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.

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