Friday, July 18, 2008

Tears of Erebus

Tears of Erebus

Excerpt by William T.
"I created the original Tears of Erebus sculpture in late December 2007 for McMurdo's Alternative Art Gallery show in an effort to make some kind of statement about our "Caretaking" of this most wonderful and pristine place. The base and the cone are aluminum and the "Smoke" is turnings from the fabrication of the cone. The "Tears" are molten droplets of volcanic rock made from the lava rocks around Erebus. Anyone who has been to Terra Nova, Captain Scott's main hut during the early exploration of Antarctica, will see the similarity between the "Erebus Bombs" scattered around the hut (some as big as Volkswagens) and the droplets in my sculpture. The statement that went with the sculpture and spoke of why Erebus was sad said simply that It is not the size of our footprint here, but rather how dirty our feet are. I thank Shawntel for inspiring me to go ahead with this project."

Erebus tears cool below the rock and torch that cause the droplets to form.

The first step towards creating the 'tears' is to superheat the lava rocks using a welding torch. The droplets just drop off the main rock onto the table. Some of them are circular, some less so. Also, some are unstable so after you give them a shake those ones will burst. You only get a few well formed droplets per batch.

The lava rock is heated with a torch.

I was first introduced to these droplets at the MAAG, but I wasn't able to see them created until just recently. William was planning on making some jewelry and waited to make the droplets until I was around (Thanks, William!). There are so many talented people down here. I love it and am constantly humbled. The creator of Tears of Erebus, William, is definitely one of those people. I'm pretty sure he can fix just about any mechanical device made and if for some reason, he can't fix the part, he can probably make a new one. I've had the privilege of seeing a number of his pieces unfold and each is so simple, yet so elegantly created. I wouldn't even know where to being.

William at work.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Inch by Inch, Degree by Degree, Gonna Make This Horizon Glow

June 30th, 2:00pm looking north from Arrival Heights.

Two points for anyone who can name the song that the title of this blog is borrowing from. I'm giving the edge to my brother Tait who introduced me to the song over a decade ago, though I think he has only ever left one or two comments so you might be able to beat him.

July 14th, 1:30pm looking north at Mt. Erebus and Castle Rock from Second Crater.

The sun is predicted to rise at 12:10pm on August 19th. That is just one month away. I'm excited and that excitement is reinforced when I look at this series of pictures. You can tell that it is getting brighter on the horizon with each passing day. I believe we are 15 minutes closer to sunrise every day.

July 17th, 12:30pm looking north from Hut Point.

I can't even describe the feelings that I go through when I see the light on the horizon. We currently have a full moon in town so I wasn't sure if the light was from the moon or the sun. However yesterday, I noticed a red glow on some ice and I knew for sure that it was the indirect sunlight from the horizon. I got giddy. Sometimes, I get sad when I think that the beautiful night time skies are coming to a close. Other times, I just feel relieved that I have almost survived the long night. It's neat to be appreciating something (the sun) that I've taken for granted for so long in my life (even though I used to live in Pittsburgh which has so many cloudy days). I guess I was always happy for a sunny day, but it is a different appreciation when you haven't seen the sun in three months.

July 17th, 12:30pm looking north from Roll Cage Mary.

We lost power this morning because an engine dropped off at the power plant. It was only off for a minute or two, but I am constantly amazed at how beautiful this place is when you turn off the blinding street lights so we can appreciate the nature around us. I think we should turn off all the street lights in an effort to conserve energy.

July 17th, 12:30pm Look SSE from Roll Cage Mary.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cold food storage

Boxes and boxes of frozen food.

These boxes of food are inside our huge cold storage warehouse. We have a number of buildings that are left unheated naturally, but I believe this one also has refrigeration in the summer in case things get too warm. You can't expect to serve up expired meats and cheeses if they have been flirting with thawing out.

Since we only get one major food shipment annually, there is enough cold food in this building for the entire year. That is a big to go order. Over the year, it will feed approximately 200 people for six months in the winter and then 1000 people for six months in the summer. I think there are at least three other warehouses for food on base. The heated one for liquids is in the same building that I am. A beverage warehouse is next door below the electrical supply and there should also be an unheated one for things that can thaw and freeze safely.

Random updates:
The Medivac is officially off.

The wind hit 133mph at Arrival Heights this week. Town only went to condition 2 again. We seem to get stuck at condition 2 every storm which is frustrating a number of people down here. We have an unofficial pool to guess the date of the first condition 1 in town over the winter. A number have been close, but no winners yet.

The weather is fine in town, but a few people are still stuck out at Black Island. They went out to work on a few things on the new satellite system that increased our Internet bandwidth this summer. I believe it isn't working in the extreme cold (< -30F). It may be losing sensitivity to the frequency we currently use. I think they are going to first try a different frequency and if that doesn't work, just heat the building. I'm not too sure about anything, but them being out there.

I'm scheduled to leave October 15th. I might return to my full time in Colorado when my extended leave of absence (thanks, Craig!) is up on November 10th. That would take me back to a number of people I love and give me the opportunity to rediscover my ice cream and cookie monster ways! My other option is to travel the world for an extended period. No decision yet.

Rows of boxes and boxes of food.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Different Kind of Lazy Sunday.

Kicking back in the greenhouse.

As my time here has worn on, I have become more worn out. Sometimes, I think the best way to recharge my batteries is to go hike. Other times, I do nothing. My Sundays have usually been dedicated to nothing. This Sunday, I got sick of doing nothing in my room (two movies and lots of reading), so I decided to change it up.

Tomatoes on the vine.

The Fun house or the Greenhouse?

I braved miserable condition two weather to head up to the greenhouse. I actually couldn't find the greenhouse at first. When I finally found it, it was an oasis of light and warmth. It was wonderful. Over the summer, I headed up to the greenhouse a few times, but I just haven't made it up over the winter much. It is probably the best place to have a phone conversation on station because no one is usually up there after work hours and it the greenery gives it a great energy.

Tomatoes and flowers.


Most of these pictures didn't come out right. The lighting causes them to turn out yellow. I need to figure out my white balance and how to adjust it in photoshop. I also need to find a computer with photoshop. I should have brought my copy down. So much to learn. Such is life. This is what you get for now. (EDIT: B-Nelson edited some of these photos for me so they are better than in the original post).

ET searches for Yoda on Dagobah.

The greenhouse is a good place. Too bad these photos just don't do it justice. Back home, I don't even know if this would be an attractive greenhouse to me. I am normally drawn to flower gardens over vegetable gardens. Antarctica is simply so devoid of color and life that the greenhouse stands in such stark contrast to it. That contrast draws me in.

Happy Me.

Night photography deserves a quiet night.

Peter and James take pictures at Raysat.

Most of my photography trips this year have been hikes. This past weekend, I tried something new. We loaded into a van and just drove up the hill. The aurora forecast was high, but a storm was also rolling in. We'd be lucky to get anything before the clouds came.

McMurdo, the Pegasus shortcut road, and the Pegasus runway with lights.

Because no auroras were in sight, we focused our cameras on other sights. I had tried to capture town and the Pegasus runway lights in April, but neither one worked because I didn't know how to use my camera well enough. Now that I have finally figured it out, I got a picture I was happy with. Normally, the Pegasus lights aren't on, but we might have a Medivac later this week and so they have been preparing the runway just in case. The Medivac isn't likely to go, but they need a lot of time to set it up.

The Hut Point Peninsula looking back towards Mt. Erebus.

I'm not entirely sure why, but it felt a lot colder than the temperature was reading. It might have been the wind, but I think it had more to do with driving up. Normally, when I hike I generate a lot of body heat. While driving, I generate none. Luckily, we could just hop back in the van to warm up for a bit. I might take a few more van rides, but I'll probably stick to hiking if weather and time permit.

Raysat and James (to the left of the ball).

Don't be fooled by the next picture. It was taken at night with a fifteen second exposure. The moon definitely lights this place up but not that much. The sun is coming back though so it will be lit up like that soon. I can't wait. Some days, I'm really ready to get back home to Colorado. Other days, I just can't wait to see what treat I'll find next.

Mt. Erebus.