Archive for November, 2007

Delta and Dive Tending!

November 16, 2007

Wow.  If things were crappy before (and they kinda were), the last few days have made up for it. 

 Tuesday after work, I waited in line and ended up being the first person to sign up for the next day’s Delta Trip.  A Delta Trip is basically where about 20 people all hop into a Delta (a huge military vehicle) and head out of town and out into the big white nothingness to see something cool.  The next day I got a frantic email saying that the trip would ahve to be canceled unless someone could take a Hut Guide training class the next morning.  I signed up and got “trained”.  Hut Guide training was about 5 minutes long and consisted of a woman telling us to touch nothing and lock up when we were done.  I couldn’t believe how little training I needed to lead a tour of 19 other people to a 100+ year old historic hut in the Antarctic.  Go Figure.  So after work, along with Eli and Mere, I got into the Delta and we were off. 

 Cape Evans was our final destination.  This is the site of one of Scott’s huts that he and his men stayed in before heading to the South Pole.  It’s sort of unbelieveable what great condition the hut was in.  And all of the food, clothing, and science equipment (including a dead penguin, a stack of seal blubber, and a crate of penguin egg shells) were just as they were the day that Scott and his mean left….of course they thought they’d come back, but they all died….bummer. 

 On the ride back, I rode shotgun in the Delta, which was pretty amazing.  All of a sudden, on the horizon, we saw a little black speck on the road ahead (and by road I just mean a series of flags on the sea ice that showed us how to avoid falling through thin sea ice).  As we got closer, we realized that it was a enormously fat seal next to a freshly chewed hole in the ice.  Everyone got out and took 1000s of photos.  A few other seals popped their heads up out of the hole and even made a few loud noises.  As we looked across the sea ice, at an island speckled with other seals, we noticed a small speck making its way to us.  It was a penguin sliding over on its belly.  He was a curious little guy and came right up to within 6 or 8 feet of me.  It was unreal.  There we were….hanging out with seals and penguins.  Wild. 

 After we’d had our fill, we hopped back into the Delta and started to head back to McMurdo.  There were rumors flying around town about a truck, filled with expensive scientific equipment, that had caught fire and burned to the ground….sure enough, we drove right past it.  It was just a carcass of a vehicle at that point.  We all got out and saw the Hazardous Materials crew cleaning up.  What a site….right in the middle of the “road”. 

 Today, Friday, I went into work just like any other day and started my routine.  At about 10am, Ken, my supervisor, called me into his office to tell me about a “crappy” job that I had to do today…..Dive Tending!  What a sly dog that Ken is.  I ran back to my room, grabbed my Extreme Cold Weather Gear and headed to the Dive locker to meet up with the scientists that would be diving.  I helped them load up their gear and climbed into the Pison Bully (and antarctic tank of sorts) and we drove across the sea ice to Arrival Heights.  When I got into the dive hut, I helped to clear out the hole in the ice, as it had frozen over since the last dive.  The sea ice was 12 feet thick and the divers had to travel through that ice tunnel before they even made it to the water for their 110 foot dive.  They were studying nudibranchs (which a smallish slimy mollusc type creatures), nudibranch egg sacks, and sea spiders.  They found a nudibranch that they believe is a new species, which is pretty exciting.  My job during all of this was the basically help the divers get their gear on and off and help them bring their heavy tanks and diving weights out of the hole.  It was really fun and I loved getting out of town. 

 I also got some mail today (thank you mom and dad!).   Send me stuff:

Nathan Duke, RPSC
McMurdo Station
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

(no packing peanuts of styrofome)

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The Story.

November 10, 2007

OK, everyone, here’s the story:

I got hired as a GA (General Assistant).  Basically what that means is that I would just do whatever general work needed to be done.  There are many things that are not planned for and us GAs pick up the slack. 

 At the beginning of the summer season, the person employed as the Wate Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) Operator decided not to show up for the orientation.  So as RPSC scrambled around to find someone else to take his place, they stuck me in there. 

 I figured it might be fun to work in the WWTP (and for those of you who don’t know, that means sewage plant) for a little while, while they tracked down the next operator.  However, it looks as if the next operator will not be getting here for quite a while.  Anyone remember how many doctor’s appointments it took me to PQ (physically qualify)?  And I even had a head start.  So, unfortunately, it looks as if I may be stuck working in WWTP for my entire stay here.  So, basically, I’ve been listening to a lot of xhardcorex on my iPod, and spraying shit with a hose (and by shit, of course, I don’t mean “stuff”.  I quite literally mean “shit”).  I am learning quite a bit…enough to give people tours of the plant itself (click here to see photos from Eli/Meredith’s tour). 

 And now the audience participation portion of the program.  I am in the process of finding out what one needs to do to change one’s position from a GA to a WWTP apprentice/helper so that I can get a raise, ’cause I think I’m not really doing the job of a “GA” anymore, seeing as how my job is not general at all….it’s quite specific.  Am I unreasonable to ask that?  Should I ask to do that, or just stay a “GA” in the hopes that the soon to be hired WWTP operator would come a long and I’d get to get out of there and out into the wild that is the rest of Antarctica? 

 Ok, hope you’re all doing well.  I love and miss you all!