Black Island Fire Inspection
So I have been slow about adding photos to the blog, which shouldn't surprise anyone at this point. Paula and I got a helicopter trip to Black Island just after Christmas to perform a fire inspection. Black Island is an island that is about 40 miles south of McMurdo and it houses a communication dish that provides all of the TV, phone, and internet for McMurdo.
McMurdo itself is shielded by Mt. Erebus to any satellite coverage, therefore all of our data is sent to Black Island via a microwave link and from there it is transmitted or received by an 11 meter dish that is only pointed 3 degrees above the horizon.
Here is a view of the ice shelf as we approach Black Island. All of the dark that you see is dirt that has blown off of the island and has landed on the ice. This dark material adds to the thermal breakdown of the ice.
These are just a few closeup photos of the ice surface. You can see that it isn't smooth flat ice here. There are many melt pools.
And here we are approaching the island.
And now the facility. There are two people that staff the station during the summer season, and during the winter it runs remotely from McMurdo. There are many people that spend time out here during the summer season, but just for short times.
Towards the left side of the building is the living quarters and closer to the dome is the IT side of the facility.
Here is a look of to the east. If you look closely you can see an antenna array out there. And you can see how desolate the island is.
Just another view off of the island. This is one of three windmills that help provide power to the station.
Another look at the station from the other side. More windmills, and antennas. If you look closely you can see the solar panels mounted to the roof,
And even with the wind and solar, there is still three diesel generators on station. Therefore you need fuel to power them.
This is the guest quarters. As I said, many people work out here during the summer. Everyone from IT technicians that work on the communications equipment, to generator mechanics, to utility mechanics, antenna riggers, etc.
A look inside the bunk room.
Here is another antique piece of CAT equipment.
Amazingly, the fire extinguisher was discharged.
This is the dinning room area of the quarters, looking towards the bunk room.
And here is the living room area.
These two photos are for Jim McB. These are the 128 storage batteries that provide the power to the station and serve as a several day backup in the winter in case everything goes bad. Each one is a 3V cell.
And here is a shot of the 11 meter dish that is housed inside of the 13 meter dome. And Black Island has some of the fiercest winds in Antarctica. So there is a ton of wind load on the dome.
Standing next to the dome, here is a view back to McMurdo. The town is in the center of the dark area that you see.
A good shot of a helo landing on the pad.
And a nice shot of a Bell 212 taking off towards McMurdo with Mt. Erebus in the background.
Here we are lifting off and looking down at the facility. The smaller dome in the foreground looks very big in this view.
On the flight back to town we cross right over the old Pegasus airfield and the remains of the old Navy C-141 plane that crashed years ago.
And here is a view of McMurdo as we approach the helo pad.
And so it is getting to be the end of the season. Things are changing quickly. We have had some stormy weather recently, but overall there isn't much snow around town. We are expecting the Ice Breaker to be visible in the next few days. And in a few weeks the cargo vessel should be here. We are currently scheduled to fly north on Feb 24th, but that date is really just a place holder. We will see what changes between now and then.
Thanks for reading.