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Hi All

My "weekly" emails seem to be getting less regular. The longer I am here the more I get cocooned in life down here. Events that happen, jokes we make become more inexplicable to people "off the ice". I'd like to put out a call for topics--what would you all like to hear about? Life here has become ordinary in the sense that I can no longer remember exactly what is different here--it all seems normal to me.

New year's was fun--there was a big party in the new garage. I do a power plant check on midnights on the weekend night (Saturday night is the only off night here), and over the holidays when there are extra days off the power plant checks follow the weekend schedule. New year's eve was a Sunday night, but being a holiday I had the midnight check. That was fine with me--I've never really been into celebrating new year's. The holiday seems a bit arbitrary to me. I enjoy the power plant checks--I really feel like I'm doing my part on the station. Plus its just cool to go in there and strut around like I am in charge of something. Its incredibly noisy in the plant, so we all wear ear protection. Station power comes from one of three large engines that run on JP8. Only one engine is on at a time, and they can put out about 300kW. We are running at full capacity right now, so the "emergency" power plant is also on line, generating about 45kW. The check consists of reading a lot of gages to make sure everything is in range. Someone does a check every two hours, 24/7. We read the voltage and current on all three phases, total power output, AC frequency (60 Hz!), oil temps, oil levels, and the temps and pressures of various parts of the system--water and the glycol used for heating. The first check I did took me about 40 minutes. I can do them now in 6.

I finally got around to going skiing this weekend-- I'd said I wanted to go but I hadn't been. There is a buried plane a few miles out from the station that I attempted to ski to. I haven't been skiing in perhaps 15 years. I got about halfway to the plane and decided to turn around. No point overdoing it and being miserable. I have plans to go skiing again--work up my endurance first. The plane, contrary to popular belief, did not crash. It had a mechanical problem many years ago, and when they (the Navy, who ran the logistics for a long time) determined it couldn't be fixed, they pushed it out a ways, and its been drifting in ever since.

A few weeks ago I spent a day working out at Marisat, the new satellite dish that is going online this winter (more hours on line, more bandwidth!), helping to do some of the wiring. It was a cloudy day, and for some reason I decided I didn't need goggles or sunglasses. I was doing fine work--terminating lots of small wires that were located in hard to reach places. Not a good excuse to go bare-eyed. And it was a poor decision. Later that night my eyes were stinging--I attributed it to having been outside, perhaps the wind had picked up. The next day I couldn't wear my contacts. A week later when I put my contacts in it still felt like I had gravel in my eyes. Yep, I got snowblind! A very stupid move. There is no ozone layer over the south pole in the summer. There is also a lot of glare off the eternally white horizon. My eyes are back to normal now and I am very careful to wear my goggles all the time. In fact I carry both goggles and sunglasses with me every time I go outside.

Last week two scientists for one of my projects were here. They calibrated their equipment, installed some new(er) computers and new software to run the equipment. They left Friday night. Today, Tuesday, three more arrived. Two of them are from the USGS, here to check on the seismometers, try and fix a broken one, and replace it if they can't fix it. Replacing it is going to be an interesting logistics problem. The seismometer in question is housed in a cylinder about 8 inches in diameter and 6 or 8 feet long. Its down in the seismic vault, which is slowly being crushed by the weight of the 20 feet of snow over it. The part of the vault where this seismometer is located is only 4 feet high. Too short to pull the cylinder straight out. So we are getting chainsaw, and they will cut up the ice floor of the vault in order to get the thing out. The third scientist is here to install a new experiment--a radar that wil track micro-meteorite motion in the upper atmosphere in order to measure wind speeds up there.


copyright 2001 Andrea Grant

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