I have arrived at 90 south! Our flight on Friday made it in, and I am so far mostly breathing hard and trying to adjust. The physioaltitude is around 10,000 feet right now, so walking up any kind of incline or carrying anything at all is pretty hard for the first week. I had my blood oxygen level measured yesterday and I'm doing just fine--the first night I was a little nauseaus and had a headache. Since then, just the hard breathing upon exertion, but I can already tell I'm improving.
It is incredibly beautiful here. Its hard to describe: awesome is a good word--I stand around a lot outside just staring, taking in the view (of course, I'm also resting on my walks...). The weather isn't too bad--around 50 or 60 below zero (I'll stick with F, altho at these temps F and C are nearly the same). Today's windchill is about -100F. Mostly we drop the "minus" and just say "its in the 60s". The highest temperature ever recorded at the south pole is +7F, and last year's high was -2F, so assuming negative temps is a safe bet.
The gear they've issued us is fantastic--I haven't been cold at all when wearing it. I was cold yesterday--more on that in a minute. My room is in a building called a "hypertat", a metal structure with a small central hallway and 10 rooms, altho one room is comprised of the furnace. I have a corner room. Its small (about 6'x7', and the ceiling goes from about 3' to 8'--the building is octagonal shaped so the ceiling slopes up) but cozy. It was a bit cold when I arrived (abot +50F--most rooms are about +80), but I figure the vent out and now its about 65--just perfect!! The hypertat is about 500 feet from the dome, which still seems like a bit of a hike to the un-adjusted.
The dome contains several "brain buildings"-- the galley, the public computer room, the science offices, some berthing rooms, a library, the store, etc. I have a piece of equipment in the science building-- the helicorders that record ground movement for the USGS seismometer project. Once a day I change the paper and mark off all the earthquakes I can find and send an email with the times of the events.
The rest of my projects are located in a building called Skylab, which is adjacent to the dome. I have an office on the fourth floor (a serious climb for me at this point!) with several projects in it. Most of them are making some kind of measurement or observation of the sky, so they all have pieces of instrumentation sticking up through the roof under glass domes. All the domes are covered in blankets and large plywood boxes for the summer (they all run in the winter). In the winter I have to climb up on the roof every day and check for frost and snow on the domes. So, as I was mentioning above about being cold--yesterday Daren (the tech I'm replacing) took me up on the roof. I had taken off all my layers but a t-shirt, as the lab itself is quite warm. Daren didn't think I needed a jacket, but I grabbed a mid-weight long underwear shirt to put on, and a neck-gaiter. And I was cold. It was about 60, with a windchill about 100, and I was out there in just a shirt!! It actually wasn't that bad, and I was only out there about 10 minutes. When I go up in the winter (temps about 80, windchills maybe 150) I'll be wearing a jacket for sure!!
People had said there weren't any smells at the pole, but there is an all-pervading smell of jet fuel, as all the equipment and furnaces, etc, run on JP8. I'm sure by winters end I will come to love the smell...
I spent about 5 days in McMurdo on what we like to call the "Pro Leisure Tour"--lots of sleeping and eating and sitting around the galley. Some of the construction folks and the GA's (General Assistants--kind of the grunts) had to go to work. I shadowed the McMurdo Science Tech for a morning, but we were clearly in his way, so I was left to my own devices. Eventually me and two of my buddies (Meghan and Anna, two of the observational meterologists) voluteered in the kitchen, just for something to do. We ran the Hobart dishwashing thing and peeled garlic and plucked rosemary and sage.
The food is excellent here-we all look forward to feedings. My job seems like its going to be great-- more work in the winter. Its time to go read the earthquakes! Check out
copyright 2000 Andrea Grant
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