Friday, January 08, 2010

Moore's Bay on New Year's Eve day

This view is almost always the start of a great day.

This view is definitely the start of a great day.

On New Year's Eve, I was lucky enough to end the year in style. I went into the field with a grantee to fix a computer. The other folks in his group had already gone home and he wanted a computer guy around just in case anything went awry.

Our pilot took us directly over the Pegasus crash site.

I was pretty stressed about this trip into the field. Earlier in the week, the grantee had come to us to try and help him gain remote access to his linux computer in the field. He could ping (basically say hello and get a hello back) the machine, but he couldn't SSH to it. Every other service that would let him talk to his computer was turned off to make it use less battery. The easy solution to the problem, just like most computer problems, was to restart it. Expecting that to work, the grantee requested just forty-five minutes on the ground. This was great if the restart worked, but if it didn't, we probably wouldn't have the time to fix it.

I was amazed to see colors in the melt pools on Black Island.

A sliding glacier on Black Island.

As a shop, we wanted to head out with a full backup of the hard drive just in case it had been corrupted. We wanted to take spare parts. We wanted a spare battery. We wanted a lot of stuff that the grantee just didn't give us enough time for with less than an hour on the ground. All of this, stressed me out. I was going out to work on a system that I had never seen and didn't have time to get acquainted with. I wasn't sure it the trip into the field would be enjoyable at all. On the way out, I'd stress about if we would get it all done. While there, I'd get to stress about getting it done. On the way back, I was worried that I would stress because we didn't get it done. Yes, I do let the little things bother me too much.

The southwest side of Minna Bluff.

The black dot is where we were going.

New Year's Eve morning, we finally flew. It was a gorgeous day. It was so warm, we didn't wear our Big Reds while flying. Every time that I am in the field, I am boggled by our lack of perspective. Ten thousand foot mountains don't look that big. Flying at one thousand feet seems like three hundred. Nothing looks as far away as it really is. Flying at 110 mph, I would have guessed we were crossing the ice shelf at 60mph. The natural beauty and my amazement at our lack of perspective overwhelmed my stress enough that I was able to enjoy the flight out over Pegasus airfield, past Black Island, over Minna Bluff, and into Moore's Bay, which is a section of the Ross Ice Shelf.

Our flight route to Moore's Bay, S78'44.3 E165'02.45

Opening the box where all the communications equipment is stored.

Thorsten begins to uncover the box where the computer is stored.

At Moore's Bay, we had more beautiful weather with warm temperatures and almost no wind. Everything seemed to be going great. We split up to do our individual work. I grabbed a network connection to the computer to confirm we could ping it. Thorsten cut a live wire and spliced it to reset the computer. He insisted it was only 12V or 5v, but electricity scares me. I keep my distance from it and was glad he took that job. I'm not cutting any live wires.

The entire research site.

Our pilot takes a break while we do our work.

As soon as the computer was reset, we were able to use SSH to get back in. We turned on telnet so we'd have a second way to get in later if SSH broke again. Then, we reconnected everything and were getting ready to go. We just had a final test to see if someone in town could reach the computer. One short iridium phone call later, we found out we were not done yet.

Thorsten turns off the computer.

Paul wakes up from his cat nap.

Town couldn't reach the computer even though we could. The wireless link was down which isn't that much of a surprise because it is being broadcast over such a long distance (I think the longest we have ever done). We had to log in to the hardware and reset everything. After about ten resets, we got it to stay up. Things still weren't working. At this point, we were over our allotted time on the ground. I was starting to get stressed. After a few wrong turns, we figured out that an automated script on the computer had changed the gateway to an iridium link when the wireless went down. After entering a few quick commands, everything was working and we were on our way.

Mason Spur.

On our way out, the pilot let us know that we really had unlimited time. While they did have other flights to get to, they didn't want to have to make a follow up flight because nothing else is near by. They didn't tell us because they didn't want us to dilly dally. Yeah for stressing over nothing, just like usual.

On the way back, I was allowed to ride shotgun in the helicopter for the first time. The view is always amazing, but it felt like watching an iMax compared to a TV screen. I was left smiling for days. While a little stressful and tiring, the trip went well. Like most things, I'll conveniently forget the bad and remember the good. It was a beautiful day in the field and I was happy to get out. It was a brilliant way to whisk away a bad year.

The back (southern) side of Mt. Discovery

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