June 2002

Saturday, June 1

Work up early and spent most of the day surfing the internet. 

As I mentioned in my last entry, no one is much doing anything.  There are a few parties and events scheduled throughout town, but attendance is down.  At the same time, it is harder to dial up to access the internet at night than it has been in the past.  I would suppose that people are staying in their rooms playing with their computers.  But since there is no way to track what everyone is doing at any given moment, that's only a guess.  And the malaise may or may not exist.  I only write what I see.

Since it was still afternoon Friday back in the States, I sourced some engines for my Toyota.  $3,400 from one place.  I also heard more about the engine that I bought back in January.  The mechanic thinks it's a lost cause.  So, it looks like I'll have to pull the existing engine out and have a looksey.  I still might be able to get by with just a rebuilt cylinder head.  Jesus.  If I had taken the money that I've dumped into it, I could have probably bought a Land Cruiser that was already running and in good shape.  But, it's a project and gives me something to do.

Finally got around to watching The Thing, with Kurt Russell.  It's a movie set here in Antarctica at a fictitious base.  An extraterrestrial life form finds it's way there and begins killing the station crew and in the process causing the crew to mistrust one another.  It wasn't a bad flick, even below my usual threshold for suspending my disbelief.

Sunday, June 2

Another day at the Coffee House, the hub of weekend social activity.  Not counting the 3-4 folks seeing the Star Wars marathon in the TV room, the bartender/waiter may have served ten different people during the 6 hours I sat at a table surfing the internet.  For a two day weekend this town is dead.

 I did my time in isolation and I've returned to civilization.  It was supposed to be an event.  I expected trumpets.   Instead I'm greeted by the silence of empty bars and lounges.


Monday, June 3

First day back at work after a 3 day weekend.  Nothing much happened except Jimmie finishing up the 10,000 PM on one of the engines.  I tried to help but probably ended up getting in the way.  Not wanting to seem idle while he was doing work I cleaned up some oil and swept the floors.  The most physical work that I've done in a few weeks, probably.  Anyway, the only thing to do is reattached the generator and start it up.  Since it was the most prolific oil  leaker of the lot, there should be less clean-up once it gets back online.

Phoned Ella around mid-afternoon.  She went to the dentist on Saturday and had some fillings.  She's feeling a little sore but doing well otherwise.  I think that we're both getting really excited about reuniting in October.  Although we have a tacit agreement about it being too far away to begin counting days, it's not too soon to talk about spending time with one another again.

The bars were closed and the store was closed.  Even the doors to the Coffee House were officially shut, although there was a private birthday party in progress.  The only thing open in this evening was the library.  So, I checked out The Little Drummer Girl, by John Le Carre.  I've seen it stands at grocery store check-out lines for years and thought that it was finally time to at least skim through it.  Other than that, I spent some quality time with this, my journal.

I think that the town's malaise is starting to affect me, too. 

 Double blah.

Tuesday, June 4

It's not like me to complain about something unless I can offer a solution to make it better.  It's much easier to gripe and criticism than it is to actually do something to improve one's lot.  I've gotten into the rut over the past few days of not doing anything about my situation but being a bit bitter.  That's totally unacceptable and will make for one miserable winter.

Wednesday, June 5

I emailed recreation today to let them know that I could offer my XBox and what DVDs I have to be utilized for some morale boosting activities.  In addition to showing my DVDs on a TV somewhere, people can play Madden football with the XBox.  True, it's not the best group activity as only two people can play at a time.  But having a football tournament or some such might get people out of their rooms.  And as silly as such an event might seem on the outside, it certainly beats doing nothing.

Dropped by the burger bar after work.  The chief electrician stopped in for dinner as well.  I mentioned that since Jimmy was done with the engine at the plant that I was freed up and would be able to help with some of their projects.  So, tomorrow morning I report as a volunteer electrician's apprentice.  We'll have to work out a schedule.  After all, I have no desire to work two full time jobs, especially with the second being for no additional pay.  I'll probably have to diplomatically dispel any expectations or presumptions.  If I there, then I'm there.  And when I'm not, well, I wanted to take the day off.  It seems like a pretty tough thing to do as I feel obligated to work every minute that I have free.  I will want a letter documenting the number of hours that I worked as an apprentice.  For, I might be able to get those hours credited towards my journeyman's ticket provided that I want to become an electrician back in the States.  So, the more hours I have now, the quicker I might complete my apprenticeship back home.

Thursday, June 6

Reported for duty at my new second job at just after 8:00.  But because the chief electrician had to take a trip out to Pegasus runway, I didn't get to chat much or talk about expectations.  Instead, I went to one of the dorms where a complete renovation is under way.  I explained to Rob, the electrician in charge, that I'd be spending my days off helping them out.  He must have been glad to have the extra help because I was put to wiring "pigtails", or temporary lighting, into the 50 rooms being redone. 

After lunch I finally got to talk to the head electrician, Pat Boozer.  He and I both lived in MMI back in October and knew each other.  He understood the need for flexible work hours and even had a tool kit and utility belt to issue me.  I suppose that's about as much a welcome as any.

During the course of the day I experienced the work culture outside the plant.  They have breaks at 10:00 and 3:00, something I didn't know existed.  There is also a lot of integration between departments.  Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and supply people all interact with each other on a daily basis.  With us at the plant, well, it's just us.  I can see why it would be easier for the rest of town to have a fuller social life.  There's one thing that annoys me though.  The galley puts out snacks for the breaks.  It's simple stuff like biscuits and pastries in the morning and cookies in the afternoon.  I went all year not knowing about this aspect of McMurdo life.  All the times I spent in my room or aimlessly walking around town last summer at those times I could have actually had something to do and someone to talk to.

Speaking of things to do, I worked things out with recreation to show a movie in the galley on Sunday night using the station's LCD projector.  Hopefully the ample seating and proximity to refreshments will tempt people to come out of their rooms for a few hours.

Friday, June 7

Another good day's work.  I installed over 50 electrical outlets and learned a great deal about stripping wire.  I even made a splice or two to give myself more room to work with.  But the most important thing was the satisfaction gained from performing tangible work.  After years of office work, it's good to actually be able to see the results of a day's labor and to have the sore muscles to prove it.  I haven't felt like this since my days in the coal mines.  It'll take me a while to get back those muscles that haven't been used for a few years. 

Two low pressure systems in the vicinity forced the wind chill corrected temperature to 90 below this morning.  Today is definitely the coldest it's been this winter.  The normal temperatures have been creeping down to the minus 30's, but the 45-50 knot gusts have certainly made it feel much colder.  Fortunately for me the dorm remodeling project has portable heaters that run 24/7, even when there's no working going on, keeping the place at least semi-comfortable.

Saturday, June 8

Correction on the wind chill for yesterday.  I got that from the forecast.  When the actual weather data was posted on the intranet, the actual lowest temp with wind chill was -104F.

These cold temps are wrecking havoc on the engines.  The metal contracts causing sporadic coolant leaks between the radiator and one of them.  Jimmie had two separate leaks to fix on that one.  And speaking of engines, #5, the one down for the 10,000 PM was finished and placed back online today.  I had the honor of restarting it and placing it online.   I was a bit leery of having a new engine providing power to the station without going through a break-in period of some kind.  So, it ran it alongside two other engines for the rest of the day and into the night.

The supply department hosted a "Black Ops" party after work and I decided to drop by for an hour or so.  It's was alien conspiracy themed, and lacking any sort of serious costume I donned my fur hat and a t-shirt that I picked up in Poland.   Thusly dressed, I was transformed into a Polish wookie because of the abundance of hair that I had showing.  Although I'll not give Chewbacca, the Star Wars character, a run for his money I was still the hairiest creature in town.   Anyway, it was quite an elaborate affair given the materials that they had to work with: several dozen TVs flashed hypnotic images to the rhythm of techno beats,  black lights, "security badges", and weird glo-in-the-dark drinks in test tubes (although they could have simply been gin and tonics exhibiting some florescence as a result of the lights...).   But since I had to work the next day I was unable to stay too long.  So, I called it an early night and packed it in at about 9:00.

Sunday, June 9

Fire in the power plant!  Well, not really.  But close enough to get my attention to the extent that I called the fire department.  Around 2:00 I was chatting with Ella smelled smoke.  I quickly typed something letting her know something was afoot and put my nose into high gear.  I spent 5 minutes investigating but couldn't see any smoke, either in the control room or in the engine room.  I also checked out the furnace to make sure that no dust was "burning off".  After I isolated the smell to the feeder area ( the massive high current breakers that distribute power to the town), I assumed it was coming from a burnt or overheated wire and called the fire department.  A high voltage fire was something that I wanted no part of.  I also called Don, the power plant manager who in turned made calls trying to round up repairmen and others..  In less than 15 minutes almost everyone who was anyone descended upon the plant trying to find the source of the smell.  The firemen arrived in full gear followed by the plant electrician, Wayne, who was ready to tear open the breaker panels.

Once there were other noses at work, the odor was determined to be coming from a nearby alarm panel that was in the vicinity.  It was assumed that the power supply gave up the ghost (or at least partially as most of the alarms were still working).  What follows is a funny tale of bureaucracy, interdepartmental buck passing, and just plain old piss poor documentation of who is supposed to do what.  

No fewer than 4 people from 4 separate departments were called in to repair it.   Each of the didn't want to claim ownership and passed it on to someone else.  To be fair, no one knew with 100% certainty that it was theirs as it was an odd ball monitoring system that touches several different departments.  It was also one of the many pieces of equipment that was installed many years ago and the documentation lost or thrown out (there's a lot of that down here).  And since there's not much in the way of continuity in the way of knowledgeable workers from one year to the next there's not much tribal knowledge has survived.  So, it fell through the cracks and was forgotten about. 

Anyway, someone finally decided to own it.  But there are doubts as to whether or not the replacement parts are available to fix it, another thing that we frequently encounter here...

In other news:

Lost access to my ftp site today.  For some reason I can no longer sign in to upload files, whether it be for the web cam or for journal updates.  A phone call to technical support went unanswered and an email that I sent was simply answered with an auto-response.  They did some software updates last week but I wasn't aware of any problems until today.  They've usually been very good at technical support in the rare instances when I needed help.  Dunno what to make of it.

Spoke with Ella on the phone for the better part of an hour.

Caught the Lewis-Tyson match round by round on the BBC, which had frequent updates.  Lot's of money changed hands as result of the outcome.

Anyway, I showed a movie in the galley and had a good turn out, about 30 people or so.  So, McMurdites are willing to come out provided that there is something interesting to do.  Which made me think about something...

It never occurred to me that the reasons that people go home in the evenings is because the might actually be tired.  And I wouldn't have thought along these lines were it not for my new job.  I had innocently assumed that everyone had a job that was about as physically demanding as mine in the plant (read: not very).  Maybe some of residents actually *work* and don't feel like going out and instead want to rest and get some sleep.  Hmm.  Another case where I get ahead of myself in assuming the wrong things.

Monday, June 10

Graduated to installing ground fault interrupt outlets (GFI) today.  Probably not impressive in the greater scheme of things but I gained some satisfaction out of it.  Also nearly finished installing the outlets and light switches on the first floor of the dorm.  I'll probably manage to finish that tomorrow and will start working on the second floor.

No word yet from my web host about when the problems will get fixed.  I also can't upload to my site.  I'm usually a patient and forgiving guy, but if I don't hear from them in a few days I'll start looking for a new host.  And when I am once again able to access my ftp site I'll download my site as is and put it up somewhere else.  Although I could conceivably do that now, my back-up data is spread across too many folders and CD-Rs that it would be a major hassle to simply upload it somewhere else.  It would take too long to get everything working again.  I also don't have my bulletin board and settings backed up.   Something I should have done but never got around to it.  Doh.

Tuesday, June 11

Found out that I could upload to my ftp site and did so.  However, I tried to test the message board and found that my posts weren't accepted, like there is a permissions problem or, perhaps, the files are being updated on a staging server but not being pushed to a production or staging server (techno geek way for saying there's a serious communication problem between their servers).  At least I can upload to the site, which is an improvement.

Didn't really do much today expect install outlets and light switches.  Got the obligatory cut or two, of course.  

Working in the plant has made me soft.

Wednesday, June 12

I'm confused.  I'm able to upload to my ftp site, but people on the outside are saying that they can't see the changes. I'm told that my journal is only current through the 5th.  Strange.  And I still can't send or receive email.

I sent yet another email to my host and tried to call.  No luck.  They've been good folks to work with, but one week of problems is 6 days and 23 hours too many in this industry.  There are lots of providers out there with much better uptime, and I hope, better customer service.  Being left in the dark for a week is unforgivable.

So, I got in touch with a internet acquaintance who can host the site for less money.  Switching over, then, is a no brainer.  It might take a few days to iron the bugs out, but hopefully the site will be a little faster and more reliable.

Worked only until noon today.  I needed to do some laundry and wanted some time to myself.

Chatted with Ella for a little bit and spent the evening surfing the internet from the Coffee House.

Thursday, June 13

First day back on the rotation and I spent most of the morning downloading and backing up the site in preparation of moving it to another host.   

Not much happening at work, and I spent the evening yet again in the Coffee House.

Friday, June 14

Ironed out some bugs with the new host and started uploading the site to the new server.  Once that was done and I was satisfied that everything was working I altered my domain settings to point to the new host.  After the change propagates around the WWW the site should be back up after one week of problems.

I also made some minor changes to some of the web pages.  Now, the webcam page will feature a larger, clearer image and, for the time being, the bulletin board is down.  As it involves some slight programming it will take a while to get it running again.  But since I was entertaining thoughts of shutting it down since before the web hosting problems anyway, I'm tempted to leave it down.  This particular message board software is no longer supported for free and is likely to have some security vulnerabilities just waiting for the right hacker to come along.  I'm not willing to spend $100 or more for the upgrade, so it'll probably die.  It's not like visitors are flocking to it in droves, so nothing lost but headaches.

I spent another evening in the Coffee House.  There was a group of people who were making and delivering calzones in return for donations for a children's charity in Chch.  Real delivery...like at home.   It was almost civilized.  Anyway,  I ordered a few of those.  Not too bad.  Better than the stuff in the galley.

Oh, yes.  It was the coldest day so far.

Saturday, June 15

Bored people will do the silliest things to keep themselves occupied.  

Today was one of those days when the day simply dragged on into an eternity and Jimmie and I thought that we would don our lab coats and pursue some "scientific" endeavors.

We were curious to know what happened to water when thrown into the air in 40 below temps, so I boiled some up and had Jimmie throw it into the air while I snapped a picture.  It was a rather neat show.  The water almost immediately turned to ice creating a miniature snow and ice storm.  There was also a hissing sound as the water changed state.  

We also experimented with soap bubbles.  Jimmie and I mixed up some dish washing liquid and water and tried to blow some bubbles outside in the cold.  I must admit that it was rather difficult to do.  They just didn't want to form.  And when they did they didn't last very long.  But those that did form and "live" long enough to make it a few feet "died" a fascinating death.  They simply collapsed in upon themselves and formed a cluster of smaller ice "bubbles" and drifted away in the wind.  Or at least that's how it appeared.  It was very difficult to capture a good picture of them to make sure.  They reflected too much of the camera's flash.

Another interesting thing to happen to day is that Condition 1 was set for the first time all year.  The winds picked up at 4:00 and the station manager deemed that it was too cold to venture outside.  This mainly affected people working outside as they were forced to go indoors.  But everyone else called it a day and went home from work as well.  Normally this condition is set during a white out, but it can be called when the wind chill or temperature gets too cold as well.

There was a small BBQ in the heavy shop at 8:00 so I braved the elements and wandered up there.  Stumbled would perhaps be a more accurate word, though.  The winds were blowing something fierce and were much more powerful than anything I'd experienced to date.  I was out barely 30 seconds before my glasses were completely iced over.  And when I took removed my hands from my pockets (silly me didn't bring my mittens) to take them off my hands were almost immediately numb.  

Without my glasses I was almost blind.  It didn't help matters that in an effort to avoid the wind, I was forced to look almost straight down.  Of course, there's nothing there but white and with no depth perception I found myself walking off the road and in the ditch on a number of occasions. And this, of course, was when I could walk straight.  The wind was blowing me in every direction to begin with.

Another oversight was to not wear the wind proof pants that I had been issued.  My bravado pushed me to wearing simply my normal pants with some long johns beneath.  With empty pockets, that may have been kosher for no longer than I was outside.  But the wind cooled the keys and change in my pocket to the point that they began burning my leg through the underwear.  I could almost feel each individual coin digging into my flesh.  It wasn't as painful as say, picking up a hot coal, but it was very uncomfortable and not something that I would recommend doing for an extended period of time.

To may a long story short, then, I was under dressed for a mere 5 minute walk in minus 110 degree wind chill corrected weather.  Had I spent another 5 or 10 minutes outside, I could have gotten myself into serious trouble.

As my luck runs, the party was either winding down or not many people decided to show up as only 1/2 dozen people were standing around with beers in their hands.  The heavy shop crew, being the ever inventive sort, had created a portable BBQ stove and made do with welding rods to skewer the meat. Sadly,  the BBQing was done. But not before I could warm up by the pallet fueled fire.  So, my walk up would have been in vain were it not for the free beer that I had.  I also mooched one for the road, putting it in my parka's inner pocket so that it wouldn't freeze on me.

After I warmed up enough I moseyed to the non-smoking bar, Galager's, where there was to be a punk rock themed party.  The walk  there was much easier as the wind was at my back pushing me along.  This time my glasses didn't freeze over and my pocket change didn't get as chilled.  Still, though, I was glad to get inside once I made it.

The bar was pretty dead for a party.  I suspect the weather had something to do with it.  And it also didn't help that the bands hadn't yet arrived.  Since the instruments were set up, I couldn't help but to get behind the drums and bang on them some.  Twas kind of neat to play around, but since I hadn't picked up a set of drum sticks since my marching band days in high school I was more than just a little rusty.  But the few patrons there didn't seem to mind the ruckus. 

I gave the band a 1/2 hour to show up.  When they didn't I called it a night and was very glad to crawl into a warm bed.

Sunday, June 16

Slept in late this morning, almost until 10:00.  Were it not for my taste buds craving a fresh waffle I could have probably managed to sleep a while longer.  Of course, I was groggy for most of the afternoon as a consequence of not rising at my normal 5:00 hour.  Why is it that getting too much sleep makes you feel just as bad as not getting enough?  It's not fair.

Spent the afternoon talking to Ella and playing XBox.  Also caught part of Billy Crystal's baseball story "61" about Roger Marris' record setting year that was playing on the military's AFN TV network.  It was one of the rare times when I sat down and watched more than 5 minutes of TV.

Noticed something odd on the the way to the Burger Bar.  The strong winds have caused the snow to behave much like sand in that the surface has gotten "wavy".  Were it not for the white color and the cold winds nipping at my cheeks, I probably could have sworn that I were walking in the Sahara or some other desert.  I don't recall seeing this phenomena yet this year.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to get a pic.

The winds have abated some and the temperature warmed up a bit today.  So much so that some snow flurries are called for.  But we're still in the minus double digits.

Monday, June 17

The weather was still a bit on the windy side.  It even woke me up several times throughout the night.  But it was much more bearable than it had been.

Went to my second, "non paying" job today as an electrician.  Most of the morning I went around testing the outlets that I installed last week.  Surprisingly, each and every single one of them had continuity and had power.  I did have to do make some cosmetic changes to a few so that they would look more acceptable, but I'll take it.  Not too shabby for a rookie like me to install over 100 outlets and have all of them working.  Maybe it's in the genes?

Rob, the electrician supervising this project, must have thought that I was getting bored with outlets and had me doing other things in the afternoon.  So, I graduated to conduit bending, another bread and butter electrical skill.  I was only able to get a few bends in but I'm sure that I'll get plenty of more opportunities.  Which is fine.  The more I get to practice the basic skills the more qualified I'll be when I get back to the world. 

One of the facets of McMurdo life that I've begun to appreciate since I've taken on the second job is our local radio station. We're not allowed to listen it at work because it would take our ears "away" from the engines, so being able to work with some tunes is a nice treat. 

Most of the time, the station pipes in either National Public Radio or military radio.  From time to time, however, there are a few souls to volunteer a couple of hours each week to DJ.  Each DJ is has a different taste in music and the one bloke who I've hear more than others likes classic country... something that I've always had some sentiment for.  Anyway, I don't recall mentioning it before so it's something that deserves a little space somewhere.

Tuesday, June 18

Don forwards a weekly situation report to us on a regular basis, but I've never really opened it up and read it over.  Essentially, it sums up the previous week's activities and shows how much of what was used and how much is left on hand. This week, out of curiosity, I actually gave it a look and found some interesting details.

If, for whatever reason the outside world disappeared tomorrow, we'd have over 6 years of fuel on hand to provide power to the town.  According to the Sit Rep, we have 3,737,963 gallons of AN-8 cold weather aviation fuel and 3,400,868 gallons of JP-5 general aviation fuel for a total of 7,138,831 gallons of usable power juice (diesel and these aviation fuels are similar enough that the engines will burn it).  At last week's burn rate of 21,542 gallons, that gives us just over 331 weeks of fuel on hand.  But in a pinch, we could probably shed another 10,000 gallons from our weekly usage and almost double the amount of time it would take to consume all of our fuel.  Of course, I seriously doubt that we have 6 years of spare parts on hand to keep the engines running that long, but that's another matter.

Another interesting thing was that the McMurdo "economy" had a weekly GDP of $6,601.  That is to say, that we spent almost $30 per person last week.  Impressive until you look at where that money was spent.  $1995 was generated at the smoking bar, "Southern Exposure" (where I've been only once, BTW...can't stand the cancer sticks...) and another $644 was raised at the non-smoking bar "Galagers".  But that's not all.  The base store did $2774 in sales.  Considering that this is also the continent's largest ABC store, alcohol revenue was generated there as well.  I'll be extremely conservative (optimistic might be a better word) and assume then that they sold only $500 worth of alcohol.  Thus, the booze industry makes up 50% of our "GDP".   Per capita, then, we spent over $15 per person on wines and spirits last week.  Separate the non-drinkers from the lot, and well...it doesn't look pretty.  I could be mistaken in my assumptions.  For instance 100% of the business that the bars do is probably not in alcohol sales.  To compensate, though, I didn't factor in wine sales at the Coffee House nor did I throw in American night at Scott Base.

On to happier things...

I never thought that I would that -10 would seem like a heat wave, but it certainly feels like one after the cold spell we've had for the past week.  I didn't even bother wearing my parka to the Coffee House, where I've set up shop for the past few nights.  Just a sweat shirt and pants.  I swear, ten more degrees and I would have been tempted to put on my shorts.

Went bowling later in the evening and didn't make my humble average.   We played the team ahead of us, who going into the game were only 2 pins up.  They won by 26 pins and are that much farther ahead now.   

Among the sixteen teams, there are 5 or 6 near us in the rankings are only 100 pins apart between the lot.  So the competition is getting pretty good. However, we will probably fall out of the top ten on the last week as that is our "by" week.  Most everyone else has had theirs already. And despite our best attempts to "sandbag" points, we can't manage to pull ahead.  The good news, though, is that we will be out of the running for the coveted "Toilet Bowl", or the painted toilet seat that is awarded to the team that finishes dead last...

Wednesday, June 19

Felt not quite myself all day, almost too blasé to focus on anything.

Chatted with Ella around lunch time and my sister a little later.

Burger Bar in the evening and returned to get in bed a bit earlier than normal.

Typical "spaced out" sort of Antarctic day.

Thursday, June 20

Took me a while to get started this morning.  Woke up and went to my second "job" but didn't get in gear until after the 10:00 break.  Drinking a couple of glasses of juice fixed me right up.  Wonder if perhaps I've been slightly dehydrated?   My mouth has been incredibly dry during the past few nights.  Maybe I'm losing more fluids than I'm taking in.  Something to keep an eye on.

Anyway, did the motions, installed a few temporary lights and waited until quitting time.   Did hear about an emergency traverse to Black Island.  It seems that we have lost the ability to remotely monitor and control some of the functions out there.  The computer systems that enables us to operate and watch over the equipment out there has failed.  Since we are now blind as to what happens, a crew will be sent out to make repairs.

Went to Scott Base during the evening and stayed until the last shuttle home.  Aside from getting a brief course in New Zealand history and listening to a discussion of Maori culture, the day was pretty uneventful.

Friday, June 21

Mid-winter, the Winter Solstice.  The season is half way over and there's only two months left until the sun rises once again.

Our archenemy the wind show his ugly face again.  It had warmed up a bit and even snowed some earlier in the week, but worsened by week's end, just in time for mid-winter celebrations that we've been gearing up for.

Saturday, June 22

The cork board in the galley was full of mid-winter greetings from our fellow Antarcticans around the continent.  It's a tradition that the bases on the continent send greetings to each other and, even though attendance is out of the question, invitations are sent for any festivities held.

So, rather than drone on about why I wasn't able to do the "polar plunge" or drop by the Scottish themed mid-winter party at Scott Base, I'll simply post mid-winter greetings.  If for no reason other than to have them recorded for posterity.  Links to photographs and formal invitations are included where applicable.

From President and Mrs. Bush:




June 17, 2002 


I send greetings to the international community gathered in Antarctica as you celebrate Midwinter’s Day on June 21, 2002.

The teamwork you demonstrate reflects the proud tradition of collaboration initiated more than 40 years ago with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty.   From the 12 nations that originally pledged their commitment to new discovery in the Antarctic, the Treaty has grown to encompass 45 nations representing nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.

I commend the scientists, researchers and other professionals from around the globe for your ongoing efforts to expand our understanding of our environment.  Your dedication to learning and teamwork strengthens our hope that all nations can work together in peace.  

Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a memorable celebration.

George W. Bush  


British Antarctic Survey: 

Dear Colleagues

On behalf of the Director and staff of BAS I would like to wish all of our international friends and colleagues a very happy and peaceful mid-winter.

 In a world beset by international tensions and flash points it is important to celebrate and cherish international fraternity where it florishes. COMNAP is a shining example of such fraternity in which common purpose combines with a wholly positive aim of supporting international  science for the good of mankind, and with good fellowship.

BAS will raise a collective glass to toast our international colleagues at our celebration tomorrow.

 Best wishes



Casey Station (Australia):



"Comandante Ferraz" Antarctic Station (Brazil):

Our Antarctic Friends:

In this june, 21st, Mid-Winter Day, we would like to send a special greeting for all people of Antarctics Bases and Stations, who stay in Antarctica winning the rigorous winter and transforming the results of each single work in great victories to a better world in the near future.

The Antarctic community is a desirable example of our future civilization, when people of different countries, united by the same idea of scientific knowledge, stay and work without state boundaries, political parties and political conflicts. When different peoples works together to achieve a common goal, they become more understanding of cach other and learn how to respect one another. They learn the mean of tolerance and cooperation in order to achieve a higher sensivity to the joys of life. The secret of a successful mission on this beautiful and inhospitable continent is a common spirit.

We are sure that it is possible to keep and improve our close relation of friendship and harmonic companionship on the antarctic continent (and in the world too). It depends only of each one of us.

Happy Mid-Winter Day!

With our best wishes for a good job in Winter


Leader of "Comandante Ferraz" Antarctic Station

Card attached.


Australian Antarctic Division:

Dear Antarctic Colleagues,

On behalf of the staff of the Australian Antarctic Division and all Australian Expeditioners, I send you our warmest greetings for the 2002  mid-winter.

Midwinter marks a significant turning point in the year, and the return of the sun in the coming months will bring hope and cheer as all Antarctic expeditioners prepare for the busy programs of the Austral summer, and their eventual safe return home to friends and loved ones around the world.

Best wishes for the remainder of the Antarctic winter and the coming season, and I hope your work continues to be safe, happy and successful.

With our best regards

AJ (Tony) Press


Australian Antarctic Division

 21 June 2002


Halley Station (UK)


Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable venture in the Antarctic.

From: Steve Hinde (Field Assistant and Winter BC), Lyndsey Bishop (Doctor), Duncan Cameron (Field Assistant), Doug Colliar (SHARE Engineer), Elaine Cowie (Meteorologist), Annette Faux (Meteorologist), Mickey Hazell (Carpenter and Steel Erector), Andy McConnachie (Generator Mechanic and Deputy WBC, Stuart McMillan (Chef), Cathy Moore (Meteorologist and Deputy WBC), Ben Norrish (Vehicle Mechanic), Mark Ryan (Comms Manager), Jon Seddon (Electronic Engineer), Paul Sharp (Electrician), Mark Stewart (Data Manager), Kevan White (Heat and Ventilation Engineer)


King Sejong Station (South Korea): 

To our friends in Antarctica.
The attached is the mid-winter greetings.
And the follows is the list of our members.
Job                                         Name                                           

Chief                              Hosung Chung                          
Second                          Chief Dong-min Jin                    
Researcher                    Bong-kon Moon                       
Research                       Assistant Young-sun Yang      
Researcher                    Hwan-seok Song                       
Research                       Assistant Seung-goo Ra           
Meteologist                    Tae-jin Ham                            
Radio Operator               Jin-wook Seol                          
Engineer                        Young-tae Lee                          
Engineer                        Yo-juong Lee                            
Engineer                        Sung-jin Hur                             
Engineer                        Jun Jin                                       
Engineer                        Qu-char Hwang                         
Engineer                        Hong-kwi Kim                            
chef                               Nam-hoon Kim                         
medical doctor               Dai-son Kim    

Macquarie Island (Australia):

Greeting card (MS Word document. Right click and select "save as" to download).


Maitri Station (India):

                                                                                    Dated 17 June 2002
Dear Neighbours,
On the occasion of Mid Winter Day 2002 we all 25 wintering team members of Indian Antarctic Station, Maitri invite you all to attend our Mid Winter Day Celebration starting at 1000 UTC on 21 June 2002. On this occasion we have organized a variety of entertainment items representing our culture and moral values.We also have organized a grand feast on this occasion consisting of selected Indian dishes.
On this occasion kindly accept our best wishes for your happy wintering . Hope this year Antarctic Weather will give you a pleasant surprise and make your wintering a memorable one.
( R.P.LAL)
Leader XXI IAE &
Station Commander
Maitri, Antarctica

Photo attached.


Mawson Station (Australia):

Dear Fellow Antarctic Expeditioners

Please find attached an invitation to join us at Mawson for our Midwinter celebrations.

We would like to send you our Midwinter Greetings in case you can't join us as we understand that you may be involved in your own celebrations on the day.

Regards Marilyn Boydell

On behalf of Mawson Station Expeditioners


Palmer Station (US):

We at Palmer Station would like to extend our best wishes to our colleagues wintering across Antarctica. Despite the distances separating our efforts, it is through common goals that we bind our achievements together.

May your mid winter celebrations be bright, and may you find all that you seek here.

Joe Pettit

Palmer Station Manager

Greeting card attached.


Rothera Station (UK):

In these, the darkest of days, we at Rothera Research Station wish to send a ray of sunlight to our fellow over winterers celebrations. So we propose a toast to the shortest day and the longest meal!

Happy midwinter from all at Rothera Research Station.

Photo attached.


Russian Antarctic Expedition:

Dear colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, we congratulate personnel of your Antarctic Programs that is now in Antarctica and in your offices with the midwinter day. Although the situation we have now in the Antarctic is not the most successful, we believe that this traditional Antarctic holiday will be widely celebrated all over the Antarctic including the ship beset in ice with Russian polar explorers and onboard the ships participating in the rescue operation.

The spirit of Antarctica has been uniting people and political systems for many years, that is why, our favorite continent serves as a good example of the future development of mankind. We wish all of you success, health,prosperity and good news from your families.

Sincerely Yours,

Valery Lukin,


Russian Antarctic Expedition


Vernadsky Station (Ukraine):

Dear friends!

Vernadsky"s wintering crew wants to express the most sincere greetings on account of an approach a celebration of MidWinter. That"s celebration of all concerned to Antarctica peoples and we"re sure that all of them will join to our expressing the best wishes for you. We hope that all of you will have good helth, mood and lucku returning to home.

We hope that everithing is going to be fine with all stations and our mutual scientific work.

Base commander

Victor Sytov

Photo attached.


Syowa Station (Japan):

All the friends in Antarctica, who are willing to celebrate the Mid-winter’s Day, 2002.

Just before the main festive time of year in Antarctica, we, forty members of JARE-43, would like to extend our greetings and wish you all under a very happy Mid-winter’s Day, 2002.

We hope that your scientific and support missions are going well for the rest of the wintering.

Best regards

Our greeting card for Mid-winter is attached in the mail.

Kokichi Kamiyama

Leader of the wintering party


Scott Base (New Zealand):

We, your friends at Scott Base, would like to extend our very best wishes and mid-winter cheer, to you and all the good folk of McMurdo Station.

We hope that the passage through the winter months remains as enjoyable for you, as it is for us. We are really enjoying sharing the winter with you all and your friendship has made a positive difference to our winter experience.

Yours Sincerely,

Luke Haddleton

Winter Base Manager,

Scott Base,



Sanae IV (South Africa):

Invitation (MS Word Document.  Please right click and select "save target as" to download).


South Pole, Admundsen-Scott (US):

Greetings to our Friends and Neighbors in Antarctica!

The members of the South Pole station community extend our best wishes to all of you for a joyous Midwinter Celebration. May this message find you safe, happy and enjoying a successful season in this unique and special part of the world.

We wish you continued success this winter and a safe return home to family and friends.

Warmest Regards,

Katrin Hafner

Winter Site Manager

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

United States Antarctic Program

Greeting card (MS Word Document.  Large file - 1.8 MB. Please right click and select "save target as" to download).


Sunday, June 23

Quite day at work.  No visitors and no alarms.  Almost like working nights.

I did find quite an interesting and addictive game on the internet.  Funny how the simplest things can keep one amused for hours. 

Tried to chat with Ella but the internet connection went dead no sooner than she logged on.  C'est la vie.

I keep intending to read The Little Drummer Girl, but can't quite develop an interest.  I only made it about 50 pages into it before putting it down.  John Le Carre is every bit the spy novelist as Tom Clancy (and even predates him), but the book comes across as too sophisticated for my tastes.  The characters border on pre-cognitive in their innate ability to think ahead of their enemies.  So much so that  I can't maintain my suspension of disbelief.  It's almost overdue at the "library", so I need to take it back sometime soon.

Monday, June 24

Movies I'm missing:  Windtalkers, Minority Report, and many others.  So many that I've lost count. I'm not even able to see movies that are just coming out on video.  I need a pop culture fix.

The panel that got "smoke tested" last week still isn't completely fixed.  I understand that the proper parts aren't on station.  The same situation goes with the Perkins generator that provides emergency power to the communications building.  Always good to know that there are no parts to repair the generator that might be needed to communicate with the outside world.

The logistical problems might go hand in hand with the jokes that I'm starting to hear about the quality of work.  "As long as it's running the day I turn over..." is one and "Can't see it from the plane..." is another.  Although I would like to think they're both jokes, I can't help but wonder if perhaps there is an element of truth behind them.  After all, with a turn over rate approaching 60% what incentive is there to do the job right.  Odds are the person doing the job isn't coming back.

Feeling a wee bit cynical today...

Tuesday, June 25

Last day at the plant for two days.  It surprises me to admit that after spending my off time at a second job, I actually appreciate my "real" job more.   I'm usually quite tired after a day of carrying, lifting, and installing stuff and not in much of a mood to do anything afterwards.  

Got the weekly logistics report and was a bit disheartened to learn that the daily food expenditure per person was only $2.71.  I'd noticed a lot of chicken and pasta being served (cheap to fix in bulk), but didn't think that the cost was that low.   If it wasn't for the baker, I would have probably starved.

Jake the baker is perhaps the most dangerous entity on the continent.  Because of him, most everyone has put on weight in the past few months.  His delicious desserts add a lot of calories to the diets of many of us.  And because we get tired of the same meals day in and day out, we eat more of his dangerous confectionaries than normal to make up for skipping the main courses.

Wednesday, June 26

Worked for the electricians on a different project today, and learned how to wire fluorescent lights in the process.  Also mangled my hands a bit.  Those things have fairly sharp edges.  I don't mind the finger cuts, it's the one in the palm of my hand that will annoy me for a few weeks.

Read about the Worldcom fiasco on the news.  How can you hide $4 Billion and get away with it for a couple of years is beyond me.  And what will now happen to the banks that granted them loans? The suppliers who provided equipment or services? How will they be affected when they can't recoup their investment?  Pensioners?  People socking away money for their retirement?  

Is there a shred of integrity out there any more?  Or has man's desire to line his wallet driven the word from the lexicon?  

Thursday, June 27

Headed to Scott Base for yet another Thursday.  

It occurs to me that if we're for the weekly 1 and 1/2 mile ride over there, I wouldn't have traveled outside of a 300 yard radius of the galley since winter started.  Strange how we have such a large continent to ourselves yet never venture more than a few paces away from our doorsteps.  

Friday, June 28

Too tired.  Hardly got any sleep last night.  Full moon, perhaps?  I've heard others complain of the same thing, but any evidence I find on the web about losing sleep due to the gravitational pull of the moon is anecdotal and not empirical.

So, I got off work and immediately went to sleep.  Foregoing even making any journal entries, opting instead to spend some quality time with my bed.

Saturday, June 29

I was in for a treat after work today.  My boss, Don, was driving a "Piston Bully" to an A-frame shelter on the ice shelf to drop two people off who were camping there for the night.  Since he was looking for someone to keep him company on the trip, he asked me to come along.  Not a problem...anything to get out of town for a few hours.

There are two camping permanent structures on the ice shelf to allow people the opportunity to escape town for while.  Recreation even provides a chauffeured trip and a boxed breakfast and lunch.  Since Don was qualified to operate the tracked Piston Bullys, he volunteered to give them a lift. 

Anyway, we left just after dinner and it took about an hour to get out there.  He let me drive on the way back, which was an interesting experience.  Despite their being tracked, their drove like a car complete with gas pedal and steering wheel.  Usually there are two gas pedals, one for either track, and varying the amount of fuel to either  enables you to steer.  We stopped on the return trip to watch for aurora.  It didn't take long before our eyes adjusted to the dark and we caught glimpses of a few weak ones around the sky.  The moon hindered our search, though, as it was still almost full and quite bright yet.   A lot of the aurora were in the direction of the moon making them much harder to spot.  Even if I had brought my tripod along, I don't think that I would have gotten good pictures of them. I probably wouldn't have felt like taking too many pictures, anyway, as it was also rather cold and windy.  The wind was blowing so fast that the snow that our tracks disturbed was passing us.  Sometimes we were left in a cloud of snow so thick that it created an artificial white out.  For all intents and purposes we couldn't see for more than 3-4 feet in front of us.  So, we'd have to stop for a few seconds and let the snow clear up, re-orientate ourselves, and drive for a short distance and then repeat the process.

Arrived back in town before 9:00 and had a few beers at the bar, after which I had no problem falling asleep when I crawled into bed at midnight.

Sunday, June 30

Slept in, had a fresh waffle with lots of whipped cream, and spent three hours chatting with Ella in the Coffee House.  Totally decadent day.  Or as decadent as we can get here.

Also treated myself to a game for the XBox.  Yes, I know that I won't get it for another 7-8 weeks, but ordering now gives it time to arrive in Chch and to make it on one of the WinFly planes when they starting flying.  The first plane will arrive on August 19 and then 5 more will follow every 2-3 days apart, weather permitting.  After that, there will be no planes until the first of October when "Mainbody" commences and the population will double for the summer season. The Air Force's is letting the NSF use their new C-17s, which are a gigantic step up from the C-141 that I flew down on not only in comfort but range, speed, and cargo capacity.  

I was taking a gander at some of the manifests and it looks as if about 400 people will be arriving while only 70 leave.  Essentially, then, our population will almost triple.  Although I'll miss the quiet, I'm sure, there are a few people that I'd like to see again.  They will  bring with them movies, freshies, and other goodies that we've done without for so long.  Unfortunately, they will bring along some unwelcome additions like the cold, flu, and any number of other bugs that we haven't been exposed to in a while. 


Main Journal Page

Back to May

On to July