Getting Thrown into the Fire (Freezer)
SOUTH POLE, ANTARCTICA– The first few weeks on station have been hectic to say the least. Generally, the idea is to get the previous station chief and electronics technician (Marc Weekley and Patrick Cullis) off the ice as soon as we can. This gives only a little over a week of overlap with them to digest all the information they pass down on the status of the observatory. Usually this works out just fine as things are pretty well documented as they happen over the course of the year. I also came into the Pole with an experienced South Pole veteran to get me on my feet for the first month or so. This time however, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Marc and Cully left on schedule leaving my partner and me to take over. Wouldn’t you know it, the very next day my partner has to leave the ice for a health-related issue and I’m left to run the station on my own having only been there a little over a week! Sometimes, in my opinion, this is the best way to learn. Luckily in this modern age we have email and phone communication quite often. Even when I did run into snags doing the daily tasks, I was usually able to get answers to my questions pretty quickly.
Those daily tasks that I mentioned mostly just involve going through all the equipment in the station and making sure that it is running correctly. Some instruments need daily adjusting to keep them acquiring good data. Others operate on their own pretty well (look for future posts to go more in depth on what exactly these instruments are and what they measure). Throw in setting up some new instruments, launching two ozonesondes (ozone measuring weather balloons) a week and flask sampling (capturing air to sample in flasks), it keeps one pretty busy especially when not really experienced with much of it.
Help has now arrived as Mark VanderRiet arrived last week and Lana Cohen has arrived today. With a couple of weeks under my belt, I am starting to feel much more comfortable on the day-to-day operations and things seem to be running smoothly for the most part. We’ve shipped most of the sampled air flasks that have accumulated over the winter back to their project locations (due to the fact that there are no flights to ship them during the winter season), and are getting ready to receive the shipment of new flasks and other supplies for the up coming year.
As for life on station, it is pretty incredible how we are living down here if you consider what a remote location this is. The room I was assigned is plenty big for my needs and is pretty comparable to the size of room that I had when I was on the NOAA Ship Fairweather. The recreation schedule here is full. Every night of the week there is something going on in the gym (volleyball seems to be the most popular), and there is a great selection of movies and TV shows in the store. The observatory is a great place to hang out in the evenings too if you want to relax and watch a movie. It also gives you a chance to shoot some evening Dobsons too (the Dobson is an ozone measuring instrument)! And by the way, winning bingo twice in one night is not a good way to make friends around here.
Once things settle down, I’m excited to show you all what kind of equipment we have at the Atmospheric Research Observatory, and what it measures. Hopefully I can get into some of the other projects that are going on down here at the Pole as well. I would think I’ll have time, I’m here for the long haul!