Sunday, November 13, 2005
posted 11/13/2005 12:48:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Slow Sunday

Finally, it's Sunday! Slept in late, had a nice waffle brunch, took care of some errands, then hopped on the computer! The weather here in McMurdo improved a lot overnight, the ice runway has opened back up, visibility is at several miles, and everywhere around here is condition 3. The plan for today is to continue being lazy, then go to a science lecture tonight after dinner.

Yesterday after posting on here, I ended up working on building a bamboo flag puller at the fuels barn. The problem is that we use hundreds of flags made of a bit of colored cloth tied to a bamboo pole to mark things on the ice around here. Sometimes we can plant flags just by shoving them into the snow, other times we have to use an auger to drill a hole to drop the flag into. After sitting in the snow/ice for a few weeks or months, the bamboo often freezes in and can be nearly impossible to pull out. So, what I'm building is basically a little thing that grips the bamboo mounted a third of the way up a long handle. This thing should give a person a bit of mechanical advantage allowing one person to pull up really hard on a flag and break it loose without having to pull really hard on the handle (mechanical advantage.) We'll see how it goes, I haven't seen anything comparable in use down here, so I guess there's a chance that there is a good reason why nobody has done it yet. Will post pictures when it's done.

And, just for a little bit of Antarctic trivia, here's what some flag colors mean:

Red/Green: Used to mark roads or trails. The two colors are usually interchangeable except on a couple of the big roads around here where they are used to designate lanes.

Blue: Marks fuel related stuff - usually fuel line or hose.

Yellow: Pee flag - marks a place that it's okay to pee on the ground to keep things from getting nasty all over the place. You don't usually see these around town since we've got plumbing in most of the buildings, they tend to be more common in field camps and places far from buildings.

Black: Caution! Black flags are used to close off certain dangerous areas like crevasses, closed roads, high power antennas (we've got some antennas - well away from town - that will fry your brain if you get too close,) or similar nasty stuff.

Flags are usually placed vertically standing alone in a line with other flags to mark routes. If there's a change in a route like a turn or end, you will often see two flags place diagonally forming an X. For instance, on the long fuel hoses that we lay (like the one to Willy Field that I've been working on) we have a single vertical flag every 50 feet along the hose (over 5 miles, that's a LOT of flags,) with two crossed flags marking connections (the hose is made up of many sections that average around 3-400 feet each connected together,) and three flags (two crossed and one vertical) marking the border between two reels (average length of a reel is about 1,800 feet) of hose.

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