Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Crozier Pictures

Here are some more pictures from my recent trip to Cape Crozier. I didn't take the one of the leopard seal, it's from USAP.gov. (It was shot at Crozier.) In one picture you can see all of Mount Erebus, with its ever present plume. In that one we are over a shoulder of Mount Terror, headed back to Mac Town. The other mountain picture is Mount Terror-- the summit is a little hard to make out. In the picture that shows the Ross Ice shelf, you can just barely make out a dirty edge to the sea ice, way down in the distance. That is actually hundreds of emperor penguins. For scale, the ice shelf is about a hundred feet high over the sea.

Another Cool Ride

About a week ago I got to go for another really cool ride at work. We have been having a hard time getting the wireless data service to the penguin camp at Cape Crozier working properly, so we went to fix it. We dropped two people on top of Mt Terror, and I was dropped off at the Crozier camp with a network engineer. Cape Crozier is the site of a HUGE penguin rookery. There are around 300,000 adelie penguins there, and a few hundred emperor penguins. Turns out we didn't have to do much on our end, so we got a chance to look around. The penguins are hatching right now, so we couldn't get very close, but got close enough to take a few telephoto pictures of some adelies. In the distance we could see the emperors on the ice edge, but didn't get close enough to photograph them. We saw a few minke whales playing in the bay. Some of the other techs are jaded after a long history of flying around in helicopters, but I'm still really stoked at the opportunity to get out of town. I'll continue to post pictures of my summer adventures. (Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Crozier http://noahstrycker.com/blog/2009/01/27/helo-to-cape-crozier/ http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/antarctica/terror.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Terror_(Antarctica))

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ride in the Blue One

It's coming up on a month now that I've been back at McMurdo. It's going pretty well, but there have been a few down sides. One my cohorts on the trip down infected all of us with the "McMurdo Crud". It's really just a cold or flu, but for some reason down here it packs more of a whallop. I've had it for over three weeks now, and I'm finally shaking it. I have a great immune system, and I can't remember EVER having a cold for more than a week. I pretty much got sick the day I hit the ice, so I'm really looking forward to being healthy.

The job is way different in the summer. Now we have helicopters, so a lot of the time we are flying around to various exotic mountaintops to fix or install radio gear. In the winter it was more just hanging around the shop, fixing radios and charging batteries and stuff-- not too exotic. That's one of the reasons I decided to come back for the summer-- it's a much sexier job when the sun's up.

Earlier in the week, I got a chance to fly in the fanciest of the five helicopters we have down here. The regular stable consists of two Bell 212s, and two A-Stars. The Kiwis brought this beautiful new blue one down to replace their old 212. I believe it is a Eurocopter EC-130. We had to fly out to the top of Mt Aurora, to fix a VHF repeater that had stopped working. It was a very windy day, so the helos had been grounded for most of the day, waiting for calmer weather. In the afternoon they decided to make a run for it. We loaded up our gear, and took off from the helo pad. The blue helo is very quiet-- I guess they are used exclusively at the Grand Canyon for that reason. We flew out across the sea ice and the Ross Ice Shelf at about a thousand feet. Mt Aurora is the highest point on Black Island, where McMurdo's satellite earth station resides, along with a bunch of other communications gear. (http://tinyurl.com/y878bt2) We landed the blue bird near the top of the mountain in howling winds. The pilot shut down and waited for us to do our work. After a bit, he started back up again, and landed in a more sheltered location. Coworker Mike and I replaced the broken dipole antenna on the repeater-- it had failed from constant exposure to the insane winds that Black Island sees (we saw through our remote monitoring system that winds had exceeded 200 MPH at one time last winter).

After checking to make sure the repeater was happy again, we schlepped our gear down to the helo, and loaded up. That's probably about the sixth time I had ridden in a helo, and it was definitely the spookiest. The pilots here are incredibly good, ours included, but taking off and landing a helicopter in high, gusty winds is just scary. I will surely get to do some more flying this summer-- I'm looking forward to it.