Friday, August 31, 2007

Lunar eclipses are stupid

So the other night I had one of the more amazing evenings that I can remember. Now, some of you might be thinking that I met my future wife, and we stayed up late talking and getting to know each other, and now we can barely stand to be apart. For those of you that had thoughts like this, I am sorry that we haven't communicated enough and you are able to jump to this sort of conclusion, but people that know me well might see where this entry is headed. On the night of the 28th there was a scheduled lunar eclipse, and around 9:00 that night a group of us decided to leave the main buildings and go for a walk to try to see the eclipse without all the lights of town. When we left, the moon was clouded over, but you could see through the clouds that the shadow of the earth was starting to pass across the moon's face. It didn't seem like it would be that great of a show, but we decided to wait and hope for the best. After what seemed like an eternity, the moon was eclipsed, with just a penumbra glowing around the edges; and at just about the same time, the clouds started to part. We had a crystal clear view of the moon and because it was so dark we could also start to see the Aurora Australis. At first, it was just little hazy spots of green not doing much, but it turned into a full show with serpentine-like creatures writhing across the sky and tornados of green spinning overhead. The spectacle lasted about a half hour before fizzling out. We just lay on the ground in -10 temps with almost no wind, soaking the whole thing up. I have seen the Northern Lights a few times, and this wasn't the best show I have ever seen, but needless to say, it was very impressive. I don't think I even bothered to look at the eclipse when I turned and walked home. Perfect. I also included a nice photo from the inside of the c-17. That is what the flight from New Zealand looked like.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gone Down

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

out of Alaska

Galen has left the state! That's right he has begin the multi-day and multi-thousand mile journey down South. Galen had a great send off meal last night at Bombay Deluxe restaurant in Anchorage (which he also graciously paid for surreptitiously, thanks Galen!). Today Galen is at home in Michigan and his next leg of the trip will take him to Denver, then Christchurch, NZ where he will wait for a C-130 (large 4 engine cargo plane) to take him to the lowest continent, when the weather allows. For an update on his mouth: Galen is back on a full diet of soft and stabby food.
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,