Friday, November 18, 2005
posted 11/18/2005 11:49:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time


Work last Wednesday was a lot of fun! Started out the morning with helping to set valves at the pumphouse to do our first transfer of fuel out to the tanks at Willy field. For this particular transfer, we used two of out big electric pumps. First, we used a (relatively) smaller pump to get the system primed and make sure everything along the line was working well, then we switched over to the really big pump.

It's pretty impressive when the switch gets thrown to turn on the big pump in general, especially impressive when you're pumping fuel from somewhere lower than the pump as we were. Before turning the pump on, you have to open the valves in line with the pump to keep from "deadheading" (pumping fuel into a closed line) and breaking things, but when you open all the valves like that, the fuel that's left in the line (hundreds or thousands of gallons) flows downhill and will start the pump spinning backwards if it's not turned on. So, what we do is essentially get all the downstream valves open except for one right by the pump. Then, one person (me in this case) starts frantically opening that valve while another person stands by the "on" switch. Once the valve is halfway open, the pump is spinning backwards fairly quickly (nowhere near how fast it can go backwards if allowed to) and the switch is turned on. The lights brown out, the floor shudders, the air is filled with a really loud groaning sound, and everything rattles as the big electric motor comes on line, stops the fuel from flowing backwards, starts pushing it the right way at a rate of around 500 gallons per minute (8.3 gallons get moved every second.) Now, as all this is happening, remember that the person at the valve has to keep on going as fast as they can to get it open all the way so that fuel can flow smoothly out from the pumphouse. Neat experience, don't think I can do it justice in writing.

So, after getting the pump going, I walked the hard pipe from the pumphouse out towards Scott Base to confirm everything was in good shape. Nice walk - we had beautiful weather and firm crust on the snowfields. As expected, the fuel line was in good shape, so I hitched a ride back to McMurdo with a passing communications tech, got dropped off in town, then had lunch.

After lunch was the really neat stuff - I got to drive our fuels Delta, Scharen, for the first time! Scharen is a 1986 Foremost Delta II with a roughly 1800 gallon fuel tank on the back connected to a reversible positive displacement PTO pump. There was a picture (here) posted on here a while back of me standing beside one of the wheels. Basically, Scharen is our fuel delivery truck for delivering fuel outside of McMurdo. She's also used for a variety of fuelie tasks in town since her pump is reversible (unlike the Fule Mule's - our in town truck - which can only discharge fuel.) Our first task was to drive out to the Pegasus runway, which on Scharen is about a 45 minute drive from town in good conditions like we were experiencing. Had a blast learning how to drive the delta, although it's controls are very similar to a regular car's, it does take some getting used to. The floorboard is about 5 or 6 feet off the groun, it bends in the middle for steering (so you can smash the sides into things when it's not moving if you're not careful,) and it's BIG. Even though the delta is so huge and heavy (roughly 25 tons with an empty tank,) it can turn sharper than most regular cars I've driven since it bends in the middle to steer.

Anyways, Matt and I drove around filling various tanks around Pegasus Field, the Ice Runway, and a D8 Bulldozer out near Scott Base until about an hour and a half after we were supposed to stop working (had more to do than usual.) Had a bunch of fun, and we came up with a plan to put a CD player and stereo in the Delta - going to run the idea past my boss and see what he thinks about it.

That's all for now, I'm driving the Fule Mule today and need to get back to it since my lunch break is nearly over. Will try to get some Scharen Action Shots posted on here later.

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