Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Recently I went out on the sea ice with a group of scientists to help them perform some tests on the breaking strength of sea ice. In this photo our camp is a small dot in the middle and we are about 400m from the edge of the sea ice. What the group does, is using a huge chainsaw (as seen below) cut out a block (not the one he is cutting there but the final product is the next photo) of ice 15ft by 30ft and isolate it so that it is floating free from the rest of the surrounding ice.
For me the real exciting part of the day was when the penguins showed up. From what appeared to be out of nowhere, we would be working and then these little guys(Adelie penguins) would show up just to check us out. As seen in the photo below, they were super curious and would get within just a few feet of you. Throughout the day about 20 of them camp into our camp, would check us out for a little while and then get bored and head off somewhere else.
The Adelie are super fun but eventually an Emperor penguin ended up waddling over. The Emperors are probably three times as big as the Adelies and probably about 80lbs. This one was by itself and seemed a little reluctant to come quite as close but still within about 15 ft. In all I probably watched penguins for about three hours of an 18 hour work day. The weather was beautiful, science was getting done, I helped out where I could, and was once again blown away by these amazing little animals in their natural habitat.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The last photo is of me at AGO3, located at about 10,000ft. To work at this site we had to just do a day trip because it is quite a pain in the butt for the small airplanes to fly that far away with a ton of gear. We made it a quick trip rather than no trip at all. As you can see this hut is a little lower then the other one. My job at this site was to dig things up while the scientists fixed the machines. As you can see by how pink my face is I have been outside all day getting sun burnt. The working temp was -35 so I just shoveled until I needed food or water and then would keep shoveling. At those temps I get very cold very quickly if I am not doing something. The good thing is that when I returned to McMurdo a few days later and it was 30F it felt like it was the middle of the summer.I really liked working at the AGO sites. There is nothing out there but I stayed busy helping the scientists and digging things up. It was by far the most remote I have ever been in my life and it felt like I was finally in Antarctica. When the plane flew away there was nothing as far as the eye could see, just a horizon line that is hard to tell what is land and what is sky. Pretty cool to think that the closest thing was a three hour flight away.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
So recently I had the opportunity to visit two of three old huts that are scattered around Ross Island. Both huts were built around the turn of the century either by Shackleton or Scott expeditions that were trying to cross Antarctica or go to the South Pole. The huts are in pretty amazing condition considering how old they are. The two pictures above are from the hut at Cape Evans. This is were Scott based out of when he went to the South Pole and then died on the way back. Inside the hut it was as if everyone just got up and left for the day and never returned. I am not sure if the penguin on the table is food or for an experiment. Inside this hut they had stables, a dark room, other little science labs, the cooking area, sleeping area and a huge table for everyone to eat at. The bad thing was that the lighting wasn't that great so it felt a little ire inside since it was such a ghost town. Just for a reference in the photo of the hut it is probably about three in the morning on a very cloudy night.
There is another hut located at Cape Royds which was used in one of Shackleton's expeditions when he was trying to cross the continent. The hut is very cool and my photos wouldn't download for some reason but maybe the will eventually get up there. The good thing is that there is an Adelie penguin colony right there which had probably a couple hundred penguins just hanging out getting ready to breed. It smelled pretty bad but those little guys are pretty funny to just sit and watch. They will steal rocks from each other to build nests and also a lot of wing flapping and making noise.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
The middle photo is of a random mountain, that I don't know the name of, that sticks up in the middle of the of the Taylor Glacier. The Taylor Glacier is huge, bigger than anything I have been on in Alaska at least where this photo is taken, probably about 15 miles across. I just really liked band of rock that ran through the middle of the mountain which exists in the final photo as well but is just hidden under the ice. The last photo is of an icefall, which I don't have the name of, where ice from the the eastern continental ice shelf is funneled into and then pushed over that cliff into the Upper Wright Glacier. It is probably about 5 miles across at the bottom edge of the photo. In the left hand corner of this photo you can see a white could coming down off the upper glacier. The winds were very strong over there and this is a giant cloud of blowing snow. This whole area is a giant specially managed area that is off limits to almost everyone. When you go in there you have to carry out all your waste including pee and poop so as to not leave a trace. This is somewhat of a surprise since McMurdo is one giant trace from both the military days and even now during the National Science Foundation rein, although things are getting better from what I hear.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
When I am not doing that, I am teaching classes. Right now, there are three types of classes. One is called, "happy camper", another is a sea ice class, and lastly, there is a refresher. The refresher, is the class for returning folks who just come in for four hours, set up a tent inside, lite a stove, watch some videos, and listen to me babble for a while.
In the sea ice class, we get new people who, as part of there job, need to travel on the sea ice. We start class with a little powerpoint show describing the sea ice and how it forms and where it typically cracks and what to look for when you are driving around. That lasts about an hour, and then we go out for the rest of the day and drill holes in the ice. McMurdo base is actually located on Ross Island. I have yet to actually go to the continent of Antarctica, I have been to Ross Island. A lot of research takes place out on the frozen ocean that surrounds the ice. The sea ice is also where the planes land and take off, as long as the ice isn't melting of course. At some point during the year, the ice will become too thin for planes to land, and the runway will be moved to a permanent ice shelf that is more expensive to operate from. So my job isn't to test the ice for the runway, but I do help get information for roads and tell other people where to put roads and stuff like that. During the sea ice class, I will take students out to an area where we need some data. Some of it is "off established roadways" so they get a view of what it would be like to travel in new terrain, and some is just checking existing roads that are already starting to have cracks form in them. Where there are cracks, we drill down to find out how thick the ice is, and see if it is safe for a vehicle to travel across. It isn't rocket science, but it is pretty fun.
At happy camper school, I teach people how to use all the stuff in a survival bag. We set up tents, build snow walls with a saw and shovel in the bag. We will dig a snow shelter that looks similar to an igloo, and then teach them how to cook. That, and a slide show about frostbite and hypothermia, are roughly day one of a two day course. It is a full day, and people are pretty tired, especially if the weather is bad. For day two, we talk about how things went, teach them how to use a very high frequency(VHF) and a HF radio, and then give them a scenario where they have to set everything up pretty quick. Most people seem to love happy camper. It is their opportunity to get out camping away from the base, and do something different. It is a challenge, but one they are happy to face and over come. Some people do have an absolutely miserable experience, where they don't sleep, are always cold, and just want to get it over with so they can tell their friends the horror stories.
The classes are fun, and a good way to meet people. It also helps that it is a way I can get off base, and I get to bring other folks with me, which makes people really happy. Here are a couple of photos, one of me laying next to a mumified Weddell Seal, and another of a friend drilling during a sea ice class.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
I wanted to include some photos of things that I get to see daily that at first were very funny, but are now just the norm. Hopefully, they will be funny to you as well. The first one is a sign in the bathroom. Everything that gets thrown away has its own place; bio waste is just one of the many trash containers we have that the janitorial staff has to empty. You don't want to screw up where you put things, because it makes sorting all the stuff a disgusting pain in the butt. The second is the United States Antarctica Program(USAP) symbol. It is on everything. It is still pretty cool. The third is a little piece of art that is on someone's door. The rumor mill, is exactly what McMurdo is. People having nothing to talk about other than their job and what other people are doing. It is pretty crazy. Lastly, I threw in a photo of myself at a superhero-themed party. I went as FDX man. FDX are the big boots that I have on my feet. My power was to keep peoples feet warm.
To a certain degree all is quiet on the southern front. Work starts at 7:30 and goes until 5:30 and the normal work week is Monday through Saturday. It doesn't leave a lot of time in the day to do stuff, and the weekend, Sunday, is spent recovering from the work week and Saturday night. Work has been going well. I have been getting out onto the sea ice and trying to do some measurements to make sure we can put in a road. I say "try", because twice now, the expedition has been thwarted by vehicle malfunctions. Everyone just says "it is part of being down here", "Antarctica is a harsh continent", but those just kind of seem like excuses to me. Coming from NOLS, it is hard for me to see the value in going out to do a job, and just having to turn around and come back, accomplishing nothing with the energy I expend. On an expedition, everything has a purpose and a pretty direct outcome. The rewards seem so tangible. I wonder whether I need to shift my thinking to, "this is just how things run down here", or if it's possible to make changes in the system. Chao
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Feel free to send whatever and I don't think postage rates are that bad. It is the same as sending something to California. As of now I don't have any requests but some of you probably know me better than I know myself.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Hola amigos, this being the first time I have actually written on my B-log, I feel I have a little bit of catching up to do since Jake so graciously set this up for me. My time in Michigan seeing friends and family was great. Denver and orientation with Raytheon were rather pointless other than the fact that I was getting paid. Shortly after my little stint in Denver about 50 of us boarded a commercial plane and flew to Christchurch, New Zealand. Here is where the story might get remotely interesting. In Christchurch I was getting paid my normal salary and also a per diem of about $200 a day. Finally, I was able to live like the king I am. In New Zealand I tried to load up on good fresh food, enjoy the weather, and soak up as much live vegetation as possible. In between doing that, I got a ton of gear called ECW ( Extreme Cold Weather gear) and packed up my things to leave. On my scheduled morning of departure I received a phone call at 3:00am (normal departure time was 3:30am since the flight is 5hrs and the sun is now setting around 3pm) saying that our flight was delayed for the next 24hrs. What this meant was that I had a day off with more per diem money. Some friends and I quickly rented a car and drove to the Hanmer Hot Springs where we basted for a few hours, and then indulged in some more fine dining back in Christchurch, all on the company dollar. The next morning I had to get up and actually go to work, which meant a flight on a C-17 (see photo above, which is when we landed and are deplaning) which as I mentioned before is about 5 hrs sitting in a very loud giant tin can with no views; lots of fun as you can imagine. After landing, we drove in an enormous bus, "Ivan the Terra bus"(you can probably Google a photo of that) to McMurdo where we were given a room and some time to settle in. That was yesterday. The other photo is of my first sunset. After the sun sets it takes about another 2 hours for the light to go away, which means that we have somewhere around 9 hours of usable light but are gaining about 10 minutes of sunlight a day this time of year. As for temperatures, it is pretty cold, highs of +1 to lows of-10 with wind chill bringing it to around -35. That is the quick version of the past month of my life.
Here are some of my thoughts on the whole process, from hiring to now being down here. I first put in for this job (working as a field safety instructor) as just some kind of change. NOLS has been amazing, but to a certain degree I feel like I have hit a plateau, at least working as much as I have been. The Raytheon hiring process and working two courses this summer was really challenging, but with a ton of help from my personal secretary (thanks, Jake) this job seemed to just fall in my lap. This hasn't been a lifelong goal but is something that came around at just the right time and is a welcome change. Seeing the differences between a huge global corporation and a smaller but also worldwide non-profit has been interesting. Raytheon is a machine and I have felt almost zero investment in personal care from the company. It has only been through the good graces of experienced folks that this process has been enjoyable; otherwise I might be wondering why I am down here. Some NOLS folks might recognize that same attitude, but there are certain perks I have recently experienced like having travel completely paid for, and receiving food and lodging money as opposed to paying for it. With NOLS, I feel as if students are welcomed and given personal treatment and everyone is excited about making a course an experience that is unforgettable, and Raytheon is not concerned about that and seems more focused on providing things that will keep people working. Just some ideas.
As for Antarctica, I feel as if I could be anywhere in the United States, and have more creature comforts than I have had in years. There is a gym, a bowling alley, a ceramics room, an arts and crafts room, a climbing wall and a cafeteria that serves three meals a day. There are also tons of big ugly buildings, roads, and power lines everywhere that are certain to obstruct the most amazing views. People come in all shapes and sizes, which for some means incredibly obese, which leaves me often wondering what that person's job is, because I want it. This is not to say that everyone needs to be a skinny workout freak like myself, but more that my expectations were blown away in that anyone and everyone has the ability to come down here and work. It is only when you leave a building and the cold wind slaps you in the face and stings your lungs that it actually feels like you are at the end of the earth. That, and when you take the time to walk away from the buildings, even just a few minutes so you can't hear the hum of the diesel generators or see the power lines, do you get unbelievable views of enormous tracts of wilderness. I am excited about flying around in helicopters in a month when the scientists that I am supposed to keep safe show up, but for the time being I am going to be teaching people on the base how to keep themselves and their co-workers from getting some sort of cold injury, monitoring an ice road, and doing some search and rescue training. Abrazos a todo
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Galen promised to put his Antarctica address on the blog when he get it. He said priority mail can get there in as little as 3 days. (we'll see about that)
That's all for now.
Signing off for Galen,
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Jake here again. I thought I would update you all as Galen has been under the weather a bit. Galen needed to have two wisdom teeth taken out. He has been sleeping a bunch the last couple days. Word on the street is that he is feeling better today. Lets hope so.
OK that's the update.
Friday, July 27, 2007
This is Galen's friend Jake. I started this Blog for Galen (because he does not know how to use a computer). We all hope that Galen will find a few free moments to keep us all up to date with what he is up to while way down south. To the left is a photo of Galen taken on a short trip to the Harding Ice Field in April '07. As you can see he takes his umbrella with him everywhere. He will probably even take it to Antarctica (even though it will never rain). OK, that's it. Check back for more posts coming soon (we hope).