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!!!

video

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.

video

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.


video

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.........

video

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