Friday, September 30, 2005
posted 9/30/2005 04:08:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Leavin' on a jet plane... or 3

So, since the last post... Molly, Ed, and I spent Wednesday morning hanging out at Ed's place talking bikes and drinking coffee - had a really nice morning. Molly and I drove down to the bike shop in Boulder and dropped off my bike to get it boxed, then went over to the Boulder Book Store to check out travel books and get a copy of the Rough Guide to New Zealand. We browsed as long as our stomachs would allow, then went to get some food. Next, I helped Molly out with getting more of her stuff packed into the attic, then we got set and went for dinner with my friend Mags and Molly's friend Susan, picking up the boxed bike on the way. We ate a ton of excellent food, which is to be expected at Sherpas, then walked the Pearl Street Mall about 4-5 times to help digest a little. Nice evening! This morning while I was getting some breakfast, Molly got a call informing her that she's PQed and will be going down to The Ice as a cargo handler in a couple weeks! Yay! So, that's about all for now, I've just printed out a hard copy of my itinerary and am about to go pick up a couple items at the hardware store before going to the airport. Next post should be from the other hemisphere!

Thursday, September 29, 2005
posted 9/29/2005 01:11:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Quick note from Longmont

The bags are packed! Finished up (hopefully) with packing everything but the bike last night, so that's cool. Meeting Molly this morning to get a ride over to our friend Ed's house, then we'll head back to Boulder from there. Next I'll drop off the bike, pick up a New Zealand travel guide and a book for the flight, go get some lunch, take care of other stuff that comes up, and have dinner at Sherpas with some friends. At least that's the current plan, we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
posted 9/27/2005 05:30:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Getting the bags packed

So, for about a week now I've been in Colorado bouncing back and forth between my uncle's house in Longmont (where most of my stuff is,) and friend's houses in Boulder (where the shops I need to deal with are.) Nearly everything on the checklist has been taken care of at this point, so it's just a matter of dealing with the small stuff and any additional stuff that pops up between here and takeoff Thursday evening local time.

Got the bike touring stuff tested out and with a few little adjustments, I think things will roll quite nicely. At some point, I'll try to do up a gear review of the stuff I'm taking for bike touring since I haven't seen too many good ones out there for the kind of thing that I'm hoping to do. Am planning on having the guys over at University Bicycles box up my bike Wednesday and check it as my second checked bag on the flight to NZ. The bike and associated gear stuff will be left at at the RPSC offices in Christchurch while I'm working on the ice, then I'll pick it up when I'm done working and go goof off in New Zealand for a month or two before returning to CO.

John, my friend of my friend's sibling who's also going to the ice, sent some interesting info that I'm going to repost here so that other people might find it useful:

The luggage weight restriction info in the participant guide isn't the
greatest, so I'll give you a little more information about it. On the
flight from Cheech to McMurdo there is a 50 pound weight limit on
checked luggage. You get loads of clothing (about 50lbs) at the
clothing distribution center (CDC) in cheech, half of which you'll wear
on the flight and half will go in your luggage. You will have a
carry-on on the plane (the same size as a commercial airline carry-on)
which has no weight restriction. Also, if you have a laptop you can
bring a laptop bag on board in addition to the carry on. So, if you are
close to the checked baggage weight limit, you put some heavy stuff in
your carry-on or stuff it in the many pockets of the large parka you'll
be wearing. If you hit the weight limit on checked luggage and still
have more stuff, you put it in a box and leave it at the CDC and it will
get flown down at a later date (usually 3-5 weeks later). So, you can
really bring down as much stuff as you want, don't let the 50lb limit
scare you.
Here's my take on boots to add to what Scott had to say. I found that
in McMurdo its nice to have three types of boots. A pair for really
cold weather at the beginning of the season, which they give you at the
CDC, a pair of insulated work boots for November and February, and a
pair of uninsulated boots for December and January. I and the other new
fuelies last year had bought rather warm boots, and our feet were
sweating like crazy in the middle of summer. However, I had no problem
finding uninsulated work boots in the well stocked lost-and-found, aka
Oh, and you're the GA, so you'll be spending a lot of time in the fuels
lab testing the fuel. Since there are fuel vapors in the lab you can't
plug in stereos or radios, but there is a radio and cassette player in
there that runs on rechargeable batteries. The selection of tapes is
minimal, so you might think about bringing along a few tapes to listen
too. Your mp3 player would probably do the job too, but last year's GA
never had headphones on, I'm not sure why.
Changing your tickets for traveling afterwards is real easy. They hand
out information about it in January. If you don't want to fly straight
home you visit Raytheon's travel agency in Christchurch in February and
change your ticket to whatever you want. There are three basic ways of
changing your ticket: you can delay your flight straight home as long
as you want, you can delay your flight home and arrange for stops at
places on the way home for a minimal cost (last years options were
Auckland, Honolulu, and LA, but some years there are more exotic
options), or you can take the cash value of your return flight, usually
around $1000, and use it toward whatever flight plan you want, such as
flying to Asia, an around the world ticket, etc., and you pay the extra
Also, you can leave stuff (cloths, tents, bikes) at the CDC while you're
in McMurdo, which is real handy.
Hopefully you'll find some of this info helpful. I think the
information they supply to new employees is a bit weak, so I thought I'd
pass on some stuff that's helpful to know before you leave home. Have
fun packing!


So, that's all for now. The next few days leading up to takeoff are likely to be busy and chaotic, so there's a good chance this will be the last post from Colorado! Will be taking pictures and posting them sometime in the near future, so keep hitting that refresh button!

Saturday, September 24, 2005
posted 9/24/2005 02:29:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Mad dash to the finish!

Photo-resist etching in the bathroom
Jerry fitting boots

L-Photo-resist etching circuit boards in the bathroom.
R-Jerry fitting boots at the outfitter.

Boy has it been a crazy week! Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I was working up at Mountain Crossings to fill in for my friend Cornbread and make some extra cash. Had a really good time working up at the shop, kind of miss working there fulltime! Sunday evening and most of Monday was spent designing and building a little USB<->IO interface that will eventually be used to run my dad's CNC table. It had been quite a while since dad or I had etched a PCB using photo-resist, and we somehow managed to forget/loose the recipe to make the developer for it, so really all of Sunday night was spent experimenting to get the technique down again. This time, we wrote everything down though, so that shouldn't happen again :)

Tuesday was travel day, dad gave me a lift down to North Springs Station, where I took the train down to the airport. Checked in and went through security without any issues, then waited for my plane to leave. The flight to Denver was on a smallish jet, and I had to sit with my largish carry-on (didn't check a bag this trip) between my legs and the seat in front. Not too comfortable, but it wasn't too bad and the flight was pretty quick. Met up with Molly at the airport in Denver, then we drove up to Boulder for food and visiting with friends. Molly had just finished with the last of her medical stuff to get PQed in Denver, so things worked out for her to meet me at the airport rather than taking the bus to Boulder. Things are sounding good with regards to her going down to Antarctica, so that's pretty neat!

Wednesday and Thursday were spent in Longmont running errands and getting things ready to go to Antarctica and New Zealand. When I got back, several packages were waiting for me from the last month including my paper itinerary for the flights from Denver to Christchurch! Also had some goodies for my bike arrive to get it ready for touring around NZ after I get done working in Antarctica. The only thing that hasn't gone smoothly over the last few days was getting a renewed driver's license, but it hasn't been bad. Basically, after waiting 45 minutes in line, I discovered that I'm being issued a 30 day temporary license before my new one gets mailed out in a few weeks. So, basically, I'm going to be using a temporary license to get me down to Antarctica, where it will expire, then sometime after that I will get my new license through the mail hopefully. Not sure how long I'm not going to have a valid driver's license, but I don't expect it will be a problem as I'll be on The Ice the entire time :)

So, that's about all for now, I'm about to bike over to Boulder to take care of some more stuff there. Tonight we're having a little get-together at one of my favorite restaurants in Boulder, which should be a lot of fun. Should be several people involved with the USAP as well, so it will be fun to meet some of the people that I'll be working with in under a week from now!

Sunday, September 11, 2005
posted 9/11/2005 12:12:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Mailing address and general update

So, I dug out my United States Antarctic Program (USAP) Participant Guide and looked up what CHC stands for - it's an abbreviation for Christchurch, NZ. Another abbreviation for Christchurch is chch. Christchurch is the city that people who are going to many parts of Antarctica pass through, and is home to RPSNZ - Raytheon Polar Services New Zealand - where some of the logistics support for USAP comes from. So, basically what that last email was telling me was that someone from the Christchurch office will help me arrange post-Ice travel stuff sometime in the future.

Speaking of New Zealand, dad and I got to wondering about where the name New Zealand comes from. Turns out it's named after Zealand, which is the largest island of Denmark.

I also have a mailing address that can be used to send stuff to me on The Ice:
Ian Rees, RPSC
McMurdo Station
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

The mail system to Antarctica is a bit complicated, so it can take quite a while for things to get through. Letters have higher priority than packages, so they typically arrive faster. It can take up to six weeks for a package to make it from the states to McMurdo, so don't send anything that's time sensitive or perishable. Since nearly all the waste from McMurdo (called 'retro') has to get shipped back to the US, do not send any styrofoam packing materials, use crumpled up newspapers instead.

In other Antarctic news, it's looking like my friend Molly has a job on The Ice too! She hasn't gone through the entire hiring process yet, but all indications are that she'll be going down there as a vehicle operator in a couple weeks. Molly still hasn't been PQed (deemed physically qualified), but she doesn't anticipate having any problems with that and is going to be rushed through so it shouldn't take too long. Will post more when there's more to post!

Friday, September 09, 2005
posted 9/09/2005 03:29:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Return flight stuff

From an email this morning:

Hello! CHC will handle your Return. They will contact you while
you're at the ice, just let them know that you want to travel after you
get off the ice. Thanks, Janie

Unfortunately, I have no idea what CHC stands for, but since they're going to be contacting me I guess that doesn't matter. Dad says one of the Cs must stand for Cold.

Thursday, September 08, 2005
posted 9/08/2005 04:19:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Getting closer!

Today there was an email waiting for me from Janie in the deployment specialist group (DSG) this morning with a link to my travel itinerary. Looks like I'll be leaving Denver September 29th and arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand, on October 1st. The flight involves three days for a few reasons; firstly because we'll be in the air for a long time, then there is also a long layover in Los Angeles and Aukland, and finally because we'll be heading west over the international date line. Interestingly, the itinerary also included my return flight information. Hopefully, I'll be able to change it as it has me going straight from Antarctica to the states, but as my regular reader will know, I want to spend some quality time in New Zealand before heading home!

Molly has been making some good progress with getting a job on the ice over the last couple of days. She's hopefully going to be interviewing for a position as an alternate vehicle operator Thursday. When you get a job offer to work for RPSC on the ice, you can either be a "primary" or an "alternate." Basically, for each position on the ice, RPSC puts two people through the paces to work down there, but only one can go. Ideally the primary candidate gets things done and heads down to the ice, but sometimes the primary candidate doesn't PQ, has other obligations, or just doesn't show up at the airport. When the primary candidate can't make it, the alternate is ready and hopefully willing to take the primary person's place and goes down to the ice. So, Molly is hopefully going to get a position as an alternate and get rolling on the PQ process. Once she gets PQed, it sounds like she'll have a pretty decent chance of getting down there since RPSC is apparently hiring several alternates, and this late in the game that says to me that they're going to need some help. We'll see how it goes in a few weeks, will keep this thing updated with any developments!

Also, I was chatting with my highschool friend Catherine today and found out that her brother's friend, John, will be going to work on the ice as well! He's in the fuels department too, but will be working at the South Pole so we're probably not going to be seeing too much of each other once he goes from McMurdo to pole. John has a cool journal over at

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
posted 9/06/2005 04:19:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Down in GA

The last several days have been busy, but not a whole lot of Antarctica related stuff going on. Over the weekend, we went out to visit with some friends in Wolfe Co, KY, which was a lot of fun, then Sunday morning my mom and I left Kentucky and met my dad in Tennessee. Dad and I continued on to his place (where I grew up) near Sautee, GA where I'm going to hang out for a little more than two weeks and then go back to Boulder before heading down to the ice. Today, I visited with my grandfather for a bit and then helped my dad out with clearing out a logjam near the house. Here's a picture of me working on clearing out the creek (kids, you know the routine - don't try this at home.) Going to go pick up my new down jacket tomorrow from the outfitter I used to work at, then do who knows what else. Will post more when there is more to post!