Monday, January 31, 2011

23 Australia Day Antarctic Style, Thala Valley and more boating...........

Hello Friends,

Well its been another cracker of a week down here and where else to start but the 26 January, Australia Day. Like many of you at home we did the normal things like going to the beach. Only different here is our beach could be a little more picturesque in that its framed by the ice bergs and maybe a little colder. Now i know many are going to say that i am chicken but before you say it ill tell you that I've done this before.

Many moons ago when living in Canada i did a polar bear swim in a Winter Carnival in Sault Ste Marie called Bon Soo even got a medal for my efforts. Only thing is there is someone in Canada that she would say unfortunately she had to do it too. Was a magic day, they had cut a hold in the ice in St Marys River and the temp was -27c. Never forget it, after getting changed into my swimming attire i walk outside and prepared to jump in. Facing the hole i launched myself in reaching out far enough to grab a pole on the other side. My head must have been underwater for mere moments but while under i didnt know which was was up even though my hands were on the pole.

After jumping out i realized that maybe i should have worn shoes as all the people that had got out before me had dropped water on the snow turning it into ice. Yep it was like walking on razor blades, in pain i made my way to a inflatable spa. Back in those times my hair was quite long in fact so long that my nick name was "side show Bob" so when i finally made it into the spa i went to squeeze the water out of my hair but alas my hair was frozen.

So back to Australia Day 2011 i really didnt feel the necessity to make the swim at +4c, i instead took photographs in a IRB and watched everyone else understand what 60% shrinkage really means.


It was another tuff day can't you tell..............

So in they all went and i was still happy not to be experiencing the shrinkage again.


Troy one of our CASA 212 pilots with what seems to be a grimace on his face


Timmy loving it............


Dave out Station leader hanging onto a ice burg we dragged in for the special occasion.


Timmy running from emanate danger being hunted by Big Red AKA Nathan.......


While in the boat i was able to believe it or not, MULTI TASK. Yep i took pictures and took video at the same time and here that is............

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The day continued up at the red shed..................

It was an ALL Australian Day.


The entire station except me, dont know where i was......................


Got to have a BBQ on Australia Day don't you, even if you are in Antarctica..........


Trev with one of his brews as he is the brewmaster!!!


Bet you didnt have an Eski (for those of you that don't understand that also known as a "Chilly Bin", "Cool Box" and a "Ice Box").


Then we picked teams for the Australia Day cricket game..........


The crowd gathered................


The pitch was a little hard to get the wickets into the ground so we got a little of what we have a lot of and it kind of worked.


The game was fun wouldn't really sat it was high scoring but of course we won in the last over.....


Time laps from the Casey Web cam of the day, you can also see the live web cam too CLICK HERE

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video: AAD web Cam

Thala Valley time now, well many moons ago pre Antarctic Treaty times we used Thala Valley as a dump site. Since the treaty it is our responsibility to clean up our mess. Well a couple years ago a majority of the mess was cleaned up and at that time it was found that there was heavy metal contamination on the site. Lead to be exact, from both leaded fuel and old batteries. As you briefly saw in last weeks blog the Chinese were in town. The reason that they were in town was the Australian Government had negotiated with the Chinese to utilize their ship to remove the rubbish and take it back to Australia.


Took the team a couple weeks to sort and remove the contaminate soil and load it into containers but enough from me here is Rowdy explaining it in his best way.

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Along with the actual removal of all the material me and my boffin posse took some samples to ensure we had got all the contaminated material. Here is Dr Fancy Pants Kate and her artistic impression of how/what we were doing.............
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So after a short week and a day off in the mix too i really only worked 3 days last week............needed it too really as sleep hasn't been one thing I've been getting alot of. Anyway 2 and a half days fork and the week was over.

Yes...................the weekend! After a relaxing Saturday afternoon i found out that there was going to be another attempt to Browning by IRB. Sitting at dinner with Narelle (ex station leader) who was organizing the trip i said "8524, what was that number 8524 yep that my room phone number so if someone doesn't turn up give me a call and ill be there." Not thinking i would get a call i didn't set my alarm. Wouldn't you know it i got a call, one of the other plant operators had a slightly big night on Sat night and well got down to the IRBs and realized that well it just wasn't going to happen. All the better for me i got the call and from a dead sleep to being out the front with survival pack, camera pack, lunch dressed and walking out the door was 10min. Kitting myself out in a mustang suit, the stylish red and blue suits we wear in the boats then down to the wharf 20min. So off we went, wind on station was gusting to 13 knots which was acceptable for an attempt to be made. Soon after we took off the the waves were getting bigger which prompted Narelle to make a call back to station to get an updated weather report. Unfortunately the automatic weather station near Browning it was gusting to 40knots due to the Kadabatic winds.

Here i am with my "BIG BOY"

                            

After turning around and heading back towards station we caught a Leperd seal lounging around..........


We stopped at Shirley Island for just over an hour and as i had been there last weekend myself and a few of the buys/girls took the opportunity at soaking up the serenity.........ohhhh the serenity.


One of the views form my perch...............


Even from my perch the rookery was only meters away................


The chicks now very eager for food are chasing their parents.................the poor parents!!!

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Just in the channel there was a big melt stream flowing over was the only other noise besides the noisy rookery.


Still having a little bit of time up our selves we did a little ice berging................









On our way back to station we went past the ASPA beside Wilkes. Wilkes you'll learn a little more next week blog and i got lots of history for you next week on that too.  Anyhoo we went past another melt stream which was flowing quite good which is just soooo amazing to see sooooooo much water and it keeps coming and coming..........


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 In my web surfing this week there has been a couple interesting things pop up on my radar for you all to have a look at there is this one on the King Penguin injured by a Japanese fisherman and taken back to Japan
http://www.flixxy.com/pet-penguin-goes-shopping.htm

You'll remember the CASA212 that went down in Bunger Hills not that long ago well i found a story about a nasa scientist stuck in a blizzard there

Here is a good one my mate Mick......................well Mick is a friend from last season who works at the Di vision full time and one of the many jobs he dose is kitting and here he is kitting a ABC reporter (her Blog CLICK HERE) who is currently visiting the Mertz Glacier 
If your interested in seeing where the Aurora Australis is you can go to...........................
Similally you can see the ships web cam which updates every 1/2 hour.......................

Sooooooooooooooo other than that its been a good week as news tonight is mum is home which has been music to my ears and probably to my sleep pattern. Righto well time for me to hit the sack, and prepare for the next fascinating entry in my blog. Hope everyone up the far North of QLD has battened everything down and is safe!!!


Hope your all well and until next blog

Michael

P.S.................."You've got to ask for your opportunities! Asking is...
                   in my opinion... the world's most powerful, and neglected,
                   secret to success and happiness."
                   Percy Ross

Sunday, January 23, 2011

22 Issues, A Navy man, more Science, having my ears lowered and more stuff.............

Hello friends,

This week has been an interesting one to say the least and i can say its taken till now for me to get to this point. Yep I'm kinda missing home, in a way. You know the old saying things come in threes well i got my three this week with both my parents going in for routine surgery and one very close family friend diagnosed with a brain tumor and operated on two days later. Its silly i know but its at these time i am wanting to be at home with the family. I know there is nothing i can do but none the less just being there is sometimes comforting.

Distance is relative, down here we don't do it like the Shackleton of Antarctica did we do it in absolute comfort with heated rooms, electricity and modern clothing. Communication is as simple as picking up a phone and dialing the number and emails that arrive in moments. Its because of this we sometimes don't feel so isolated and its only when something like this you feel the helpless is guess. Even though I'm feeling like this there is a kind of support network that expeditionars subconsciously set up and we to take care of each other and this reinforces the bonds that get formed down here.

Even if i needed to get out there is noting to get me out on, we still haven't had a plane arrive and the next window will be at the earliest the end of January. As for getting out on a ship the Chinese have arrived today in their ship but they aren't expecting to be back in Oz till probably the mid to end of next month.

I often get asked back home what is it like down here and there really is no short answer to that other than incredible. Normally i answer that question with "its like NOTHING i have ever done before and everything rolled into one!" It is a primarily male population but it isn't like a mining camp. It shares the brotherhood of the boys in blue or armed services but we don't carry guns. What it is done here is different every day and simple jobs take anywhere from 2-3 times the length. Ingenuity is key as its not like we have a shop to go and buy the part down here. It is the most INCREDIBLE job and it is very hard to come close to it in any way!


Well enough already of that stuff, now its Sailor time. Its amazing what you learn about people down here. One friend who i meet last season and to protect his privacy ill call him Mick. Now Mick is a bit of a dag, and when one day we were talking he told me he was in the Navy Reserves i laughed and said yea sure, send me some pics well did i laugh when i got them.......................Ohhh Mick i couldn't just keep those pics for myself i needed to show the world!!!

Mick has gone home now but I'm sure ill hear from him soon.................that's him front left!!


In the middle..........


On the left.............


Don't worry Mick i stitch everyone up in this blog including myself...............

SCIENCE TIME................

So as you all know Ive been working with a bunch of crazy scientists and have even become one as i am a Doctor Professor. Over the past couple weeks i have been building these bunds which will ultimately hold all the contaminated soil from the original spill. This week the bunded areas were lined with firstly a GCL, don't ask what that stands for but in normal person speak its a bentonite clay liner which when wet will form a seal.


 Bloody heavy too many hands to move it around.


Now that was done the second layer is a plastic liner which in one piece lays the entire 18m long by 8m wide bund and it all happened too quick and i didn't get any pictures. Then on top is a geo textile fabric that really its only purpose is to protect the plastic from puncture.

Much monitoring by using the data loggers that Tim talked about in the last blog they collect moisture and temperature from both inside the piles and from under them. Along with the data loggers there is a bunch of pipes that house GAC (Granulated Activated Carbon) which basically is to soak up any volatile fumes to be tested at a later date. Along with that there is also sample bentonite clay liners and the plastic cut into squares layed under the liner so to be tested later to see how well they are working at containing the contaminates. One of the bad things about running the experiments is sometimes you get the shitty jobs too like Dr Bec here below. One of the experiments involved running this pipe under the liner and over night it had snowed next day got nice and warm and well Bec went for a little swim!!!

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On top of the pile there is also pipework which has holes in it. Tim would explain it that the pipework is connected to a blower i prefer to explain it the opposite. Its connected to a vacuum which will suck the air through the pile and run it through a GAC (Granulated Activated Carbon) filter to filer off the volatile fumes from the piles, shesh i need to carry these scientists at times!! LOL

On the pipe work we crushed some of the contaminated material as small as the crusher would let us and this we used as a protective layer on the pipes and the blow picture is Bec sampling the material once it had been all layed out all prety like!!



Ill in the coming weeks ill get Bec to explain in more detail about the bio piles and how they work in all edumicated language.

So the next video is one of Dr Mary Christmas fancy pants Kate (LONG STORY and ill let her explain that one one day) explaining the original experiment of the barrier.

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Here is a somewhat unheard of member of the team Tom, now i haven't got a nick name for young Tom yet he thinks i should call him the enigma but I'm not too sure about that.


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There is also a interesting blurb and video on the Antarctic Division web site from Tim Spedding who is in charge of this project down here and think you guys might find it interesting...........................


Think that's enough Science for you all this week so ill move on............This week i thought is was kind of over due for a little tidy up yep i cut my hair. Amber the same girl from last weeks video cut it using the same tried and not so trusted technique of twist and hack. So here is the side show bob before picture......


Now the after...............


Not so frightening now am i....................

Then that wasn't good enough i needed more..................and as i had been given a fair bit of grief about the Santa beard i thought it was time for that to go too.


Yep that's just the hair from my face and nothing more................


Ahhhhhh back to normal well as normal as things go for me anyway. Time now for Santa mark 2 as it is quite surprising how well the beard dose at cutting down the cold air off the face besides the fashion statement it sets. So Ive had my shave the only one for the season now its time to go feral again!!!

So yesterday, Saturday we normally finish work around 12 and after that a small group of us had  the opportunity to head over to Shirley Island to have a look at what had been stinking the station out this week. The area where i have been working is next to the poo palace and with the wind blowing from the direction of Shirley Island for most of the week the poo palace actually smells better. 

The only way over there at the moment is via IRB so it was a nice ride over there, until you get down wind from the island and the smell kinda takes over a little. Below is a pic of the Penguin "RUN OFF"


It got a little shallow getting ashore so the ores came out and Timmy snapped this one of me.


Once on the island we made our way over heading to the channel that earlier in the season we walked over to get there and there was a massive crack and we witnessed a 30m wall collapse into the water making a 1m+ wave through the channel.


Here is the after affects of the collapse with all the burgy bits floating out to sea.


Skuas greeting each other it is very impressive to see only shadowed by them swooping you for what can at times be an unknown reason until you realize that you've stumbled onto the location where one baby Skua is located. They blend into their surrounds so well it can be difficult to differentiate the baby from rocks at times.


Center picture is the baby in question


 Then there was the stinking birds of the hour. Ohhhhhh my smell i didn't make it over to Shirley to see the chicks last season so this was nice but wasn't ready for the smell. MUCH MUCH worse than before the chicks were born and even then it was bad and a smell that you really cant describe too. I noticed that the adults were very much more aggressive towards each other too this time and the chicks would chase them down demanding food. I guess who wouldn't be pissed off with a demanding child waiting at home to be feed. Yea i know no need to say it Mum, she would be saying i was like that I'm sure. Truth be told i am still demanding i just don't live at home anymore!

Below you see all the chicks with their mouths open, yesterday was quite hot with top temp hitting 8 c and probably a tad warm for them as it was for me too.


In the video you can also see a Skua feeding on a dead penguin chick at the back as i pan around.........

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The oldest of the new chicks almost ready to swim..........


There were alot of penguins looking quite exhausted from all the work they must have to do.............


Found a Snow Petrel nest and a chick in the nest....


And the Chinese are here................They are here to assist us in a clean up program which has removed 170+ 7 ton containers of soil to be processed and disposed of in Australia. The soil is contaminated with heavy metals from the old station but I'm going to get Tim Price to do a little video tour in the next blog as the removal program has now finished and now moved onto loading it onto the ship.


The barge that Chinese are using to transport the containers....................


The DC3 that the ICECAP guys are using for their science program there is more about them at the AAD's web site.............


I also found this blog by James Roth from the University of Delaware and he dose a very good job of explaining all the different aircraft used here and even has our A319 in it! CLICK HERE

Now its the end of another big week, big good and big bad. All being said and done i Prozac isn't needed down here all it takes for me it to look out at the ice burgs grounded in the distance and 9/10 puts a smile on my face as i really and truly am in the most incredible place on earth and it humbles me the think i not only have been fortunate to visit here once but now twice. HOW LUCK AM I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Take care of yourself and each other,

Michael


P.S...................“Two of life's greatest tragedies are: Never to have had a
                     great mission in life, and to have fully reached it so there
                     is no challenge remaining."
                         Denis Waitley