October Journal

 

01/27/09

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Journal-ish kind of thing

 

05 Oct.  Well it sure has been a busy few days with the arrival of 16 people into the Fire Department.  We received 11 firefighters, 2 Lieutenants, 2 Dispatchers and 1 Fire Prevention officer.  It has taken a few days to get them all orientated and outfitted to start working.  The last few days the weather has not cooperated and the flight schedule is falling behind.  The flights scheduled for the 3rd and 4th were delayed.  The flight for the 3rd tried to get here today but they turned around about 100 miles away from here because the wind and visibility was bad at the runway.  This is what is called a "boomerang" a flight that leaves Christchurch in the hopes of a good weather window to fly into McMurdo.  The plane then makes the 5 hour flight back to Christchurch to try again another time.  This flight was mostly cargo but there still was 50 passengers or PAX.  They all get to go back to "Cheech" and try again.  The most unfortunate thing is they don't get their luggage back.  all the luggage for the flight is kept palletized in the aircraft for the next flight.  We all keep a change of clothes and toiletries in our carry on baggage for just that occasion.  The problem isn't solely in "Cheech"  there are Winterovers here that are slotted to get out of here on that flight also.  They also are without luggage.  For all flights you must do a "bag drag" and must report to the movement center with all your checked luggage some hours before your flight.  At the Movement Control Center they will palletize all the luggage onto the proper pallets for the cargo aircraft for your flight.  So you may be stuck with what's on your back and in your carry on.  I know a few people that are about 3-4 days with out their luggage so far.  It is iffy that there will be a flight until Tuesday or Wednesday according to the weather rumor mill.  Right now it is mostly calm the visibility is good but the clouds are quite low.  Only real effect for us is that our Sunday evening science lecture was canceled because the woman that was supposed to give it was on that flight :)

So back to the new crew...  We are now reaching quite a massive department so to speak.  We don't have to call in people from the off-duty crew to man the airfield.  With the arrival of our prevention officer I also can pass on a great chunk of my desk work over to him.  This is going to free me up to be more of a shift Captain and get to participate in the operation more.  Maybe Ill even get to drive one of the big trucks someday!

Before all the Winterovers took off we got a WinFly department photos.   WinFly A-ShiftWinFly B-shift

 

 

 

07 Oct. Well we are working on getting caught up on flights.  Today we had two flights instead of the scheduled one.  At this rate with 2 flights tomorrow we will only be short one flight so far.  I guess this is fairly normal this time of year.  The weather foils the best laid plans.  I just hope that there is mail on these flights!  I'm still waiting for the packages that I sent to myself back in August.  There were a few small mail items that made it to me on the last flight and none of them bills! OK one was a receipt from a bill darnit!  They even find me way down here.  We managed to get another 8 people on these last 2 flights so we are only missing about 4-5 people that will be filtering in sporadically. 

 

13 Oct. Wow, has it really been that long since I have updated?  Unfortunately not much new.  We haven't been able to get any planes down here save for one day of iffy weather.  I did notice on the package mail printout that I have mail waiting for me at the package room we will see what goodies await me tomorrow.  They are thinking about trying to bring 3 planes in tomorrow.  That sure will be quite a long day for us.  But there is so much cargo that has to get here that it will be very important to catch every good flying day.  I also have started working on my Halloween costume.  I guess the costume party is one not to miss here and lo and behold I am off that day!  Ill keep yall posted and get some pictures of the party.

 

14 Oct. Finally I think I have something to write about.  Today we had an orientation to Scott Base.  Kiwi Fire HelmetScott Base is the New Zealand base just up and over the hill about 1.5 miles from McMurdo.  Scott Base is a pleasantly small base in a strange green color.  In contrast to the sprawling megalopolis of McMurdo, Scott Base is tidy, compact and quite quaint.  My only previous exposure to their base was on a couple of "American Nights" they sponsor every Thursday evening.  They open there little shop and the bar that is attached to their galley to us Yanks.  Good cheap suds in a nice little bar.  They also have a nice little pool table with wickedly unforgiving pockets.  Well, Back to the story at hand.  This morning we were invited over for "Morning Tea" and were treated to the most tasty sausage rolls and instant coffee (they generally have no "drip" coffee).  Then went on a tour the base and look at the fire control systems that they have in place. Scott Base does not have a fire department, they operate what is termed a brigade system.  They have certain people that have gone through basic firefighting school and rotate as acting response crew.  Below are a few pictures from around Scott Base.  A "Carbonic" extinguisher (CO2).  The Wajax pump is their booster for firefighting and supporting the sprinkler system.  A hose load backpack. The FDC (Fire Department Connection) specifically just for the McMurdo trucks when we come to assist.  One of the sprinkler system agent tank and the compressed air cylinder used for propellant.

"Carbonic" ExtinguisherWajax PumpHose deployment packScott Base FDCanother FDCSprinkler system works

Then later that day we had a "mutual aid" drill.  The drill was that they had a fire in their vehicle maintenance shop and asked for our assistance.  Chief and I already had propositioned ourselves at Scott Base to observe.  Our engine only had an 8 minute response time but just as they pulled the hose in the door the Kiwis had finished the drill :(  But they were happy with the response time and the accessibility of assistance.  Below are the few pictures we took at the drill.  Engine 1 arriving on scene, the engine crew pulling hose and packing out, Making entry then us cleaning up.  Then a couple of shots of me.

Engine 1 at the scenePackin out for the drillMakin entryWrapping upMe at Scott Base

 

17-18 Oct. So I am actually writing this a bit late but last week end I had quite an interesting time.  I actually went camping!  The Field Safety Training Program or FSTP (F-Stop) teaches a class called Snowcraft 1.  This class is known in these parts as "Happy Camper".  Me the Happy CamperThe intention of this class is to teach the personnel that will be traveling out into the field away from the sprawling metropolis of McMurdo.  The class teaches the basic skills needed to survive out in the wild Antarctic.  the class is a two day one night class that allows you to go and sleep under the stars... well, in my case the midnight sun.  We started with a little bit of classroom stuff then out to the field.  We took a ride out onto the Ross Ice shelf about 2 miles from McMurdo.  the first thing we did is learn how to put up a Scott Tent.  A Scott tent was designed by Capt Scott and I kind ofGeoff Jolley the Happy Camper got a chuckle to think that he also ended up dying inside one on his return from the south pole.  Building the QuinzyShovelin awayThis tent is designed that you can crank up a stove inside and provide a warm place to live and cook.  Next we earned how to build a Quinzy (not real sure if I am spelling it right).  A Quinzy is a poor mans igloo.  You make a Quinzy by stacking all of your back packs and gear in a big pile and covering the whole mess with a lot of snow.  A little compacting and let it sit for about an hour to let it solidify a bit.  After it has been allowed to firm up you dig a tunnel into the center, pull out the bags and clean up the inside for living in.  I didn't manage to get in side the Quinzy but it looked quite confined.  The three people that slept in there said it was quite warm and they slept great.  The snow block quarryBuilding a snow block wallWe also constructed a snow block wall to protect a couple of ordinary mountain tents.  Setting up a moutain tentIt is very interesting to use actual snow as Lego's.  The snow can be cut with a saw and stacked forming quite strong structures.  My favorite was the trench shelters.  You start with cutting a trench in the snow about 6-12 inches wider than your shoulders and about 1-1.5 feet longer than your height.  The blocks that are cut from the trench are used as a cathedral type roof.  You end up with a very coffin like structure.  The class issued a sleeping bag, fleece liner and two foam pads.  Building a trench Trench shelterCompleted Trench shelterAfter a hot dinner of freeze-dried backpacker food we were left to our own devices until morning.  Geoff and I managed to go ahead and complete two full trench structures for ourselves and it didn't leave us much time before turning in.  I finished building my nest in my trench then chugged down a bunch of hot coco and GORP to try to fuel myself for the night.  Tunneling into the QuinzyMe and My ShelterI took a couple of laps around the camp and jogged out the outhouse and back to try to get some body heat built up to climb into bed.  We also boiled water to fill our nalgene bottles for little cozy heat packs inside our sleeping bags.  In just the few seconds it took me to get my outer layers off and squeeze into my sleeping bag I was quite chilled.  I use the "sit-up" technique to try to warm up by doing sit-ups in my sleeping bag.  I managed to get sort of comfortable but the sleeping bag and fleece liner were quite confining but I managed to fall asleep.  about 2 hours later I woke with the worse case of claustrophobia I have every had.  The only real concerning thing is that I am not claustrophobic.  The last time I felt like this I was actually suffocating when my tent collapsed on my while sleeping.  So I tried to calm myself down and find out what was wrong.  Well, nothing I could tell I had plenty of air, space and was feeling warm.  I got up anyway and headed off to the pee flag.  (they mark the pee place with a yellow flag)  It was an extremely calm night.  Its hard to call it night when you can still see the sun.  the sky was clear except for a few stringy blood red clouds on the horizon.  It was the first time that I can remember here that the wind was not blowing.  It was about -5F so it really was kind of comfortable.  Well, I needed to try to get some sleep so I ate some more GORP for fuel and did a bunch of jumping jacks then dove back into the bag.  This time I got about 3 hours before I was rudely woke again feeling all "closet"phobic.  So again I got up to warm up.  I was met by another camper that seemed to be having a lot more trouble with the cold.  He said that his feet really hurt and he couldn't stop shivering.  Luckily no one was sleeping in the Scott tent so I got the stove cranked up to heat up some warm drinks.  We sucked down a couple of hot chocolates and went for a walk.  After we were both feeling better I decided to try to get some more shuteye.  My frigid friend thought he couldn't go back to sleep and would stay up for the last few hours left.  This time I managed to sleep better for a couple of hours.  I think the major malfunction was the type of gear that was issued was a little small for me.  The fleece liner inside the sleeping bag mad it hard for me to move around like I am used to and thus I was getting to cold.  So next time I am taking my gear and trying to go back to the things that have always worked for me.  I usually never use a sleeping bag as a bag but a blanket and have never had any problems even to temps similar to this.  But I don't know if Ill have another chance to get out there.  I don't think they let us do recreational overnighters. 

 

25 Oct.  Added three more pictures to the Happy Camper School write-up.  I am working on putting together write-ups on our fire apparatus and will update our Airfield ops soon.

 

27 Oct.  Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy birthday dear Frosty Johnny, Happy Birthday to me!  Well, 35 went over with out much pomp and circumstance.  I guess I haven't reached my "best if used by" date.  Unfortunately there was not even a hint of any cake to be had.  I cant complain because I keep this special time of year quite quiet.  Not to much new to report.  We finally received our final player for the summer season.  Capt Gil Nunez arrived and assumed the A-shift captains position that I was trying to cover along with my shift.  Only thing now is they are forcing me to go home when I am off shift :(  Now I have to find something to do.  First project is to come up with a Halloween costume before Saturday.  I was going to try to make a suit of cardboard armor but that turned out to be to big of an undertaking.  Hmm Undertaker...  So I am at a loss.  I was figuring on using a lot of duct tape.  Maybe Ill go as a Duct.  I have been teaching a yoga class 1-3 times a week as my shift allows and I am having a blast.  We have been allowed to use the chapel for our class and it has been filled to capacity for every class.  I wasn't sure if I would like teaching yoga.  I guess I should go to a real instructors training when I get off the ice.  The whole station is getting very busy.  I think all the summer people are finally here and flights have started to the south pole base.  In a few weeks Ill be heading down to the South Pole to conduct the fire inspections and training for the fire brigade that they have down there.  Ill be sure to get my "Hero" shots at the pole and put them up on the site.  I am very interested to see how well I do at that altitude.  The south pole geographically is not a high elevation but the atmosphere is much thinner.  I have done high altitude training in a vacuum chamber but haven't been at significant altitude for any length of time.  Sorry no new pictures right now.  I keep forgetting my camera in my big jacket.  It has reached the +teens and really no need for a big jacket.  Just as long as there is little wind a sweatshirt is all you need.  It is funny how everything is so relative.  It seems very warm here now and even some of the snow is getting slushy.  When it gets around +20 I can see me breaking out the Birkenstocks and T-shirts.

 

30 Oct.  Got a call around noon to go dive tending again.  This time a bit further out on the sea ice.  The divers travel in what is called a Pisten Bully. Pisten Bully A bully is kind of like a Yugo version of a Sno-Cat.  It is a rough slow ride.  After we got the divers all suited up and into the water, I took the opportunity to try out one of my birthday presents.  Ma and Pa sent me a message in a bottle kit.  Message in a bottleSo I thought I would send some holiday greetings.  Line is busyWell unfortunately there is no water.  The only open water was in the dive hole and that didn't work so well.  most of the dive tending was uneventful no visits from the seals.  the divers caught all the little fish that they needed and we headed back.  Dive Hut 6They then asked if we weren't doing anything we could tag along while they went out to check on a few things.  I was game to get out of town again.  We headed out to one of the shacks that they are using for fishing.  Their version of fishing is using a cable and gasoline powered winch.  Seal in dive holeAntarctic fishingfishingUnfortunately the currents had dragged the net and cable in a weird direction and the cable was digging into the ice.  We tried to get it freed with no luck.  We did get to gander at a seal that was hanging out at this shack.  Phil the diver then decided to go and check out a few of the outside dive holes closer to town.  Me and sealsWeddell sealTannin in the sunWe found about 8-9 Weddell seals out basking in the sun.   

 

 

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