Monday, December 1, 2014

66 - Ticking boxes Antarctic Style, Sansom Island and work.......

Hello Friends,

so after getting over the resupply I found out that I needed to refresh my survival training. Now this is a box that needed ticking. Kind of frustrating as i did complete survival training in Hobart last year for Macquarie Island. Apparently Macca field training doesn't transfer to the continent. A little silly if you ask me as its really no different with the exception that there was a little more snow here than there was on Mt Wellington and here we drilled the ice to find out how thick it was but other than those two things exactly the same.

Anyway shrug the shoulders and move on and to be honest I think I had the best night sleep since I've been here that night, chip sack and all. When we get down here before anyone goes anywhere we need to be issued with out field survival packs. This is the basic needs for survival in the field if hell was to break loose and we needed to hit the ground.

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Whats in the bag you ask?
Inside.......
* Sleeping bag and for me I have a gusset that makes it a little more comfortable to be in.
* Compass.
* Signal mirror.
* Spare clothes. Now this is an important one as if you get wet your going to need to change so I pack
   spare thermals, fleece top and bottom as a second layer, socks, balaclava and gloves.
* Food normally I have a Dehydrated meal or two, some mixed nuts and a nice big block of
   chocolate.
On the outside.......
* the yellow thing on the right hand side of my pack is a Bivy bag.
* The long red pole is actually an ice axe.
*  On the back of the pack is a rope bag. Which you need to have out along with your ice axe to walk
    on the ice just in case you need them quickly.

Total weight is going to be around 18-20kg depending on what extras you have.

Whenever you leave station limits this pack must be with you, fire tags turned,  intentions board filled in, trip form filled in and approved by the station leader and a trip leader. Sounds like lots but not really too bad and once you understand the reasons behind it you do it.

Fire tags is a board in the mess that everyone has a tag and when you depart station limits you turn it red so if there is a fire then people aren't looking for someone that isn't there. The Intentions Board is so people know where your going, how your getting there and the route your taking. Just in case you or one of your party hurt or become un contactable this gives them somewhere to start looking.

The trip form is what the station leader looks at which the ultimate decision on the trip is made. He will take into the equation the mix of people in the group and if they will be able to complement each others strength and weaknesses. The station leader is also the person who will approve trip leaders and one of these need to be on every single excursion that leaves station. A trip leader is basically the person who's responsibility it is to ensure the safety of the actions of the group and who will be in front of the coroner along with the station leader if something was to go pear shaped.

Some extra things needed to take with you are at least 2 VHF radios 2 GPS's and spare batteries for all. Down here its all about risk reduction and redundancies. We are alone and along way from help if it dose go bad. The Doc here dose have a very well fitted out medical facility but when you think about who your scrub nurse is Rowdy would be enough to make everyone be safe.

 Pic: Michael Goldstein

A little confused here not too sure if Rowdy is a mussel man or an AGSO (Aircraft Ground Support Officer) anyway he is also a Scrub Nurse if someone needs to be operated on. Not a place id like to have a Boiler Maker inside my guts he might know pipework but not intending to let him know mine!!!

ANYWAY I digress, back to field training. We departed for out 2 day one night training and the weather had really turned it on for us. Weather in the lead up was -10c and blowing about 30 knots and overcast for about a week then it turned blue skies -7 and 5 knots. Magic typical Rivera of the South weather I expect at Davis. Wasn't so nice to start with but by the time we were to go to bed was beautiful. Below is me and a FTO cuzzy bro James. He lead our group and taught me something new. For all those of you who get cold hands will like this one.

Im going to call it the FTO funky chicken...............so
Step 1. Arms strait down to your legs.
Step 2. Palms to the ground and finger tops up towards your head as far as they will go.
Step 3. Arms slightly out from your sides.
Step 4. Repeatedly shrug your shoulders.
Step 4. Do this in a mirror and try not to laugh!!!!! LOL

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Was only really a short walk to where we were to be spending the night which we used compass and map to get there. After cooking dinner (dehydrated meals yummy LOL) melting snow to make water and soup we hit the sack quite literally. Yep the Bivy is basically a large garbage bag mind you as id done it before I had a few tricks up my sleeve.

The first thing was the water boiled I put into my drink bottle that went into my sleeping bag. I tot tell Simone my fellow Plant Operator that he needed to do this and don't know if he didn't hear me or didn't think it was important. He found out why in the morning, more about that one later.

Secondly when getting issued the Field Survival Pack i got a gusset for the sleeping bag as I'm a little larger than the average makes for a not as much of a cocoon feeling when trying to sleep. SO I dress down to thermals and jump in with my hot water bottle set up my pack to make the head area of the bivy more room and to stop the snow, more about that one later too. I think id been listening to Simon (Pictured below) snoring for about 5 minutes and I guess I was snoring in harmony with him.

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Another one was to ensure you have a 1L bottle quite latterly called a piss bottle handy as getting up once in can be easier said than done. Yes I did use it and yes you can use it quite effectively without getting up or our of your sleeping bag as long as you only need to do a number one. A number two is a whole different story! The short story on that one is garbage bags boucle bagged and taken back to station where it is incinerated.

While out there I did notice some really cool "Ice Wedges" which I have talked about it at the bottom in THIS blog.

 Pic: Michael Goldstein

Liked the look of this rock too it was massive and the red stones in-pregnated in it I believe are Ruby no no no they are Garnets.

 Pic: Michael Goldstein

If you do it right you won't have to do a number two though. Its all down to a combination of cheese and dehydrated meals and then once back on station chocolate is used. Works for me!!!! LOL

Work has been full of digging hole and hammering at the moment. Now remembering down here I'm a plant operator so digging and hammering both involve machines, excavators to be precise. Digging here only gets you so far then the permafrost becomes very apparent. Digging it can prove to be a hell of a lot more difficult that one would think and the only way I'm allowed to deal with it is with a hydraulic hammer attachment for the excavator. Id really like to use explosives but when I asked that question the boss seems to laugh at me.

Don't know what a Hydraulic hammer is VIDEO HERE and PICTURES HERE.

Anyway we were falling a little behind on one job so last Saturday instead of only working half day I decided to work a full day in an attempt to catch up. Now that particular hammer I was using was a largish type and lets just say everyone on station could hear me. The noise was traveling down the water lines and going to the other side of station. whoops

  Pic: Michael Goldstein

One lot of Pits now finished ready for the site services to be installed. Happy that one was finished I can tell you. The next trenches I'm in the middle of digging are a little harder as I'm not able to use the big machine instead I'm using a tea spoon and progress isn't happening as quickly as i would like.

Anyway Sunday I managed to be asked if I wanted to go off station to a place called Sansom Island. I'm not exactly sure as to the reasoning behind this some say its because I worked on Saturday myself I'm thinking it was one way to make sure I don't make any noise on Sunday. Must remember to do that more who know where ill end up next time.

So Sansom Island, some of you might remember it from a previous blog which you can see HERE. This time I didn't fly there by Twin Otter rather I went there in our by chopper. Now a flight like this cain only be done when there are two choppers flying together as the other is there just incase something was to go wrong they can lend a hand. Nothing but some good photographs happened on our flight. Here is some on the way there.............

The Vestfold Hills with a little white on them......

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Some of the beautiful and striking Basaltic Dykes around the Vestfold Hills Have a look HERE at more geologic information about here and around Casey and more....

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Crevasse field..........

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Amanda Bay Emperor Penguin rookery, one place i would love to go but its in a restricted area called an ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area). Below you can see there is lots of Emperor Penguins and this season we do have 3 permits to land there and conduct a survey, can see some more time on the hydraulic hammer coming up can't you????

Amanda Bay is in ASPA-169 and more information about that ASPA and all the others can be found HERE. More information about the Amanda Bay rookery itself can be found HERE.


   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Russian and Chinese Skiway just behind their stations and it looks like they might be getting ready for a traverse....

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Sansom Island with the Amery Ice Shelf behind it.........In 2003-2004 there was a group of scientists there doing a little work and they ice cored and gathered cores from the sediments under the shelf some interesting reading HERE. Now the Amery forms part of the Lambert Glacier which holds the world record for the largest glacier. 100km wide and 400km long thats a biggie!

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

A closer view of the massive blocks of ice that are behind Sansom Island. This picture DOSEN"T do it justice. Very impressive!

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

A good panorama on the Island from the trusty iPhone........

     Pic: Michael Goldstein

Looking out the door of the mellon hut there......

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

Now I was actually there to work believe it or not. We were to receive three flights from the Twin Otter delivering 6*205l drums of ATK fuel. 7 drums of old fuel that could not be used anymore were taken back to station where it could be used in the Kroll heater in the workshop along with waste oil. 

Below you can see Sansom Island with a copper picking up drums on a long line to bring them down to where we were to load them up onto the Twin Otter.

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Delivery incoming!!!

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

And new fuel arriving to be cached on the Twin Otter..........

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Don't know just liked that pic....

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

The new fuel.........

   Pic: Michael Goldstein

Below a Fata Morgana, try saying that three times!!

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

Right beside Sansom Island is a Russian Summer station Druzhnaya IV sometimes use, obviously not this season but if you have a look HERE and HERE AS WELL  I've covered it in previous blogs. One thing I will mention again is have a look HERE. This link is to a blog from 2002 where some people where there!

On the Hill closest to Sansom Island there is the Russian Orthodox cross and the Hammer and Sickle.

    Pic: Michael Goldstein


A better view of the Hammer and Sickle noting all white rocks make the symbol.

    Pic: Michael Goldstein


More names written in the white rock scattered around......

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

Dosent look like much has changed other then the placement of a few machines......

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

These machines....

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

On the way back we flew over Bharati which is the Indian station located just around the corner from the Russians Progress II and Chinese Zhongshan Station. A couple years ago we were invited over there just after they had completed it and i got some pictures from inside HERE and HERE AS WELL.

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

Progress II (Russian summer/winter station) more info HERE.

    Pic: Michael Goldstein


Zhongshan (Chinese summer/winter Station) more info HERE.

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

    Pic: Michael Goldstein

Back home..........

   Pic: Michael Goldstein
More work and here I am filling in for Simon my fellow Plant Operator as he was doing slushi (kitchen hand). We have been working with some Comms Riggers who have been replacing all the antennas for our VHF radios and that little yellow box up the top is the boys workplace!!!

 Pic: Michael Goldstein

Below is a shot of the crane computer and basically its telling me that I have 29m of boom out at a height of 37.9m and its 13.5m away form me. The lads aren't small as they weigh 1.4t but after lunch they are a little more but its ok as I could have up to 3.6t up there!

Pic: Michael Goldstein 

A better look at their workplace, no thanks.

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Another job we needed to do this week was to clear a road into the quarry as we needed some crushed rock in there that was crushed last season. Well lets just say I now remember how quickly you can bog a Dozer......

Pic: Michael Goldstein 

A little deceiving but there would have been about 1.5m under the blade of the Dozer......

Pic: Michael Goldstein

Nice hole where she was!!!

 Pic Michael Goldstein

So there we go another exciting blog hope I haven't put too many of you asleep reading, who am i kidding nobody reads my dribble anyway i don't care when i become old at least it will remind me of what I've done.

Hope everyone is well

Michael

P.S.............."Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."
                     AndrĂ© Gide


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

65 - Season 6 and Davis.....three times a charm!!


Well hello friends,

Here we are again for another adventure south, this time back to Davis Station. In my last blog it was a little rushed and at the time along with being rather inebriated. Rush as I was only hours away from getting onto a tourist boat to go home via Christchurch NZ.

Last season was full of extremes as Macquarie Island is a place that I never thought it would be possible for me to go to being a Plant Operator. So in getting the news that I would be going there was something of a shock to say the least. So much so that the butterflies that I had my first season south were back and the excitement was extreme.  I've been dreaming of getting there ever since I meet Rowdy in my first season south at Casey in 2009-10. Rowdy the season before had summered at Macquarie Island or Macca as its better known 2008-09 season 40 years after his father wintered there in 1968.

After showing me a video that had been produced there I was going to go and had a way that was going to enable me to go! Step one was to get my Coxswains (professional boat license), easy enough right. Not so much actually as to get your Coxswains at that time you needed over 300 days (7.5 hours = a day) sea time along with completing the course. Well I went into it thinking I've spent all my life on the water on the Gold Coast and i know boats, well was I wrong. I actually learnt a lot from the course. Thats where the second stage of my plan come into action.

Meeting a friend of a friend, this guy is the trainer of the LARC V operators for the AAD and if anyone was going to be able to steer me in the right direction he was going to be able to. But to meet him I needed to go to Sydney to meet him where I learnt the name of a bloke who's like probably hasn't been the same since, young Frank.

Well after several phone calls I got asked to come in where now I guess I've been with them now for 2 years when I'm home. Turns out the not only did I not need this experience to go to Macca like I first thought but I was going for a whole summer which was the total surprise.

It was a tuff season last one as when departing home I was leaving a mother that has only months before had brain surgery for secondary breast cancer and a partner that really wasn't happy about me going. Both my partner and mother understood that this was something I had been dreaming about for a long time and it was finally coming to fruition.

Communication from Macca was very difficult and although we were on daylight saving time trying to get phone lines was a whole different thing. No phones in the rooms didn't help much either but I was at Macca! I spoke to home as much as I could and ill never forget the date 20th February 2014 after being on the Island for a while and taking in as much as possible I got a message on Facebook.

 

As I'm sure you can imagine it was a very difficult phone call but what I will also remember from that night was making that call and looking out the window of the building i was in, the room was dark and there was the most amazing Aurora Australis or southern lights dancing across the skies. 

Pic: Michael Goldstein
 Pic: Michael Goldstein
Pic: Michael Goldstein
Not the best pics as my head wasn't really there as you can imagine. So after a quick chat with the Station Leader and a couple days wait to confirmed that I would be departing early on a tourist ship that would be leaving Macca on the 11 March. The longest 19 days of my life were about to commence. The AAD, the Station Leader, David the Deputy Station Leader and all my friends at Macca were excellent. The Div really did make it all happen and for that I will forever be in their dept. 

So as I explained phone calls were difficult at the best of times at Macca but the one I had with my then partner on the 3rd March wasn't a good one either. Close to 5 years of friendship and the woman i was going to come home to and propose to tole me "it wasn't working" just over a week before i was due to get on a ship and come home to my dyeing mother. Hummmmm well I guess ill never really get that one but the stars the following day said it all. Made me laugh as thats all I could do not to cry I guess.......

  
To add insult to injury I had only just rented my house out as the plan was to move in with her when i got home. So my house was in storage my girlfriend left me for reasons still unknown my mother was dyeing and I could do nothing to get home any other way other than when that ship was going to get there. Sounds like a good country music song too doesn't it..........

So after making it home I was able to spend some really good time with her before she ultimately passed on the 27 May 2014. Probably the most emotionally charged yet numb feeling that I'm still unsure when and if ill ever be totally ok about talking about it without welling up at some point...........

So at that point I'm going to skip forward to this season...................

Decision was made that Dad was ok at home and i would go South again and the offer was Davis. Now out of the big two (Davis and Casey) I definitely lean more towards Davis. More mining camp style but there is not as much of a transient population as the Runway located at Casey sees a changeover in about 20 every time a plane lands. Davis you do get to know people more intimately. 

Before even getting onto the ship for those of us who had been before got word from various newspaper articles and reports that the sea ice around Antarctica was  further out that on record. 


I started at the division on the 17th Oct a Friday and with only 4 days training on the 22nd Oct V1 (voyage 1) departed for Davis. As the lead leaving the coast and up to departure was manic for the first 3 days on the ship all I did was sleep. There was the normal ships induction where one of the things you need to do is put on a immersion suit to help in the coolish southern waters.......

Pic: Michael Goldstein
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

After that we had a fire muster on the helli deck then hurry up and wait as only Rowdy can......

Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

In the background is the French Antarctic ship L'Astrolabe or we know it better as the gastrolab............mainly being the smallest southern going vessel she rolls around making many who normally don't get seasick violently ill. She would be leaving very shortly after us bound for Dumont d'Urville via Macca to drop the summer people off on their way.

Finally getting underway and start heading out the Derwent River where you'll normally find everyone out on deck to wave off loved one. Also because you don't get very good reception below deck. I was very lucky to have Dad in town to see me off this year and while we were heading out I video called him. Think he wanted to capture the moment, going to have to teach him how to take a screen shot on the iPhone aren't I?

Pic Michael Goldstein

Actually as per normal there isn't much you can do on the ship other than watch movies, talk, eat, sleep, eat some more, sleep some more until we hit the edge of the pack ice. Below is a good little video showing what normal seas are like on the southern ocean........

video

Video: Cliff Simpson Davis

We didn't think that was going to take tooooooo long as apparently the ice along way south but as it turns out we had some wind which was working to our advantage. Actually what happened is it fanned out the pack ice enabling us to have open water for all but maybe 3-4 hours at a time and only 24hour in total maybe.

 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

  Next we made it to the Fast ice which basically is ice that is connected to the continent. On the 5th Oct we hit that we pushed in a couple hundred meters and parked up so we could get the choppers going. The Fast Ice edge was around 10km from station which wasn't ideal as we only had 4km of fuel line so the ship needed to push in another 6km before it would be in position. The resupply crew were then flown ashore including myself while they were doing that so we could get ourselves inducted in all the machinery, station and ready the areas we needed to locate all the materials coming ashore.

Finally there!!!!

 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Duckie up on the bow big cheesy grin to boot! 
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Visitors taking a look at the fuel like running ashore........
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

My office................
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Resupply done enabling us to get everything ashore and everything we were intending to get back to Australia on the ship. Transferred nearly 850,000l of SAB (Special Antarctic Blend Diesel) without a problem and all done in 6 days. 

NOW THE REAL WORK STARTS.................

Stay real

Michael

P.S........."Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

             Albert Einstein