Saturday, January 28, 2017

Icebreaker Time

Current weather: 23F Mostly sunny light winds.

So last week this thing arrived.

It is the US Coast Guard Polar Star.  A 399' 13,000 ton heavy ice breaker.  Here it is breaking in McMurdo Sound with the Royal Society mountain range in the background.

And another shot of them breaking the turning basin just outside of town.  In the foreground is the wastewater treatment plant.

So, as is customary, when the Polar Star comes into Winterquarters Bay, they pushed the Ice Pier,  This year they pushed the pier so far against the ground that all of the ice that was between the pier and the wharf pushed upwards and lifted the Bailey Bridge off its base.  From this view you can see how high up they jacked it.  The photo looks like the excavator is lifting the bridge, but it is not.  That is sea ice holding it up.  Oops.

And here is Fleet Ops using the Grove Crane and many other pieces to get the bridge back down where it belongs.

So, we got a tour of the Polar Star after they docked on the pier.

In the foreground on this photo you can see the containers that have been prestaged on the wharf.  They are loaded with waste headed back to the US.

Here is the Tower of Power.  The heart of the ship offload season.  This tower is the traffic control point for all of the wharf area.

Now on to the ship.  Walking up the gang plank.

And a cool view of a huge ship from ground level.

This is the bridge.  It extends from beam to beam so that they can watch the ice over the sides of the ship.

Here is a view of some of the shinny new computer like stuff.

And here is some of the not so new communications stuff.

A cool photo of the tall part of the ship.  I am sure that there is a name for it, but I call it the tall part.

A view from the deck above the bridge.  Looking at the shore of Winterquaters Bay and up into town.

If you have to use this boat, you are having a bad day.  I guess this is more of a support boat than a life boat, but it still doesn't sound like fun in icy waters.

A view of the Bailey bridge from above the bridge.  More tour goers walking across.

Here you can see the plank. Also there is a fuel line on the wharf.  The ship took on between 400,00 and 500,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel.  To give you an idea, the South Pole Station takes between 300,000 and 400,000 gallons for a year.

I liked this on the bridge.  They obviously don't care about local time.

A view going down some of the interior stairs.

Just some random interior hallway views.

Hey look, more hallways.

This is some of the modern control systems that are on wall.

And the customary bronze plaque.

A view of the Galley.  And I looked, I couldn't find a Pepsi machine anywhere on the ship this season.  Unfortunately.

Look, really big ice chunks.

Big ice chunks and the corner of the Ice pier.

A nice view of the CG symbol.

You know that you are in a '70's vintage anything when there are asbestos warning plaques posted.

And that is it.  Headed back home.  You can see our dormitory in the background.  Cool to see the ship up close again.  Shortly after this tour we got a tour of the USAP research vessel the Nathaniel B. Palmer.  I should have some photos of that up soon. 

Currently the cargo ship has been tied up to the pier for 3 days.  They are pretty much done with the offload, and the backload of waste has begun.  I have been working on shift for the last week or so to fill in for a co-worker that is out with an injury.  So I have been working as a shift Lt. on A shift with Paula.  I have been working 24 hours on and 24 hours off nominally.  And I have been filling in keeping up with my Inspecting duties as well.  So I have been keeping busy for a while now.  I will be going back to my day schedule sometime this week.

That is all for now.  More to come.

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.