Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hard, Cold Trash

Genevieve preparing to line a triwall box with a plastic liner in a 20 mph wind.

 Here is Genevieve, our Waste person wrestling with our solid waste that must go into triwalls.  Triwalls are large cardboard boxes that she assembles for all our solid waste.  These are flash pictures because it is still very dark.  I hope I don't get in trouble for the flash pictures but I was assured that it would be ok to take them, that the scientific instruments would not be effected.  Windchill when I took these pictures was below -130F with a real temperature of -89.  To get more in the boxes she does her wastie dance on top of them to compact the contents.  

Getting that stuff compacted.
Getting the triwall closed using body mass.
Climbing in

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Worst weather yet...

Two posts in as many days, a new record.  But I have to post about the current weather - it just keeps getting worse and worse.  We now officially have one of the top five days ever recorded in terms of altitude at 11,860 feet, and it keeps going up.  The weather prediction computers in Florida (yes, that's where our weather computers are) shut themselves off when they decided that the wind speed predictions they were projecting weren't reasonable.  But here we are with 40 mph winds and at nearly 12,000 feet.  I'm sitting here at my desk and I can feel the station rocking in the wind - that's the first time that has happened all winter.  We can hear the wind howling outside even through the foot-thick walls.  Luckily it is pretty warm today at -56F.  You may think that's a joke, but really it isn't.  There is a huge difference between -56 and -80.

I was outside this morning for about 45 minutes and it is very different from the lower winds and clear skies we usually have.  Normally the wind blows from one direction constantly, but today the wind was from another direction - it was very confusing.  We navigate using some red lights placed around the station and at one point I couldn't see them anymore.  I was getting nervous because I didn't know how I was going to get back to the station if someone had turned the station's red lights off.  Then I realized I was facing in the wrong direction and the lights were behind me.  I bet you think I was miles away, but I was only about fifty yards from the station.  It is really pitch dark and when the wind blows there is blowing snow up to about ten feet off the ice.  If you look straight up you might see stars, but looking horizontally you can't see much at all.  When I got back inside the station the upwind side of my parka was coated in snow.

Current prediction: increasing winds for the next four days.

Local News at 9

People have been telling me to post more about everyday life, and not to wait for big events.  Ok, but you asked for it so don't blame me...

Every Saturday night we have a South Pole Drive In Movie in the gym, with the movie projected onto the big screen (sheets sewn together).  Normally these movies are boy-movies - science fiction and action films.  To counter this the women on station have started an alternative movie night with, well, more sensitive films.  This week will be Jane Austin.  Normally none of the males on station would go to see this even if you paid them, but the talk is that they may crash it and sit in the back.  The catch is that every time "love" is mentioned in the movie every male in the room is going to down a shot of liquor.  Should make for an interesting screening of Jane Austin.  We'll see if it happens.

Cold temperatures are getting to be pretty everyday here but the last two weeks have been special.  We hit -103F last week and added several new members of the 300 Club.  The 300 Club you ask?  When temperatures are below -100F the sauna is heated to +200F.  People hang out in there for fifteen minutes or so and then run outside and around the South Pole marker.   Big deal, right?  Oh, did I forget to mention that this is done completely nude?

In more mundane matters, there is a competition on lighting at the station.  Some people here want to turn every light off that isn't absolutely necessary in order to save a few watts of electricity - and they do so at every opportunity.  Others are getting tired of wondering why they are eating lunch in the dark and want the lights turned back on.  Me?  I'm getting tired of sitting around in the dark wishing I had a candle to eat by.

Things not to do at the South Pole in July, four months before the next flight in?  Don't leave your ipod in your pants pocket and run it through the washing machine. Not good.

Today we reached our lowest atmospheric pressure since winter started.  It is now 649 mb of atmospheric pressure.  That translates into an effective altitude of 11,850 feet.  Whew.  If you don't think that is high, try coming down here and climbing a few stairs.  So, are you curious about the weather here right this minute?  Seventy-two below zero, winds of 30 mph, blowing snow and blizzard conditions, and 11,560 feet of altitude. Remind me again why I am here... please.

But don't think it is all fun and games.  We all have our work to do.  I am currently working on finding a way to erect some platforms over some fuel tanks to provide a safe working area next summer, and in getting some additional safety devices installed on a materials conveyor.  Since both of these areas are always between -70 and -90 degrees what would normally be a difficult job becomes even more so.