Archive for the ‘antarctica’ Category

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-jig.

February 27, 2008

Well, it’s been a while.  So here’s the story: Things were wrapping up nicely in Antarctica.  I was doing as little work as possible.  I was planning my travels with Shane and my visits to good friends in New Zealand.  I was excited.  On the night of the 7th (the night before I was to leave Antarctica), I gathered up a gang of friends and we headed out to the Happy Camper site so that I could see the finished Quinzee that I worked on.  We hiked out to the Happy Camper site out on the sea ice and it was a beautiful evening.  The sun was shining brightly and we were all in good spirits.  

I got to go in the quinzee and let me tell you, the rest of the gang had done a great job finishing that structure.  It was HUGE.  As I climbed out of the quinzee, however, things took a turn for the worse.  I took two or three steps and the next thing I know, my ankle turns inward and I collapse on the ice.  It hurt like hell.  I got up and with some help hobbled back to the road and flagged down a shuttle that took me into town.  I went into medical and got x-rayed.  No broken bones, which is nice….or so I thought.  Apparently, sprains can take longer to heal that broken bones.  My ankle hurt like hell and I couldn’t put any weight on it.  It was swollen and bruised and I had to be on crutches.  My flight the next day was cancelled and I ended up laying in my bed watching movies for a few days.  It was horrible.  I couldn’t do anything.  I couldn’t get my own food, I couldn’t carry anything….I was useless.  I was so afraid that my travel plans would be screwed up.  

On the 11th (I think) was was told that I’d be leaving Antarctica.  I had my roommate take my bags over the the bag drag area and a shuttle picked me up and took me to the airfield.  I had a hard time keeping back my tears of frustration.  The plane ride was horribly uncomfortable.  Five hours crammed in a military flight doesn’t help your ankle.  My plan was to wait it out in New Zealand until I was able to walk again without crutches.  I had no idea how hard that would be.  After the first few hours I knew that I couldn’t do that.  I had been told that it would be maybe two full weeks before I’d be able to walk without crutches and then another two weeks before I’d be back to normal.  I couldn’t do ANYTHING.  I had to take a taxi across town to get food.  I had to ask my friends to help me with everything.  I was miserable.  so I had to make the tough decision to leave my travels behind.  The hardest part was telling Shane.  I still feel bad that he’s there all on his own.  I’m sure he’s fine, but I feel bad about how the whole thing turned out.  

Anyway,  my pal Alex was also heading back to the states to go on tour with The Pharmacy so the plan was that he’d help me through the airports and be able to cruise through to the head of the lines with me.  However, when we got to the ticket counter in Christchurch, it was revealed to him that he would not be able to travel due to ‘structural damage’ to his passport.  Bummer Alex.  However, he did eventually make it back to Seattle.  So I’ve been hanging out with Ingrid, ‘the wieners’, Maggie, and Hannah even came down to visit.  But basically I’ve been laying around with my foot up and watching illegally downloaded movies, listening to a bunch of mosh metal/hardcore, and reading comics.  Not a horrible life by any means, but I’m kind of sick of not being able to get around.  I can hobble without the crutches now, but not for very long distances before my ankle gets angry with me.  

So, if you’ve got  suggestions of media I should check out, I’d appreciate it.  

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Sickness, burns, & bowling

February 3, 2008

It’s been a while, and for that I apologize. Things have been kind of hectic and crazy here. Summer is coming to an end and the sea ice is getting thinner and thinner as it melts away. As you all know I got booted out of the power plant, which was not the best thing that could have happened to me. I was really enjoying working there, and I felt like I was putting all of my energy into doing the best I could there so that I could get the pay increase only to be shot down and sent off to do pointless busy work for the rest of the season.

I may as well have just walked off the plane because I now had to do all new things in all new settings with all new people. I knew NOTHING. I was a sheet metal worker for a day, then a plumber for a few days, then an electrician with short stints in the sewage plant again (which felt so strangely home-y and familiar that I kind of enjoyed sucking up shit with a wet-vac).

And then, of course, I got sick. I felt horrible. I would be out of work for a day and then I would have to go to medical and check it. I got tested for the flu THREE times (which involves a nasal swab….strangely ticklish and painful at the same time) as well as a strep test. They just determined that I had a bad case of the “McMurdo Crud”. I ended being out of work for six days in a row. It was crazy. At least I was not quarentined. I ended up watching a LOT of television and movies, which was fine, but got boring after day three or four.

After finally healing, I headed back to work with Kevin the electrician. Kevin is a super awesome guy. He and I had to put in electrical meters and CTs. I learned a bit about electrical work, which is nice. And then I was told that I’d be going to Happy Camper!

Happy Camper is an over night camping trip out on the sea ice. You get to learn basic survival skills and have a great time with your team. Our group was nice and small (ten people), plus it was composed of almost all DAs and janitors (the two closest knit groups of workers on the station). Great people in my group including Moira, Eli, Severin, & Alice. We put up tents, built a quinzee (a kind of igloo type shelter), built wind walls, dug trenches, and just generally worked our asses off….which is good to stay warm. The helicopter pilots here on station like to buzz the happy campers and we were no exception. They flew over us at about 20 feet above the ground! It was so scary and exciting. Kind of felt like I was Rambo (in Rambo 4, you know, when he’s doing all of that winter snow training). Then it was time for dinner. We had to melt snow and boil the water to make our food. The next thing I know, someone has accidentally poured boiling water all over my left hand and I’m on the back of a snow mobile headed back to town & into medical. I ended up with second degree burns on my palm and thumb and was unable to go back and actually spend the night with everyone else. Bummer. And after I’d spent so much time shoveling.

The last few days have been easy though, because I am physically only able to do one hand-work (not “one hand-jobs”). So I did a bit of work for the electricians, but it’s basically been me standing around doing watching. And if everything goes as schedueled, I’ll be out of here on the 8th, which translates into two more working days! I’m so excited to get out of here. I can’t even put it into words. My travel plans (which as pretty loose) are as follows:

– about a month in New Zealand visiting old friends, meeting new ones, hanging out with my McMurdo friends in Wanaka, and sharing it all with my great buddy Shane who is coming down to meet me.
– one week in Australia hopefully feeding a baby kangaroo to a crocodile (you’d better be right, Taavo)
– one week in Hawaii getting more second degree burns from lava flows
– back home to beautiful rainy Portland, OR!

Oh, and the other night I FINALLY got to be a pin setter at the McMurdo bowling alley! I’ve wanted to do that since day one. The McMurdo bowling alley is, apparently, the last manual pin setting bowling alley on the whole planet. The Brunswick bowling pin company has tried to buy the equipment back from McMurdo, but they won’t sell it.

Wish me luck!

Doom, gloom, and FUN

January 19, 2008

Did you hear about the three holes in the ground?

Well, well, well. things have definitely settled down here, but that doesn’t mean that I’m happy with them. I’ve got my plans for revenge, but I don’t really want to put them in writing. It took me a long time to come up with the perfect plan that would hit the people that need to be hit and not those that do not deserve extra work (janitors, DAs, GAs, etc). It’s not going to happen right away, but when it does, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.

Since being moved out of the power plant to do ‘important’ work, I have done next to nothing….partially due to my resolution to do as little as possible, but also because there ain’t shit for me to do. My basic day now consists of standing around and watching other people do things that I’m not qualified or trained to do. And since my redeployment date is Feb 8th, they figure it’s not really worth the time to train me….so I do a lot of watching and chatting it up with the plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal guys they stick me with. I did spend half a day re-caulking panels on top of the water plant with Rob the GA. Oh, and a few days a week they stuck me in the waste water plant to suck up shit with a dry-vac. As gross as the shit mine is, it was kind of welcoming to go back there and work with Bec and Simon. However, I hope I don’t get the black lung.

Two nights ago the DAs rented out Hut 10 for a little party. Before things got going, a group of us were sunbathing out on the back porch looking out over the path left by the Oden ice breaker. We could see little seals dotting the path. All of a sudden someone noticed a poof of water/air and a fin/tail! Orcas! It was amazing. for a long time the group of us would sit in silence just watching…then the orca would make its presence known and everyone would cheer and yell and point…then silence again while we waited it out. It was a great time. I tried to take some photos for y’all, but they just didn’t capture the amazingness of the whole experience.

On Saturday I got to go on a true boondoggle. I meet up with the other 7 people chosen for ‘hard work’ by our supervisors at the Science Support Center (SSC) for our briefing. We made our way down to where the snow mobiles were kept and got to take our pick. I, of course, picked the best one. After a very short introduction to the controls, we were off! And boy were we off. I got up to about 55 mph, which is REALLY fast on a snow mobile. The first stop was the Pegasus Airfield (named after the Pegasus plane that crashed there) which is about 14 miles out on the sea ice. We got to get out and explore the plane, climb on it, and even try to make snow angels. When people had had their fill we jumped back on the snow mobiles and went to Room With A View (RWAV). RWAV is a spot about 1500 feet up the side of Mt Erebus (14000 feet). The ride up there was amazing, because very soon we were WAY out of town and no signs of life of any kind (aside from the flags marking the safe route). 1500 feet up a 14000 foot volcano doesn’t seem like much of anything, but when looking back towards McMurdo, you realize how high up you actually are. We could see the backside of Castle Rock, open ocean out near Cape Evans, the Oden ice breaker making its rounds clearing out the path it had made weeks before, Scott Base, the Mt Erebus glacial tongue, and a fantastic view of Mt Ereubs itself. About five feet of snow had fallen up there since the last group took the trip (which is insane, since they went the day before!), so it was fun to sink into the deep snow. We had lunch, dug holes in the snow, played in the little yellow tent that was set up for emergencies, threw a frisbee around, and just generally hung out. then we made the trip back down the side of the mountain, which was amazing. The view was great, flying through the fresh snow, and racing each other back to the refueling spot really put a good ending to the trip.

My redeployment date is Feb 8th, and I’m really excited to get out of here and do a bit of traveling before I head back to the wonderful land of Portland, OR. I can’t wait. And for those of you who wanted a ‘facial hair update’. Here you go!

They may have won the battle….

January 10, 2008

Well…here’s the short version.  
 
I’ve been doing the job of a power plant operator now since Dec 1.  I was supposed to be just an assistant, but due to shortages, I’ve been doing the job 100%….new schedule, new responsibilities, completely unsupervised, and I’ve even been training in the next generation of power plant operator (another GA).  Things were going pretty well. 

I had attempted to get the pay of a power plant operator, because I’m doing the work, but only getting payed a GA’s wage (half that of a power plant operator).  So, I tried my best and was basically shot down because I’m a GA and I apparently can do anything around here, but nothing at the same time.  It doesn’t make a lick of sense.  The next idea was to try and weasel my way into the title of power plant operator without the pay increase, then when they give me the title, BAM, pay increase. 

After trying to for weeks to get someone in HR to talk to me and give me a straight answer, I finally got a meeting with the head of FEMC (the department I’m working for).  Basically the guy wouldn’t listen to me….just kept repeating the same lines over and over. 

I made my point logically and explained how I was unsupervised (he pretended this was the first he’d heard of it even though he’d gotten emails weeks in advance), how I was training other people to do the job I was doing, and how there were no other people on station to take this job.  I’d proven myself as being a competent operator by dealing with several emergencies (some all by myself) but he just wouldn’t listen.  And then he got angry with me for “going over his head” even though I’d been told by my supervisor to go to HR.  He ended the meeting by saying that it didn’t really matter anyway because I was being moved out of the power plant to do some sort of plumbing nonsense and the other GA was going to be taking my spot.  This does not solve the problem of a GA doing an operator’s work at all, but it gets me out of the way. 

So I’ve resigned to do as little to no work as possible until I get to leave this shithouse.  I’m so frustrated with the whole thing, and there’s no way in hell that I’m coming back next season.  

Fuck RPSC. 

On top of that, Christine, one of the absolute nicest, most caring DAs on station (she works with Eli and Mere) was fired for a slue of bullshit reasons in a witch hunt to try and get rid of her.  She is supposed to be flown off the ice tomorrow.  We’re trying to do all we can (get her another job, find ways for her to stall), but basically morale is WAY down, & it doesn’t look like we’ll succeed.  What I think she should do is just refuse to show up for her flight….I mean, what are they going to do….fire her?  Take away her bonus?  She’s got nothing to lose.  I’m really just fed up. 

I don’t know if all/any of this makes sense to those of you off the ice, but it doesn’t really matter…I’m furious at the whole debacle, and I’m ready to get the fuck out of Antarctica….but not until we show ’em they can’t screw with ‘the little guy’ without repercussions. 🙂

Year in Review

January 7, 2008

Eli recently did a year in review on his blog, and I thought that sounded like a great idea, so here it is!

* I finished up my 365 days project (click on any of the archived months from 2006 to read all about the awesome stuff I did that year).

* I took out my tongue ring after having it for nine years (I think).

* I started to really learn how to play the guitar by trying to learn a new song every other day. This was a tough project, but I kept at it for several months.

* I had to say goodbye to Nick and Gabe Boldon as I was going to Portland, OR. It was tough, because those guys have been a huge part of my life. I miss them and they miss me. Gabe and I are pen-pals, and Nick and I are email pals (except he never writes me back). One of our last hurrahs was dressing up like characters from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and then going to see a sold out showing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation” which was amazing on just about every single level I can think of.

* (as I said before) I moved to Portland, OR. I love it there and I cannot wait to get back!

* I only need 25 more NES games and I will have a full U.S. collection. And of those twenty-five, I only need one to have a full licensed U.S. collection. That’s madness.  And if you’ve got any of those games, let me know! 

* I went on a pretty massive road trip. I flew out to Minneapolis to work with Nick and Gabe for a week and train in the new lead PCA as well as hang out with friends (Big E, Emily, Emily, Emily (yup, three of ’em), Franklin, etc). Then I drove to Chicago to do some more visiting (Sean, Matt, Teresa, 11, David, Mandy), which included my awesome Auntie Ellen (LN). After meeting up with Eli, we made our way to Pentwater for some relaxin next to Lake Michigan and living it up kids’ style at the cottage. Next Eli and I made our way to Noblesville for some quality time with the fam and the rest of the jokers who call Indiana home (Ian Weed, Andyman, and others that I am totally forgetting). then Eli and I packed up my car and drove out to Portland making our one scheduled stop at Car Henge. Amazing.

* My amazing grandmother died.

* I swept the NWCGE2K7.

* I finally got a job in Antarctica!

So that was 2007 in a few minutes. What a year. 2008 is going to kick its ass, though.

CrimethInc and more photos.

January 6, 2008

A while back I ordered the new CrimethInc book, which I’m really enjoying. The fine folks at CrimethInc were pretty excited to send some books down here to Antarctica, so I sent them some photos and they posted a nice little blog entry. Check it out.

Here’s a photo of me playing my homemade drumset in the abandoned nuclear power plant. Is this punk rock or hippie? I’m going with punk rock even though I’ve got that crazy ass beard.

Shortly thereafter I became Don Quixote (or Captain Morgen or Baron Munchausen, or whoever).   Feel free to check out my other new photos too! 

More 2008 photos

January 2, 2008

Eli posted some photos from our awesome new years party. There are some good ones of me being ‘disrespectful‘. Check ’em out!

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!

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?