Saturday, January 14, 2017

Black Island Fire Inspection

Current Weather 28F  Wind 7 knots mostly Sunny

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.
R.J.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

McMurdo Season 6 - Day 81

Current Weather 32F Partly Cloudy

Happy Holidays to everyone!  I am looking forward to another 2 day weekend this weekend to celebrate Christmas.  Paula will be working at Willy Field on Saturday when the big town holiday meal will be happening, so she will be coming into town for the first meal seating and I will meet her for Christmas dinner with the rest of the Willy crew.

This weeks big news is that we will be flying to Black Island tomorrow, Friday Dec. 22nd, for the day to perform a fire inspection.  Black Island is a operations based field camp about 40 miles south of McMurdo that provides all of our communications with the outside world.  I should have some photos from that trip.

I have a few random photos to share today.  Most of which are from the shared folder here in McMurdo, so the ones that look really good I didn't take.


 These first two are from LDB.  Which stands for Long Duration Ballon.  This is a NASA project that is a very high altitude balloon (120,00 feet) that carries several scientific experiments as the payload.  It will circle around the continent many times before it comes back down.  There are actually 3 of these that were launched this season.  Checkout here: https://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/payloads.htm
To get more info on the experiment.



These two photos are just great images.  There are from Pegasus a month or so ago.  Just great photos of the C-17 and the Royal Society Range in the background.


Here is a photo just for Brian.  This is what you need to ask for, for your next bucket truck.  Nothing says Florida like 6x6.


Last week we were finally able to get a live fire extinguisher training in at the fire station.  Always fun to play with fuel and fire.


And lastly a good pose from the Skua in front of the Skua bin.

That is it for me tonight.  I have to be at the Helo pad at 07:30.  Off to be to shake the last of the crud out of me.  

More to come soon.
R.J.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

McMurdo Season 6 - Day 63

Current Weather - 23F Mostly Sunny Winds NE 10-20

So life is back to normal in McMurdo after my little side trip to South Pole.  Although not great for work, the extra few days at Pole were very enjoyable to get a better feel for the station.  Today I have some airfield photos for all of you.  Specifically Pegasus airfield, which will close permanently by the end of this week.  If I remember correctly Pegasus was constructed in the late '90's and has been the primary wheeled aircraft runway for many years.  However because the glacier that it is built on is moving north continuously the airfield has become downwind of Black Island, which gets it's name because of the lack of snowfall that accumulates there.  And because there is not a nice covering of snow on the dark volcanic rock, the winds pickup that dark dust and cover the ice shelf which then creates melt pools in the same place that we are trying to land aircraft.  Not good.

So, there is a new wheeled aircraft runway that has been built called Phoenix and when the jet aircraft come back at the end of the season they will begin operating out of the new airfield.

So, here is a day in the lift of Paula at Pegasus.


About 14 or so miles south of McMurdo is the location of Pegasus.  This allows for a nice vantage point to view Mt. Erebus.  McMurdo is next to one of those little black bumps at the bottom of the photo.


And here is the Lt's office at Pegasus.  One of two Renegade's, which are Ford F-550's with a track package added to them, and essentially a really big fire extinguisher mounted to the back.  For those of you firefighters out there, you won't find a pump anywhere on this thing (ok a power steering pump).  The fire package is two pressure vessels; one foam and one dry chemical; and then 4 high pressure air cylinders.  If you need to us agent you pressurize the system and the air pressure expels the product from the tanks.


And then there is the crew.  During C-17 flight operations, we bring 8 firefighters from town out to work the flight.  This is in addition to the 8 firefighters that are at Willy Field, and the 4 firefighters in town.  So, most of the people in this photo are actually working on their day off.  Pegasus flights get pretty old pretty quick when you are working most of your days off.


A good view of the ramp at Pegasus.  Here you can see the awaiting Ivan the Terra Bus as well as a Bassler DC-3 that is parked on the ramp.  The Bassler is great little aircraft for Antarctica due to it's extended range and medium cargo/passenger carrying capacity.


And then there is the monster, the C-17.  In the upcoming photos please use the people as a reference of scale to give you an ideas of how big this thing is.


Here are two more firefighting vehicles.  These are firefighting sleds, and there are three of them stationed at Pegasus.  Two of them are pulled by Tuckers which is the orange tracked vehicle on the right, and one is pulled by a Caterpillar Challeger which is on the left.  A little different than what most people think of when they think of a fire truck.


And here the flood gates have opened.  Another 100 people in McMurdo to slow down my internet and eat my freshies.  Sorry, I mean another 100 people to help science.


And again notice the size of the people to the the size of the wheels on the bus.


Now that all of the passengers are off of the C-17 cargo can go about offload and back loading the aircraft.


Heading onto the aircraft, these are the airline seat pallets that some people get to ride in.  This is a small passenger configuration, many times there are 20 rows of these seats.


Everyone else get to ride in the jump seats along the sides of the aircraft.  This view is looking back at the ramp.


Here you can see the interior body of the aircraft.  Again, note the size of the firefighter standing inside.


Looking at from front to back with the ramp closed.


And the last part of the tour is of the cockpit.  Firefighter regularly get to tour the planes while they are on the ground to familiarize themselves with the airframe and the controls in case they have to access the plane in an emergency.


So, enough about Pegasus.  The other night on the walk home from work I saw that there were some interesting clouds floating around the Royal Society Range, so I decided to go outside the dorm and grab some photos.


And while I was standing there, I heard a LC-130 in the distance.  And I got lucky and it was a southbound flight from Christchurch that was headed to Willy and decided to do a low pass, buzzing McMurdo.  And I was standing there with the zoom lens on the camera for once.  Finally a really nice shot.

That is all for now.  More to come soon.  And we are about 50% done with the season.  Amazing how quick the first half goes.
R.J.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

South Pole, I am still here.


Current Weather - 30F, Windchill -53F, Winds 7 knots, Barometer 690mb

As I write this it is Saturday evening about 10pm.  I was scheduled to be at the South Pole from Monday until Wednesday.  Well weather happens, so I ended up arriving at Pole on Wednesday, and scheduled to return to McMurdo on Friday.  Did I mention that it is Saturday?  So our flight was canceled on Friday and Saturday due to a storm in McMurdo.  And they don’t fly on Sunday, so my 3 day trip to Pole is now 6 days and maybe more.  No complaints, not from me, my boss on the other hand might not be as happy.

So here are a bunch of random photos from the South Pole and I will explain some as I go.



This is a photo of the ceremonial South Pole marker.  It has flags from all of the original Antarctic Treaty countries around it, and it is situated nicely centered in front of the station.






Here is the marker representing the actual geographical South Pole.  It is maybe a quarter mile or less from the other marker; however this marker is moved regularly to stay at the exact pole even though the ice shelf is moving about 30 feet each year.




And a close up of the very nicely made marker.





And most importantly my hero shot at the South Pole!





And here are some views of the skiway at Pole.  Here is an LC-130 coming in the taxiway to park.





And here they are parked and are offloading cargo onto a sled.  Once the cargo is offloaded then the plane will offload any excess fuel that is not needed to get back to McMurdo, which will help supply the station for a year.





And taking off on skis.





And lastly a good fly by shot.





The last aircraft photo won’t look like much to most people, but this is a C-17 flying over the South Pole.  The C-17 cannot land at Pole due to the fact that it doesn’t have skis.  However in case of an emergency during the winter months, the C-17 does a practice airdrop mission over Pole in the summer season to prepare for an emergency drop in the winter time.  Sorry, I don’t have any good photos of the actual drop, but it was still amazing to see a C-17 here.




In this photo we are riding in a Scout, a track snow grooming type vehicle, to ARO which is in the Clear Sector and NOAA runs experiments here on the air.

 
This is ARO.  There are numerous sectors around Pole such as Clean Air, Dark, etc.  And all are named for the science going on in the area.  I will try to explain more in a later post.  At ARO we got a quick tour about what they do (more to come later) and during the tour, the explained that the air on the windward side of this building is the cleanest air on the plant.  And the really cool part is that I got to hold a specimen vial out the window and I now have a sealed sample of the cleanest air on the plant.

 
Looking back from ARO this is a photo of the elevated station.  It is called the elevated station because the station is built on columns that allow the station to be raised occasionally to keep it about the snow accumulation.

 
This is what a fire truck looks like at the South Pole.

 
Here is the Communication Center for the station.  During the summer months the fire department staffs the center and provides 911 coverage, local VHF radio coverage, as well as HF communications with McMurdo and any aircraft in the area.

 
These are the arches. Both are completely buried in the snow except for this end. The one on the left is extremely long and houses cargo; a heated building inside the arch; and unheated food storage, and then lastly the fuel bladders for the station.  The arch on the right houses the heavy equipment shop and several building trades shops, again in a heated building inside the arch.


 
This shot is of the back of the elevated station and I am standing in the same location as my photo of the arches, I just rotated to the left.  I liked the steam from the power plant generators in the sunshine.

 
And a better view of the backside of the station.  He you can clearly see the elevated feature of the station.  These wings mostly are dormitory housing.

 
The chrome looking cylinder on the right side of the station is called the beer can.  It is the staircase that connects the elevated station to the tunnels under the snow that go to the power plant and the arches.

 
And a nice front profile view of the station.

 
And here is what it looks like looking out the window.  Miles and mile of ice, in every direction, including downward.

 
And here is the entrance to the station leading up from the skiway.  Aka the opposite side from the arches.



And this is just the really cool ornament at the top of one of the flag poles.
So, that is all I have for photos to share now.  I have allot more photos, but only a limited time on the internet.  So I will add to the story at a later date.
Stay warm.
R.J.