Monday, March 28, 2011

31 - Time runing out,Blizzards, penguins and a walk to the wharf...........

Hello friends,

its the end of another week of tying up loose ends in preparation for both our departure and the ever closing winter. Currently there in only 10 more sleeps until the ship is here to pick us up and its coming around very quick too. If your interested you can follow the progress of the ship by CLICKING HERE and SITREPS or voyage reports by CLICKING HERE.

Time has until this point been flying but now thinking about getting home is beginning to take over and home cant come soon enough. It has been a long season compared to last season as by this time i was already sweating profusely back on the coast. Instead I'm watching the changing seasons down here and the most amazing things that come with it.

The other night 1130pm was just settling in for the night in my room when the phone rang. The phones down here have something called Aurora Alert which is a phone list that if someone see an Aurora they call a number and a automated telephone system which calls everyone on the list. Funny part is that last week we had one and eventually when someone called the number and the alert went out i answered the phone with an automated voice saying "Aurora alert, aurora alert, aurora alert".

Now normally i would think the normal that i needed to go outside and look at an aurora. Instead i thought about the Aurora Australis that is in its way and it was only when i heard several heavy feet pounding the halls heading outside did the penny drop. Well i was a little tyred but i did force myself outside and sure enough there is was. I didn't end up staying for long as i was both tyred and cold but i got some good pictures from one of the guys.


Picture : Brian Guillaumier


Along with the Auroras there is also the blizzards and trying to work in them. Below is a short video of Bec trying to complete GPS'ing the site, got no idea why she had a bee in her bonnet about getting it done that day as the wind was gusting to 50 knots. I wasn't going to let her do it by her self and it was alot of fun watching her!!!

video

Here is a couple clips Ive put together in the wind and blowing snow...............

video

This video is one Johan shot last week on our way back from the Science building back to the main living quarters............

video
Video: Johan Mets

I would like to say that i intended to loose my hat but that would be a lye. So ill just say that it was intended to happen to show how dramatic the wind really is.

Greg is one of our FTO's (Field Training Officers) who unfortunately hurt his knee recently. Feeling a little sorry for him as he hadn't been out of the living quarters for a little while i decided to take him for a drive down to the wharf. Sounds easy enough right, well after the melt and the recent blizz's it wasn't as easy as it sounds. Wharf road is currently closed as it is full of blizz so going down there in a ute was out of the question.


So Hagg was the preferred mode of transport and after heading over to the left of the above picture and almost getting bogged on the hill near the red building at top of picture. On the way we noticed some nice design blown into the snow.........






But we made it without getting bogged and the cripple made it to the wharf.............



You can see the ice beginning to form on the side of the wharf................

We noticed one of the other expiditionars on some rocks up a little from where we were, so we began to walk over there almost tripping on a Weddell Seal on the way.







Its a little strange to see Adelie penguins around at this time of the year too. But by the looks of it they are still malting and get kinda grumpy when they are.............nice pic though.


Talking about Adelie Penguins Greg the cripple that i took down to the wharf has obviously had a little time on his hands of late and as such had time to write a kids book that he has got for sale on Blurb have a look at it CLICK HERE.

More about Adelie Penguins they really are an amazing animal Greg worked with the scientists that were studying them this season and gathered a little info from them since they have left. While they were here they put trackers on them and the google image below and another regular AAD one and although Greg couldn't thicken the lines its quite amazing that those little buggers since the trackers were installed until the 21 May 2011. Last year the fledglings went north from Mawson and then they all travelled westwards along the coastline with the currents, did a massive right hand turn near Syowa station heading north before they began their westwards journey back towards the colony – they travelled about 8000km in total.



As i said earlier 10 sleeps to go and i really don't know how to feel. I feel so at home here i know its going to be sad the day we leave but knowing that Ive meet a fantastic bunch of new friends for life is nice to know too. So much has happened at home with the new arrival of one of my best friends that i am very much looking forward in meeting and then on the other hand friends that need consoling. I'm going to be a busy little beaver when i get home.

Anyhoo enough of me this week and you are now on notice prepare yourself for the imamate arrival ME, your only going to get one more blog entry from the ice all going to plan so enjoy them.

Take care,

Michael

P.S..............."Lifestyle is the art of discovering ways to live uniquely."
                     Jim Rohn

**All pictures not denoted with photographer are taken by me and all pictures are copyright to the author**

Monday, March 21, 2011

30 - the COFFEE situation at Casey Station Antarctica, St Paddy's Day and more.............

Hello friends,

those of you who know me well know how much i love my coffee. I have a little bit of a soft spot for espresso and really this is the only thing i REALLY miss when I'm down here. Last season i was very happy to see that the station had a two group coffee machine that regularly got a workout from myself but to my horror this season it was broken! Not one to go for instant stuff Ive been a tea toatler UNTIL the coffee machine was fixed by an ingenious electrician and comms tech (computer/communication specialist).

The first coffee was heavenly to say the least, even if the coffee was a little stale and the milk was powered. Here is a little video of me talking to Brian and Ian two members of the team of people we had working on fixing this problem............

video


That video was shoot on Thursday.............3 coffees that day, Friday 5 and Saturday 2 before the machine was broken again. Ahhhhh well makes the dreaming of a coffee freshly ground with real milk...........making me drool now actually I'M NOT AN ADDICT NOOOOOOOOO....... 

Anyway this week was one of tyeing up loose ends and tidy up as we were expecting a blizz. Sure enough we got it and we also got heaps of snow which is making work interesting to say the least especially at the temps we are getting to now. Here is a little video the other day down on site to give you some perspective of what it is like.

video

Well St Paddy's day celebrations were deferred a day down here to make it a little easier with the weekend and it was fun. Not as much Irish dancing as there was in Sydney with the Irish flash dancing in Central Station. Here is a YOUTUBE video of it.............

Here is some pics from our St Paddy's Day................

 Picture: Brian Guillaumier
  Picture: Brian Guillaumier
 Picture: Brian Guillaumier
 Picture: Brian Guillaumier
  Picture: Brian Guillaumier

Don't ask me what a Scotsman is doing at an Irish shindig but young Timmy did love putting it on and wearing it as a traditional Scotsman would...........

 Picture: Brian Guillaumier

They are the pictures i can show you all too but needless to say it was a rather big night. It snowed like you wouldn't believe too and every time you went outside it was getting deeper in soft fluffy white stuff. It makes this place sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo beautiful, not that it isn't when there isn't much snow around station.

Saturday was a rest day with the only outing outside the red shed was to the tankhouse for a Spa and sauna. However with the snow overnight it made going a little difficult and here is a little video how we did it.......

video

We even stayed in the sauna as long as we could then rubbed snow all over our bodies and jumped back into the sauna. Exhilarating to say the least!!!

Now onto my nemesis this blog, as many of you are aware and received my emails last season. The trouble i had last season with my emails was that they were far too big so i decided to do this blog this season. Last season my emails were forwarded through many hands and went to many places that I'm sure i still don't know about so its been interesting to follow it this season on one of the reports i can get off my blog. 

I have followers in  Japan, Poland, U.K, France, Ireland, Denmark, Thailand, Brazil, Spain, N.Z, Russia, China, U.S.A, Malaysia, Germany and of course Australia. As of tonight there has been 3566 hits on my little place on the internet and believe me it humbles me that so many of you keep coming back. I also get reports on how people find my site weather its through a link i email them, off facebook or through a google search. Now I've been looking at this for i have no idea and some of the searches are jacs balb soug (no idea), king penguin+Japanese fishermen (which was a video i linked in a blog), mcdoogals big mic (again no idea), casey station Antarctica Qantas flyover 6 February 2011 (which is how Edward the passenger on the plane found me) but one that was interesting was Antarctica girls on ice and how did my site come up in that search????? LOL

Anyway what I'm trying to say there is as much as its has been a drag sometimes and as much as it would have been nice to receive more feedback from some of my viewers the hit counter tells me that in the relatively short time I've been here there has been something of interest in this and people have been coming back to see what I'm getting up to.

Enough of my dribble other than its finally hit home now that its not going to be long and ill be on the ship. Saturday the Aurora Australis departed Hobart bound for Davis Station where my good mate Rowdy will be wintering. He is one lucky son of a gun to winter in a place like this is a dream i have had since my first season and you never know, one day it might come true! So drop Rowdy on his head i mean off at Davis with a couple other winters and pick up the summering crew and the choppers. They are currently due here sometime in the first week of April and ultimately home around the 15th of April.

Better make the most of my time shouldn't I...................................................

Till next time,

Michael


P.S....................."Live out of your imagination, not your history."
                            Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

29 - Finishing up Bio pile 5 and a quick video on the season so far......

Hello friends,

I don't mind telling you all that finding material to put into my blogs is becoming more and more difficult as so many of the jobs are being finished. The beginning of this week brought us the coldest temperatures yet this season with 4 days in a row dipping below -15c and at its coldest it was around -19c. That being said work continues and the tidying up and "blizz proofing" had begun to make winter a little easier for those staying.

The remediation project that i have talked about and worked tirelessly on all season is also quickly coming to an end with the completion of the 5th bio pile last week. There is still one bio pile still to construct but wind and weather aren't on our side at the moment. With the cold weather at the beginning of the week quickly turning the freeze the ground. The PRB or the barriers that i have talked about rely on the fact that the ground will thaw in summer making the melt water run down the hill and through the barrier filtering the melt water and only letting the clean water through. Web site about frozen ground and how much we all rely on it CLICK HERE. However what it dose do once frozen, is makes it very difficult to dig. Kind of like digging chewing gum, the longer its been there the harder it is to move!

Anyway while trying to get the 5th pile done, one of the things we were doing once the GCL or bentonite clay liner was down was water it. As this was impossible to do snow was put int so that once the pile did melt the water would be absorbed by the liner. Well here is a little video of Bec and her hair brained way of getting the chunks of ice off of the liner. 

video


Don't think i have laughed so hard in a long time and after i stopped shooting the video i totally lost it!

It took a day to lay the liners and place the sensors which i thought was pretty good going. The following day we filled it only stopping every half meter to put the secret herbs and spices into the piles finishing the pile. Only a couple more things to do now as we had a site clean up and covered four of the five piles for winter.
Its a bit hard to see with all the snow but below that Ive drawn on one pic which should show you a little better.


Really haven't got too much more for you this week so i decided to do a little filler video with a very small selection of the 11,981 or 70.2gig of pictures and video i have shot since i have been here.


video

Three weeks and it will soon be over and ill be on the ship heading home, well to Tasmania anyway. Not going to dwell too much on that this week as I'm sure I'm going to do enough of it in the next couple blogs.

This that this is a nice way to end this blog, tonight we had a really nice moon and as much as i tried i couldn't get as good a shot as Tom so here is is!


Pic: Tom Luttrell

Still as nice as it is, doesn't do what i see with my own eyes justice.

As i am beginning to run out of material if one but if anyone has any ideas, suggestions or questions now is your time and i can cover it in the next exciting adventure!

One last thing i wanted to talk about, the tragitie happening both in NZ and also Japan. My heart goes out to all those affected. Down here we are kind of inculated from the extent of what is happening back home mainly as there are only two ways to get information. Normally down here i try and stay away from the news as all it normally dose is depress me. We receive to sorces of news, The Australian is printed daily for us and the internet. TV is only put on for special events like cricket or last weekends opening AFL game but it is internet TV and wouldnt choose to watch it if there was say a good movie playing in the theater! Without the continual bombardment of news especially on my 60' its hard for me to fathem the depth of hurt that im sure many around the world are feeling. Im sure it will only too soon become apparent when i do come home.

Anyway enough gibber jabber from me.......................

Hope everyone is well,

Michael

P.S............."If you want happiness for an hour - take a nap. If you want happiness for a day -                go fishing. If you want happiness for a year - inherit a fortune. If you want                 happiness for a lifetime - help someone else."
                   Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

28 Time changes and all things Wilkins related and how we get water in Antarctica...

Hello friends,

over the last couple weeks now its been growing noticeably darker and darker in the mornings with the oncoming change of season. Dawn has been breaking at around 8:30am and with some absolutely amazing sunrises and sunsets.



Over the height of summer the thought of darkness was a distant memory. Thick blinds and rooms without windows are a way of life. Now late in the summer season night time is growing longer and longer on a daily basis. So not really a lot has been happening so I'm going to do a little catch up on some of the past projects that i have been involved with and Webby is going to give us a video tour about how our water is made.

Wilkins if you don't already know is the camp 65km inland from Casey where the Australian Antarctic Divisions Airbus A319 lands which opened for its first test flight on 12 January 2008. The full history and more info can be found if you CLICK HERE.

Last year i was involved in the infrastructure crew  that was tasked to build a number of new sleds. The two main sleds were built and transported up there last year and some of the work done and this year the work was near to complete. There is one sled with 2 *40' containers situated in such a way as there is a hallway down the middle which contains the bedrooms. That sled will ultimately be connected via a walkway, similar to the concertina part of a banana bus, to the main living sled which is 10 * 20' containers stacked two high. This makes a very comfortable 2 story building with way more space that they currently have. Wilkins is a very harsh environment, normally if it is -5c on station then it can be between 5-10c cooler up there without the wind chill.

Last seasons winter crew built the other main building for Wilkins which is the Opps Building. Another 2 story number with viewing decks made from 3 *40' containers. This building is going to be the offices for the Runway Manager and also the departure lounge, just a little more comfortable than what we currently use, see below!!


The accommodation sled


Rooms are very comfortable as i had a couple problems in getting up to Wilkins as early as i needed to be i ended up staying the night and i think the night i spent up there was the best sleep i had since Ive been here!



Then the main building or LQ as it is also known............it dose have a name though, Hawke Hut which the Governor General has been attempting to open now for the past 2 seasons but unfortunately the "A" factor keeps getting int he road and stopping her!!

Anyway Keenan the BSS (Building Services Supervisor) for the Wilkins Infrastructure job did he did an absolutely incredible job getting as much done as we did with the amount or road blocks that were thrown at us last season. We got it up there and it looks like this...........



The lighter green looking box on the side of the building is a snow melter. On station we use a  melt lake but at Wilkins they need to make it the old fashioned way by melting snow.

Currently inside looks like this................

Below notice the toilet..............its a Incinolet have a look at this video on YouTube. Good friend of mine had a VERY FUNNY story about one too but that's a story for him.............Criag

Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith

Kenny is the Wilkins BSS this year and picked up from where Keenan left it. Kenny made lots of rubbish which is where i came in. Kenny asked me to head up there with the Challenger tractor and pick up the rubbish and a couple little containers and bring them back to station. Sounds easy enough right, well got my stuff together (survival pack, spare 2-way, spare GPS, spare set of clothes, sat phone......ect ect) and packed all the stuff onto the tractor. Redundancies takes up alot of space but it also saves you bacon down here. The machines all have 2-ways and GPS's but spares are always taken just in case of a failure and the sat phone is taken on the trip to Wilkins as there is a 2-way black spot. 

So I'm packed ready to go 9am, pre-start on the machine shows up a coolant leak. AGHHHH went to the dieso to assess and he fixed the leak but asked me to take some spare coolant just in case the leak comes back. By this time it was morning tea and never one to pass a Rocket (the station Chef) food i decided to stay the extra 15min and have a nice bite to eat. 

Refreshed i hightail it off station only to have an alarm on the machine go off after only about 15 min of travel. It was one of the fan belts had come off. The machine had spares in it BUT not the tool needed to change it. AGHHHH call up a dieso and get to tool brought out...........................................................Finally I'm off and its now about 11am for a 3 hour trip up there..................

Stopped at the Antarctic Circle truck stop for some refreshments and all i got was the cold air on my face..............

This is actually a pic from the way home loaded up and you might notice the weather isn't quite as good as the previous day!!!


On the way up there are a couple really icy patches and in these patches there are these lines running as far as you can see................Some are 1cm others are 1m wide, don't know if this is accurate but i was told last season that they are stitched crevasses. A crevasse is formed as the ice flows over a hill. While the crevasse is open it fills full of snow and then with the continued flow of ice the pressure of the crevasse trying to close up again form's these very different colours in the ice..................




So as i mentioned i stayed up there the night, here is a video from what is is like with near low visibility and low light................

video

I mentioned some time ago that i was attempting to do tours around the station and now that things here are starting to slow down, material is getting harder and harder to find to put into my blogs i figured it was time to continue it again. Besides its a good fluff piece.......... i mean interesting stuff. John is one of the summering plumbers and the only summer plumber who has been on the ice before.

Here it is....................sorry for the sound but hang in there is dose get better once i go inside!!
video

Well time is quickly running out on me here with Dave the Station Leader reminding me that we only have about 4 weeks before the ship is here to pick us up. Time is a funny thing here you know, the project Ive been involved with has kept me that busy time went slow. Now that the project is coming to an end it seems to be moving very quick. Before i know it ill be on the ship heading home. Just need to soak up as much as i can while i can i think.

Temps here dropped very quickly on the weekend with the formation of grease ice over night, the beginning of sea ice is happening before our eyes. (interesting web site on ICE too if your interested CLICK HERE). Mind you it probably will blow out before it sets in for good but its started. Last season i was gone on the 21st Feb so everything that is happening now is new and its all interesting.

Anyway better save some of my thoughts for next week or i will run our of things to say. If however anyone has any questions of anything they want more info about this too would fill up more space in the blog and possibly answer something you've been itching to know!

Be good...............or good at it.

Michael

P.S................"The world stands aside for he who knows where he is going."
                      Ancient Proverb