Antarctica

Week 7 December 5 2004 "Moving Buildings"

Sunday comes around so quick here. No matter how interesting the week has been, Sunday night and I can't think of anything to write about. Then before you know it Sunday is over and another week is rushing by. You would think the 2 day weekends would be better but they feel like they drag on. Despite work being slow I think a lot happened this week. Let me see if I can remember it. Maybe I'll work backward. This is what happened this week.

I had been saving something as a treat for myself on Sunday. I had an early night for a Saturday night, and planned to get up, have my weekly shower and call Helen and my parents (hi Mum and Dad). Started out as planned, but just before I went to use the phone the satellite dropped out. No more phone calls today because of a problem at the down link here at Pole. Days that go this way make me want to get on the next plane. Okay, get no calls, go have breakfast.

Breakfast here is the usual huge American thing with eggs, potatoes, sausage, grits, and more. That is usually too much for me. I have a bowl of cereal. Except on Sundays when there isn't breakfast and lunch but rather a long brunch starting at 10:30. Omelette's to order. My one day of eggs for breakfast. This was the start of the recovery for the day.

This afternoon was the South Pole arts and crafts fair. There was a good range of material such as you would see anywhere else in the world. Some wonderful furniture made with local materials such as cargo straps, plywood, and steel banding was very nice. A good range of jewelery. Some paintings. And 2 local photographers. One of the photographers used to be a winter over for AMANDA and I have a number of his aurora photos. The other is a bloke I only met this year as he normally works in McMurdo though I know his work well as there is quite a bit in McMurdo and he is well published. I bought a few of his great panorama prints for the new offices in Madison.

Not much work was done on Saturday. It was a badly kept secret that a Mass Casualty Drill (MCI)was planned for this week. Since it hadn't happened by late in the week most people were guessing it was on for Saturday. There was a lot of people involved in the planning and execution. I would guess at least 30 people were involved in setting up, and maybe 40 people responding. I had a volunteer job as an observer in BioMed (the hospital). It was a very good scenario with the hydraulics of a crane failing and the boom landing on scaffolding at the RF facility (satellite ground station).

There was initially 6 casualties. But there was a catch in that the crane had severed power lines and was electrified. So there was soon another 2 casualties from the responders. I like to think I would not have fallen for this as I have been electrocuted in drill in the past (thanks Andy!). The idea of an MCI is to see how the fire and trauma teams respond while being overwhelmed. So they are not expected to have it under control from the start. That is the point. But how good can they do.

Except for the 2 electrocutions the fire team did extremely well. Victims were transported and delivered to BioMed in great time. It was fairly chaotic in and around BioMed, especially with some planted people becoming hysterical. There were quite a few problems found. Many to do with BioMed being brand new. Communications was a real problem. Having done this quite a bit it was very difficult not to jump in and start helping especially when they became over taken by patients. Towards the end I was asked to take on one of my other volunteer roles and take some x-rays. Of course it was just pretend. How did it go? Trauma team could do with some experience dealing with real patients. Fire team would put out fires that most teams wouldn't have a chance against. But we might loose a few of them while they are doing it.

On Wednesday night I got to go on a snow stake run. There is a row of stakes in the snow going out in 6 directions from the station for 25 kilometers. Each year the Meteorology department go out and measure these stakes to determine the rate of snow accumulation. This probably require 2 or 3 people, but to make life interesting for all of us they take 5 people with. This is the first time I've done this. The big attraction is that this is the furthest you will get from the station. Far enough away that the station is not visible. In the scheme of things this isn't the biggest adventure. But it has been a few years since I was out of sight of the station, and the furthest I've got without the an aircraft. Along with some amusing people it was a fun trip.

Visitors came and went during the week. The Chileans finally left after sorting out some mechanical problems. While they were fun, they were tiring. After the snow stake run I thought I'd have a beer in the bar. To my surprise there was bar full of people preparing for a birthday part (Chilean Doctor).

Then some skiers and tourist arrived. These people are known as NGAs, Non Government Activities. The skiers were dropped to ski back to Patriot Hills. They stayed a few days to acclimatise. I was told it was a Malaysian woman trying to be the first Malaysian to para-sail ski from Pole to Patriot Hills, and a guide. Quite a record huh. I only talked to one of them and he was nice bloke.

A few small things that happened this week worth a mention. For some reason the ceremonial South Pole didn't get dug out last year and the flags and barber shop pole were getting a bit low. This was fixed, but at the same time the ceremonial pole was moved! I don't know how long it has been in it's last location but it felt like a significant change. The idea extra pole was that the geographic South Pole was a fair distance away, and day visitors didn't have to walk all the distance. Now they are right next to each other the need for the ceremonial pole has gone away. But I guess the geographic pole gives the opportunity to have the American flag by itself.

The big event of the week happened in the middle of my writing this email. IceCube needs a building to house our surface computing system and for workshops etc. Rather than build a new building, the existing El Dorm (Elevated Dormitory) is being refitted for our needs. One of these needs is for it be moved from near the main station out to the Dark Sector. While these buildings were designed to be moved, it had never been done before. There was a lot of speculation as to what would happen. A good number of people came out to watch the event.

Except for a slightly tense moment when the building went off the road into soft snow everything went very smoothly. I'm sure everyone was confident all would go well. But there were some big smiles once it was in it's final position. A good finish to the week.

To be continued....

Twin twin otter planes operated by ALE

Facing back towards South Pole at the end of the road on a snow stake run.

Measuring a snow stake

Victims of the MCI being treated

The EL Drom gets a bit out of shape just before the ski-way

The new IceCube Counting House nearing it's new location

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