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And the blog is launched

Welcome all,

As many folks know, I soon deploy to Antarctica for the austral summer season 2016-17.   In fact my job is a Maintenance Specialist at the Amundsen-Scott Station which is located at the South Pole. Thus the name of my blog; Real Far South. About as far south as one can go!

My on Ice date is October 25 with a contract ending date of February 15+/-.  In the words of a well known Pyrenean guide “If all goes according to plan”, I will post sporadic updates on my doings, pictures and other tidbits about this amazing journey.

Most important is staying in contact with family and I use that globally; everyone. Especially important are my three grandchildren: Rachel, Patrick and Elsie and nephew Jackson.

Right now I need to attend to packing, so stay tuned.

Chris “Hawkeye” Hawkins aka Grandpa/Uncle Chris

 

 

 

A Movement.

A unique and special event at the South Pole Station is the New Years Day tradition of unveiling the new South Pole marker and MOVING it to the new location. YES, the South Pole was moved yesterday January 1.

This annual resetting of the geographic pole marker happens because the 9000′ deep glacier that sits atop the Antarctic continent moves roughly 10 meters/30 feet per year in a direction between 37 and 40 degrees west of grid north down towards the Weddell Sea.

We gathered at 7:30 pm, moved the sign and unveiled the new marker. The group passed the new marker to it’s new location.

Here’s Wayne Mann, the winter station manager, holding the yet to be unveiled 2017 marker and sketching in the history of the marker and event.

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The sign is moved.

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And the marker is unveiled.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE

Happy New Years to all

Saturday has dawned, well not really in the land of 24 hour sun, and another (and last) two day weekend celebrating the New Year. So, I’ll squeeze in a posting while there is satellite coverage and between mid morning brunch. Today’s forecast calls for temps in the -10’s F and a wind chill of -30F. Soon the temps begin the down hill slide, that say a degree a day. Surprisingly, I tolerate and maybe thrive in the cold. Certainly the near zero humidity helps. One gets used to pulling on the various layers: balaclava, hat, neckie, goggles, long underwear, pants, insulated bibs. One gets used to the drill, however I do miss “green”, bird’s songs, earthy aromas and my friends, family and mountains.

SPoT-2 traverse arrived from McMurdo last week hauling AN-8 fuel, the lifeblood. Here are a few pictures the crew posted. How about those mountains.

Last weeks Christmas gathering was a blast. Amazing. Many thanks for the fine food and wine. Our galley crew does provides amazing meals all the time, however the Christmas celebration was tops. Take a look at the menu:

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South Pole Christmas 2016

 

Shared dinner with Eric and Lester. Eric (L) is a fellow UT and a invaluable resource for all things heating. Lester is a HEO…Heavy Equipment Operator. These are the folks that move mountains of snow, a never ending task.

And there’s Brittany serving us wine, she works in Logistics and a table full of Christmas revelers.  Most everyone pitches in. I did a stint in the “Dish Pit” after the Christmas meal. Doing dishes is good work and complete with a flash back to grade school and dish washing.

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Antarctic  Service vehicle

Work continues apace for the pending switch over to winter operation in mid-february. The UT department continues to plow through work orders, repairing and doing preventive maintenance on the myriad of systems. Eric and I devoted  a good amount of time this week to the boiler and heating systems at the South Pole Telescope: rebuilt circulation pumps and a reworked oil burner. A comprehensive system, “Maximo” drives the UT department’s tasks, as well as inventory for all phases of South Pole operations. Here’s some pictures of the South Pole Telescope:

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So as the new year approaches I sam drawn to the annual New Years Day climb of Mt Moosilauke, 4K’er in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I’ll be thinking of you, Tom, Doug and Jim.

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A fine White Mountain Day, albeit NOT Moosilauke.

HAPPY NEW YEARS!

 

 

 

 

Around the Station…and the world.

With the warm weather it is time for some skiing. Rounded up some nordic skiing equipment this Sunday and toured the world, that is, around the WORLD. A good ski, temps -6F or so, however the return run into the wind was brutal. As they say at Pole, “two inches of powder and two miles of base”. Good training for the up coming”Around the World Race” next weekend, during the two day Christmas holiday.

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Here are some random pictures around the Station:p1000352

That’s the D8 Cat dozer, a snow moving monster, with Barry Jones  the heavy equipment mechanic.  It’s parked in front of the Vehicle Maintenance Arch. The arches are essentially huge multiple culverts, now buried by snow.

 

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Here’s the power plant. Three 750 kilowatt, 12 cylinder  3512 Cat diesels and a 250 kilowatt peaker, feeding a 1200 amp main breaker. One unit runs at a time. Although they are 1800 rpm units, they are derated for 10,000 feet elevation and run at 1200 rpm; hardly off 800 idle. These yellow monsters consume 50 gallons of AN-8 per hour. Of note is the heat recovery systems.  Engine coolant and exhaust is run through heat exchangers and is circulated via a glycol loop to the station and provides all station heating, right down to running the laundry room dryers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the “Juice Box”, where one fuels diesel powered vehicles, which is the majority of the rigs. Not the price, that’s in DOLLARS per gallon folks! Yikes

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Food. Frozen food. In the logistics arch. And there is tons more outside frozen in storage berms.

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The vehicle maintenance arch on the right; logistics arch in the middle and power plant arch on the left, all connected by under-the-snow arches to the vertical “Beer Can”, that is connected to the station.

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Inside the “Beer Can”

A busy week and approaching mid summer.

Greetings. It’s been a busy week at the South Pole. The UT department busily continues with preventive maintenance projects; science is going full blast and the dearth of LC-150 flights continue. the half way point in the summer season is approaching and the station population is at full house-150 pole souls. Earlier this week we gathered for the traditional station picture around the ceremonial pole. How about all those “Big Red Parkas” When one deploys to the ice you are issued a full set of ECW-“Extreme Cold Weather Gear”-a big goose down parka, Carhartt insulated bib overalls and jacket, mickey mouse boots (those big ungainly white boots), mittens, gloves, balaclava, goggles, fleece and other such stuff.

The past week my duties included doing elevated station, arches and tunnels rounds. Most interesting are the tunnels. carved or maybe mined under the ice cap, the tunnels are one of the life sustaining systems at Pole. Extending well over the 1800 feet horizontally, the tunnels both supply water and waste disposal. Pipes are heat traced to prevent freezing. Daily rounds insure the water is flowing in and waste going out.

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Tunnels, upper pipe is water; lower pipe waste disposal.
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Water supply/return for Rodwell water supply
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That’s right, it’s -55 degrees F in the tunnels..you walk fast.

Station water is supplied by a “Rodwell”. This is a huge bulb of water, created by melting snow by injecting and constantly circulating hot water into the “bulb”. Typically the bulb will last 10 years. When the rodwell is played out, waste is piped into the abandoned well bulb. The station is on to Rodwell # 3. An interesting note for New Hampshire friends; engineering, and construction for the rodwells is by CRREL in Hanover, NH. That’s U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.Here’s a diagram:

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South Pole station energy for all operations is provided by AN-8 fuel. Essentially this is JP-8 jet fuel specified for extreme cold weather. It fuels electric generation, boiler and furnace operations, vehicle fuel and aircraft… the aroma of JP-8 is omnipresent. The year’s fuel is hauled overland from McMurdo station by the South Pole Overland Traverse aka “SPoT”. Three SPoT runs are done each austral summer season, each covering 1035 miles and hauling around 107,00 gallons of AN-8 and averaging 55 days. The fleet consists of 8 Cat MT865’s tractors for hauling the fuel sleds a Prinoth snow vehicle for the ground penetrating radar. Full living and cooking quarters for the 10 person crew is hauled as well as a tool/parts module, generation module.

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SPoT tractor
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Fuel Bladders

All the comforts of home…..SPoT.

Soon after SPoT arrived a group of trucks arrived from McMurdo, following the over snow route pioneered by SPoT. The Arctic Trucks are modified in Iceland the run to the Pole. One of the group is the great grandson of Ernest Shackleton, of Endurance fame. Didn’t have a chance to chat with him.

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Need to sign off, as the internet is about to stop.

Heat Wave and other happenings

Today Monday 12/5, temps reached the -10 for a while. Down right balmy. Hard to believe, the cold is not an issue as the humidity is near zero. Antarctica is the highest and driest continent with very little precipitation, but what does fall, does not melt and is blown about. Elevation is 10,000 to 10,500 feet depending on barometric pressure. Although I have been at Pole for a month, I still find myself getting short on breath. Climbing the 96 steps in the “beer can” is my work out. Typicall my outside clothing is Carhartt insulated bib overalls, a wool sweater and Carhartt jacket. Cold feet are an issues and the blue FDX boots are wonderful. One hardly sweats, so cotton is fine….

As many know the South Pole and National Science Foundation was in the news with a visit from Buzz Aldrin, the 2nd person to walk on the moon in 1969. I was thrilled to met Buzz and hear him discuss future space exploration and putting people on Mars.

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Buzz Aldrin

Unfortunately Buzz came down with altitude sickness with fluids collecting in his lungs. Given the situation, NSF bent the standing no support for tourism and provided medical assistance. Buzz was put on a medevac flight along with the station PA to McMurdo and then to Christchurch NZ.

The South Pole “tourist season” is cranking up. Here’s a picture of the plane Buzz arrived on. Many will recognize it, as a DC-3, the work horse of WWII. For Antarctic service the original piston engines are replaced with turbo props and are called Basler’s. A typical tourist flight costs about $50,000…ouch!…per person…

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Basler

Living at the South Pole Station is a cross between a space ship and a college dorm. Everyone’s job is key to life here; food service (which is top-notch–never-ending cookies!), logistics, fuel supply, generation, waste disposal, carpentry, IT, water supply, meteorology, snow removal.

Check out the snow moving and grooming equipment. They do not mess around:

Snow constanly drifts and must be removed around buildings and supply berms.  A huge amount of JP-8 fuel is consumed doing this. More on the energy later.

Berthing (many terms are left from Navy days) for the 150 people is in individual rooms, albeit quite compact. Here are my digs. Hard to believe each room is equipment with a dialout phone and internet connection.

This week half of my 9 hour work day is devoted to station rounds. This is a check of all systems and areas of the station, ensuring all is operational and issues identified.    There are 4 UT’s, That’s short for Utility Technician. Here’s a picture of Jack and I repairing the galley fry-o-lator. An essential piece of kitchen gear, especially since the next day’s Sunday brunch menu called for fried chicken and waffles; a New Zealand speciality. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All for now….

Satellites are aligned

It’s 5:00 am Monday morning and the digital gremlins are cooperating. Internet access is via satellite and the availability is limited and bandwidth low.  The station celebrated Thanksgiving Saturday with a fine traditional meal; EVERY dish, all topped off with wine and unending pecan pie. Without a doubt the galley crew are the hardest working people.

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It’s been a month since I arrived. Transport from McMurdo is via a LC-130 plane, aka “Hurcules” These planes are the Antarctic workhorse, hauling people, food, construction materials, you name it. Oh, as you can see, the planes are ski equipped, so they land on a “ski way”.

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Here’s the station entrance:

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Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

The National Science Foundation operates three stations on the Ice McMurdo, South Pole and Palmer. It’s all about science! The South Pole station formal name is Amundsen-Scott, honoring the Norwegian and Brit who raced to discover the Pole in 191-12. The station accommodates about 150 people during the austral summer; a mix of scientists (50) aka “beakers” and support staff (100) Science at the Pole focuses on  astronomy and astrophysics along with long term atmospheric measurements. Seismology is also part of the science portfolio. Here are some pictures of the various science facilities:

South Pole Telescope
South Pole Telescope

 

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Martin Pomarantz Observatory 
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Ice Cube Neutrino Project

Afraid that’s it for now, as the internet is about to close down. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

At the South Pole

Can you believe it??

A quick hello, as the internet is quite slow and the satellites are about to go below the horizon. Been on station for a week now. Adjustment to altitude, 10,500 ft. went well. However, climbing the 96 steps in the “beer can” (that’s the silver cylinder in the right side of the picture) makes one breathless. The beer can connects the under snow arches which house various station services. Great job working as a UT (one of four Utility Tech’s) as it gets me to all corners of the station. Cool day today: -38 and a 16 knot wind. Stay tuned, hope to do weekly posts.

 

Chris