Archive for December, 2007

Weather Balloon & 2008

December 31, 2007

OK, lots to report, but I’ll narrow it down to two major things.

1) I was heading back down to the power plant one day after lunch when I noticed a building that’s normally locked up tight was standing wide open. I poked my head in and saw a man filling a large balloon with helium. It turns out that the man, a scientist named Ed, does two balloon launches a day from that location and I had just never been there at the right time. Ed told me that the device at the end of the balloon takes temperature and wind speed readings (as well as others) while it climbs to 60,000 feet. That’s insane. Unfortunately after it reaches that height, the balloon bursts, and the equipment just falls to the ground (or ocean). Bummer for what ever creature tries to eat that. I hope to check out a few more launches, and maybe even fill the balloon next time. That would be great.

2) New Years Eve was fantastic. Around about 11pm we started to bundle up in our ECW and head out to Ob Hill. There were about 15 of us all together. It’s important to note that there was a decent blizzard blowing through town as we were making the climb. Snow blowing around, wind howing and creating little cyclones, and cold temperatures…but that didn’t stop some people from going in short sleaves. when we got to the top we broke out the funny hats, party poppers, noise makers, and the booze for those that wanted it (not me…yuck). Eli brought his iPod and some speakers, so we hooked it up in his backpack and had a little dance party up there. It was great. We counted down the new year and yelled and screamed and danced. things got a bit out of hand with people slipping on the snow and climbing up and hanging on the cross….lots of fun. We realized that as the sun began to very faintly shine through the snow, that we were the first people to see the sun in 2008! When we’d had enough of the cold we started climbing down (or in some people’s cases, falling down), but realized there was still some dancing left in us. We decided it would be a great idea to break into the abandoned nuclear power plant warehouse and continue the dance party. We were right, it was a great idea. People were dancing on boxes, shelves, and anything else they could climb up on. I had a ton of fun, and then, of course, Captain Fall-down struck again when I tried to hop up on a box and fell face first on the ground….I have a nice sized swollen welt on my right wrist.

Oh, and I can finally kidnap a woman, tie her to the railroad tracks, and laugh maniacally. A life long dream.

Karl’s Photos

December 30, 2007

My roommate takes some good photos. Here are a few for you to check out, but feel free to look at the rest of ’em:

Me (w/ an inappropriate comment…Karl…what would your mother say…)

Our room (and my feet)

Our room again (no feet this time)

Here we are on the flight down in the cockpit, and on the blown up version….

You can see my beard pokin’ out under the guy in the green shirt’s arm pit!

Well, it’ll be 2008 in about seven hours. Say hello to the future!

My Top 3 Albums of 2007

December 29, 2007

Hey all.  I’m sitting here in the power plant in Antarctica doing absolutely nothing, so I thought I’d write up a little review.  Here are my top three albums of 2007:

3.  Between The Buried And MeColors

BTBAM is one of my favorite bands.  They are absolutely amazing live, and they are amazingly tight.  This album is pretty great in that it is essentially one long song with no breaks.  They are really doing some amazing things musically.  The main reasons this one was not number one on my list is that the track breaks are just too damn long (11 minute songs?), and they seems to throw in country & other styles just to show that they can be done.  I’m all for changes and trying new things in music, but I just think those don’t really work. 

2. A Wilhelm ScreamCareer Suicide

Holy crap I was excited to hear this album.  I got to see these guys open up for Strung Out in Portland, and they completely blew me away.  I absolutely love “Ruiner” (the album before this one) and Career Suicide just takes it up several notches.  Every song is fast and fun and singable.  Great lyrics, amazing breakdowns, and beautiful harmonies.  AWS is only getting better.  I can’t wait for the next album!  Also, I should be back in Portland to see them again in April.  Eeeeeeeee!

1. Smoke Or FireThis Sinking Ship

When I first heard this album, I thought it was pretty good.  However, after giving it a few more listens, I realized that it is tottaly fuckin’ rad.  I have fallen in love with it….and I thought I liked “Above the City”!  It’s fantastically great.  It rocks really hard, and the lyrics really struck a chord with me (having been in a band on tour and especially when leaving for Antarctica).  If you want an album with heart and the ability to make you drop what you’re doing and rock out, this is the one for you.

Honorable mention:

See You Next Tuesday – Parasite, They Might Be Giants – The Else, Full Blown Chaos – Heavy Lies the Crown, A Life Once Lost – Iron Gag

I’m sure there are more, but I’m blanking…maybe an update later. 

Antarctic Bar Fights.

December 27, 2007

Click here to read about the jackasses that got into a bar fight at the South Pole on Xmas eve over a girl (from what I’ve heard). I’ve heard that the flights to pick those two up, bring them to McMurdo, and then on to Christchurch cost somewhere around $325,000.  The guy who got his jaw broken is a pretty important computer tech (designed much of the software used at McMurdo and the South Pole).  He was supposed to help set up the new power plant’s computer component this next week. I guess we’ll have to delay that, huh?

Polar Plunge!

December 19, 2007

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while….so here you go….finally!

A few days ago I got to do something that I have wanted to do since before I left Portland….a polar plunge! I was going to do it when I was dive tending, but a) the heater in the dive hut was busted and b) I forgot to bring a towel. I thought my dream would never come true.

Eli and I bumped into our friend Tom who told us about a polar plunge he had done with night before, and if we wanted in all we had to do was track down Nick (our friend who controls the dive robots with an Xbox controller). Around 9:45 we all met in MMI (my dorm). There were eight of us. It’s important to note that RPSC does not like people to do polar plunges….go figure. We had to plan a covert op. We snuck down to the dive hut in pairs so as not to raise suspicion. Nick and I got there first and prepared the hole in the ice (clear away any ice that had built up over the last few days and hook up the ladder for getting out of the water). There were tiny little ice angels floating (some alive, some dead) around in the water.

After everyone arrived, we all started to strip down to our birthday suits. Into the hole in the sea ice I went! The antarctic ocean is about 28 degrees, and believe me…it was COLD. When you’re only in it for less than a minute, you can definitely deal with it. However, EVERYONE who jumped in squealed and shouted various swear words while coming back out. It was invigorating. I did it twice.

polar plunge

Muffin Monster! Update

December 19, 2007

Please click on the following links to watch ‘Antarctica’s number one metal band’ play their first show!

Part one!

Part two!

First Annual 29th Birthday.

December 11, 2007

Wow, it’s been a crazy birthday here in Antarctica.  The craziest part is the fact that we’re one day ahead of the United States so I had a birthday here on the 8th and then a second one on the 9th.  48 hours of birthday is just the right amount of time.  Let me give you a run down of the days’ activities.

Day one – December 8th (or December 7th)

Unfortunately I had to work on this day, but that’s ok because it was my final day of official training for my new job as a power plant operator.  For those of you who do not know, one of the power plant operators has left due to his contract ending and another will be leaving in about three weeks.  As far as we anyone here knows, there is no one lined up to cover the positions, so they started training me. 

Work was pretty mellow compared to the day before when I was running around starting engines, shutting down engines, draining glycol, adding oil, opening louvers, etc.  My first activity of the day was tearing/cutting up some bed sheets to make more rags.  The rag bin is outside and on my way back in, I slipped and fell.  Some of you may not know, but Eli and I have been joking about how my super power is falling down and hurting myself.  Well, Captain Falldown struck again.  I somehow sliced my hand open on a rough spot when I fell on the ice and started bleeding all over the place.  I headed to the hospital with fears of stitches.  The nurse originally thought I’d need them, but after cleaning me up a bit decided I would be fine.  What a way to start off one’s birthday, huh?

After work I got bundled up and took a hike out to Hut Point.  Hut point is a peninsula nearby with a great view of the McMurdo Sound and one of Scott’s early exploration huts.  Three things happened out there….1) I saw a big fat seal hanging out on the sea ice, 2) I ate a snickerdoodle (my favorite cookie), and 3) I peed on the sea ice.  I can’t quite explain why, but I absolutely love peeing outside (especially in Antarctica). 

Hut 10 is basically a fully functioning house here on station with a kitchen, laundry room, living room, dinning room, and a few bedrooms.  It’s used for visiting presidents and dignitaries but when it’s not used for that people can rent it out for the night.  Ben and Neoma rented it out and had a few people over.  We watched Goonies and ate fresh carrots that Ben somehow snagged from the freshie supply. Awesome.

Next it was off to the carpentry shop for a party.  To be honest, I’m not a big party person mainly because I don’t drink, but when there are other things happening, I can have a great time.  The people in the ‘carp shop’ sure know some great party games.  One game consisted of several people sitting around a big hunk of wood with a few nails sticking out of it.  While wearing safety glasses, each person would take a very small headed hammer and try to point blank hit their nail into the wood.  Sounds boring, but is quite fun.  The second game was one of the best games I’ve ever played.  The way it works is this: a paper bag is placed on the floor and each person, while standing on one leg, tries to pick up the bag with their mouth.  After each round, an inch or so is cut off of the top of the bag.  I only tried once because I’ve got a banged up knee and a fresh cut on my palm and when you’re no good at this game you end up on your knees and palms pretty quickly.  Eli, however, was absolutely amazing at this game.  He was like a robot that had been designed specifically to win this bag game.  Most other people would wobble around and then do a face first last ditch dive to snag the bag and then quickly try to jump up.  Eli would just slowly but surely lower himself inch by inch, bite the bag, and then slowly inch by inch stand up….no big deal.  Amazing. 

Day two – December 9th (or December 8th)

The night before Eli and I had been invited to join a scientist friend of ours (Nick) in a dive hut out on the sea ice to watch a test dive of one of the dive robots that was built on site by another group of scientists.  Wow.  So Eli and I woke up early and headed down to the sea ice.  It’s also hard for me to put into words how excited I get about walking on the sea ice.  Maybe it’s the fact that in a few months the ‘ground’ I’m walking on won’t be there, or maybe it’s just that it’s so flat near all of these mountains, but regardless, I love it.  We walked into the hut and met up with Nick.  The robot (Skinny as it’s known) is a long thin tube with a camera on the tip and small motors on the back and sides.  After the robot made it to the ocean floor we got to see fish, starfish, sponges, sea cucumbers, and loads of other crazy sea creatures.  It was amazing.  The other amazing part was that Nick controlled the robot with a controller that looked exactly like an Xbox controller.  When asked how difficult it was to control the robot, Nick said that it wasn’t so hard for him because of his years of video game experience.  How did I not land THAT job? 

Eli and I ran up to the Galley and I had by usual Sunday morning brunch (an omelet, heaps of fruit, grapefruit juice, and a sticky bun of some sort).  I quickly went back to my room and got my ECW gear on (extreme cold weather) and meet up with the shuttle going on the pressure ridge tour.  the pressure ridge tours just started this week and I just happened to walk by at the right time to sign up for one of the early trips.  My across the hall neighbor (Tom) was our tour guide, and he did a great job.  The pressure ridges are just off the shore near the New Zealand base.  They are caused by the McMurdo Ice Shelf rubbing up against the Ross Ice Shelf.  Pressure builds and the only way it can be released is through these giant ice formations that jut out of the sea ice.  And just to give you some perspective – McMurdo Ice Shelf : Ross Ice Shelf :: Rhode Island : the rest of the continental United States.  So we attached the stabilizers (spikes that go on the bottom of your shoes) and headed out on to the sea ice (yeah!).  Tom lead us over to the ridges and they were absolutely amazing.  From a distance the pressure ridges look like small frozen waves, but up close they are huge crazy mountains of ice!  We hiked through an amazing section, while constantly on the alert looking for cracks.  At one point we came around a bend and saw a seal hanging out on the ice next to a melt pool.  Everyone took their pictures as the seal stretched and scratched its belly; and as we were leaving, the seal applauded.  It was hilarious. There was one woman in our group who brought along five GI JOE action figures and I helped her set them up so she could take a few photos to send to her Army buddies.  I could continue to talk about the awesome pressure ridges….but a picture is worth a thousand words….or so I am told. This one shows the pressure ridges in the front and then across the back you can see Scott Base on the left (green buildings), Castle Rock in the center (the dark rock on the horizon) and Mount Erebus (the Snow covered Volcano on the right).

Today was also the McMurdo Arts (and farts) and Crafts Fair, which is a big deal around here.  The galley was totally packed with people, and I had a great time wondering around looking at all of the art being made here on station and I even bought a few things.  The best part, however, was seeing how popular Tiffany “Tia” Kramer’s jewelery was.  I had no idea.  I’m sure she made a bundle.  Congrats, Tia

Next I went to the McMurdo Coffee House to watch one of the Sunday afternoon Coffee House movies: 2046! This movie had been on my list of ones to see for a while and I was pretty psyched to see it, but about one minute in we realized that we wouldn’t be able to finish the movie….the bottom half of the subtitles were cut off.  I blame the Chinese…or whoever made that movie.  So instead I went back to my room and watched the greatest movie of all time: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. 

The Sunday night science lecture was about ice core drilling at WAIS Divide (West Antarctic Ice Sheet).  It is quite similar to the Andrill drilling project except it is bringing up ice cores rather than rock cores, and the drill site is in the middle of the flat white nothingness that is the middle of Antarctica.  My roommate, Karl, is at WAIS Divide as I write this….hope you’re keeping your sanity, Karl. 

Oh, I almost forgot….I got a lot of birthday lovin’ from various people.  Emails, cards, packages, banners, gifts, and a lot of “Happy Birthday!” yells.  Thank you all for your kindness…it really meant a lot.  I had a great birthday.  Thank you. 

It’s My Birthday!

December 7, 2007

That’s right, sucka!

I lost my right hand!

December 7, 2007

THIS IS AN EXERCISE

I got to participate in a Mass Casualty Exercise the other day.  It was really fun and pretty crazy to be a part of.

The scenario was like this:  A fuel truck was traveling from Scott Base (the New Zealand base near by) to McMurdo when it sprung a small leak.  The driver stopped the vehicle to check it out.  At that time, a shuttle bus came zipping around the corner and slammed into the truck expelling the 12 shuttle passengers out of the vehicle and down the side of a hill.  The driver and passenger of the fuel truck were also ejected.  Through out the entire process, all radio transmissions had to begin and end with “this is an exercise”. 

Now I was assigned one of the more interesting injuries.  My right hand was lopped off at the wrist and I was hysterical, emotionally upset, and in severe pain.  They used masking tape to tape up my fist and then used fake blood to give me a bloody stump.  The other injuries ranged from death, impalement, punctured lungs, and hypothermia among other things. 

As the fire crews pulled up, it was my job to run around screaming and looking for my hand.  It was pretty fun.  One member of the fire crew asked for all people that could walk to make their way up to the ambulance.  I, of course, was hysterical, and I continued to wonder around looking for my hand.  A woman came down and tried to help me up the hill, but I refused and had to be pulled up (screaming all the while).  They bandaged up my stump and put me in the ambulance.  They rushed me back to the fire house (the emergency medical area) where I was ushered in and put on a stretcher.  I continued to play it up and ask if anyone had found my hand.  They pumped me full of morphine and I started to calm down.  I basically stayed on the stretcher for the rest of the drill while the doctors/nurses/volunteers/fire fighters calmed me down by asking me questions and keeping pressure on my wound. 

I was really glad that I got to help out and learn what would happen in an actually emergency like that. Plus, it was kind of like when Luke Skywalker got his hand chopped off by Darth Vader. An 8 year old’s dream come true!

THIS IS AN EXERCISE

I’ve also uploaded a few more photos from the Andrill drilling site, Carl’s birthday, and other stuff.

The Muffin Monster show

December 3, 2007

Here are a few photos that Eli took during our first, and possibly last, Muffin Monster show:

Grizzly Adams on drums

The crowd starts to get excited

Zach belts it out

Muffin Monster group shot

The crowd is REALLY lovin’ this

Zach taped the whole thing and it should be up on YouTube sometime soonish.  It was really fun to play in a metal band named after a shit grinding machine here in Antarctica!