New adventures afoot...

New adventures afoot...
where in the world...

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Updated entry... read on!

Life goes on here... and the sun is going away.  In fact, the orb itself is gone and we're left with whatever particles can make their way up and over the horizon, bouncing along through the atmosphere, gracing us with the slight bit of energy left that can make it to where we are, waiting patiently for the dark.  I see so many pictures of the auroras that we will supposedly be witnessing sooner rather than later... but I admit, it still seems like a hoax, a big fantasy that previous winter-overs are stuck in or agree as a group to perpetrate on the rest of us.  It's always been light in my experience of Antarctica, and it's hard to believe that soon the light will be pinpoints surrounded by ink-black rather than covering the sky, scintillating off the millions of facets of snow particles that make up our ground.

Wow, waxing quite poetic (or something) this morning.  I guess that's what a grim day and a lazy morning in bed will do.  It's only -70F outside but the wind is whipping along at 12 knots making a cozy -107F and obliterating any of our landmarks... can barely see the flags at the ceremonial pole which is only about 20 yards out from the window near my computer cubicle.

Life thankfully is slowing down for me.  After a crazy transition from the summer greenhouse person, to a week as a work order scheduler (an admin position tracking the work done by the facilities and maintenence crew) then an official switch to the recycling technician (garbage woman) but having to train the new work order scheduler in a job that I was still figuring out myself... and then finally starting waste duties a week or so late and catching up on regular trash maintenence plus dealing with the inheritence from the summer waste folks of all kinds of random unorganized things... it's bit a bit hectic here for the last month and a half.  Whew!

I've gone from working inside all day every day and gazing longingly at the out-of-doors to working outside every day for generally at least half the day in -70F temps... here's a look at what I've been doing, thankfully helped by volunteers...

Here's a big woodpile that resulted, I think, from all the packing materials that are involved with sending everything we need to Pole.  And This is only half the pile.  We'd already dismantled the other half!  How did we do that?

Ta da!  Thankfully I was able to recruit a lot of help as my carpel tunnel symptoms started to act up after several days of hard work.  I love you community!!!

Here are some other shots:

Our garbage piles up in various places (this is the galley's stash),

And this is the station recycling room (and me, fresh from an outside afternoon), where everything gets sorted before it goes outside...

Then it gets moved to the waste line just outside of the station:

And then when the triwall is full (we call these big cardboard boxes triwalls cause they have three layers of corrugation to make 'em Antarctica tough (ha!), it gets closed up and banded with steel banding and labeled-these ones, 'FW', are food waste.

Other categories include AL (aluminum), MP (mixed paper), NR (non-recyclable), FMH (ferrous metal heavy), GL (glass), CB (cardboard), etc.  I'll give a full list later... can't divulge all the goods in one post!

After banding, the triwall is moved to a berm-- if you'll notice the triwalls are banded onto a pallet-- for ease of transport by loader with fork attachments. 

Berms are elevated snow platforms so that supplies or whatever is on them don't get totally drifted over during the winter.  Just wait-- will have some before and after shots at the end of winter to show how the snow piles up... that's why it was critical to get rid of that wood pile asap, otherwise if it didn't get picked up, it would drift over and make a nightmare of a job to unearth it all come spring/summer.  Unless we were to be digging around in the snow in the dark all winter... uh, no thanks.

My job goes much more smoothly b/c there is a dedicated Heavy Equipment Operator that aside from his primary duties of fueling the outbuildings like science areas and our Rodwell that keeps our fresh water supply working, he helps the Materials department get supplies out of the storage berms away from station, and helps me keep the waste stream moving so things don't pile up.  Thanks Rob!

 I'd love to be doing all the operating myself, but it's so much smoother this way it mostly covers up my desire to get to run the big rigs.

So, the triwalls on the berms sit until space is available for summer shipment via LC-130 to McMurdo and then is either processed more by the McM wasties, or loaded directly into a milvan and onto the vessel in February.  All waste from the US Antarctic program goes back to the US, gets unloaded and sorted at Port Hueneme, California, and all the different triwalls get shipped to different companies for eventual recycling/reuse/disposal depending on what it is.

Here's my outside office, the Haz Shack. 

This is where all strange things come to discover their fate... it's definitely an exercise in discovery...

this truly is the land of random things... lightbulbs with mercury, old paint, aerosols, fire extinguisher residue, anonymous strange smelling absorbent pads... you name it, I have to figure out what to do with it.  All hazardous items, whether a tube of superglue, or a barrel of mysterious lab chemicals, they all need paperwork to identify what they are, where they came from, and then are tracked to make sure they go where they're supposed to go.  Solid waste is tracked too, but the haz stuff is much more high-profile.
Lots of guidelines are available, thankfully, but it still comes down to me to suss it all out.

Here are a couple of other photos from just a day or so ago... the light is fading... auroras are next!

When toting things around outside, we use sleds.  Can you see the red lights of the loader in the distance?  The Haz Shack is the orange square building to the center right of the photo...

This is our welcome home view... after trudging across the snow, trying to warm up fingers, glancing up out of your hood (b/c you're trying to stay tucked out of the wind) every so often to make sure you're on the right heading, finally you see DZ, Destination Zulu, the "back" entrance to the station.  Waste line on the left, supplies for building triwalls on the right.

And still, harkening back to my summer greenhouse days, I got some files posted on a friend's website.  It's a powerpoint that my boss and I gave during the summer about the greenhouse and what it's all about, then also a more science-y article about the chamber with more research-related information.  And Robert's website itself is great-- he's spent quite a bit of time here at the Pole so his website is a treasure trove of info.  Enjoy!

love jos :)

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've ever even heard of -107! WTF? ;) I thought our 6 was cold here about 6 weeks ago. xoxo From the Corricks!