Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week One: Ice Drill Crew

The first week of working on the ice drilling crew was great! We spent all week setting up drill camp which basically involves connecting lots of hoses, electrical cables, moving buildings around and finding equiptment and supplies. We have been making great progress and at the end of the week got the drill tower and TOS buildings moved to the hole sites. Looking into the firn holes is spooky, such a long deep hole into the ice!

 The bulldozer drivers have been digging the ice top pits and I think they may been done by now. It was cool to see three of them out in the dark sector digging.

Waiting for the twin otter to take off so we can go to lunch.

Mike showing me where to line up the TOS to the Tower.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Down at the Pole

I have arrived at South Pole Station, well three days ago that is. The flight in was smooth and it was the first time I was able to see the mountains on the way in. What an incredible range! Being able to see this gave me a much better idea of just how far away we are. Last season the weather was too cloudy to see a thing.

Today was my first day on the job with Ice Cube. We basically spent all day digging out drill camp. It is a lot of snow to move but we nearly completed the job. I spent the day clearing snow off the roofs of the buildings. Which may seem like a monotonous task but it was pretty fun. If you do it right you can break big chunks off at a time because the snow gets so hard packed during the winter. So when you have a clear roof it is pretty fun. Cleaning out around pipes, hoses and other objects is a bit more challenging. Chad and Blayne were able to make progress on getting the Generator wired.

It felt great to be working out in the cold again. I forgot how intense it can be. While working today my whole face was iced up (my South Pole happy face) and my eyelids (eyelashes really) were even freezing together a bit. So invigorating, these conditions really stir up a resilient side of me that thrives in tough conditions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Run in Christchurch and Delays in McMurdo

Mt. Discovery
Well here I am writing from McMurdo Station Antarctica. It is a little strange to be back to the ice again after a year away and with no expectation of returning. This time around it feels more down to business that the last. But ironically  I have already done more exploring and already have had more fun. This probably has to do with the fact that this time around I am a grantee rather than working for Raytheon and...not being all torn up about a divorce. Anyway...

The cathedral in Cathedral Square.
 Christchurch was a lot of fun! As soon as I dropped my bags off in the hotel room I put on my running shoes and hit the streets. The first run in over two months felt great! I tread lightly down through the streets of the city until I arrived at the botanic gardens. Once there, I made a big loop taking in the beautiful sights and smells of blooming trees, bushes and well... flowers. The air was literally sweet with blooming plants. I then crashed totally exhausted from 30-some hours in planes and airports.

These guys had a video game system!
The next morning I woke up itching for another run. So I threw on my shorts and headed out the door. I started to jog and saw a big radio tower on top of one the Port Hills outside of town. It looked a little ways away but not too far. So I went for it, I figured I had five hours before I needed to be back to go get ECW gear. Running through town was nice, I just meandered around finding my way and stopping for a quick granola bar I was able to buy at a corner store. After a bit more running and getting some directions from a kid about how to get to the trailhead of that hill I arrived at the entrance of a little valley that led up the radio tower. On the way up the steep trail birds were calling from the pine trees and mountain bikers were clunking down their special trails.

To my relief near the top there was a water fountain! I drank about 2 liters of water before heading out and had a sip of someones lost of stashed water bottle laying on the side of the trail, by now I was pretty thirsty. So I drank up and got on my way. I made it to the tower soaked in some views of the ocean and ran back to town. The way down being a sheep shit adventure! Overall the run was about 15 or 16 miles and felt great!

Helicopter in the plane with us.

The next day I got all packed up and headed out to the airport. Once there it was pretty routine. Check bags, eat breakfast, watch video get on the plane and go. I will say that this is the first flight I have ever shared with a helicopter!
The entrance to the observation tube.

Once at McMurdo we all found out that our flight to the pole had been canceled and that we most likely wouldn't leave until Thursday. So a couple nights in Mac Town it is.

This morning I went for a lovely run out to Hut Point and back. Later I was able to go down into an observation tube under the sea ice and see all the crystals. It was pretty amazing.

Under the sea ice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flights are confirmed!

I am now PQ'd and ticketed for my flights down to the South Pole! I will be leaving Denver next Friday November 5th. This leaves me exactly one week in Denver to see friends family and get some climbing, hiking and even skiing in!

What a turn around from hot and flat to cold and mountainous to cold and flat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Physical Qualification: Ongoing

Things are getting down to the wire. In two more weeks I should be standing at the South Pole again ready to start drilling the last seven holes for the Ice Cube project. I am super excited to get down there and be taking part in such an incredible project.

Right now I am finishing up working a nuclear power plant outage in Florida and getting my physical qualification's in order. I missed needing to have blood work done, so this week I scrambled around to find a doctor that was open when I got off work to have blood drawn. After a handful of calls I was recommended to call the urgent care center down here in Homestead, FL. Sure enough they were open until 8 P.M. Last night I went straight there after work and had blood drawn and sent to the lab. They should have the results faxed to the medical folks tomorrow.

After they PQ me they can book flights and hotels for me letting me know when I need to be in Denver by!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


So it is official I am headed back down to the South Pole Station this season to work for the University of Wisconsin as a driller. I will be working on drilling the final seven holes of the Ice Cube neutrino telescope.  But for now I have been busy getting all the paperwork filled out and sent in to the right people. I am also waiting to hear back from Raytheon as to whether or not I P.Q.'d. I can' t imagine not qualifying but until you have the confirmation it is up in the air.

P.Q.'ing or getting physically qualified means going to see a doctor and dentist to make make sure that you  are healthy enough to live and work at the South Pole. That has been a slight adventure since I am living in Miami while working a nuclear power outage down here.