot of logistical problems, primarily that we've still got people stuck in Christchurch waiting for the weather to clear long enough to fly them down.  But it's also caused problems in our department, because we can't get to any of the places we need to work on our equipment.

So two days ago the weather FINALLY broke for long enough that we could get up the hill to the "Beach Ball" to troubleshoot one of our long-range wireless links.

We're heading over to the other side of the far hill, where you can just see the wind turbines peaking over the ridge

Even on clear days, this is still a hostile and intense environment that can change quickly.  Always pack your ECW gear when heading off station, for any length of time.

The best vehicle we could get at the time was a standard pickup, not even one of the lifted big-wheel trucks or even better, a Mattrack.  This was going to limit how far we could drive, so a good chunk of this was going to be on foot.

Passing the various mix of heavy equipment and other Antarctic machinery on the road.

On the other side and heading up the hills, the wind turbines start to come into view.  The Kiwis built them a while ago and they mostly supply electricity to the nearby Scott Base, and we get whatever is left over.

That white and orange striped dome, the "Beach Ball" is our destination

T-site, the big antenna array on the top of the hill, is as far as we can go in the truck.  From here on, the snow drifts are too deep and treacherous for a normal wheeled vehicle; someone had actually gotten stuck here earlier in the day and a tractor had to pull them out. 

So here on out, we're on foot.

Where someone had gotten stuck earlier.  Snow like this can be extremely deceptive.
The station is mostly down in the wind shadow of this hill, but up here it's almost always brutal.  While it looks nice and sunny, the air was barely above 0F and the wind was nudging over 40mph. Hence, all the wind turbines.

A bit over a mile of hiking gets us to the beach ball, the main long-range link to the Black Island satellite unlink and mounting points for many other shorter-range wireless connections. 


Up to where the doohicky is that we need to work on!

Hrm, looks like it's pointing in the right direction...

We're shooting out to the one of the airfields, barely viewable as a disturbance way out there on the ice sheet.  But it was in the same place as last year, as is the antenna.  So let's go inside and see if we can figure out what's broken.

Ah ha, there's the problem!  The wrong blinky lights were blinking.  So a few keystrokes made the proper blinky lights blink, and everything was good again.  A long walk back to the truck (which we had left running) got us home by dinner.

If you are looking for an IT job where you get to sit in an office all day, I would suggest avoiding this continent.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You are known world over for being the best blinky light repair-nerd there is. I bow to thee.