Antarctica

Week 16 The Winter Crew Seizes Control - AMANDA Emu Parade

30th January -- 6th February 2000

I'm still having trouble getting onto day shift. So for now I'm officially on swing shift. The black magic being performed by the hoards of amanderites continues, and no end seems in sight (not that I'd know what the end looked like even if I knew what they were all doing). Meanwhile I've been doing mundane tasks like cleaning up the AMANDA gear left outside from the deployments. There seemed to be junk scattered everywhere, which I can see I'll be picking up for weeks to come. Plus unimportant things like running SPASE and RICE - poor cousins of AMANDA.

When I arrived there was limited storage space for spare gear, tools, and computer equipment. Since the beginning of the season more spare gear, and computer equipments has arrived (there seems to have been a net flux of tools out - we don't need tools here!?!), while the experiments have expanded into storage areas. Also, the AMANDA outlying building - the AMANDA Jamesway - has been hauled away, and it's contents emptied out onto the snow. There are many deficiencies in this station, but complete lack of DNF (Do Not Freeze) storage space is a major problem. What to do with all this junk!! The answer was obvious - I couldn't think of anything else. Throw it all into large wooden crates, nail lids on, and call cargo to have it all hauled out to "the berms". Luckily most of it wasn't DNF.

The berms is a huge storage warehouse without walls or roof. It's rows of snow mounds covered in all the left overs - can't think of what else to do with - stuff for next season - and anything else that has no where else to go. But it's not a rubbish tip, just because it may look it. It may sound a huge trash pile, but I think the berms are a magical place. If you wander around there for long enough it's possible to find anything. I agree with Ralf(AU), the Lost Ark is there somewhere with "US Government Property" stamped on it. It is also a huge science museum, with many of the old experiments on display on snow pedestals. Next door is a play ground with a swing under a large section of old garage arch.

There is still a large Aussie presence at the pole. Ralf, Mark, et al had some bad luck when one of the degrees of movement of their telescope mount failed. It is a beautiful looking system, but completely un-serviceable in the field. It is designed to run completely unattended for long periods of time, so no need to make it maintainable. Maybe some design work is still needed. They will let it run the year tracking a single star. They are staying a few extra days to diagnose what failed on their system, so that they have a chance of having it fixed next season.

On Sunday I did a trip with Mark and a couple of others out to the plane wreck. With the wind picking up, quite a bit of snow had got under the covers, so we shoveled a fair bit of snow. It wasn't the clearest day in ages. But in return the station was almost not visible because of the light falling snow. On the way back we stopped at the berm playground to play on the swing.

When I was at Casey I used to write to Sunbury Primary School. The teacher there (Greg) contacted me earlier in the season about a couple of schools (Bundeena Public School and Gymea Bay Public School, Sydney) that have been sending Millie, their Sydney Olympic Games mascot, around the world. Since her travels started in 1997 Millie had visited every continent except Antarctica. I volunteered to be Millie's hosts at the South Pole. Millie arrived while I was on R\&R, and this week I took Millie around to the sights of SP. To make sure she gets home safely, Mark is escorting her back to Oz. More about Millie's travels can be found at her home page.

For some reason the resupply is very late in the season. The resupply vessel, the Greenwave is yet to reach McMurdo. This has meant that the selection of food that the kitchen staff have to serve up to us is getting a bit limited. But the quality of the food is still very high. We did get some freshies this week, which made one of the best salads I've ever eaten. But things like honey, and soy sauce would be nice to have again. We also still have a lot of fuel to get in. Storage capacity of fuel for the station is 450 000 gallons. Tanker flights (capacity of around 9000 gallons) have been scheduled for the end of the season, and so many flights remain to get us to our required amount of fuel in.

Signs of the end of season continue. The most significant change being one of the largest work groups on station stopping night shift. This was not quite the end of mid-rats, but was a significant enough event that people came to mid-rats just because it was the last night for FMC (Facilities, Maintenance, and Construction). Big social event! Also the winter manager took over administration from the summer site manager.

To be continued .......

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