Antarctica

Week 4 November 14 2004 "Quiet Week"

This week has been quiet again. Work has not ramped up as I expected. One of the most difficult aspects of doing IT work is that it has to fit in with other peoples schedules. Thus if it disrupts someone too much then a server upgrade has to be put off to a more convenient time - for them. It does mean that things such as this get done at the least convenient time for us. I also found some scheduling problems with network upgrades on station which will see us putting in temporary solutions for about a month and then re-installing.

The South Pole is getting big. It started with the new station, a huge monster of a place. Ask any NSF person and you will hear how this was a move to support "world class" science, and in the case of IceCube, it is also big science. Not to be outdone the radio astronomy community have been funded to build a 10m diameter radio telescope. On Monday there was a ground breaking ceremony held with key station people in attendance, and one of the PIs (Principle Investigators) reading a message from the new telescopes director. A National Geographic film crew was on station and they came out to film the great occasion.

The film crew was here last year also. They are doing a 3 year project for the NSF (National Science Foundation) to document the modernization of the South Pole. The sound and camera men are both Kiwis and are a lot of fun. They had a small amount of time (they only get a very short time at Pole and NSF wants them to film everything!) to spare last year and made a short film for the South Pole Film Festival. I haven't seen it yet but am told it is very funny. Unfortunately the third member of the crew didn't make it this year, but I hear he found something much more interesting to do.

Large amounts of IceCube cargo started arriving at the Pole this week, in particular the MDS (Mobile Drilling Structures) which are the buildings that make up the Drill Camp - I mean SES (Seasonal Equipment Site). Why use a name that makes sense when a completely obscure TLA can be used instead. What made the arrival of MDSs interesting is that these had been designed to just fit inside a Herc. I don't believe until this week one had ever been put inside a Herc. So there was some chance for interesting events, being a first time, and the margins being so small. As it turned out all went well (no great photos ops) and by the end of the week a number of the buildings had arrived and are already in position at the Drill Camp - ummm SES.

On November 28, 1929 the South Pole was visited again for the first time since Scott and his men left. This time it was by Admiral Byrd who flew over the South Pole. The pilot was Dean Smith, Byrd was the navigator, Harold June co-pilot and radio operator, and Captain Ashley McKinley was aerial photographer. Their aircraft was a Ford tri-motor, the Floyd Bennett. When I was a Pole in 1999 the Air National Guard did a commemorative flight following the route Byrd took. This year being the 75th anniversary of this flight a special flight was again scheduled along with a number of PR events in McMurdo (I'm told). For some reason only known to PR types this flight was not flown on the anniversary of the actual flight but last Tuesday. I guess this way they can get canned footage to the media. Never let authenticity get in the way of PR. Despite all this I did go out to watch and take some photos of the fly over.

Otherwise, like I said it was a very quiet week. So what do people do to pass the time? Email is a big distraction these days. Movies are still popular. Though it is becoming less social with more people watching DVDs in their room on computers and less people hanging out in lounges. The bar in the Dome is quiet compared to the old days. For most people it is a hike from the new station or summer camp to go to the Dome bar. It is scheduled for demolition at the end of this summer. More people hang out in the galley (or should I say the new dinning facility) after meals. After meals there isn't anywhere to go to in the new station except the library which has only a few uncomfortable chairs. New lounges and areas for relaxation are scheduled to be completed in the next couple of years. On Saturday night there was an open mic and quite a few people sang, and played music. On Sunday night there is a science lecture. This week was Tony Stark on the normal and abnormal formation of stars.

While I very seldom get bored, and always seem busy enough, I'm always behind on my weekly email, or some work report that needs writing. Sometimes though, more often than not even, it is quite ordinary in Antarctica.

To be continued....

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