Friday, December 09, 2005
posted 12/09/2005 10:47:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

I'm still alive!

Been busy with all kinds of random small stuff lately, and haven't been too motivated to sit on a computer and type either. Things at work have been relatively slow as there aren't any big projects going on really. The next big thing will be rolling up the ice runway hose, which -if the ice agrees to do what we think it will- won't take place for another week and a half or so. The reeling process is fairly interesting, but I don't really have time to discuss it in detail right now. Basically, we first get all the hose on the surface of the snow, then fire a foam rubber bullet called a pig through the hose with a giant air compressor (over a mile of 6" rubber hose with 160psi of air pressure - what could possibly go wrong!?) to get most of the fuel out of the hose, then we unhook sections of it and finally roll it all up. One of the things I've done over the last few days was come up with a rough idea and then helped put together a little sled attachement for the reeling up phase of that project, at the bottom of this post is a picture of that.

The bulldozer picture is a "Stretch D8," which is an big, old (old as in 1950s) bulldozer that's one of the main heavy movers we use down here. It's the second strongest (I think) bulldozer we have (next to the much more modern d8r,) but it has a massive amount of traction and can still pull very hard. The stretches are much like regular D8s that were custom made for the Antarctic program by cutting them apart in the middle and stretching them out (like a limo,) then extending the axles out to accomodate much wider tracks. These modifications were made to allow the dozer's weight to be spread over a much larger area - allowing it to drive over softer surfaces like snow. These machines are really old and tired, but the guys in the heavy shop treat them like their children and keep them running, which is a good thing as some things we do down here (like moving runway buildings) lean very heavily on our little stretch fleet (I think we have 3 that are running, maybe 4.)

The buildings are part of the LDB (Long Duration Balloon) launch facility down here, and were incidentally pulled to their current location near Willy Field using -you guessed it- Stretch d8s. Hopefully there will be a balloon launch sometime with the next few days and I'll be able to get pictures and an explanation posted. Long Duration Balloons are really nifty, and very very big. From memory, the balloons are something like 800 feet tall, 400 feet wide, and can stay afloat for about a month!

This Sunday I'll be competing in the third annual McMurdo cyclocross race, which should be a lot of fun. It's a 2 mile race around town over our very loose, sandy, gravel roads. The bikes are all nearly identical and haven't been available to the public here yet (the same ones I got to work on a couple weeks ago,) so we're all going to be starting on pretty level ground gear wise. Anyways, that's all for now, hopefully will get some more stuff posted here this weekend.

Hose rollup sledStretch d8 bulldozer
LDB hangers

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