Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


We are in the thick of winter. June and July are supposed to the hardest, most mentally challenging months. Morale can be low. Today's safety topic was Major Depression. Feelings and thoughts that have brimmed below the surface are supposed to finally be released. Just like at home, those releases can take on the civility of British tea time or the ferocity of a Mt. Erebus eruption. Luckily, I haven't seen much of either yet.

Along with the mid-season grumblings, there are the usual grumblings that occur when people work for a large corporation. In some ways they are right, in some things they are wrong. Most of it is just grumbling for the sake of grumbling. It gets old, but there is a current grumble which might have some merit coming up.

We are on our way to the darkest day of the year - June 21. Traditionally, Mid-Winters Day is a holiday for us. However, this year it isn't. Our stateside headquarters, that only works forty hours a week, will go on a company trip to Elitch's amusement park (though it is a Saturday). However, the National Science Foundation is rumored to have dictated that we will treat it as a normal work day so we can finish out our 54 hour work week normally. Read more at Big Dead Place.

Respect gets respect. This decision and numerous others over the past year have people feeling that they are not being respected. I've heard talk about them leaving the program that has sustained them for so many years. I'm not sure how easily the Antarctica program will continue on with that much knowledge considering an exit out the nearest door. I just don't have the experience here to know if people are just grumbling or if they mean it. I do know a few long timers have already left.

My personal grumbles are a toss up between missing John and Cecilia's wedding and that the huge walk in freezers in Crary aren't filled with ice cream, a complete waste of space. Frosty boy just isn't going to cut it for three more months.

Crary walk-in freezer (photo by J. Rhemann)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who we are by the numbers

At a recent all hands meeting, there was a demographic break down of who the men and women of McMurdo this winter are.
34 Women
91 Men

41 Live in Dorm 155, 43 Live in Dorm 208, 41 Live in Dorm 209

39.13 Average age for Women
39.87 Average age for Men
39.68 Total Average

We are from three Countries:
New Zealand

Americans are from 32 Different States
26 From Colorado
9 From California
7 From Alaska

Of the 34 Women, 31 different names are represented:
2 Angela
2 Elizabeth
2 Lisa

Of the 91 Men, 61 different names are represented:
7 William
5 David
4 Robert

In February, we recieved 16,500 condoms as reported at MSNBC.
This last one is for Betty who was really concerned about the number of single people available at the beginning of winter. These are based on best guesses and limited knowledge of people:
Sex, Single then (Single now)
Men, 58 (44)
Women, 23 (10)

Step 1 to using up those condoms.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Whistling in the Dark

A fire engine lights the way to the power plant.

On Saturday, I was just looking for a nice mellow evening for the second night of my two day weekend. Instead of heading to the Red Neck party, I settled in to watch Evil Dead 2. About thirty minutes in, as the owners of the cabin in the movie were returning home, the lights and TV went out in Raja's room in 155. I assumed the building had lost power. The wind had been blowing condition 2 all day and I assumed a power line came loose. After a quick look around, I was proved very wrong.


The entire base had lost power. The only lights were emergency lights run by generators. The Red Neck party was stopped dead in its tracks as pagers sounded from one end of the hall to the other. Those pages were followed up by ringing phones. Growing up, we just sat tight in a power outage and someone we probably never met before took care of it. Here, someone we know has to go to work.

Hanging out in the not-so-dark.

Luckily, we were hanging out with an electrician. He had a flashlight that worked like a lantern. He grabbed it from his room dropped it off for us on his way to work. I think we were one of those few rooms with a substantial amount of light. We just kept enjoying the evening as usual, but as the power outage continued, my mind began to wonder.

The weather outside during the power outage. June 8, 2008 by K. Barlow.

How long could we last if we didn't have power? The weather had been warm, but incredibly windy all week. I didn't like the idea of suddenly not having heat. Being cold isn't bad when you always have the option of going inside to warm up, being cold all the the time is a different story. Even if we didn't get the power back up, we have enough fuel, supplies, and quality shelter to probably survive for months if not years. It just wouldn't be as cozy without our luxuries like cookie day.

Working in the powerplant to restore power. June 8, 2008 by K. Barlow.

After seventy-five minutes, they got the power up and running again. I don't know the details of what happened except the new power plant's CO2 system discharged and they had to bring the old power plant back online. The responders did a great job and were soon back to making merry at the Red Neck party.

Power starts to come back on.

Current temperature -14.0°C/7F.
Outdoor Monthly Average -13.5°C/8°F
Wind Speed Monthly Average 16kts/18mph
Monthly Peak Wind Speed 59kts/68mph