Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This week at Pole

We didn’t get any snow shoveled last week as we wanted to.  It was too cold and windy, and the dozer did not get to all the buildings to clear the massive parts of the drifts away.  Maybe this week.  We still have two weeks to get it done but it would be hard to do all of them in the last few days.

We had our next to last emergency response drill yesterday.  It took about five times longer to plan it than to execute.  It was a vehicle fire with an injured driver.  The teams have gotten much better over the winter because this time there was no fuss, no muss and the injured person was in medical within ten minutes, and the “fire” in the vehicle put out in about 15 minutes from the first call-in.  No one realized it until later, but this drill was essentially the same as the first drill of the season, which was very uncoordinated with a lot of mistakes.  I was afraid that this drill was way too simple based on the increasingly difficult and challenging drills of the winter, but it turned out to be a good indicator of how much progress the ERT teams have made since January. 

This week I finished an article for the Raytheon internal newspaper, PS News, about safety planning this winter at Pole.  We have not had a single accident this year, which is unusual.  We have a very good crew and I attribute the safe operations to it being a somewhat older average age than normal.  I think the average age is in the low 30’s when it is usually in the mid 20’s.  Supervisors are also very safety conscious this year and discuss the risks of jobs in advance with their employees.  This has really helped prevent accidents this winter.  I’ll post the article here next week. 

Snow clearing by the heavy equipment operator continues this week.  The housing units called Jamesways have to be cleared of snow before we can shovel and start up the heaters.  A snow-grooming device called the goose, which is pulled behind a dozer to level sastrugi (drifts) is being brought online this week.  It has been sitting outside all winter and has to have two portable diesel-powered heaters running to warm its articulating parts before it can be moved.  There was some sort of mistake made in warming vehicles which put everything back a day when the snow-clearing was behind anyway.  Tempers are a bit short because the heavy equipment operators and the VMF (vehicle maintenance shop) are working very hard and for long hours these days, and the weather has not been cooperating.

Science teams made a successful inspection and calibration trip to the ESPRESSO experiment, which is about 3.5 km from the station.  That doesn’t sound far, but at these temperatures it is a risky trip.  They took survival gear and extra food in case the vehicle broke down in the cold and they had to wait for rescue.

We are starting to do the things that will get us back to civilization in a few weeks.  We are making travel arrangements and taking steps to get all our ECW gear back to the clothing distribution center in Christchurch. Still it is a little early for that because it is still cold here and we need it!  The logistics people have developed a way we can turn it all in here at Pole and it gets shipped back to Christchurch without us having to carry it on the plane individually.  That will be great.

The Sun is well above the horizon now – about three fingers.  Real shadows and a lot of contrast, and very bright.

It is now only 16 days before the new station management arrives for the summer and the winter season officially ends.  My replacement is supposed to arrive on October 25th, twenty-six days from now.  I will stay almost two weeks after that since my departure date is November 7.  I will be one of the last winterovers to leave South Pole.

UPDATE:  Things are very fluid here.  My replacement is now scheduled to arrive on October 19 or 20, and my re-deployment date is probably going to be moved up to around November 1. 


Post a Comment