Monday, January 30, 2006
posted 1/30/2006 11:42:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Relatively painless day back at the pits - working with Matt again until we're done with the tanker offload, so that's cool. Just had two LC130s and one twin otter to fuel. Fortunately, the planes lined up nicely such that we were able to grab dinner at Willy, pack up, and head home. Once back in town, we helped out with a few little projects to get set for tanker; drained some fuel out of the dive team's generator so they could fly it home, erected a little windbreak for the person who stands by some valves, and moved a big heater over to the booster pumps.

Things are finally moving again with the ship situation. FESCO decided to run on a three bladed prop rather than removing the opposite blade. Krasin left town yesterday night and escorted the Palmer into the ice pier this evening. The Palmer has offloaded some waste, switched out crew, and should be leaving within the next several hours with Krasin blazing a path out. Krasin and the Kapitan Khlebnikov (the Russian icebreaker/tour ship) will work together to bring in the Gianella (tanker.) Hopefully tanker offload will finally get rolling tomorrow so we won't run out of AN8 afterall.

Nathaniel B Palmer parked at the ice pier, which is a bit hard to see in this picture since it's made of rock and ice just like everything around it, plus the ship is in the foreground. The open water by the Palmer was cleared out by plowing all the ice near the pier into a corner with Krasin, most of the shipping channel looks like the icy mush in front of the ship.
Nathaniel B Palmer

Sunday, January 29, 2006
posted 1/29/2006 02:22:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Saturday was an interesting day at work, the night shift people have begun transitioning to nights, so we were basically half staffed. Had to do a Willy transfer, which pretty much occupied all but one of us all day long. Had a couple volunteers, a janitor and a DA (dining room assistant,) helping out, so that was fun and it definitely helped out with the job. Ended up staying up super late with Trevor, who's transitioning to nights, cleaning up Gallaghers after a big party, playing cribbage, drinking coffee, and visiting with friends. Had a good time, but stayed up a bit too late - went to bed about 5am. I'm switching back to a noon to midnight type shift for working the Willy pits with Matt during tanker offload, so I need to be going to bed sometime around 3am instead of 5. Whatever.

Inside our tiny hydroponic greenhouse - the plants in the foreground are actually just as green as the others, seems that my camera doesn't like the grow lights in that room so the colors are distorted.
Inside the McMurdo Greenhouse

Sunday's been relaxed as usual thus far, had the normal waffle brunch, sat around visiting for a couple hours, took care of some chores including posting to the old journal!

It's looking like I'm going to have to delay the AT presentation for another week since I'll probably be working next Thursday night when it's currently scheduled. Fortunately, Ben has a presentation ready to go that he's willing to do on a moment's notice, so if anything comes up he can fill in my spot and I'll do it the following week. Didn't get my box of stuff mailed, so I'll likely have to just carry it out as part of my baggage on the flight back to Christchurch. Oh well.

Got this email today and figured some people might find it useful:


The Denver Job Fair will be held on Friday April 7th from 10am-7pm at the RPSC headquarters in Centennial.


Andrea Dixon
Sr. HR Generalist
McMurdo Station
Raytheon Polar Services Co.

Friday, January 27, 2006
posted 1/27/2006 09:57:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Nice day off! Spent much of the day working on a presentation about the Appalachian Trail that I'm doing next Thursday. Also read a lot, took care of laundry, bought some souvenir type items to try to mail out tomorrow, and generally enjoyed my day off. Tomorrow is the last day that we're able to send package mail out from here, so the odds are against me being able to track down a box, pack my stuff up, wait in line, and mail it out during work hours - especially since tomorrow will likely be a busy day and several people will be transitioning to nights and therfore not working.

The plan is to bring the fuel tanker in Sunday or Monday, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 26, 2006
posted 1/26/2006 10:19:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Interesting day at work today, was working outside all day in the pass where it was rather windy and chilly. High temp was 28F, low wind chill was -8F, wind gusting around 40mph in town but likely a bit higher in the pass. Seemed like I could have used a bucket and a rope as a kite sometimes. Was working with Seth on getting the last bit of fuel in one of our bulk tanks moved to the one left that has any significant amount of fuel in it. The transfer we did was kind of fun since it's not something that happens very often (every few years,) so I basically got to go figure out how to set everything up, then follow through with my plan rather than a well established routine like most of our transfers. Also helped Doc with setting up a secondary pump to help prime our pumphouse for when we have to get the last bits out of our one remaining tank. Watched a couple of the heavy shop mechanics working on one of the big electric pumps in the pumphouse, which was interesting and informative. They were aligning the pump itself with the gearbox that drives it and the motor that drives the gearbox. Learned some neat new things about precision industrial mechanics and some generally nifty little tricks.

Have tomorrow off work to make up for working the Sunday before last, so that's nice. Watched a really neat presentation on Mongolia after dinner. Lots of cool pictures, fun stories, and good information. Mongolia is a country that I've wanted to visit for a while, so it was neat getting to listen and ask questions about it. Have considered trying to work it into my travel plans for after the ice, but it doesn't seem like there's a way to smoothly integrate it without spending a whole bunch of money on airfare. After the presentation, it was off to the computer to take care of the usual emails and of course this blog post!

Update on the ship situation
So, sounds like the dive team isn't able to attach a replacement blade to the Krasin's broken prop, so right now the question is whether to remove the opposing blade to balance the prop or not. FESCO (Far East Shipping Company,) the company that owns Krasin, has been asked what they want to do and the dive team is waiting for a response. There is another Russian ship (also owned by FESCO, but operated by some travel company) in the area, can't remember it's name but it's Kapitan something-that-starts-with-K. This one is a cruise ship, but it's basically an ice breaker at heart, and fortunately it'll be available to help out with our problems for a couple days. Between this Kapitan whatever and the Krasin, we might be able to bring in one of the supply vessels relatively soon. The Palmer didn't make it in, as the people in-the-know here predicted, and the Polar Star is still on it's way down.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
posted 1/25/2006 08:23:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Busy day at work, ended up in 150 (pronounced "one-five-oh", our pickup) this morning on a mission to drop off a drum at hazwaste (hazardous waste) and run a Herman Nelson (big gas powered heater thingy) out to Willy Field. But, as is usual for the first person in the truck everyday, I ended up doing all kinds of things and running lots of different errands. Wound up spending most of the day helping out with various parts of a strange transfer out to Willy, and never managed to get a Herman Nelson out to Willy despite driving there and back about 1.5 times. Shuffled people around, picked up a few drums of contaminated snow, helped clean up the mess a leaking crane made, picked up keys (we lock some of the main valves) and other small stuff from the barn, etc. The transfer was strange because we nearly finished off one of our bulk AN8 tanks, so we had to shutdown halfway through and work for a while to get the lines primed for pulling fuel out of the second one. Tomorrow we will use a much smaller pump to get the last little bits out of the very nearly empty bulk tank since we're anticipating either running out of AN8 or getting very close to it. Just one inch of fuel in the bulk tanks equates to about 5,000 (yeah, I had put 50,000 earlier by accident, oops!) gallons of fuel, so it's worth spending a little effort saving that last bit to to get a few more fuel flights to pole.

Repairs on the Krasin seem to be moving along, sounds like there might be some issues along the lines of "square peg round hole," except that the peg is the shaft the prop is supposed to fit onto. The Palmer was 10 miles out from town about 5pm this evening, progressing at 8 knots (~9.2mph,) but it's now 10:30pm and it's still not here unless it came in like 10 minutes ago. If the Palmer makes it all the way into McMurdo under it's own power, that's a very good sign, but many people don't think it can do it. Apparently, although the Palmer is built for working in icy water it's not well suited for it and is rather underpowered. Par for the course I suppose.

Spent most of the evening doing chores in my room, watching the last half of a movie, and writing some postcards and emails. Pretty average day!

Me getting a stubborn 2" pipe fitting out of a broken handpump housing yesterday. Took a 160 pound person bouncing on the end of a 4 foot monkey wrench to do the trick, but the trick was done! What could cause such a stubborn fitting? A setscrew!
Ian and a 4 foot monkey wrench

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
posted 1/24/2006 08:36:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Another normal day in McMurdo. Today I was driving Scharen around most of the day fueling things up and finishing up some of the work we did yesterday. We had replaced a couple hundred feet of the hose out to Willy, which is full of fuel, so the section that we cut out up to Scharen to suck out the 300+ gallons of fuel that were left in it before drying the hose out and throwing it in the garbage. When I was driving between Willy and Pegasus, the accelerator pedal stuck down, which isn't the best thing in a ~20 ton truck... Figured out what was going on with it (worn out bushings) when I got back and dropped it off at the heavy shop for them to fix that and a few other small things that were messed up. Spent the rest of the workday kicking around the barn taking care of several incidental tasks. Been writing emails and such most of the evening, about to head over to the coffee house for a bit, then off to bed!

Oh, and this is the 100th post to my journal!

Monday, January 23, 2006
posted 1/23/2006 07:22:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Nice day!

Nothing terribly exciting, but today was pretty cool. I had to get up at 6am, which seemed super early, but it wasn't too bad. Had my first regular breakfast in the last several weeks, also not too bad. The powdered eggs are edible again, think my tummy just needed a break. Spent pretty much all day working on fixing a few problem spots on the willy hose with Lisa, Kris, and Trevor turned out to be really nice. Good weather, a decent but manageable workload, and everything just worked out really smoothly! Checked my mail after lunch to find three letters including a postcard from my friend Karma who sent it from the Bahamas where he was out sailing! Always nice to hear from friends who are out exploring some distant part of the globe and get some fresh ideas. We were lucky and got to see a young seal that had for some reason decided to wander probably a mile from it's hole to go lay down by our hose:

A seal

Sunday, January 22, 2006
posted 1/22/2006 01:53:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Finally, a day off! First day off after working 13 days straight, many of those being 11-12 hour workdays. Not a whole lot of new stuff going on here really. We've got a film festival coming up in an hour or so, which should be interesting. Went to the waste department party last night, it was fun but nothing really special. Tanker's still not in and I don't have any new info on where it's at unfortunately. The town crew went ahead and hooked up the town side of the hoses that will be later be connected to the tanker for offload. Doc, Tonya, Bodie, and I spent part of yesterday evening building a little foot bridge over the hoses so that the Hut Point race that happened this morning could cross them safely. Will be back on the town crew Monday morning, which is something I'm really glad about - more because I'll be getting back on a normal schedule than because of the workload. The weird work schedules down here have been a pretty constant thorn in my side down here since October, hopefully though that'll be done with as soon as tanker offload is over. When the tanker is in, fuels switches to a 24 hour operation for a few days and I'll be working in another swing shift type situation, mostly at Willy, during that.

Did some research on how much AN8 we've got on station, sounds like the number in that long email I posted earlier was correct. His total is pretty much the sum of every drop of AN8 on station including our bulk tanks, aviation tanks at Willy, aviation tanks at Pegasus, and the fuel sitting in our miles of pipelines and hoses. According to Scott (my boss, not Jim Scott,) and he said that if we really had to, we could get all that except for about 140,000 gallons into airplanes bound for pole. So, things are kind of tight. Just wanted to follow up with my personal opinion post from earlier.

Friday, January 20, 2006
posted 1/20/2006 10:34:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Alrighty, I know this is my third post in like an hour, but I've gotta say this paraphrased conversation was the highlight of my day. This morning (really afternoon, but as Molly observed it's always mornining in McMurdo!) Bodie, Tonya, and I were having our little morning meeting before Tonya and I headed out to the fuel pits. Bodie was going over the (real) morning's safety topic - thermal expansion in fuel pipelines.

Pretty much anywhere else in the world, all the valves on fuel pipelines are built with pressure bypass setups so that any excessive pressure bypasses closed valves and gets vented out to a tank or another fuel line. Whenever fuels engineers from outside come down here and see our system, they're always a combonation of being scared and amazed that we work with what we've got, and don't have all that many problems with it. McMurdo only has one of those pressure bypass valves - it's on the mogas line. The kicker is that one pressure bypass valve, on the mogas line, was installed backwards, so it's not really functional anyhow.

I'm aiming for information overload here

The (relatively) short of things, by my friend John, who's the South Pole Fuels Foreman:

So the deal is they’re having a hard time cutting the channel through the ice into the McMurdo pier, and its delaying the arrival of the container ship and the fuel tanker. The Russian icebreaker that’s cutting the channel broke down. One of the blades on one of its propellers broke off. They are sending down a dive team, and they plan on cutting off the blade opposite the blade that fell off so the breaker can operate at 75% of full power. McMurdo closes later than the pole, so its not such a big deal for McMurdo if the container ship doesn’t come in on time. But, they can’t fly pole supplies that come in on the container ship down here if it comes in late. So, they are unloading the pole supplies off the container ship in Christchurch, and then flying the stuff down to McMurdo, and then down to pole. Unfortunately the Pole supplies are in the bottom of the container ship, so they have to unload the whole thing, then reload it again.

And as the emails indicate, with the late arrival of the tanker they are running very low on AN8 fuel, which is what we need here at the Pole. AN8 has a low freezing point, whereas JP5 can be used in McMurdo because it doesn’t get as cold. So, they’re running as much as they can on JP5 in McMurdo in order to conserve AN8. We’re getting 7 flights a day down here, and often we get very late flights arriving at 2 or 3 in the morning. And the end of the season is rapidly approaching, so there are employee evaluations to do, end of season reports, fuel numbers to run, etc etc. Too much paperwork, not enough time outside. But, in 5 weeks I’ll be sitting on a warm sunny beach in New Zealand :)

And, the long, more detailed version of things by Jim Scott, McMurdo Area Director

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott, Jim
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2006 11:54 AM
To: Yelvington, Tom; DeMaria, Louis; Grant, BK; Embree, Mike; Kottmeier,
Steve; Chuck, Kerry; Cook, Larry; Taube, Scott; Turnbull, William
Cc: Dormand, Lynn; Carroll, Valerie; Walker, Paula
Subject: Vessel & Ice Channel Update 1-20-06


The situation swings between optimistic to dismal on a 12- to 24-hour
scale. The escort of the GIANELLA to the 21-mile parking spot proceeded
without problems. The KRASIN's first cut through the re-frozen channel
was also encouraging, as the ice from mile 21 to mile 12 was quite easy
and there appeared to be none of the lateral pressure which caused
problems in channel maintenance last week. Now there are number of very
tough segments of the channel, as well as difficulties in the turning

The KRASIN does not seem to be significantly impeded by the lessened
function of the starboard prop however, the shear volume of the ice in
the channel is staggering. The KRASIN is effective at milling this ice
but the ice chunks, no matter their size, have no where to go and thus
have turned the channel into a thick porridge which the KRASIN continues
to stir.

At 1700 yesterday, the KRASIN, had completed at least four round trips
in the lower channel. Even so, the Captain's are not optimistic about
getting the GIANELLA to the wharf under current conditions without
performing a close-tow (coupled escort). This method is of last resort.
They continue to brainstorm ideas for a workable solution as they
proceed with channel milling.

The Captains believe that an additional icebreaker, unless greater in
the beam than the GIANELLA, will not help much, if at all, in getting
the vessels down the channel and to the ice wharf.

That said, there was a moderate south wind yesterday morning and it
freshened as the day progressed. The outer channel and 5 to 9 miles of
the inner channel are ripe for blow out (or at least becoming pack ice
instead of fast ice).

Assuming the tanker will NOT make it to the pier prior to Feb 8-9 it
appears that there is sufficient quantities of AN-8 to provide Spole
with planned for amounts. As of today, they required 229,833 gallons.
Estimated usage to transport is 600K-650K. The total conservative
number of AN-8 needed is ~880K and McM currently has 1,024,469 gals of
AN-8 remaining.

At this point, it is thought that the tanker will get to the pier, but
maybe not in time to keep from running out of AN-8 in McM. The impacts
in McM are negligible at this time as there is sufficient inventories of
JP-5 and mogas for normal station ops...if the 109th will change over to
JP-5. NSF will be requesting the 109th to change over.

The NBP still requires a port call and it has not yet been figured into
the mix. Discussion today was to ask them to transit the channel to get
a better "feel" of impacts to ship movement. They may be requested to
assist in an escort if feasible.


The divers are due in either Sunday or Tuesday and if the Krasin agrees
to repairs onsite, they will be probably be performed early next week.
McM is lining up requested items and support as requested.

Due to ice edge on Tuesday, Jan 24th. McM will transition to vessel
shifts on Monday.

Arrived in McM yesterday, Thursday, Jan 19.

Next update-Jan 21, '06.


Jim Scott
McMurdo Area Director

My take on the above things

Icebreaker broke, pole's behind on fuel, the channel's full of chunks of ice, and the tanker still isn't here. We're running really low on AN-8, and will probably be out in roughly two weeks unless the tanker can start offloading before then. The upside is that unless the tanker somehow manages to come in after some time in late March, I'll win the pool at work where we were guessing when the tanker would come in. It pays to be a pessimist sometimes! Not sure where Jim's numbers came from, but I think his outlook is a tad optimistic for two reasons.

First, I don't think we've got a million usable gallons of AN-8 on station unless there's a couple hundred thousand gallons of fuel hiding somewhere that I don't know about. Might be closer to a million gallons if you count the little bit left in the very bottom of our bulk tanks, but since there's no practical way to get it out, it might as well not be there.

Second, there are some practical difficulties in using every drop of AN8 that we have. If we pumped every drop of AN8 out of our bulk tanks to Willy, then pumped everything we could out of the tanks there into airplanes, we would still be approaching 100,000 gallons of AN8 sitting in the pipeline, Willy hose, and the bottom of the aviation tanks. To move that fuel out, we'd have to start pumping out JP5, but -unless I'm mistaken- we couldn't use any of that blend of JP5/AN8 for pole fuel flights anymore as it's gell point would be unknown (since it's a blend,) so it's essentially a loss as far as getting fuel to pole goes. All the pole that gets delivered to pole has to be straight AN8. So, aside from the infrasturcture holding fuel, there's the issue of how to send all the AN8 to pole without sending it other places. The LC130s fly not only from McMurdo to Pole, but also to the larger field camps and to Christchurch. If we wanted to only put JP5 on those flights, we don't have any practical way to do that without switching our infrastructure from AN8 to JP5, and therefore losing that nearly 100,000 gallons of AN8 as mentioned above. So, basically as long as we're sending AN8 to pole, we have to be sending AN8 to other places, and will therefore need to have significantly more AN8 on hand than it would take to send out the required tanker flights to Pole. Sticky situation for sure!

My take on things is basically that, unless the tanker gets in in roughly a week and a half to two weeks, we're going to run out of AN8 before the south pole gets as much fuel as they want. Things will get really interesting if that happens. Now, whether they actually need as much fuel as they want is another question alltogether, and one that I really don't know enough about to make any comments on it. At any rate, the tanker will get here when it gets here, and we'll do our best either way. Will keep this thing posted when I can.

Fuel geek stuff

Steve writes:
Prist, that's what they add to Fuel to keep it from freezing. :-) Or at least in other really cold places like FT. drum NY, and Alaska. The freezing point of the water suspended in the fuel is lowered to minus 46 degrees F when Prist additive is used. Colder than that I sure they use a variant of it

Can't say for certain that our AN8 contains Prist (that's a brand name being used as a generic term - like kleenex, pop tart, etc) but that's the stuff. We generally just call it "fizzy," a play on the acronym FSII (fuel system icing inhibitor,) which is the more general description. Much more information on FSII can be found here. Although that article mentions FSII being added at fueling, here we get it premixed into the fuel off the tanker so we don't have to deal with the stuff independently from fuel. I'm pretty sure the reason we use FSII isn't so much to keep the water in fuel from icing, but because it sucks any water that may be in solution out and sinks it to the bottom of storage tanks (where it forms a weird pink goo.) At the south pole in winter, the temperature drops below -100 Fahrenheit, so the water is going to freeze pretty much no matter what, but if it's in at the bottom part of a tank that's not a problem. Since all the fuel at south pole gets there in the tanks of LC130s, we have to fuel them only with AN8 to get AN8 at pole.


So, today was a bit crazy in the fuels department here. Due to some weirdness that happened yesterday (long story that would require a lengthly explanation of our town fuel system, but it was a practically unavoidable situation given the late tanker) it took the town crew something like 7 trys to get a transfer out to Willy started. So, rather than getting it rolling at something like 9am, they were just getting it going about 1pm. There were a bunch of ripple effects from the late transfer, but fortunately we were able to juggle people, fuel, and airplanes enough that everyone got fuel when they needed it and nobody stayed at work late. Hopefully, the ANG will stick with their plan tomorrow and things will be all back to normal by Monday. Sunday serves as a kind of reset button at the airfield, can't wait for this one!

Tanker News:

Sounds like the fuel tanker has started down the shipping channel and is something like 20 miles out of McMurdo. From what I hear, the capitan of the tanker has been flown over the rest of the channel between the ship and McMurdo and only saw a couple places that concerned him. The ice breaker has been running with it's broken screw running about 20% power to allow them to at least move around a bit. Hopefully, that won't further damage the ship and maybe it'll even let the tanker come in sometime in the next couple days. There's a team of divers coming in from Australia, and I believe that the Polar Star is still being prepped to head down here just in case. We'll see how it goes!

Work News:

Pretty chill day out at Willy. The temps are dropping (low 20s Fahrenheit here in McMurdo) and there was a fair amount of wind today which always makes cold feel colder. We fueled a few planes, but nothing worth writing about. Spent a couple hours after my work working with the night skiway cargo people (Team Escargo,) finally got to run one of the big Caterpillar 950s! Got to ride around for a bit in "Redfish" watching and learning what controls do what, which was pretty neat, and got to sit shotgun when we unloaded a skier from pole - a bit special treat! Later, I got to hop in the drivers seat of "Montana" and move some empty pallets around for a few minutes. Sweet machine! Didn't have any problems with controlling it, would feel totally comfortable moving real cargo with one if I had a marshal (spotter,) with a few hours of practice some solo tasks wouldn't be out of the question. If work for me is slow tomorrow, and if the cargo guys aren't too busy I'll most likely try and get some more operating time in, maybe with Molly and Jay Hay's crew (Team America.)


...a question (which may be technical and overly aviation-geeky, but that's me to a T)... do you just have JET-A1 down there or is it some special mix to keep it from being too cold? Do you guys have any 100LL avgas on hand? I saw you mention mogas at one point, but I would guess that would be for the ground vehicles?

I must admit... there are days when fueling airplanes sounds like a ton of fun... even in Antartica. You should see if you can trade fast service to pilots for rides on ferry flights or flight lessons or some such... even the Otters are quite nice planes by general aviation standards... fast and big. -Ben

No Jet-A1 or avgas specifically down here, but we've got some roughly equivalent fuels. There are four different fuels that we deal with:

AN-8: What we use for aviation. Pretty much the same thing as JP-8, but it's a special mixture that has a lower gelling point so that it doesn't turn into a waxy solid when it gets super cold like the south pole can. I believe that we're the only people in the world who use AN8. Don't have the specs on me at the moment, but if I can remember to, I'll grab them and edit this entry to include the gellpoint and all that kind of stuff. I believe that AN-8 also has a little more icing inhibitor (a slightly nasty chemical that basically sticks to water and sinks it to the bottom of the container,) but could be mistaken.

JP-5: Generally speaking, JP5 is another jet-aviation fuel. Here we use it exclusively for heating buildings and running diesel fueled ground equipment. Much more detail can be found here. JP5 and AN8 are very similar fuels, so in a pinch we could fuel airplanes and helicopters with JP5 as long as they won't be at pole in cold (for pole) weather.

Mogas: Just another way of saying "regular unleaded midgrade gasoline." Mogas is rather dangerous stuff, it never ceases to amaze me how casually it's taken, even back in the states. Pretty much the only reason we have mogas here is for running our fleet of light (relatively speaking) trucks and vans. Why we don't have a diesel fueled fleet and forget about mogas (at least in bulk quantity) is beyond me.

Premix: Mogas with some 2-cycle oil added (50:1 ratio,) used to run snowmobiles. The fuels department mixes up pretty much all the premix here, because fuel is our thing!

As far as getting rides on planes goes, that's strictly a no-no. Long story there, but basically the people in charge hold a very tight grip on who gets to get in aircraft as it's looked at as a special privilege. Stupid policy if you ask me, but it is what it is. We do provide fast service all the time though, nine times out of ten (probably more,) we're standing with a nozzle and bonding cable at the wingtip before they've even shut down the props. Pretty much the only time we're not immediately ready for fueling is when we're already dealing with two other planes or when it's an unscheduled flight that showed up when nobody was around. I'd love to get a ride in one of the planes we fuel (especially a Twin Otter,) haven't had a chance to be in any of them with the exception of the C17 I flew down in.

Fueling airplanes at Willy is definitely cool, hope I don't make it sound like it's not. Admittedly, sometimes things at the pits can be really frustrating, but it's usually caused by bad communication, undertrained personnel, or scheduling issues. There's a lot of neat stuff that goes on out at Willy, the weather is generally not too bad, and the scenery is amazing.

Occasionally I have these little moments where I'm simply amazed by this place and what I'm doing in it. Had one today when I was feeling really tired and just leaned up against the side a herc. Was waiting there with a nozzle for the ANG fueling guy to come over and get things rolling. Hard to explain, had a realization that I'm just here doing my job (for the 11th straight day in a row -) leaning against one of something like 10 very unique aircraft that's getting ready to take some much needed fuel to the most southern point in the world, where a friend of mine will be standing by the same fuel port to unload some fuel and help to keep the station there running. Neat stuff!

Thursday, January 19, 2006
posted 1/19/2006 12:59:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

The Greenhouse is hereby reopened to recreational use!

Eric Hobday
McMurdo Station Manager
Work 2486
Home 2403
Pager 860

Yay! So, just got back from a 13 hour worday, have to say that email made things seem a lot nicer. Looking at the schedule (as it were) for tomorrow, I'm guessing it's going to be another long one, especially if there are anywhere near as many equipment failures as there were today...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
posted 1/18/2006 12:21:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Lookie, we're in the news!

Check this out, it's an article on the kiwis bringing a P3 spyplane down here to look for illegal fishing in the Antarctic. The picture with the arcticle was taken at the Pegasus runway. Not sure how long those guys will be staying down here, but I suppose there's a chance I'll be able to get out to fuel it or at least take some pictures. In any case, I'll do what I can to get some pictures of the plane and put them up here.

Fun day today despite working 12 solid hours. Genevieve (sp?,) volunteered to work with Matt and I today, which helped make things a lot more fun. She was really jazzed to be working out at Willy, which I think rubbed off on Matt and I a bit. It was also really nice to have a third set of hands since we ended up fueling a bunch of airplanes. There were at least 6 skiers and 4 twin otters, but might have forgotten one or two. Good conversations, fun projects, no mishaps, good communication, excellent weather.

Here in McMurdo, one of the best ways to get a job in a different department is to go volunteer with them on your (itty bitty little bit) of free time. It's also good because you get a taste of what the other job is like, so you won't spend a lot of time and effort trying to get a job that isn't your thing. One of the nice bits about being in fuels is that a whole lot of other people want to be in fuels as well, so we get a lot of fun volunteers that help make things more interesting.

Hopefully, over the next couple days I'll get some time volunteering with the cargo department. Not so much because I want a job in cargo (I don't,) but because I'll get some time in operating a loader, which seems like it's a good opportunity to learn a useful skill. Plus, I like running big machines in case that hasn't come through here ;)

Sounds like the Polar Star has been deployed from Seattle, and I've heard some rumors that there's a dive team being assembled to come down and try cutting off a blade on the broken propeller to balance it out. Apparently, that's not something that's been done before, but the hope is that by balancing the propeller, they'll be able to spin it along with the other ones and get at least a little thrust out of it. At this point, the damaged prop can't be used at all, so it's stationary and causes a bunch of drag, so the ship is practically disabled. We'll see what happens!

Anyways, it's time for me to grab some food and head towards bed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
posted 1/17/2006 10:58:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Q:Just it case you're interested, it looks like the Krasin has 3 screws. I'd love to know what happened to break one of them! -Ben

A:Thanks for the info, definitely interesting! Went ahead and edited the last entry to make it a bit closer to correct. As far as what happened, my guess was it involved big chunks of ice and Newton's first law. Of course, it could just as easily have been a stealth manatee attack.

Monday, January 16, 2006
posted 1/16/2006 11:45:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

On counting chickens....

So, we've been all set for the fuel tanker to get here since the middle of last week, and guess what was news this morning at the breakfast table? (yeah, I was sleeping, but I heard about it at my breakfast - lunch for everyone else) The Krasin (Russian icebreaker that's been down here cutting the shipping channel) broke a propeller. Neither the tanker nor the cargo vessel can come in to McMurdo without an ice breaker maintaining the channel, and maybe even helping them in. Things are very interesting!

The following two paragraphs are based on rumors. Granted, they're mostly consistent and I've heard this directly from the supervisors of two of the most involved departments down here (fuels and cargo,) but don't take it too seriously.

Apparently, the Krasin has three four bladed propellers, and one of the blades on one prop either got damaged or broken off. Sounds like something that will require a dry dock to get properly fixed, or there are some other ideas that would restore it to a more operational, although not optimum state. It's about a weeks worth of sailing from where it is now to Christchurch, so given an optimistic week for repairs, that's a three week turnaround. There's apparently the possibility of a dive team getting flown in to cut off the opposite blade to get it balanced out. That scenario would leave the prop usable, but it obviously wouldn't provide as much thrust and given the difficulties that they've already been having, might be a bit of a problem. And, it will still take time. The backup icebreaker (either Polar Star or Polar Sea, can't remember which) is currently docked in Seattle, Washington, from whence it would take, on the inside, about three weeks to get down here.

So, either way we're without a functional icebreaker for at least a few weeks. The sea ice that the shipping channel is cut through is under compression (being squeezed from the outside - by thermal issues, tides, glaciers, etc.,) so left to it's own devices it will close off the shopping channel. Usually, the icebreaker is nearly continuously running up and down the channel, shaving ice off the sides to maintain the channel. Without an icebreaker, the channel will just close itself off and there's no way for a normal ship to get in and out. For all practical purposes, the fuel tanker and the cargo vessel are normal ships, so they can't get in and out unless the icebreaker is here and working.

Back to normal - my twisted view of reality:

So, it's sounding like it'll be a while until we have a fuel tanker or a cargo vessel to unload. Given that this is McMurdo, there are all kinds of doomsday scenario rumors flying around, but my bet is that we'll get things straightened out one way or another. Whatever will happen will happen and we'll deal with it, all in a days work.

Not a lot happened at work today. This is my last week on pit shift, looking forward to getting back to regular town duty and working something more like normal hours. This week I'm working with Matt, who's a super cool guy and is a lot of fun to work with. Had a busy, but relatively brief day today, we fueled up four skiers and a twin otter, then managed to get back to McMurdo by about 8:30pm. Not too bad, really nice to have some time to catch up after working long days for the last several!

Hopefully I'll have some more updated, concrete, information tomorrow on what the plan is. In the meantime, here's a map showing where the pertinent ships are right about now:

Gianella - Fuel Tanker
Krasin - Broken Ice Breaker
LMG - Laurence M Gould - research vessel.
NBP - Nathaniel B Palmer - research vessel.
Tern - cargo vessel.

Totally not on the usual topic, but I just read over my last several posts here and realized that there's not much substance other than work stuff. Boring! Need to get some questions to answer, ideas to work off, things to post pictures of, whatever. The little form on the right side here basically just emails me whatever you punch into the question box; feel free to say hi, toss in a comment, ask a question, or make an observation!

A map of Ross Island and the general area around it:
McMurdo is near the southern tip of Ross Island.

Sunday, January 15, 2006
posted 1/15/2006 10:29:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Saturday was pretty much a normal day at work, had a nice time playing cribbage and visiting with Jay Hay and Tonya. Saved the day by getting the galley truck unstuck after it sunk into snow up to the front axle, other than that not much happened.

Today, on the other hand, was a loooong day. Saturday at the pits I found out that there would be a twin otter coming in today (Sunday) that would need fuel. Usually, we don't fuel planes on Sundays, so I volunteered to go out and deal with it rather than tracking down people after work and talking someone else into going out to Willy on their day off. Figured that it would be a quick trip to Willy that might take an hour and a half total. Stupid stupid Ian. Got word at about 11 this morning that they were going to need fuel a little after noon, so I hopped on the next shuttle out of town. Got the aft fuel pits setup and ready, then fueled the plane right on schedule. Perfect timing, smooth setup, all's well right?

Then, talked to the pilot after fueling, one of the other twin otters would need fuel in two hours. Kind of stinks, but no big deal. Then, he told me that they were going to be back around 6pm needing fuel. There goes the day! Killed a couple hours taking care of some computer stuff over in the vacant (it's Sunday, who would work on Sunday?) cargo shack, fueled the second plane. Today was the annual Kiwi vs US ice rugby match, which happens near the Scott Base transition on the way out to Willy. Nothing but snow between where I was and the rugby match, so I hopped on the snowmobile and zoomed over there to watch the game. Had a good time, took some pictures, got cold. Drove back to Willy when the game was over and read for a bit in one of my travel books on New Zealand, ate some dinner, then hung out playing cards with the DAs (Dining room Assistants) who were running the Willy Galley. Then, right about 6pm when I was wondering where the plane was, I got a call on the radio saying that they wouldn't be in until 8pm. Fortunately, the caller also let me know that there was a party over at Scott Base for the rugby match, so I hopped on a shuttle to go check that out for a little bit. The thing over at Scott Base was neat, wish I hadn't eaten dinner at Willy because there was a bunch of food that looked and smelled really good! Hopped another shuttle back to Willy, fueled the last plane, closed things down, then headed back to McMurdo. That little errand ended up taking 11 hours. Thankfully, I got to have a little fun in the meantime!

Annual Kiwi/American rugby match
Some spectators at the rugby matchKiwi/American rugby match

Friday, January 13, 2006
posted 1/13/2006 01:49:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Not such a lazy day today, but if the efficiency dial would have been turned up it sure would have been. Lots of confusion, equipment failures, people not following instructions, bad weather in places planes were going, and just plain stupidity. I don't say this too often, but today stunk. Ended up working very nearly 12 hours, and got back well after all the places to hang out were closed and all my friends (including one I had arrangements to hang out with) were in bed. Much of that time was spent waiting for one thing or another to happen, often that thing really didn't need to happen at all. Not going to go into details, because they're pretty mundane for the most part.

The only thing worth mentioning was one of our small hoses failed, which caused a little fuel spill that we were fortunately able to clean up very quickly with a loader that was already running within a hundred feet of where it happened. Basically what happened is the barb fitting in the end of the hose somehow became loose and the fitting slipped out the end of the hose. Luckily, the fitting was hooked up to a nozzle that was in use, so we knew it right when things broke, and were able to keep it mostly under control.

The other annoying stuff was basically a string of little grinding type things that eventually added up to cause a really frustrating day. Oh well, tomorrow is another day (Friday the 13th no less.) Actually, I guess it's technically Friday already, I'm writing this around 2am, which is getting close to bedtime for me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
posted 1/11/2006 10:49:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

So, it was another lazy day at the fuel pits yesterday. Fueled a few skiers and a twin otter, then headed back to Mactown. No excitement, no problems, no waffles.

We're pretty much ready for the fuel tanker to come in. Officially, it'll be here on Saturday, but of course there are plenty rumors that it's going to be a bit late. There's still a lot of ice (although relatively small bits) floating around in the turning basin and the passage to the ice pier, so there are even rumors that we'll have to do an offload from the turning basin, which would make things quite a bit more 'interesting.'

Basically the setup now is that there's a channel cut through the sea ice from the ice edge (where the ice meets relatively open ocean - a long way away) to this big circular cutout called the turning basin (where ships turn around,) then there's another channel from the basin to the ice pier. Near the end of the ice pier we have some connections to the town pipeline system, so the usual plan is for the tanker to float from wherever it gets gas to the ice edge, then head to the ice pier by way of the channels and the turning basin. Once the tanker pulls up to the ice pier, we connect it to the pipeline using some relatively short sections of 6" layflat hose (same stuff we run out to the airfields,) then start pumping. The tanker has it's own enormous pumps onboard, but since it's a long way (and up) to the bulk tanks, we have four 6 cylinder diesel booster pumps positioned along the pipeline about halfway up to help shove the fuel up to the tanks. So, once we get things started it should take the better part of two (24 hour) days of nonstop pumping to move something on the order of 6 million gallons of jet fuel at about 3,000 gallons per minute. That's a bunch of fuel! We'll also be getting some mogas (what we call regular unleaded gasoline down here - it's an old military thing,) but since it's such dangerous stuff to work with and our mogas tank is much lower in elevation, we can just hook it up to the tanker and let them do all the pumping without using booster pumps. About half the fuelies will be transitioning to working nights tomorrow so that once the tanker gets in we'll be able to get it unloaded as quickly as possible. I'll still officially be on pit shift, but it'll get extended to being a noon-midnight type thing so that I can help the people doing tanker offload during mealtimes and cover the usual day-to-day operations that need to happen. Should be fun!

So, that's the plan. It'll be interesting to see what actually happens!

Monday, January 09, 2006
posted 1/09/2006 10:19:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Not a whole lot of interesting new stuff today. Tonya has rotated into Jody's position at fuel pits (we work pit shifts on overlapping 2-3 week rotations,) so we basically sat around talking about bike touring, traveling in New Zealand, Sudoku, and random stuff in between fueling three skiers and zipping over to the transition and back to swap snowmobiles. Ours started blowing oil the other day (shot head gasket,) so we've been using an old loaner called "Frankenvinny." Scary name, which is appropriate as it's one of the old Alpine 1s that only have one ski is therefore a bit unstable, likes to follow grooves in the snow (plentiful at the airfield,) and has a turning radius comparable to the Queen Mary. Also visited a bit with Jay Hay, one of my cargo friends, and think I'm getting things lined up to get some training time in a widetire 950! (Mid-size Caterpillar loader with forks and big snow tires - cool machine)

Had dinner (lunch for me) at the strip, which was nice because the night firefighters out there had recently made waffles! At the Willy field galley, there's a waffle iron and a bucket of batter in the fridge, which I personally think is absolutely brilliant. Only problem is that usually the iron is cold and I generally don't have time/patience to let it warm and cook a waffle during my food break. Tonight I was lucky though, so it was a big Belgian waffle smothered in butter and honey for me!

So, lunch kind of made the day. Then, we got to leave a bit early since there were no more planes to fuel! The coffee house was closed, as was the galley (for a DV reception...argh!) so I was pretty lucky to discover that someone had grabbed the chess boards out of the galley beforehand and put them in the lounge upstairs in 155 (the building that the galley, computer kiosk, store, barbershop, and some dorms are.) Won a game of chess, a first for me on this continent, so that was cool. After the chess was over, I headed downstairs to see if the reception was done so I could eat my evening meal, but alas it wasn't. Sat down at the computer to write this, and by the sound of things that too just long enough for the galley to reopen!

Life is food.

Sunday, January 08, 2006
posted 1/08/2006 09:43:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Started out work Friday with a long (20 miles roundtrip) snowmobile drive to run some sample bottles from Willy Field out to Pegasus for potentially fueling a C17 full of DVs. DV is short for "Distinguished Visitor" - in this case it was a few senators and a bunch of representatives. Turned out that it didn't need any fuel, but no biggie, it was a nice drive. Had a little bit of confusion and chaos a couple hours later when the ANG thought they were going to bring a plane over to fuel it at something like 1am for a 2am takeoff. Let them know we were leaving at 10pm, so they'd either have to reschedule things or get fuel somewhere else (maybe not in that exact wording, but not too far off - those guys should know by now that we're not a 24 hour operation.) They ended up doing some rescheduling and Jodie and I suddenly had three LC-130s in the pits at the same time. Think that might be some kind of record. We ended up fueling 5 skiers and a twin otter that evening (that's a bunch,) and still got off work a little early since there was supposedly nothing else out there that was going to need fueling. Unfortunately, there was apparently a bit more confusion very early Saturday morning and Trevor (who had the [new] duty pager) had to go out there and add an additional 1,200 or so gallons to one of the planes because it's mission had changed a little bit. Learning that these DV visits(the root of all the craziness) are fun stuff!

Three LC-130s in the fuel pits
Three skiers in the fuel pits

Saturday was not without it's own issues, but on a much smaller scale. There weren't any planes to fuel, so Jody and I basically went out to the pits, helped out with finishing up a fuel transfer to fill the aviation tanks, double checked that there was nothing that would need fuel, then left.

About halfway to the Scott Base transition, we saw a twin otter coming in for a landing, looked at our schedules to confirm that it wasn't landing, watched it land, crossed our fingers that it wouldn't need fuel. Then Gina hopped on the radio to say that the twin otter guys had called the office and would be needing to refuel a plane... So, I hopped back on the radio to ask our shuttle driver to stop (we were in a delta, so the cab and passenger compartments are separated by several feet and a big noisy diesel engine.) Got out of the delta and started walking back to Willy, hitched a ride on a different delta and got dropped off a the fuel pits. Turned out that there had been a bit of a miscommunication between the Italian program whose plane it was and the ground support people, and they were very apologetic for calling us in to fuel a plane after saying that there was nothing left to do. No big deal though since it was still well before our shifts were over, so I wasn't working late or anything - just another day at Willy!

The MAAG (pronounced "mog", McMurdo Alternative Art Gallery) happened Saturday evening. Some neat stuff, but unfortunately I didn't think to take my camera and therefore have no pictures until I can get copies of some from other people. After checking out MAAG, I visited with friends until late and then went to bed!

Q:hello Ian from Brandon, a sixth grade student who is interested in
monkeys. becuz they are awesome. -Brandon

A:Hey Brandon! Yeah, monkeys are pretty cool. Don't have many of them down here, unless you want to count people as being less furry monkeys that don't usually fling poo.

Q:What is the coldest temperature that you have experienced? -Kelvin

A:Not sure exactly, but I think it was down around -20F when I first got down here, honestly don't remember the numbers. Think with windchill figured in, I've been out in -60 to -80 or something along those lines. At any rate, pretty cold. Had my beard freeze to the inside of my facemask a few times. Sunglasses would nearly instantly frost over when stepping outside on cooler days in October. Will try to get some more concrete numbers later!

Q:at school here looking through your postings. a student noticed that
you say "stuff" a lot and wonders why. how are you!!! -Mom

A:Doing pretty well I suppose, just life as usual. Work, sleep, repeat... Counted the word "stuff" 10 times on the current page of entries (mostly in that last post,) which is probably a little excessive. Guess it's just a handy word to use.

Friday, January 06, 2006
posted 1/06/2006 11:49:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Got up extra early today to go attend a redeployment meeting that covered a bunch of different stuff on what happens when we get done working down here. Went over getting our stuff back to civilization, cleaning up our rooms in preparation for their next occupants, financial and health stuff, and the fun part - travel! Still not sure exactly what my plans will be for after the ice, but it's fairly certain that there will be at least a little traveling around New Zealand involved! If things work out for it, I might try swinging by some other places on the way back home, but the main plan is to spend a month or two in NZ. Not that I'm having a bad time down here or anything, but I'm ready to get off the ice and back to someplace where the sun sets and things outside are alive!

Speaking of travel, I just got an email from my friend Thor (one of the guys from Mountain Crossings / Neels Gap,) who's in South Korea teaching English. Sounds like a really neat arrangement he's got, neat job in an even neater place! Here's a funny little snipped from that email:
The next night they added seafood and rice which was really
good too, though their idea of seafood differs from in the States. I
have learned not to expect shrimp, scallops, and crab. Here it is
octopus, squid, urchin and eel, different but good. If you are lucky
it will be cooked, as it is normal for it to be raw. Fine by me, but
after that third helping of raw squid you wonder if you can feel
things moving around down there. And on occasion, it is moving around,
so remind yourself to chew thoroughly to avoid any attempts at escape.

Also, I grabbed this picture off the common drive of the Krasin cutting ice recently. Not sure who took it, but thought it was neat and figured I'd put it here.
Krasin cutting ice

Thursday, January 05, 2006
posted 1/05/2006 11:42:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

So, today was a rather long day in which I did almost nothing. Had a bit of fresh snowfall that had a bunch of flights on weather delay so Jody and I basically sat around all day in the warmup shack doing Sudoku puzzles, eating, and making dirty jokes. All day we kept hearing that there were planes that would be leaving soon and might need fuel, but they kept getting pushed farther and farther back, or on occasion would take off without needing any more fuel. I did run some relatively quick errands around Willy with Delta Scharen - basically filled her tank up, then topped off the generator building and the day tank (what people at Willy use to fuel their vehicles.) Finally, at about 10:30 we heard that neither Kenn Borek (the Twin Otter subcontractor) or the Air National Guard (the skier guys) were going to need fuel, so we could leave! Had a long delta ride back to town and arrived just after the coffee house closed. Oh well.

Have to get up early tomorrow for a redeployment meeting. The end is in sight!

Skier with ice
LC-130 with ice

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
posted 1/04/2006 11:05:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time


So, still not sure what to think about this new schedule. I'm adjusted to getting up around 10am and going to bed around 2am, but it's kind of weird not seeing anyone since when I'm around town they're working, and by the time I get back everyone is asleep. That said, it is nice to get up and go read for a bit in the galley over a bit of cereal, and the relatively laid back work assignment isn't bad either.

Getting started with teaching myself some basic calculus, but haven't gotten enough into it to say much about that. Just got my textbook down here about a week ago, but had been too busy with other things to get started on it. Been reading a Douglas Adams book called Last Chance to See over the last few days. Neat little book, it's basically a travel book about searching for endangered species, but written with Adams' characteristic humor. I like it because it's got the same sort of crazy stuff that's in books like the hitchiker's guide, but it actually happened in the real world. Fun stuff.

Anyways, I'm off to the galley to get a couple sandwiches to take out to the pits, and some cookies too since it's cookie day! Later.

Another day at the pits

For the most part, things went pretty smoothly today. Think we did 3 skiers and 2 twin otters in the evening. Only hitch was some kind of internal glitch in Skier 96 that forced us to stop halfway through, then restart again something like 45 minutes later. Not sure whether that one was operator error or some kind of mechanical thing, but it really doesn't make any difference to me I suppose.

Since we were getting pretty low on aviation fuel at the pits, Jody and I used the pumps to consolidate what was left out of several of the nearly empty tanks into a couple specific tanks (tanks 1 and 11, which are the two ends of the line) once we were done with fueling planes. Consolidating fuel will make things easier for the morning pits crew tomorrow when we do a transfer from town to fill up the aviation tanks at Willy. Kind of complex reasoning behind that, so I'll spare you the long explanation of how our fuel pits are plumbed, static charges in fuel, and the uncanny ability for airplanes to show up at really bad moments during a transfer.

Some numbers just for fun (all from memory, so don't take them too seriously:)

*Total capacity of one of our aviation tanks at Willy: 20,000 gallons
*Usable capacity: 17,800 gallons (we don't usually drain them to the very bottom)
*Number of aviation tanks at Willy: 11
*Number of aviation tanks at Ice Runway (when it's setup): 6
*Number of aviation tanks at Pegasus: 2
*Weight of a gallon of jet fuel: about 7.1 pounds
*Average amount given to LC-130 during fueling: Something like 6,000 gallons
*Average amount given to Twin Otter during fueling: Something like 300 gallons
*Time to fuel a skier: Roughly half an hour start to finish, but highly variable
*LC-130s fueled at Willy each day: 7-8 usually; ~4 in the morning, ~3 in the evening
*Fuel pumps at Willy: 4, two primary and two backup. All are 4 cylinder diesel powered pumps.
*Number of periodicals in the fuels warmup shack: one metric stack
*Number of interesting periodicals in the fuels warmup shack: 0
*New ANG guy handing you a credit card at the start of fueling: priceless.

Made it back to McMurdo sometime around 10pm and headed up to the fuels barn. Then after filling out paperwork back at the barn I went over to the coffee house, visited with some friends at "Southern Exposure," started some laundry, worked on school stuff, ate midrats, wrote this thing. About to finish with this post, pick up laundry, and finally go to bed!

Monday, January 02, 2006
posted 1/02/2006 09:44:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Just got done with my first workday on PM pits, had a pretty good time! Our first LC-130s had a small internal fuel leak right off the bat when Jody was showing me the ropes. She was taking care of that right about that time we had another skier (short for LC-130) come on deck for fueling. So I basically fell headfirst into fueling planes by myself for the first time (had done each individual part before, just hadn't done everything solo,) which wasn't all that bad.

It was eventually determined that the leak today was caused by a bit of operator error. Sounds like someone (on the plane crew) left a vent valve in the plane open or something along those lines. No big deal this time since there was only a little bit of fuel that came out so Jody could just shovel the little bit of contaminated snow into a bucket. It's pretty nice that snow acts like a sponge for aviation fuel so that we can easily clean up little spills like that one.

Last Friday however, there was a rather significant fuel spill out of an LC-130. Sounds like this one was operator error as well (again on the plane crew's part,) but on a slightly different magnitude. As a plane was getting fueled last Friday, there was suddenly a shimmering waterfall (slight exaggeration maybe) of AN-8 showering down out of one of the wings of Skier 96 (we refer to the skiers by the last two digits of their tail number.) So, the pit crew (Jody and Matt) immediately shut off the fuel and grabbed an open-top drum. The drum was placed under the stream, where it quickly started filling up. Very fortunately, Scharen (the awesome fuels truck) had been parked at the fuel pits, so they were able to drive it over to the drum and start sucking fuel out of the drum as it was being filled by the fuel spilling from the plane. Had Scharen not been there (or had Jody and Matt not saved the day [again],) several hundred more gallons of fuel would have hit the ground than the estimated 200 that did. The spill response crew ended up digging up an awful lot of contaminated snow on that one!

Of course, these kind of things aren't commonplace down here, just seems like we've had a bit of bad luck over the last few days. Think a lot of it is due to the fact that we've got a couple new air crews in town, so they're still learning how things work (or don't) down here. On my second skier for instance, the ANG (Air National Guard - the people who fly the planes and hook the nozzle to the plane, we do everything upstream from that) fuel guy told me to start pumping at low speed, which I did. He then kept motioning for me to start the pumps for some reason, even though I double checked everything and gave him a thumbs up. So, after he motioned again for me to start, I checked the fuel meter which was sitting still on 2 gallons. Eventually we established that I was in fact pumping and that he hadn't actually hooked the nozzle all the way into the plane and flipped the 'on' latch. Granted, we do have a bit of a different fuel system than these guys are used to, so he might have been a bit frazzled from that (and last weekend,) but I'm pretty sure military single point aviation nozzles are standardized....

Anyways, ended up fueling two skiers and two twin otters in rapid succession by myself, and Jody's skier eventually took off.

It is what it is.

Monday Monday

Wow, what a weekend! After that last post, I went back home to find a bunch of people getting started with their New Years celebrating on our tiny balcony at MMI. Hung out there for a bit, then helped out with setting up our 'under the radar' new years thing (basically just helped with lugging stuff up to the location.) Had a blast bringing in 2006, until something like 3am when I was completely exhausted and had to go to bed. Most fun New Years party I've ever been to, and the general consensus is it was the best party on the ice this season!

Sunday was IceStock 2006, a big open air concert that happens annually at McMurdo. We have several good bands this year that were all interested in performing, so it was a pretty long event. Also had a chili cookoff mixed in, which turned out to be pretty neat even though my tummy didn't feel too good after all that chili and junk food. Ate dinner after IceStock, helped out with cleaning up the newyears party site, watched a movie in the lounge at MMI, then headed off for bed.

Today is my first day on "PM Pits," which basically means I show up at work at noon, ride a Delta out to Willy Field, then stay there until around 10pm fueling planes as needed. Relative to "Town Crew," what I've been doing most of the season, it's generally a pretty relaxed task, so I'm looking forward to recovering from working really hard for the last couple months. I'll be on PM Pits for three weeks, which means that I'll be working Pits when tanker offload takes place. Things will be much more busy when offload is going on, so I'll likely be working 12 hour shifts between 11am and 11pm, but it should be an interesting event so I'm looking forward to that.

People heading up to the now famous Milvan Party
Icestock crowdIcestock 06