Thursday, February 02, 2006
posted 2/02/2006 12:47:00 AM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

Crazy day!

First thing this morning I found out that the Kaptain K (the tour ship/icebreaker that was going to save the day) had decided to back out on the deal they had with the USAP to help us getting ships in, so that was an out-of-nowhere sort of surprise!

The implications of the Kaptian K quitting were of course potentially pretty serious and far reaching, so much of the idle time out at Willy was spent speculating on what those implications would be. The plan as Matt and I left McMurdo was that the Krasin would attempt to bring in the Tern (cargo vessel) to test the waters, if they made it in the Tern would sit in the turning basin while the Krasin brought the tanker in to get it's offload started, and we'd take things from there.

The pits were pretty laid back fortunately - just fueled three skiers in relatively rapid succession, ate dinner (my lunch,) then headed back into town. Matt and I arrived back in town and saw that the cargo vessel had arrived, so that was a slightly surprising good sign! We walked into the barn as a meeting was breaking up where the crew had found out that the cargo vessel was actually going to be unloading first! That was a bit of a surprise, and meant that we'd have to go drain and roll up the hoses that we had staged on the ice pier for offloading the tanker. So, everyone was rushing around the barn gathering up tools, parts, clothes, etc. and generally getting things moving in an organized frenzy. Matt and I walked into the office to figure out what was going on and where we fit into the picture right about the same time Scott (the fuels director) got a phone call saying that the tanker Capitan had decided they would just give it a shot and try to get in, so we would probably be offloading the tanker first.

Several phone and radio calls, and a few minutes later everyone was back in the office in a second meeting to figure out what would be the best course of action now that we needed to be ready to either clean up the pier or start offload on short notice. We worked out a different plan, then dispersed to move forward with it.

Within a few minutes, another phonecall came in - we would be unloading the cargo vessel first and had to have the ice pier clean by 8am! So, that became the official plan and we got rolling. Chris and I jumped on Delta Scharen to go find tanks we could drain her fuel load into so that we could suck out the pier hoses, which included some very tight precision driving to get the delta up to a big tank that had some space in it (used for heating several of the dorms, but we usually fill it with the considerably smaller Fule Mule.) Got that done, then rolled down to the ice pier and began sucking hoses down and packing them away in a corner of the pier so they wouldn't interfere with cargo offload. In the meantime, other people were getting things staged to pig the mogas line, and a big crowd of navchaps showed up out of nowhere. Navchaps are a Navy port logistics group that gets brought down every season to help out with vessel offload - they've been really bored lately since they came down nearly two weeks ago and the vessel still hasn't come in. I'm still not clear on how they knew to show up, but they did and were very helpful with 'flaking' (folding in a tight zigzag pattern) the hoses up, which is usually a bit of a workout.

Eventually it was time for midrats, so we all got things to a good stopping point and went to the galley to eat. Matt and I are done for the day now, but everyone else is out there pigging the line at this point and will be getting the last bits of pier cleanup done over the next few hours. Assuming things go as planned, the cargo vessel offload will begin at 8am tomorrow morning, chaos will ensue, and 5 days later we should have the fuel vessel pulling in to finally get our fuel shipment delivered.

If things go as currently planned, we're going to run out of AN8 before the tanker gets unloaded, so I'd imagine that will cause some chaos. Sounds like we do have enough AN8 on station to satisfy the needs of south pole, so that's a very very good thing! Given how quickly plans have been changing lately, I'd say there's a decent chance that we could even end up offloading the tanker tomorrow. Will just have to see how things play out and keep this thing updated!

A few nightshift fuelies and a bunch of Navchaps finishing up with cleaning our hoses off the ice pier. The water/ice in the foreground is what the cargo vessel and fuel tanker will have to move through! Big orange tanker truck is Scharen, which is being used to suck up the fuel that the two teams of people are walking out of a section of hose.
Rolling up the offload hoses

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