Monday, October 29, 2007

Drill Site Visit, Part 2

Last night we went out to the drill site for a tour of the drill rig. There were only 4 of us on the trip so we got to skip the Pisten Bully and got to drive in style:

This badboy is a Ford pickup that's been outfitted with tracks. It's a faster and much smoother ride than the Pisten Bully. The only downside is that you can't turn the tracks when it is not moving, so backing up can be a tricky, especially in a tight space.

The drive out to the site was pretty uneventful. There was a bit of blowing snow and drifting, which kept things interesting. The transmission was also running a bit hot so I had to call into Mac Ops Out at the camp, everything is pretty exposed so the wind was quite nasty.

Alissa gave us a nice tour of the drill rig and camp. Even though I made a bunch of trips out to the drill site last year, this was the first time I got to go inside the rig. It was pretty interesting, though a little anticlimactic since all you can see is a dirty hole in the ice with a pipe sticking out of it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's not all computers

I spend the vast majority of my day in front of a computer doing various things, but I also like to pitch in and lend a hand, especially for the curators who work their tails off. Here's a shot of me and Phill bringing down some core for the sedimentologists to describe:

As you can see I'm keeping up shaving. My boyish good looks drive the ladies down here crazy. Ok, so I made that last bit up.

In Frosty Boy news, I almost broke down and had some the other night. It was Chris's 50th birthday party so Leslie baked a decadent chocolate cake. It was just begging to be topped with a dollop of Frosty Boy. However, I held strong and settled for a glass of milk.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Condition 2 Blues

We had a storm blow in Sunday night that made things nasty to be outside on Monday. McMurdo was in condition 2 and everywhere else was in condition 1 for most of the day. The drill site reported it was like living in a marshmallow--they couldn't even see the rig from camp. The storm kept the grounded the helos, so the core was backed up at the drill site until this morning when they were finally able to fly. They brought back over 60 meters of core. From this you can probably guess that the drilling is progressing well. The core has also been pretty interesting to my untrained eye. There's been a fair amount of variability in the lithologies and it seems like every night yields some thing new and exciting. I need to head back to it. Cheers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Still fighting the good fight

I'm still fighting the good fight against Frosty Boy. I wavered, just for a moment, when Kurt brought a brownie topped with Frosty Boy and slathered in hot fudge. But I held strong and skipped dessert altogether.

The weather has been pretty variable. We'll have a couple of nice days (>0F temps with not much wind), strung together and then followed by some downright nasty days. It's never so much the temperature as it is the wind. Today we had 30mph sustained winds which plunged the temperature to well below zero.

I think I'm fully adjusted to the night shift. I've been less and less tired in the mornings. I've even made it to the gym almost every day this week, which is no small feat because I've been working some long, 16 hour shifts. Some of this is due to an increasing amount of core coming in and some due to some work back home. Hopefully in a week or so things will settle down into a steady routine.

I've been working on some new Corelyzer plugins which I hope to be able to roll out soon for people to check out. Corelyzer is a visualization system that we use to look at our high-resolution core imagery. Last year we were able to pull up the core images and some line graphs. This year we've improved things by bringing in the lithology strip from PSICAT. I'm working on visualizing other core data and imagery we are capturing.

Anyhow, I need to head to bed. I've been up since 8PM last night (it's 2PM now) and I need to get up again in another couple of hours. Cheers.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

150,000 in ODM

Well, in some non-Antarctica-related news, I got an email from my good friend Bill Ryan today. He sent me a note to let me know that the ODM software him and I wrote when I did an internship at the Mayo Clinic just surpassed 150,000 CDs. The purpose of the software was to incorporate outside digital media, such as digital x-rays, MRIs, etc., from other hospitals into the Mayo system. So if a patient had some exams done elsewhere and the results were available in digital form, he wouldn't need to have the same exam re-done when he was referred to Mayo.

The actual ODM software isn't all that sophisticated--suck in the contents of a CD, make a digital archive copy, fire off the images to be processed by the imaging services. All of the magic is done behind the scenes by the imaging services Bill wrote. Nevertheless, it was a great experience to be able to work in a diverse team and I learned a lot. And we must have done something right--they are rolling out the ODM software to Mayo's other two locations in Jacksonville and Scottsdale.

On the Antarctic front, things are starting to ramp up. The core recovery has been steadily increasing. Last night we had ~15m with 97% recovery. The sedimentologists have been able to stay on top of the incoming core, and haven't run into too many problems, so I've been able to focus on getting a bunch of other stuff, like sample requests from the drill site, sorted out. I'm looking forward to it slowing down some. I'm averaging about 16-18 hours of work. Sprinkle some gym time most days on top of that and you can quickly run yourself down. And that's the last thing you want to do with all the bugs going around. They've taken to quarantining people to their rooms to stop the spread of the flu. So far I've been lucky.

Anyhow, I had better grab some shut eye.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pastels over Black Island

Here's a shot of the sunrise over Black Island:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Switched Shifts

Well, I survived the shift switching process. Yesterday was difficult. I ended up doing a 30 hour stretch awake. By the end I was exhausted. Last night was easier because I had started adjusting and there were more people around. It turned into sort of a long day, though. We had some last minute problems that kept me in the lab for an extra 4 hours. So now I'm ready to collapse. Tonight I'm going to try and catch a few pictures of the moon and the sunrise. This morning there was a particularly beautiful sunrise but I couldn't be bothered to go out and take a few pictures of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Switching Shifts

Things are progressing well down here. Nearly all of the computers are setup, there's just a few loose ends to take care of. The drilling is also progressing well. The riser has been embedded and core should start arriving tomorrow night. The arrival of the core means it's time for me to switch shifts. I prescribe to the "stay up for 30 hours" method of switching shifts, so I'm going to try to make it to at least 10AM tomorrow before I go to bed.

In other news, I'm still Frosty Boy free. It's actually easier than I thought it would be. Cara doesn't appear to be wavering, so I suspect we'll end up splitting a 6 pack at the end of the season.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drill Site

A couple of days ago I drove out to the drill site to set up some computer systems. The drill site is about 25 miles outside of McMurdo on the sea ice. Because I was bringing a bunch cargo and a couple of people out, I took a Pisten Bully:

The Pisten Bully has a top speed of 13 mph with a tail wind and rolling down a very steep hill, so the 25 miles took over 2 hours. It was pretty nice to get out of town and see some of the scenery. In the picture above, Mt. Erebus, an active volcano, is over my shoulder. It is too bad that there was some clouds obscuring the mountain. The picture below shows the "road" out to the drill site:
That black speck on the horizon is the next flag. It's a pretty desolate route.

Condition 2

Today we woke up to condition 2 severe weather in Mactown. Condition 2 is declared when one or more of the following conditions are met:
  • Sustained wind speed 48 knots to 55 knots
  • Wind chill temperature -75°F (-60°C) to -100°F (-73°C)
  • Visibility 1/4 mile to 100 feet
In our case, there was a lot of blowing snow causing very limited visibility. Condition 2 is unpleasant to be out in, but it doesn't really affect us in the base. We can still go about our day to day business. I find the definition of Condition 2 rather telling--basically it says that wind up to 55MPH and wind chills up to (or rather down to) -75F are considered "normal". I've thrown in a few pictures to give you an idea of what a storm looks like when it is blowing in:

There are mountains out there...somewhere. And this is what it looks like with some mildly unpleasant weather in town:

It is still Condition 3 (normal) in the picture, but it wasn't too fun to be walking around in.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Just Say No to Frosty Boy

Those of you who followed the blog last year may recognize this picture of me with a bowl of Frosty Boy. This season I've decided to abstain from Frosty Boy. It's oh so good, but not all that great for you. For incentive, Cara and I have a bet going to see who can hold out the longest without having Frosty Boy. The person who gives in first has to buy the other a six pack of beer. Poor Cara, I don't think she realized the extent of my resolve when she bet me. I'll blog about it when the inevitable happens and she gives in.

Besides avoiding Frosty Boy, I've also decided to groom myself (aka shave and get haircuts) this season. This is mainly because I looked like crap most of the season last year. Surprisingly a lot of people want me to grow it out again, but I have to pass because it won't even be filled it out by the time I leave.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


One of the perks with being down here so early in the season this year is that I actually got to see a few Antarctic sunsets:

The picture doesn't really do the sunset justice. The pastels are gorgeous, especially when you get them reflecting off of the clouds. The sun is still setting but it's getting later and later. Soon enough it will be light 24 hours a day.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm not dead (yet)

Despite what my lack of posting might suggest, I'm not dead. I actually arrived in Antarctica on Tuesday afternoon. It's kind of spooky being back here because it feels like I left just a week ago. We had absolutely gorgeous weather--only -10F--for our flight down and for our first couple of days on base. I was able to walk around in just my jeans and Big Red parka for the first two days. On Friday, the wind picked up and things got a lot colder around here. I'm back to wearing my long underwear underneath my jeans and heavy fleece.

Things have been busy since we arrived which is the reason why I haven't been blogging--just too much to do. As you can imagine, a lot of work goes into to setting up and running a fairly large (~60 person) science operation in Antarctica. I'm happy that I only have to deal with the computer stuff, which is just a tiny part of the overall workload. Most of our cargo arrived today, so I suspect I'll spend tomorrow setting up computers.

Next week, I have to do a vehicle training so I can drive the various vehicles (trucks, mattracks, pisten bullies, and snowmobiles) down here. I am also heading out to the drill site to set up a Corelyzer system out there so the drill site scientists can look at the core images we generate in McMurdo. The other thing I'm hoping to do is test our video conferencing hardware. We brought down a Polycom system for doing video conferences with groups back home. The camera works, but the big concern is whether it will consume too much bandwidth. I guess only time will tell.

I've got a few pictures that I wanted to include in this post, but I forgot my camera cable in my room. So I'll include them in the next post, which will hopefully be tomorrow. Cheers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Botanical Gardens

We went and got our gear on Tuesday. Since I knew what to expect, the gear issue was pretty straightforward this year. They simplified the number of things you have to wear on the plane. So I can actually wear my own underwear-type of gear and then just throw on the wind pants and coat. I also opted for some Carhart overalls rather than the standard issue wind pants. I didn't have any problems with the wind pants last year, but the Carharts seem a bit more comfortable. We'll see, though. I shouldn't have the occasion to use them unless I make a bunch of trips out to the drill site on skidoos (which I'm hoping to do).

After the gear issue, we had a spot of tea and then headed back into town. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around the botanical gardens and the Canterbury museum. I snapped a few shots of flowers. Actually, I snapped many shots of flowers, only a few turned out. The first one is just a picture I liked:
And here's another...see if you can spot the hidden bird: