Thursday, October 20, 2005
posted 10/20/2005 06:48:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Busy busy busy


Monday was a really fun day - I got to work on the sea ice runway! The only plane coming in was a C17 carrying primarily people (including my friend Molly!) so it turned out that they didn't need to refuel at all. Nevertheless, we had to get our runway fueling system set up and ready to go in case they decided to take on some fuel, so I got trained up on that and helped set it up. While waiting for the plane after we had things ready to roll, I took our snowmobile out for a little drive to blow some crud out of it's carburetor. Those snowmobiles are fun little machines! So, the plane arrived as planned and didn't get any fuel- also as planned. Unfortunately, the airstrip people don't let us approach planes on the runway to greet people or anything, so I wasn't able to get over to the plane to say hi to everyone, but it was really cool to see the plane land on the sea ice, offload about a hundred and fifty little walking red blobs (everyone has to wear their big red parkas on flights,) take on some more cargo and PAX (as passengers are called - think it's an air force thing,) then rocket off into the sky! After closing down the fuel system, we went back up to the fuels barn, took care of some other stuff, and finally it was time to go to dinner! Met Molly in the galley at dinner and visited for a while. Went for a walk around McMurdo, watched some TV, then crashed for the evening.

Tuesday was another busy one, but it involved a TON more physical labor. Shoveled out some valves that were buried under some deep, crusty snow drifts near our big bulk tanks (the ones on the right side of that picture from last Sunday) with Bryan. Once that job was done, we cleaned up some construction debris from one of the other tank's containment berms. This stuff had apparently been blown up there in a storm several months ago, so we're not really sure where this big (10 feet by about 150 feet) rectangle of felt-like material came from. It was a major pain in the rear to dig out though! Imagine this giant chunk of material crunched up into a ball and wedged under some big fuel pipes, then fill all the voids with snow, pebbles, and ice. Now, imagine digging/pulling this thing out by hand... After that, we took off for lunch and did some small stuff around the fuels barn and a transfer to fill up the incinerator building (which doesn't hold an incinerator anymore, but still has that name) heater tank.

Wednesday started out with a little class by one of our station physical therapists about stretching and how to perform some heavy tasks safely. Raytheon has a (stupid) new rule that doesn't allow anyone to lift more than 40 pounds by themselves (I think we have a monkey wrench that is over 40 pounds, going to check up on that one soon,) which is a source of endless entertainment for many of us who work down here. A big part of the class was the PT trying to come up with ways for us to mount the blower motor onto our "hermie heaters" with two people. The blower motor ("hermie head," it's detachable so that we can keep the motor in a heated place when we're not using it) is something like 55lbs and goes in an awkward position so that only one person can realistically put it in. The PT basically ended up giving up. Lots of small tasks Wednesday as well, including my first mogas (regular unleaded gas, which we don't deal with too much) transfer and a lot of small maintenance stuff. Bodie (the fuels foreman - he's in charge of day-to-day operations basically) came out with the schedule for what each of us fuelies will be doing for the season. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll be in or around McMurdo all season - don't get to go work at the South Pole or any of the field camps (we've only got a couple camps this year, usually there are quite a few.) Although, I am a fuels operator now, so that's definitely better than the GA position that I had (which had very very slim odds of taking me out of McMurdo.) Molly had the day off to help her transition into working the night shift as she will be doing until Christmas, so I did my part by staying up late playing pool and random board games. Both of the two pool cues in the lounge here in Building 155 are really funky. They're both very straight aluminum cues, but the tip on one is cracked and the other is loose. Think I might label one "Infinite Improbability Cue" sometime later.

Today was another day full of smallish odd jobs. Been kind of groggy all day - didn't get nearly enough sleep after staying up so late and think I've got a little cold to boot. Spent a fair amount of time fixing a fitting on one of the relatively small (something like 2,000 gallons) building tanks. Got some funny looks walking through town toting two 3 foot monkey wrenches, but that's what happens when you're a fuelie! Also helped out with a transfer to fill up the power plant fuel tank and spent much of the evening filling 55 gallon drums at the heloport. Weather got overcast and a bit breezy today, 0 degrees sure feels a lot colder when it's combined with a fair bit of wind and a little blowing snow! Had dinner, started a load of laundry, then started typing this entry!

Will post some more pictures soon - think I've got some good ones from the ice runway on Monday!


Q:How much time will you spend out on the ice? Will it be free time or
work time? -Larrey

A:Not sure exactly how much time I'll spend out on sea ice, but probably not too much. We got our finalized (as final as it gets) season fuels schedule done the other day and by the time I've got airfield shifts (we rotate through airfield duty every 3 weeks or so) the ice runway will have melted. At that point we'll be using Willy Field, which is an airstrip we use on the ice shelf (permanent ice) when the sea ice melts enough that we can't safely land planes on it. I can go out on the sea ice recreationally on the road that leads to the ice runway (something like a mile and a half,) or for work. The only work I'll likely be doing out there will be helping to take apart the fuel system we have out there to move parts of it out to Willy Field when we make the move.

Q:How is the food? -Mom
A:Pretty good! As you might imagine, we don't get a lot of fresh food down here, so most of it is either dehydrated or frozen food, but the cooks tend to do a really good job. Fresh food (freshies) sometimes comes down on flights from New Zealand along with other stuff, and is regarded as a treat by most people down here. My favorite treat is the soft serve machine that's in the galley right beside the coffee machine. Whoever came up with that idea was a genius!

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