Antarctica

Week 2 November 1 2004 "Getting into a Routine"

We bag dragged in MCM last Sunday night, and were scheduled for a 8am reporting time at MCC (MacTown Control Center). I was surprised when my room mate came looking for me to let me know reporting time had moved forward, and then at breakfast I was again told of another move forward. Things just don't move that fast around here.

The flight from MCM to Pole was completely uneventful. On arrival there was a large crowd because of so many people coming in. My sun glasses had gone missing so was having trouble with glare, but the blokes soon found me and gave me a hand with bags. The housing coordinator was very nice and put me back in my old WO room in the dome (upper berthing 14). I requested this as it would help me slip back into a routine easier. By the time I had got some bags into my room, chatted with a few people, and gone back into the station, the altitude was starting to take it's toll.

An interesting phenomena happening at the Pole at the moment is that the aircraft have a condensation trail behind them while they are landed. A condensation trail, or contrail for short, is when the water vapor released by the engines of an aircraft condense to form a cloud. Normally you see this with jets flying very high in the atmosphere where it is too cold for the air to hold this large amount of moisture in vapor form. The air temperature at Pole this week was around -50C, like high in the atmosphere, and all the aircraft had this huge plume of a contrail behind them. What this means is that loaders can not see to approach the rear ramp of the aircraft to unload cargo. So at present the Air Nation Guard are doing "combat off-loads", or as the overly sensitive bureaucracy prefers to call it these days, "drifting". Sensitive equipment can't be unloaded this way because it takes quite a jolt. Hopefully it will warm up or it will have a major impact on our schedule.

The station is now very spread out. The dome used to be a focus for the station. But in this transition period when new facilities such as TV lounges and libraries are not finished, people are funneled into the galley for meals but soon disperse widely. Living in the dome means a trip up stair at least 3 times a day.

I have never slept so well on my first night at pole as this time. Seemed a good sign. I put it down to the room. I had forgotten how well used these upper berthing rooms look. Other small things I wish I had remembered before leaving home was the quality of the bed linen and pillows. I quickly remembered how to control the temperature in my room using the emergency hatch.

It takes a few days to become acclimatised to the altitude and get your bearings. I figured I would de-brief the WOs, see how the new blokes were settling in, and take it easy. The outgoing WOs did a very good job, and once analyzed I bet they will have the highest up time for the detector of any year. The new blokes had settled in very well. CG said that what I'd told him was correct. Well I tell them so much stuff I had no idea what he was talking about. "You said that we would be at Pole before everyone else, and that small period of time will make us old hands. Well I've been here 10 days and I feel like an old hand that's been here months." Not an original observation as I think my first WO boss told me the same thing. They seemed to have slipped into a good routine.

Being the first Tuesday of November I thought I'd have another go at listening to the big race live on HF radio. The Melbourne Cup of course, not the race in the US. The comms crew had not changed much, and Neil helped me set up in the ham shack with the most appropriate antenna connected. I had a list of frequencies for Radio Australia and started scanning through them. I also hadn't thought to check the start time, but figured it was very soon. In a last ditch I was going through frequencies from an old international radio handbook when I got something that at least sounded English. It was also getting a bit stronger. Still couldn't understand a word, but it suddenly had the tempo of a race call. I could catch words, and I could tell excitement was building. Then a couple of sentences at frenzy pitch. "From behind ???? is making a move". "And ???? has won one of the most memorable Melbourne Cups". And it was back to static. I'm glad I had no real interest in the race. I had to wait until the satellite was available the next day to find out about the Diva and her consecutive wins.

The next day I had a very early phone call followed by a couple of meetings. I was feeling extremely lethargic and put it down to coming off the altitude medication. Next morning I was woken early by someone else's alarm clock. After I woke I had a coughing fit, and went down hill from there. By the time I made it to Biomed a few hours later I was running a temperature and felt terrible. A bout of the crud was going around. This is the generic name for a viral infections on station that spreads. But I was diagnosed with possible early stages of the flu (son of crud).

This flu was bad enough that when I went to breakfast the next day there was a sign asking sick people to contact medical to have meals delivered. The impact on station was significant with many people out of action. I was pleased about the sign as I couldn't face going up the Beer Can stairs one more time. But there was a big burden on people delivering food and the medical staff who had to make house calls. In this week Biomed saw 113 patients!!

That put and end to my week. I finally felt it was safe for me to go to the galley for Sunday brunch. But don't want to go to any TV lounge and cough over everyone. Going for a walk outside is out of the question. But I should be okay to meet the new arrivals on Monday.

Maybe I'll work on getting into my routine next week.

To be continued....

p.s. It's a bit cold even for here at this time of year.

Weekly Climate Summary for 29 October 2004 through 04 November 2004 UTC
South Pole Station, Antarctica 

Temperature:
Average temp... -51.1°C / -60.0°F
Maximum temp... -47.8°C / -54.0°F on day 2 
Minimum temp... -54.4°C / -65.9°F on day 31 

Wind:
Average wind speed.......... 6.9 mph or 6.0 knots
Prevailing wind direction... Grid North
Maximum wind speed.......... 15 mph or 13 knots on day 3 
Maximum wind direction...... Grid East
Average vectored wind....... 065 degrees at 4.3 knots

Station Pressure:
Average pressure... 670.4 mb
Highest pressure... 676.9 mb on day 29 
Lowest pressure.... 664.5 mb on day 3 

Physio-altitude:
Average physio-alt = 10992 ft/ 3350 m
Highest physio-alt = 11218 ft/ 3419 m on day 3 
Lowest physio-alt  = 10745 ft/ 3275 m on day 29 

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