February at the South Pole

Sunday, 1 February 2004
I woke up on my own at 08:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. Eventually, I got dressed and went over to B-155 and jumped online while I waited for brunch to start. I caught up on my non-Pole e-mail, and chatted with Erin at home. When the galley opened, I logged out and went down the hall for some food.

The selection was more or less the same as at Pole - Omelettes, Bagels, Fried Potatoes, Breakfast Meat, etc. I started brunch with Peter and Andrea, and moved over to finish with Mitch, Rich and Andrea. After brunch, Angela, Rich and I went over to B-175 to put my laptop on the network and make a copy of all the photos on the common drive. While we waited, Angela reached someone on the Icebreaker and made arrangements for a tour at 18:00.

With bagdrag tonight, and all my packing still to do, I went straight back to my room to get it done. I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting and packing, and was the first Polie at the MCC with my bags. I had to stop next door at B-175 to retrieve my laptop, and by the time I got back to the MCC, the rest of the gang were just finishing up with their own bags. From the MCC, we walked down to the pier for our tour (after stopping at various dorms for cameras and whatnot).

There ended up being ten of us for the tour, Pete, Angie, Peter, Andrea, Billy, Angela, Nick, Kris, and me. One of the junior crewmembers took us around the boat, through the helo hangar, up to the bridge, down to the galley, past the ship's store (which was unfortunately closed), and down to the engineering spaces. I'd been on the boat before, but I still enjoyed going through it again.

Dinner was almost over by the time we walked back to the Galley. I grabbed a slice of fish and some fish chowder, and went on over to the Coffee House for a while and ran into Kris and Angela. We decided to visit Hut Point for one last chance to spot whales. When we didn't see any, Kris led us around the paths a little, to places I'd never been to before. It wasn't particularly cold, but it was windy. I was glad to get inside again, when we walked back for midrats. After we ate, I stopped by the public computers to check e-mail one last time before we left, and I went to bed.

Monday, 2 February 2004
I got up at 06:45, a few minutes later than I had wanted to. I threw the loose items in my desk into my orange bag, put on my ECW and ran over to the Galley to say some goodbyes and to grab a bagel for the flight. Angela and I were the last two to get to the MCC and climb on the Terrabus. We rode out to Willy, and straight to the plane. When we got there, I could see the DVs out the window, boarding the plane (they got a ride in a van, rather than being packed like cattle on the Terrabus). It took only a few minutes for us to board the plane, taxi and take off.

I spent the three and a half hours listening to music and reading "The Cuckoo's Egg". I wasn't expecting a meal, but they handed out skua sacks. I ate about half of it, and washed it down with a box of N.Z. fruit juice. The flight was uneventful; we touched down at Pole a few minutes early and deplaned with the engines turning (they never shut down at Pole to keep the cold from damaging anything). There was a small group there to welcome us and say goodbye to the folks that were leaving on our plane. Nick and Jules were there, Sarah, and a few more. Bill McAfee helped me with my orange bag (I'd lost a bit of my acclimatization after week at sea level), and we went into the dome.

After dropping off my gear in the back of Science, I went to the Post Office to check on packages from home. They didn't have a single one for me. Mary was outside, under the dome, bundling up shirts. She told me they had taken all of my packages to my room. When I threw open the door, I couldn't believe it - almost every inch of my bed had a package on it, things I'd ordered over the Internet, a package from my old COSI buddy Jeff George, packages from Erin, and Ken & Tina. I finally got my tripod, my magnifier lens for my digital camera, some electronic components, and lots of tasty goodies. Some of these things had been stuck in the Antarctic mail system since the first week of December.

It was already a long day for me, so I cleaned off my bed and crashed out for a while. I woke up well into the evening and went over to the bar to see who was leaving tomorrow. Pedro was there, celebrating his last night at Pole. When midnight rolled around, a bunch of us headed up the beercan for midrats.

Tuesday, 3 February 2004
Up at midrats, I sat with the AST/RO crowd, while the AMANDroids trickled in to fill a different table. While we were eating, Tom Pi showed his summer documentary - scenes from Christchurch through some of the recent departures, with audio overlay of him asking various Polies questions about life and home and working at the Pole. I made it on screen for about three seconds of footage during Thanksgiving.

After midrats, I went back down to Science, where I was greeted by pages and pages of error messages. Something happened when I was on R&R, and now the disks on one of our data handling machines were filling up. I spent all night checking directories and unclogging congestion. I took my first break when I heard the all call that the PAX flight was getting close. I grabbed my parka and ran out to the fuel pit.

Leaving today are Jodi, Moose, Molly, and several others. Sarah is going to McMurdo for a week's R&R before coming back to winter. I gave hugs and handshakes all around, then went up to the Galley. Up on the deck, right outside the door, Cookie Jon was roasting a whole pig. I could smell it half-way out to the fuel pit. It's for the Super Bowl party later tonight. Inside, they were serving Roast Beef Sandwiches and Curly Fries. After eating, I went back down to the back of Science to watch how well the disks were recovering from their earlier congestion.

I stayed up too late into the afternoon. I kept waking up, then rolling over for more sleep. I slept through dinner, through the party, and even through midrats.

Wednesday, 4 February 2004
I finally threw myself out of bed around 02:30 and went downstairs to the back of Science. Tom and Klaus were working there, and since we all had missed midrats, we headed up to the Galley to see about some leftovers; the place was completely deserted. One our way back down to Science, we stopped by the bar. It was also deserted, except for Adam playing a game on the PS2.

Over in Science, Tom and Klaus went back to work on their stuff, I went back to work on mine, manually draining the disk backlog. Shana stopped by, and we all ended up talking about travelling in China and things around the Pole that are more than a little inconvenient. After a while, Shana wandered off, Klaus went off to bed, and I went to my room to grab a noodle bowl to tide me over until breakfast.

Jeff showed up for our trip out to MAPO around 08:15. I had to grab a few things, so Jeff started to walk there on his own. I came back down, put on my parka and walked out the garage arch and to the skidoo. It started for me on the second pull! I had no delays crossing the skiway - all the flights are on weather delay until at least 10:00. There was so much blowing snow and ice crystals that I couldn't see MAPO until I was on the other side of the skiway.

I got myself inside and started shutting down equipment as fast as I could. The power went off as I was shutting down equipment that's on a UPS. With everything down, I settled into a long wait until they restored the power. I walked downstairs to the VULCAN room and got Justus to come up and help me lift a UPS back up to its spot at the top of the last rack. With nothing else to do, I zipped back across the skiway to wait in a more comfortable place. Just as I got back to Science, the fire alarm went off. It's burger day, and the fans blow the smoke from the grill right past a smoke sensor, downstairs in the fan room. They figured it out quick enough, but once I was out of Science responding to the alarm, I figured I might as well go back to MAPO and finished waiting there.

When I got back to the detector room, I was just in time for a call from Paul that the upgrades were going slowly and it would be another 30 minutes at least. I went downstairs to the machine shop to talk to the electricians, who, like me, were waiting for things outside the building to be finished. They finally brought our new transformer online, and I went back upstairs to begin turning on the detector. I didn't want to miss lunch, so I brought things part of the way up, zipped back to the galley for a burger, then came right back out to finish bringing the detector up. I was all set to go when Klaus told me he wanted to run some flasher tests (which crash the detector). I waited around as long as I could, but eventually had to go home. I rode back, stopped off at the fuel pit to refill the skidoo, then dropped the key off at Al's desk.

Before going upstairs, I watched over our data collection program until it was finished with its tape, changed tapes, then called it a day. I did fire up IM from my room to watch for Erin, but no matter how I tried, I couldn't stay awake to see her sign on. I woke up several times, checked IM, then kept rolling over and going back to sleep.

Thursday, 5 February 2004
I woke up for midrats, went to the galley and sat with the other AMANDroids. We talked about the state of the detector and driving Volkswagens. Jeff came by our table at the end of the meal and finally got to meet Steve. When we were done, Steve, Tom and Klaus all went out to MAPO, and I went back down to Science to change tapes and keep spoonfeeding the backlog.

About an hour after I got to my desk, the fire alarm sounded in the Old Upper Galley. I only got as far as the tunnel out of the dome before they called the "disregard". My guess is that someone let the popcorn machine smoke.

Tom and Wolfgang returned from MAPO with no new news about the detector. Something hasn't been quite right all day, but nobody can figure out what it is. I went to breakfast late, after everything was put away, and grabbed a cinnamon roll on my way out the door to wait for the shuttle. The same shuttle picked up Mitch and Bill for our Iridium meeting. We got out to MAPO and spent an hour talking about our options with Steve. I looked around the detector room for a few minutes, then left with Mitch.

Back over in Science, I pored over some of the statistics and discovered that two of the strings were not producing hits. That really helps narrow down the location of the problem. There's only a few things that can cause that kind of symptoms. I called Steve, who was still over in MAPO, and asked him to take a look at a particular crate - some of the lights were on, but not all of them. They are hidden behind a mass of cables that makes it difficult to see exactly which ones are on. About all you can see without lifting up several dozen wires is that there are or are not lights back there. I stopped off to grab a bite of lunch before taking the shuttle back over to MAPO to sleuth the mystery of the missing lights.

As I already knew, some of the lights were on, and some were off. I pulled the power supply and checked it on the bench - it was producing both +12VDC and -12VDC, just as it should. I re-installed it to see if perhaps one of the two voltages was failing under the load, and when I did, everything lit up as it should. All I can figure is one of us must have bumped the cable when we were powering everything off for the power outage. I ramped up the high voltage to those strings, and the data rates were back at their expected levels. After watching everything hum for a few minutes, I called the shuttle and headed out the front door to wait for it.

There was an LC-130 in the fuel pit, but the shuttle managed to get across the skiway both ways without getting caught by the crossing beacon. There were tourists from Mactown on the plane, just at Pole for as long as it takes to unload cargo and refuel (a few times a year they let a few people come to Pole who have never been here. We've had exceptionally good weather, and we are slightly ahead on our planned cargo schedule, allowing a few of these "Turkey Flights"). I had a few minutes before my scheduled pre-winter de-brief with the Shrink, so I walked from the shuttle to the beercan via the geographic pole. I only saw one person there I knew from McMurdo, Don, who works in Crary. We talked for a minute, then they started herding the people back to the plane so it could leave.

I had my fifteen minutes with the Psychologist. Most of her questions were about what I planned to do to keep myself busy over the winter, and if I had any concerns. Since this wasn't my first winter, neither she nor I were really worried about how I'd adapt. I'm really looking forward to that last plane, when we can turn our attentions from the comings and goings, and get down the business of keeping things running smoothly.

Before calling it a day, I went back down to Science to make sure the backlog was still going away... it was. I think we're about half-way through it now. I was going to go crash then, but I got sidetracked and ended up working through until dinner time. I went up to the Galley with Tom and Serap; we sat with Cargo. They were showing off their new Cargo T-Shirts. There was something unusual tonight in the galley: a single table, over by the window, with a tablecloth and a sign that said "Reserved". Apparently, one of the gifts at the Christmas Gift Exchange was a private dinner for two. Cookie Jon, on his day off, cooked for, and served, the winners, Mountain and Lynna. A couple of times, on his way past, Cookie dropped off a small plate at our table. One had thin slices of a seared Beef Tenderloin with a sweet Soy-Ginger Sauce; another had slivers of Crisped Chicken Breast on a bed of Vinegared Cucumber and Carrot with a disk of Polenta. They were the tastiest things I'd had outside of one of our holiday meals.

After we'd passed around the plates of excellent hors d'ouerves, the gang at my table dispersed to get ready for Cinco de Montho and the latest going-away party. I went by my room to shower and change, then stopped by the back of Science to swap tapes. By the time I made it to the party, it was at least 21:00. The bar was moderately crowded; Sean was playing DJ, as usual. I danced for a little bit. There was some excitement when Pete dropped by with one of the McMurdo tourists (from a late cargo flight). I lasted until almost midnight, but then after a very long day, I had to go home and crash.

Friday, 6 February 2004
When I woke up, I was lying in bed, debating breakfast or sleeping in, when a fire alarm in the new station got me up. As usual, the disregard all call came quickly, but I was awake enough to not go back to sleep. I signed on from my room and checked a few things, including my e-mail. All the winter-overs got the message that Billy had NPQed for his back. He's up in Christchurch at the moment, but may get a chance to come back to finish the summer here. Right after I got through my mail, the satellite set; I went downstairs to the back of Science.

Things with the detector were looking good. As I watched things run, there was a parade of folks saying goodbye on their way out, Big Kevin, Shana, Paul Sullivan, and so on. I heard over the radio that the PAX flight was almost here. I walked out with Met Paul to see today's crew off. Along with the people I'd already said goodbye to, Trace was there, Tyler, Bob Spotz Jr. and Sr. There was a nice halo with sundogs when we first walked out, but it clouded over before they'd even started boarding. Without the bright sun and clear skies, it cooled off quickly. I took a few pictures of folks waiting to depart, then walked over to chat with the departing psycologists.

Up in the galley, it was one of the ultimate American comfort-food lunches: Grilled Cheese, Tater Tots and Tomato Soup (I skipped the soup). I joined Justus, Angela, Allan and Randi. After the main course, Justus and Angela got up and brought back fresh fruit to share around the table. Bananas aren't common here, even in the summer. I picked one up and recreated a dessert I saw Robert make earlier in the summer - a plate covered with sliced bananas, topped with a layer of vanilla ice cream, lots of slivered almonds, and drizzled with Hershey's syrup. The folks at the table ooh'ed and aah'ed over it. Justus joked about wanting some; I threw down a fistful of spoons to share. Between about three of us, we polished it off before dispersing to our afternoons.

Before I left the galley, I pulled out my new 1.5X lens for my Olympus, and took a few pictures out the window. Back down in Science, I finished up a tweak to one of our scripts, and changed the mail config to send mail to Windows-using Polies to the local server, not Denver, which means that local e-mail will work when the satellites are down. Jeff stopped through the pack of Science on his way out to meet Serap at SPASE. I showed him the graphical client for resetting the values in the newer OMs, and after explaining how it all worked to him, I decided to write up some basic documentation. I spent the next two hours writing raw HTML.

Late in the afternoon, LES-9 came up. I checked on where Gus McLeod was; the tracking system on his webpage shows that he hasn't departed. It was late enough that the store was open. I stopped by and saw a sign that there was a limit on Canterbury Draught of two six-packs per day (rationing is common towards the end of summer, to leave enough goodies in the store for the winter-overs). I grabbed a six-pack, and a souvienir CD of summer photos (some of which are mine). Before heading up the beercan for dinner, the last thing I did at work was to watch the detector roll over for the day. When it was on the new run, I went upstairs.

Dinner was excellent: Beef Wellington and fresh Asparagus, finished with an Ice Cream Cake. Afterwards, I went back down to Science. When I left, the place was empty. When I got back, every seat but mine was full. Tom pulled out a very nice digital camera to take pictures of us working. I borrowed a tiny, collaspible tripod from Wolfgang, and took one of my own. As often happens with camera geeks, Tom and I pulled everything out to show it off, and see what each other had. It was too crowded to work in peace, so went up to the bar (skipping Slushies).

For a Friday, it wasn't crowded at all. I sat with Byron, Sean, and some guy from Denver that they knew and I didn't. We talked about being in the military (I couldn't contribute much there), Polies and getting through the winter, and I told them the story about the NASA anthropologist that was studying winter-overs when there were only 28 (to make comparisons with long-term space crews). A few people passed through now and again, but we were the "crowd" for the night.

Saturday, 7 February 2004
Met Paul dropped by after his shift ended at midnight. We sat at the bar and talked for a while. After a while, people started dispersing. The Denver guy went back to his Hypertat to pack for the morning. I went back to the back of Science for a while before going up to the Galley for breakfast. Later in the morning, I checked on Gus McLeod's progress - he's finally in the air. He might make it here by dinner-time.

Well before lunch, I called it a day. I woke up mid-afternoon and managed to squeeze in a shower before the IT folks started House Mouse. Back down in Science, I jumped on e-mail right when the satellite rose. From the traffic, it looks like Gus McLeod won't be coming here after all. After catching up on all the news, it was time for dinner, Pizza and Clam Chowder. I met Henry, freshly arrived for winter (he was going to winter at McMurdo, but he's here to replace Brandon, who's leaving at the end of summer); we talked about what movies we'd brought down (we're both fans of "Family Guy", among other things). Mountain stopped by my table; he wanted to swap South Pole Film Festival Movies.

Down in Science, Mountain brought by his CDs with Jack's music videos (I'm in one of them). In return, I was able to give him copies of Tyler's movies. I didn't stay at my desk long. Someone was smoothing snow in the dome with a loader, and all of Science reeked of diesel fumes. I went over to the bar for yet another going-away party. I danced for a bit, but there were too many smokers; I had to stand outside for a while to get some fresh air. Eventually, I went back to my desk to continue to spoonfeed the system through its backlog.

It was a typical evening in the back of Science - more crowded than any other part of the day. Some of the other AMANDroids were trading South Pole Film Festival movie files. Jeff came by with his entry, a mock "Kill Bill" trailer. I was there for one of his scenes, but, unfortunately for me, I was out of the frame. Midnight rolled around, and I went up for midrats on my way out to the El Dorm for a birthday party for Jeremiah.

Sunday, 8 February 2004
I don't think they cooked midrats tonight. All I found in the galley was cold pizza. I went out to the El Dorm for the birthday party. The lounge was packed. I really hadn't been out here more than once or twice all summer. It's not a bad place to have a party. Jeremiah, the birthday boy, asked me to explain AMANDA and neutrinos (I get that a lot at parties). He told me that I explained things well and that I should give a science lecture some time.

I stuck around to the end, and helped clean up. The walk back to the dome wasn't bad - sunny and not too windy. I queued up some more files to continue to drain the backlog, then stopped by the bar to see if there was anything going on there. It was down to the last two or three people, so I went to bed.

I woke up before brunch started, and got ready to go out for the day. I measured my room to see if I could turn the bed sideways, but I think the room is a few inches too narrow (it's not as large as 6'x10'). Up at brunch, it seemed a bit empty. With all the departing PAX lately, we are down to a total station population of 177. I grabbed an Omelette, a Bagel, and some Kiwi Fruit topped with fresh Whipped Cream, and sat with Nick. Eyvind was there, talking to Nick about his kid. Over in the window sill, I noticed my bag of Asian goodies from Jules that I'd left in the galley the other day. Most of it was still there, but the two boxes of Shrimp Chips (Prawn Crackers) were missing. Eyvind found one in another window sill, but the second one was nowhere to be found. After I'd eaten, on my way down to the back of Science, I stopped by the table Tom Pi set up, and bought a copy of his documentary Summer video.

Back down in Science, I pushed some more files into the stream; it looks like things are about 75% caught up now. I dropped by the store to mail some postcards, and checked out "The Sting" while was there. I went back to work for a bit, then stopped by the bar for an afternoon birthday party. People continue to depart daily - tomorrow, among others, it's Bill, one of the grantees who works for another project out at MAPO. I said my goodbyes and went off to dinner.

I grabbed a plate of real Roast Turkey and real Mashed Potatoes, and sat with Holly (who's here for a week from Mactown while Sarah is on R&R) and Henry (who just arrived). I was just finishing dinner when the Science Lecture started - Steve, one of our people, was giving a talk on the past, present and future of neutrino science in Antarctica. The present is AMANDA and RICE; the future is Ice Cube (an enormous version of AMANDA) and ANITA, sort of a RICE hanging from a balloon, orbiting the continent. I stuck around until it was all over, then headed down to the bar to watch a movie with Brandon.

We never got to the movie. Sean was spinning music, and a couple of the guys were playing violent PS2 games. Steve and Serap dropped by, and the place started filling up. As the earlier crowd left, I was surprised to see that just about the only people in the bar were AMANDA and AASTO grantees. Adaire (with ASR/RO) came by for a going away party, but most of her people had come and gone already. When the place cleared out, I went back down to Science to get some more work done, but I was tired and the place was completely full (more full than the bar had been!) I went to bed.

Monday, 9 February 2004
I woke up around 08:30 and jumped on my laptop in my room for the last few minutes of the satellite. I heard an all_call that the first plane was off deck (the one with Mike escorting the Liquid Helium dewar from McMurdo). The PAX flight is the second flight of the day. By this time, I had missed breakfast, so I grabbed an instant noodle bowl and stopped off at the old Galley for hot water on my way to work.

As my noodles steeped, various folks who are departing today, stopped by (Bill, Isaac, etc.) At one point, I went around the corner to ask Brandon a question, and was surprised to see Henry sitting in his chair. When I got back to my desk, I heard the all call that the PAX flight was at "Pole 3" and would be here in a few minutes. I grabbed my gear and walked out to the fuel pit.

It was noticable colder today than it's been recently, -38.4°F (-39.1°C). The PAX weren't departing from the usual spot, probably because of the Liquid Helium flight. There was a small crowd there to see people off. I said my goodbyes as the second plane landed. They were still pulling cargo from the first plane (we don't usually have two at once in the pits). I walked over to the first plane to welcome Sarah back from R&R. Pete took her hand-carry, and we all walked to the new station. When we got inside, at the A2, second-floor entrance, Pete and I noticed that Sarah managed to get a bit of frost-nip on her nose, just in the short walk from the plane - it's definitely getting colder.

Lunch was BBQ Beef with Curly Fries. I sat with Lisa, Jodi and Justus, then moved over to sit with Serap, Andrea and Brandon for dessert. After lunch, down in the back of Science, I started backing up SuperNova data for Tom, and waited for Serap before going over to SPASE to fiddle with disks.

Serap showed up and we walked out the Garage Arch to the skidoo line. I had the key for number 17 (the one that starts easier than the others); it still took a while to start it. After several false starts, I got it to the point of warming up. Serap kept the hard drives under her coat. A few minutes of zipping across the snow later, we got to SPASE, and Serap stopped the SPASE DAQ computer. I pulled apart the machine to see what was already there. It looks like someone had already been fooling around with it at some point in the past - one hard disk was partitioned the same as the other, but mostly empty. I copied one disk to the other, put the former master disk away, and upgraded the former slave disk. Serap called Jeff, who came out later. I took the skidoo back to the dome to do my greenhouse duty.

Back in Science, I ran into Kris who was on his way out to re-measure one snow stake, and gave him the keys to my skidoo. I checked stuff in BOS, then shut down the detector, at Klaus' request, so he could run flasher tests. LES-9 was not cooperating, so I gave up trying to get on the 'net and went to dinner.

Before I finished my Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, there was an all call to come down to the first floor of A2 and help unload beer into the new store. I went down and joined the chain. About 30 of us emptied two tri-walls in no time. I went from there down to the dome. LES-9 was still not being cooperative, so I went to the library and sat for a few episodes of "The Sopranos". From there, I went to the bar. Pretty good crowd tonight... Sherri, Jason, Kevin and Brandon were all there. Paul was spinning the music. Cori and Mike came in later, straight from the Cryo Barn, where there had been a bit of a problem - Mike was hooking up some transfer tubes when the tip of one of the hard pipes snapped off, brittle from the cold, no doubt. After a bit of dancing, I tried to go back down to my desk, but the place was once again completely packed. Steve mentioned that he wanted an end-of-season meeting with me and Jeff, tomorrow at 10:00. I went to bed feeling like I was coming down with something.

Tuesday, 10 February 2004
The all call for first flight of the day woke me up. I went down to the back of Science, and the place was blissfully empty. Steve showed up first, then Jeff. We had our (uneventful) meeting, then it was time for lunch... Deli Day. I made a cold sandwich, and sat with Nick, Paddy and Scott. After lunch, I dropped by new Medical for some decongestants, then went down the beercan to the dome.

I wasn't up to getting much done, so I went up to my room for a nap. I woke up for dinner and went to the galley, but nothing looked appealing. I hit the left-over fridge, and went to sit with Dar and a few others. Kelley joined us, then Glen, then Nick, then finally Klaus and Tom. For the second day in a row, there was an all call to help move beer. When Nick and got there, they were already on the second pallet. From there, I went back down to Science, and gave Kelly back her laptop (I managed to extract her pictures, but couldn't get the charger to work). I also crafted a SAMBA mount command for Brandon and Andrea, and slowed the new trigger down a hair for Steve.

With nothing else to do for the moment, I stopped by the bar for the nightly going-away party. Brandon is leaving tomorrow, along with Paul, Cookie Jon and several others. I sat at the bar and talked with Sarah and Cookie Jon for a while, and when they left, I hit the dance floor. Cargo showed up all at once (they might have just finished with the last plane of the night), and I danced with Kelly, Paddy and Tammy for a while, then went home with the party still rocking.

Wednesday, 11 February 2004
I tried to sleep, but I kept waking up because of the decongestants. I felt rested, but I woke up frequently, about every 20-30 minutes. Around 07:00, I woke up for real. As I checked things from my room, I heard the all_call that the first plane will be about an hour early. I went down to Science for my meeting with Tom about changes to monitoring and to the SuperNova system, which lasted over an hour. After helping Brandon and Andrea with some mount issues from the new AST/RO machine in the back of Science, I went up to the Galley to see folks off before they headed for the plane.

There were departing PAX up in the galley, waiting for the plane; there was also a surprise birthday party for Lisae, balloons, cheesecake, the whole works. They managed to get her to the Galley with no clue anything was going on. She opened her presents and we all got some cheesecake. I said goodbye to Brandon, Andrea, and a few others. The plane was on deck by 10:30.

Nick and I grabbed our parkas and went out to say goodbye to the folks that hadn't been in the Galley. The plane started boarding before I got there (and before the hand-carry bags were even loaded). Brandon was the last one on the plane. I walked back to the Dome with Navah, Nick, Jules and Justus (last ones remaining behind to say goodbye to the departees). My glasses were frosting up on the way; it has definitely been getting colder all week (today it was -44.3°F (-42.4°C, with a windchill of -79°F (-61.7°C)).

I went by Comms to ask Sean for a heat gun (to scavenge some capacitors off of a circuit board from scrap), but he wasn't in the Comms Tech room. I put the boards in my parka pocket and went up to lunch - Mexican Day. I put some beef, black beans, rice, cheese and sour cream on a tortilla, and ate with Dar, Kelly and Jeff.

When I was finished, I was going to go straight out to MAPO, but Jules and Nick snagged me for a computer question. I called Wolfgang and told him that I was on my way, and walked out to MAPO (it's getting too cold to keep doing it in sneakers). Wolfgang went over the changes to the TWR system, and I spent most of the rest of the afternoon pulling caps from that dead board to replace the blown ones in the String 18 CPU board. Jeff came by to work on his wooden tower to place over the Ice Top DOMs, then went out to SPASE to deploy it.

When he got back, the two of us went up to the roof to secure shipping containers and partially-empty boxes before we walked back across the skiway, back to the station. On the way, he talked about planning on not spending much time in N.Z. when he got off the Ice. He's thinking about visiting Shigeru in Tokyo before going home. On the station-side of the skiway, we took opposite paths - Jeff went to the New Station, I went down to the Dome.

Down in the back of Science, I started correcting the numerals on my EarthDial, and tried to get on the 'net. For the third night in a row, I couldn't keep a connection up, so I went off to dinner.

It was a hard choice at the serving line: Salmon or Lamb. I went with the Lamb. I sat down by myself, but was joined by the rest of the AMANDA crew and Eyvind. Klaus and I talked about repairing the String 18 CPU cards. Serap joined us after the line was closed down; she found some cold Ham and Cheese in the leftover fridge, and made some Ramen. Jeff came in before we broke up. He and Serap discussed the wooden tower that he had just made.

Back down in Science, I started collecting gigs of files from the TWR machine to burn to tape for Wolfgang, and continued to renumber the EarthDial. Klaus called me from MAPO; he'd tried out one of the two CPU boards I'd repaired, and it works! I was sitting on IM and got a message from my buddy Bill at home (it's 04:00 EST, but he's watching guys at work install one of his programs in the wee hours). I tried to upload a low-res copy of "Nova Terra-ble" to his machine, but it kept dying. I was nodding off as I started Wolfgang's tape, so I went to bed.

Thursday, 12 February 2004
I got up around 08:30 and caught the end of the satellite pass. I went down to the back of Science and made myself a bowl of noodles (since I missed breakfast). While my noodles were steeping, I spun off more files to tape for Wolfgang. Steve wanted to know how the detector was (I think more to test me than to hear the answers), so I went to various web pages and showed him where I got my data as I answered his questions. From what was on the screen, it looks like Jens was updating the monitoring software at the same time Tom and I were trying to go over what was new (making things more than a little confusing). We just decided to try later.

Today is the last day the Post Office is open, letters and 12 oz. packages only, no large stuff. I wanted to get one last roll of film off station for developing, so I grabbed a tripod to shoot some pictures under the dome with my 19mm lens. I took shots from the Dome Entrance and from the top of the old Galley, finishing out the roll. As I packed up the last of my north-bound packages at my desk, Tom, Klaus and Serap all stopped by to say goodbye on their way to their redeployment meeting. As they trudged up to the galley, I went over to the Post Office with my boxes.

Mary was a few minutes late in opening the Post Office (she came by early, then went downstairs to get a cup of coffee). None of us who were waiting were quite ready to go anyway. I filled the time putting rubber stamps on a letter as a favor to someone at home (there's a table next to the window with several dozen stamps from various science projects, including AMANDA and IceCube, as well as anniversaries of a variety of historic dates down here). As I got my things ready, one of the ATS guys here to remove the TACAN for the season introduced himself. I didn't recognize him with a beard, but once we started talking, I remembered he used to be with NSFA, up at T-Site. It's amazing how many people I've run into from previous seasons. After I got my packages in the mailbag, I browsed around the store, but didn't find anything that I needed to have right then, so I went up for lunch.

Lunch was Reubens (without Sauerkraut, unfortunately), Fries and Shepherd's Pie. I sat down with Nick; Henry joined us during dessert. The afternoon in the back of Science was uneventful; it passed quickly, then it was time for dinner - Spaghetti and Meatballs. After eating, Nick, Paddy, Jason, Bride and I sat around for a long while, talking. Later, I tried to jump on the satellite with no success, so I finished the evening going to the going-away party for the second-to-last group of summer people left on station (there's two more PAX flight days: tomorrow and Sunday).

Friday, 13 February 2004
I woke up to the last few moments of the morning satellite. As I was checking things out, the power went out in my room, and the emergency light kicked on. The hub, next door in the mechanical room, also lost power, as I couldn't see any other machines on the network. I was beginning to realize that the problem wasn't just Upper Berthing when the fire alarm sounded, and Comms announced the fire was in the Rodwell. I started to respond to the alarm when they all called the disregard. I headed, instead, down to the back of Science, where, as I expected, there was no power, either. We were in the middle of a station-wide unplanned outage. I was shutting off servers in Science when Steve called from MAPO. I got things down in Science cleanly enough, then ran out to MAPO with Wolfgang and Tom. Jeff was already out at MAPO (he had been at SPASE that morning, and didn't have as far to go). The UPSes were already dead, so there was nothing to do but turn off all the power switches and wait for power to be restored. Once they found Justus out at Summer Camp, he came out to MAPO to reset VIPER, the experiment he takes care of. With all the MAPO residents happy, they turned our power back on. I brought things back up with no unpleasant suprises. After watching it for a while, I went back to the Dome to finish backing data up for Steve.

Once the CDs and tapes were started, I showed Steve how to see that they were done, and went to lunch. I was in the middle of my salad when the announcement for PAX to head to the plane came over the all call. I grabbed my camera and my parka and made it to the fuel pit in plenty of time to say goodbye. Today, among the dozens of departees, we lost Sherri, Lynna, Rolf, Mary, Tony, Steve, Tom, and Wolfgang. Our total population is down to 116. Most of the summer people who are left are Fuelies or Cargo (there are still several more planes due in over the next two days).

After a cup or two of Earl Grey tea with Nick and Jules in the galley, I went back down to Science and worked on a winter-over logbook for keeping track of what we do with the detector. Pete came by the back of Science to ask me if I could be up in the new Station at 18:00 to help unload a bunch of DNF cargo. I wandered up that way when it was time.

We had a large human chain going up the wooden staircase at the back of the A-2 Pod, from the four tri-walls, all the way into the new store. We unloaded box after box of snacks, pop and other items. I was standing out on the deck in my sneakers, which kept freezing solid. When we were all done, I went up to the galley for dinner and to thaw my feet out.

After dinner, I went back down to Science and checked things carefully, in case the power outage caused any hidden problems. Everything looked fine. It was odd to be working in an empty room after dinner - but with Steve and the rest leaving this week, it's just me and Jeff for the next eight months.

Saturday, 14 February 2004
The morning satellite had already set by the time I woke up. I went straight down to the back of Science and worked there until lunch. I didn't like the look of the Fried Chicken, so I went vegetarian today, and grabbed a Black Bean Burrito with some real Mashed Potatoes on the side. After lunch, back down in Science, I was working on the new logbook when Billy came by with his new laptop. He'd dumped an entire cup of coffee (with milk!) over his keyboard. Fortunately, he'd cut the power right away and rinsed what he could off. The machine wasn't toast, but several of the keys didn't strike. I took it entirely apart and extracted the keyboard, describing to him what I was doing as I was doing it. He was bright enough to bring it to me right after it happened, quickly enough that the coffee hadn't yet dried in between the keyboard membranes. I rinsed the keyboard in warm water for several minutes, then used some isopropyl alcohol as a drying agent for the water. After the keyboard was dry, I reinstalled it and everything worked perfectly.

As we were basking in the glow of success, we heard the all call to report to the wooden staircase to unload more DNF for the store. It was four tri-walls of beer. We all knew the drill by this point, and got it all unloaded quickly, only dropping two cases in the process. After it was done and everything was stacked in the store, most of us stood around in the hall, talking and waiting for pizza to be ready. It was mostly winter-overs, but even people who are leaving tomorrow, like Billy and Tammy, had chipped in on the unload. Dinner time arrived, and we went upstairs to the galley.

The pizza was excellent today - fresh from the oven with crust from scratch. I had a couple of slices of Cheese and Mushroom/Onion with fresh onions and real mushrooms. Much better than the stuff in the summer. Sarah found a tiny bug in her salad - she named it "Bucky". He managed to escape before the end of meal and was not seen again. So much for starting a wildlife preserve.

Back down in Science, when the satellite was up, I jumped on IM. Today being Valentine's Day, I got to open the first of my monthly care packages from Erin. I IMed her as I went through the goodies - some Asian candies in plastic heart-shaped box, Bubble Tea ingredients, some fancy Hot Chocolate, a couple of stuffed racoons, and a "Badzu Maru" mug (he's a character from "Hello, Kitty", a penguin with a bad attitude and a punk hairdo). Since we don't get airdrop anymore, like we used to nine years ago, it'll be nice to have packages to open in the middle of winter.

After I went through my goodies and picked a few out for later, I went upstairs to get ready for the very last round of going-away parties. First was Tammy's, up in the hall in the new station. She did a great job working with the cooks for some food - a large tray of Nachos, and another with a Cream Cheese and Salsa Shrimp Dip. Besides Margaritas, she was sharing around a rare treat here: Sake. There was a good sized crowd in the hall, Glen, Allan, Sean, Dehlia, Bride, Jason, Dar and Kelly. Glen and I talked about plans for a mid-winter sushi party as we sipped warm sake. After a couple rounds of that, I headed down to Billy's going-away party in Bio-Med.

I'm sure Bio-Med must have been a more active place before the new station was begun. Traditionally, the Station Manager and the Doc live there, and, unless there are patients there for overnight care, the middle room is more like a lounge than a clinic waiting room. This year, of course, with new Medical open in the new station, the Doc doesn't live in old Bio-Med; the exam room is still more-or-less in its old state, but the waiting room really is nothing more than a lounge now.

When I got to Bio-Med, the party there was mellow, but well attended. Billy was telling stories about being in Greenland, and about previous summer seasons at Pole. The best one was his take on the Boomerang probe deployment and how his recollections differ from the account in the paper. After a few stories, people started trickling out for other festivities. I went up to the bar where most of the revelers were giving it one last hurrah.

The place was jam packed. I danced and talked for a couple of hours. I said my goodbyes to Liza in Comms, Dar, Kelly, Tammy and Amanda. After all of that, I was too tired to jump on the satellites, and went right to bed.

Sunday, 15 February 2004  -  Station Close
The first thing I heard in the morning was the all call that the first PAX flight was at Pole 3, less than 30 minutes out. I threw on a layer of ECW, including my FDX boots, and ran downstairs for my camera. I came out the garage arch and headed for the PAX terminal as people were still dribbling in with their hand carries. I had plenty of time to say goodbyes to people before they had to start loading. Some of these people we'll see again in October; some we'll never see again. You can't always be sure of who's who. Tom, Angela, Lisae and I waited until the plane left the fuel pit. It kicked up huge contrails with the ground temps at -46.4°F (-43.6°C). We started walking back to the new station for lunch, and saw them on their takeoff roll right as we were getting to the wooden stairs at the back of the station. I snapped a quick picture of them right at takeoff, framed by the pillars of the station.

Once we were inside and in line for food, I was a bit surprised: since today was supposed to be just another work day (we get tomorrow off, instead), I wasn't expecting a Sunday Brunch. I grabbed some Scrambled Eggs, a Bagel and a Salmon Patty. I sat with Jodi, Kurt, Lisae and Angela. Justus joined us a bit later. The conversation took an interesting turn at one point, when we moved on to summer life in the Jamesways, and how to handle middle-of-the-night bathroom visits. At one point, I glanced up at the Scroll - 83 people on station with one more to come in (Tracy, a plumber), and the last of the summer people to go out.

After lunch, I went back down to Science to tweak on Polechomper for a bit. I grabbed all my gear when they made the all call that the last outbound PAX flight was at Pole 3. Angela grabbed her gear and walked out with me. She wasn't one to use the garage arch much, so we walked up the beercan, through the new station, and down the wooden staircase.

It was a small crowd at the PAX terminal this time. Goodbyes went quickly. I had forgotten a couple of discs on my desk that I was going to give to BK to take to Jerry Marty, so I borrowed a pickup truck from Carlton and made a quick round-trip to the dome. I drove back just in time to give the discs to BK, and say goodbyes to Paddy, Toby and the rest of the people who were working the plane they were about to climb on. I took twice as many pictures as I usually do. Lisae, Angela, Glen and I waited there until the plane taxied, took off, and did a fly-by. It was only 15 minutes until the last LC-130 of the season was due to arrive. We moved over to the PAX terminal to keep warm.

Right on schedule, the last plane flew into sight, landed, and taxied to the pit. Pete directed the plane to its parking spot, and the last winter-over to arrive, Tracy, got off as they unloaded two final pallets of cargo. There were probably a dozen of us there, the people working the plane, and four of us taking pictures. We watched the cargo door close, the engines spin up, the crew wave at us, then stood there as the plane pulled out.

Everyone who was left in the pit walked out to the edge of the skiway to get a closer look. We could only hear the plane taxiing the other way behind its contrail wall. It pulled away, turned onto the skiway, hit the engines full throttle and took off. We all heard over the radio, "The Crossing Beacon is Off... feel free to play on the skiway." The plane flew out of sight, but then we saw it come back for a low flyby on its way home. I looked around at the group on the skiway and said, "Well Folks, that's a wrap." The next time we'll see one of these planes is going to be over eight months from now.

Most of us went to the Galley to warm up. I had some tea with Jules, Nick and Allan. I didn't feel like going all the way down to the dome just to come back up for dinner, so I tried to get on the machines in the new computer room, just down the hall from the Galley. I was fighting with Windows when Allan stuck his head in the door, looking for volunteers to unload the freshies from that last plane. We put away two sleds of eggs and sour cream, one sled of fruit and vegetables. By the time we were finished, it was time to eat.

Don really pulled out the stops tonight: Roast Lamb, Shrimp, and for the first time in weeks, real Potatoes. It was superb; I ate so slowly that I had to move twice because the people at my table kept finishing before me. In the middle of my meal, I was sitting with Rich, Richard and OV. I had no idea OV (who is an Electrician's Helper here) has a Masters in Geography. We talked about going to school in the mid-west (he went to school in Iowa; I went to Ohio State). When I was done, I made a quick trip downstairs for my laptop, then back up to the Galley for the traditional Station Close viewing of "The Thing".

I wasn't as quick at my desk as I would have liked. The original B&W version of "The Thing" was already going when I got back. I took a seat at the back of the room, and waited for the satellite to rise. The entire back row was a peanut gallery with all the comments about the movie. After a brief intermission, we started John Carpenter's "The Thing". The satellite came up in the middle of the movie, but I wasn't able to get Gus McLeod's page to load. Kris said that he'd heard that Gus was at Marimbio Station (at the very tip of the Antarctic Peninusla) and that it would take him at least 12 hours to get here once he took off. I can't believe he'd try this stunt when there is nobody for hundreds of miles to rescue him if something goes wrong (from reading his website, it seems that he doesn't have a good understanding about how the seasons work here and what it really means when it's after "Station Close".

With no fresh word about Gus, I watched the movie, then packed up my gear and helped Nick and Peter collect the panels from the windows. I dropped off my laptop in the back of Science, skipped the bar and went to bed.

Monday, 16 February 2004  -  First Full Day of Winter
I woke up and jumped on waning moments of GOES-3, but it wasn't a good satellite morning. I couldn't get anywhere until the last 15 minutes of the pass. Since it was still pretty early, and it was our day off, I rolled over and drifted back to sleep for a while. Eventually, I got up, and puttered around a bit until it was time for lunch.

After we ate, a bunch of us sat around over Irish Coffee for a couple of hours. Sarah was working Comms part-time. The last thing she heard was that Gus McLeod was still at Marimbio. He's waiting for a break in the winds before he tries one more time.

I spent the afternoon in the back of Science, working on Polechomper, and my EarthDial. On my way out the door, I stopped by the Post Office to see if by some small chance there was a last letter or package for me. Nope. The next mail won't be until Halloween. On my way past the Library, I put up signs for tomorrow night's sci-fi movie "Forbidden Planet". I didn't see a copy of it there, but I found it next door in the Pool Room, on Betamax! Next stop was the Greenhouse for my weekly turn at watering and statistics gathering, but Jack and Tree were there, working on the harvest. I told them I'd stop by after dinner.

Nick and I talked about the power outage over Corned Beef and Potatoes, then I went back down to Science to put some more time in on the EarthDial. I put "The Sting" on in the background and inked letters for two hours. While I was working, Marisat went down; Henry stopped by the back of Science on his way out to the Marisat ground station. I don't know what's up, but we were off the 'net until TDRSS rose later. I was finally able to check my e-mail, got a letter from up North, rebooted one of our machines by request, and called it a night.

Tuesday, 17 February 2004
With GOES 3 still out, I went to bed around the time TDRSS set and we were no longer connected to the rest of the world. I woke after breakfast and checked the state of things from my room before heading down to lunch. There was Salad today, which I had knowing that it won't last for long. I sat at the beaker table, with Nick, Allan, Justus, Jason and Jules. Jason commented that he was surrounded by the Dark Sector (his project is at ARO, the rest of us are all out at either AST/RO or MAPO). I lingered after lunch over coffee with Nick. As we were talking, Eyvind sat down. He had just woken up after a night working on the satellite problem. It seems that the elevation drive for the 9m (30 foot) dish is broken, and we aren't going to have a Marisat pass tonight (but we might have a GOES pass).

Afterward, on my way down to Science, I stopped by Comms to ask Pete where Gus McLeod is - nobody knows. I went over to my desk and monitored Polechomper while I worked on the EarthDial camera. Eventually, LES-9 rose and I was able to get on for an IM session with Erin. Dinner rolled around, and I went up for some Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes, then went back to my desk to get some more work done before the movie.

When I got to the Library, Dave the Electrician was the only other person there. I grabbed the other couch and waited for folks to arrive. By the time we were supposed to start, we had a moderate crowd, Henry, Angela, Glen, Nick, Don, and Jeff (plus me and Dave). What surprised me is that nobody else in the room had seen "Forbidden Planet" before. After the movie, Jeff, Nick and I pored over the shelves, looking for other titles to show. We found a few, here and there, mostly on Beta. As everyone left, I checked my watch and calculated that there was still an hour until TDRSS rose, so I went over to the bar for a bit.

The place was pretty empty - just Sean, Jason and Mike playing "Manhunt" on the PS2. I watched them try to get through a level, then went down to my desk. I made some tape labels and swapped tapes, and hung around, waiting for TDRSS to rise.

Wednesday, 18 February 2004
I woke up and went to lunch, Burger Day. The burger was excellent, but I skipped on the fries (they'd been in the warming pan a bit too long). I sat town with Nick, Jason, Pete and Rich, and asked Pete about the latest news on Gus. Pete told me that Gus took off, then turned back. It's late enough in the season that I think he's done for the year.

After lunch, I went down to Science and went to work trying to adapt an old digital camera I found on the shelf. I put on "Quatermass and the Pit" in the background, and fiddled with gphoto, until I got something working. With only a quick dinner break, I kept at it. The next component was something to put timestamps on the pictures. There was a stamping package I'd run across several years earlier, but the webpage was long gone. I was lucky that the Internet Wayback Machine had a cached copy. I was even luckier that I was able to pull it, at about 0.2 Kbytes/sec, over LES-9. It built on my modern machine with no hassles, so I started a writing a Perl script to tie all of these components together.

I'd been at it long enough that I needed a break. I stopped by the Library, but nobody was watching anything. I scanned the shelves and pulled out a copy of "Meatballs", a movie I hadn't seen in a long, long time. Back down in Science, I polished the Perl script to beta quality, and set up the camera to take a picture of a digital clock every ten minutes. I made a quick call to the States to give Erin the wakeup call she requested, then went to bed.

Thursday, 19 February 2004
I woke up and did a load of laundry before going up to lunch, Chicken Parmesan over Linguini. I grabbed a seat with Nick, Sarah, Jason, Allan and Glen. We talked about working in the greenhouse and music. On my way downstairs, I showed Nick where the newly-opened "Quiet Reading Room" was - past the laundry, next to some storage rooms, behind an unmarked door. The shelves are all there, chairs and small tables, but only a handful of books. For the moment, the Dome Library is still the repository, but like everything else under the Dome, its days are numbered.

On our way back to the busier parts of the new station, we walked past the new store. Sarah was installing a POS system for Andrea. I stopped for a bit and we talked about some of the goofy design problems there, counter size, placement of plugs and jacks, and no holes in the countertop for the cables for the POS system that Sarah was installing. Once she had the system in place, she went down to Science for the monitor. I walked down with her and ran into Henry. I showed him the camera and the script I'd been working on for the EarthDial.

A bit later in the afternoon, it was time for our weekly Trauma Team meeting. Today was a practical demonstration - confined space extraction. We met at the new station, in the hall outside the space where the new greenhouse will be going. There's a floor hatch right there. Lisae was our "victim". She went down into the floor and crawled behind some pipes and brackets. We had to send down the backboard and bring her out. There were so many of us that there wasn't room for all of us to go down. I stayed above, taking pictures and waiting for UT Nick, Peter, Troy and the other Trauma Team members to bring Lisae close enough to the hatch for us to lift her out.

The event was an unqualified success. We dispersed after we were done; I went back down to Science and worked until dinner. It was Asian Night - Steamed or Shrimp-Fried Rice, Hosin Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork or Tempeh, and Steamed Vegetables. I ate with Angela, Richard and Jeff. After dinner, Jeff and I walked out to MAPO.

It's getting a little too cold to walk out there in just sneakers, jeans, and my parka. At -50°F (-45.5°C), my shoes are rigid by the time I get back inside. When we got to MAPO, we found some problems: one of our HV channels was in an error state, one of the SuperNova machines was off, the other was crashed due to a failed disk drive. We reset the channel and powered the one crate back on, but all we could do for the dead machine was scoop up the disk and take it back with us for rebuilding.

Back at the new station, we had our first band meeting - Don, Kris, Richard, Brett, Adam, Angela, Sarah, Justus and Troy all showed up. We picked a couple of tunes to start with, and scheduled an informal practice for later tonight. I dropped the dead disk off in the back of Science, and went up to Skylab.

Richard was already up there, going to town on his guitar. We tuned up together, and I tried to keep up with him as he played (he's played professionally; I haven't). Adam came by and joined in on drums. We went at it until about 22:30, when I went back downstairs to Science. The sat came up just after I got to my desk. I checked for e-mail, not too much new stuff. I was thinking of stopping by the bar, but Henry came through Science and said that the place was pretty well cleared out. I restarted Polechomper and went to bed.

Friday, 20 February 2004
I kept working through the TDRSS pass, purging extraneous messages from an automated mailbox, among other things. I went to bed right after the pass since I hadn't gotten any mail about Supernova.

I woke up after lunch and continued checking things from my room for a while until it was time for dinner. I grabbed some Stuffed Flounder and a Baked Potato and sat down with Scott, the Doc, and Kris and Don, the Met guys. While we ate, Kris asked me about VisualBasic and fractional number rounding (they are trying to fix a script they use for temperature summaries). I had no idea that Scott did any of his own programming, but he had some things to contribute to the discussion. They all finished first, so I hopped tables and finished while talking about station power with Dennis.

On my way home from dinner, I stopped off at the store. I made it right before closing time, and the line was short. I didn't need anything from the freshie shack; they had everything I needed right there, including a couple of movies. I was going to go straight home, but when I passed through the pool room, I got sidetracked talking to Jason and Byron. By the time I got home, LES 9 had already set. I sent some e-mail from my room, then called out to ARO to see if folks were still gathered there.

There being people to hang out with, I threw on my parka and walked out to ARO. It was another small crowd, Jason, Bride, Glen, Nick and Henry. I talked a little with Henry about the state of the Marisat antenna, then both of us joined in the group conversation about College and college loans. After TDRSS rose, I walked back to the dome with Nick, and went right to the back of Science. Erin was still at work, so I IMed with her for a little bit. When she got home from work, we talked on the phone, then after she crashed, I crashed as well.

Saturday, 21 February 2004
I was sound asleep when Jeff called my room to arrange to meet me in Comms for our weekly call to Madison. There's no satellites up at this time of day, so for most of the winter, we'll be using the Iridium phones. The call was brief; it was mostly just catch-up, and a couple of items for our winter to-do list. After the call, Jeff and I did a few things around the back of Science, then it was time for lunch.

After a cold deli sandwich, the grantees all got together for our weekly science meeting, chaired by Nick. We discussed reporting intervals, electrical power issues and the broken Marisat antenna. The serious mood was shattered when the music in the galley shifted and the Divinyl's "I Touch Myself" drifted out from the back. Justus was the first to crack, followed by Jeff, then the rest of us. It pretty much ended the meeting. It was hard to stay serious after that. Before going back downstairs, Richard, Don and I had a quick chat about band songs.

Back at work, I tested that dead drive and found that it was deader than a dodo. I found an old spare on the shelf, tried swapping just the circuit boards, and proved that it was the HDA that was dead, not the electronics. About that time, LES 9 rose; I chatted with Erin for a few minutes, then went up to dinner. The folks sitting at the table by the entrance offered me some of their pizza - Blue Cheese and Minced Olives, but I gave it a miss (I'm not a big fan of Blue Cheese). I grabbed a slice of Vegi-Cheddar and went back down to Science.

By the time I got back downstairs, the LES 9 pass was almost done. Just as the satellite was slipping below the horizon, Henry came by. I showed him a side project I was working on, turning an old 300MHz PC into a Freevo box, for music and DVDs. Once the satellite was gone, I went off to the bar to see if anyone was hanging around. There was a foursome in the corner playing Euchre, and a few people dancing. I danced a little bit and talked with a few of the people who just arrived, like Anj, one of the carpenters. Things broke up early. I stayed behind to pick up the empties and do some tidying up. The evening satellites had risen, so I jumped on for a little bit for some e-mail, then went to bed.

Sunday, 22 February 2004
I woke up and went down to the bar for this Sunday's macho movie, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly". I arrived during the big battle scene near the end. Don had sent down a deli tray, we made cold sandwiches and watched the movie, and a second feature, "Paint Your Wagon" (which I hadn't seen since I was a kid). Towards the middle of the movie, Jason invited me to a game of cribbage. He had a couple of smoking hands, 21 points or so, but I managed to keep pace with him right up to the end (but I lost anyway). I skipped out before the movie was done, and went down to Comms for a radio (Pete, the station manager, wants all of us to have radios when we walk out to places like the Dark Sector or Marisat. While I was there, I found out that the last planes of the season, two Twin Otters on their way home, will be here around 18:30 and 19:00.

From Comms, I went over to Science to try to get on LES 9, but it wasn't cooperating. I ran up to Skylab and brought the bass down to my desk so I could practice more often. By the time I got back, LES 9 was finally passing traffic; I jumped on IM for a bit before dinner. When I went upstairs to the galley, I took my parka and my camera for later.

I grabbed some Lamb and Mashed Potatoes, ate quickly, then headed down to the fuel pits. I waited around for about 10 minutes, then asked Rob, one of the winter-over equipment operators who was playing the part of a fuelie, what the latest ETA was... 10 minutes. I went back inside to use the bathroom, then came back out to the fuel pits. There was too much ground fog to see the plane touchdown, but I took several pictures of it taxiing into the pit. With one down and one to go, I walked back to the new station with Rob and Pete. Pete asked me to come back out with the crew lunches. I stopped off at the galley, thawed myself out, re-wrapped myself, and picked up the box of lunch sacks. The second plane had arrived while I was inside. The first plane took off moments after I gave them their lunches. I waited a long time for the first plane to go by, and took several pictures of it once it broke through the ground fog and lifted off. I waited around for the second plane to depart, but it was taking forever to refuel them.

I tromped around the fuel pit trying to keep warm. My shoes froze solid and my toes started getting cold. After about 20 minutes, Rob offered me the use of the pump shack to warm up. It was -5°F (-21°C) inside, but that was 40° warmer than outside, and it was out of the wind. The refueling took at least 45 minutes. I didn't know that the Twin Otters had an internal two-compartment fuel tank in addition to the wing tanks, but Rob went back and forth a couple of times with the hose inside the cockpit door and the rear cargo door. The whole time, the pilot left the right engine (the one facing the skiway) turning. When they were done with fuel and buttoned up the aircraft, I watched him start, then stop the left engine. Not a good sign. It was a full fifteen minutes before he started the engine again, but this time, they pulled out of the pit and headed for the end of the skiway.

As before, there was a long wait with the plane out of sight. I could hear the runup, then the push to full throttle. I snapped pictures until the plane was out of sight, then headed inside to warm up. By now, the galley was completely empty. I had a cup of tea and thawed out. Bored, but not completely warm, I headed down to the Dome and tried to work in the back of Science, but was too cold to sit still. I cruised through the dome looking for a warm spot and a movie. Sean, Mike and Jason were watching "Mission Impossible: 2", and the Kiwis were watching "The Perfect Storm" over in the library. Neither one appealed, so I went back to my desk for a bit, and got on TDRSS, which had just risen. Unfortunately, there was nobody awake at home, so after a bit of e-mail, I just went to bed.

Monday, 23 February 2004
I woke up after lunch, got cleaned up, and put on my ECW gear for later. With no prospect for food beyond the leftover fridge, I grabbed a noodle bowl from my room and went down to Comms to use the microwave. While I was there, I gave Pete some photographs of the last Herc of the season and of the sub-floor extraction, straight out of my camera. I took my noodles back to Science and started my day.

A little while later, Sarah came by with a block of fudge from a confectioner's shop in Christchurch, and invited me over to Comms to share some. Sarah carved the fudge up for me, Pete, Henry and herself. Really good stuff. I've got to find this place when I get off the Ice. While we were enjoying the tasty treat, I learned that Bob Palko, the McMurdo network engineer that I'd wintered with in 1995, was leaving on the last C-141 from Mactown, no clue why. When we were finished, I went back to my desk, and noticed that the dome entrance doors were shut - must be a windy day out there.

I left work early to do my turn in the Greenhouse (recording pH levels, air and water temps, and mist plants), and went to dinner early so I'd be done by 18:30. Dinner was Fried Chicken or Fried Fish, with Roast Kumera (a N.Z. sweet potato), Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Salad. I noticed on the scroll that it was warm but windy, -26°F (-32°C) at 21 knots. That explains the dome entrance being closed. I finished my dinner as quickly as I could and ran down the hall to Medical for our Trauma Team meeting.

Our meeting today had to do with the location of medical equipment in a few out-of-the-way corners of the station. We met in Medical, then took a quick trip through the unfinished B3 pod on our way down to Old Bio-Med, then out to the BIFF. The outdoor part of the walk wasn't too bad, as long as the wind wasn't in your face.

Back under the dome, I worked in the back of Science for a bit, took a break talking to Eyvind and Angela, then stood up from the keyboard and broke out the bass and practiced some music for a while. After focusing on music, I couldn't really go back to focusing on work, so I signed off, and went upstairs to bed.

Tuesday, 24 February 2004
I tried to go to bed, but I wasn't really tired enough to sleep. I read, I surfed the 'net, but before I could drift off, the fire alarm sounded in the new station. I was dressed, out the door, and under the dome before they announced the disregard. I went back to my desk for a while before trying, again, to get some sleep. I checked my e-mail from my room - there were some urgent messages from Markus (in Germany) that one of our machines had a full disk that was corrupting his filtering database. I cleared out some logfiles and wrote him back.

By this time, it was morning. I went back down to my desk, and worked under the red lamp assigned to me as part of the T-3 study. When I'd put my time in under the lamp, I packed it up and took it up to Medical. Troy did the blood draws, weight and height, but someone else was on the computer, taking his memory and reaction tests. Troy asked me to come back later. I stopped off at the galley and made myself a packet of Pad Thai noodles, then went down to Comms for a call to Madison. I spent the rest of the morning in the back of Science.

Lunch was Grilled Corned Beef sandwiches and Swedish Meatballs, spent with Dehlia, Nick and Eyvind. I was the last one up from the table; I cleared my dishes, dropped them off at the window, then walked down the hall to Medical to finish my T-3 testing.

The computer reaction-time and memory tests didn't take long. This is the last one of these that we'll have to do until August. My afternoon was filled with investigating why the disk filled up this morning and what I could to do keep it from happening again. Things seem to be working smoothly now; I think Markus was able to get in while the satellites were up and get his database back on its feet. I ran up to the galley at dinner-time, then back down to the dome to set up for tonight's SciFi movie, "The Andromeda Strain".

At ten minutes until showtime, I had an audience of one. Fortunately, by the time I made the all call that the movie was about to start, several more people had trickled in. It wasn't the usual Tuesday night crowd; for some reason, the movie attracted an audience of 80% beakers. We watched the movie, then Nick and I went next door to the bar for Mardi Gras. The place was packed. We celebrated the season for a while, then, since it is a workday tomorrow, people left before it got too late. Keros and I cleaned up, then I went home to crash.

Wednesday, 25 February 2004
I got up after lunch, put on my ECW gear and went straight out towards MAPO to help with setting up the flag lines. I walked out as fast as I could, but didn't catch up with the group until they were all the way out at AST/RO. I was pretty warm by the time I got there - when I got dressed, I hadn't realized that it was up to -20°F (-29°C) outside, warmer than most summer days.

The group had finished the pedestrian path from the dome to AST/RO. Allan was driving the snowmobile, with Lisae in the sled, tossing out flags every so often. Jules and Nick, followed along with augers, and Troy and Jeff planted flags in the holes. We all piled in the sled, and Allan dropped us off at the crossing beacon, then looped back around to deposit flags for the vehicle path. When we got to the buried fuel line, Allan picked us up, and we went back across the skiway to SPASE and flagged from there to Building 61, in front of MAPO. When we planted the last flag, Allan picked us up again, and dropped us off at the new station.

Several of us went up to the galley for hot drinks and sugary snacks. I went straight to the galley, but Nick, Jules and Jeff all stopped off at their rooms (in the new station) first. Nick brought the fixings for Irish Coffee, I broke out granola bars, and Jeff brought popcorn. We munched and sipped and warmed up for a while, then I went down to the back of Science until the fire alarm sounded in the new station. Fortunately, they sounded the disregard quickly, and we went back about our business.

Later, up at dinner, I noticed that we did not have salad - first time in a few days. We must be getting down to the bottom of the freshies that arrived right before station close. I lingered over my Chicken Fried Steak, until the only ones left in the entire galley were me and Jeff and Nick. When I finished I dropped by my desk for a while for some e-mail, then went over to the bar to see who was around. Mike and Jason were playing a game on the PlayStation. There were only a few other people hanging out. I didn't stay long.

Back at my desk, Nick wandered by on his way to his office. I dragged him over for a quick tour of "Kingmaker" (a 25-year-old boardgame where the players recreate the War of the Roses on a map of England) in an effort to recruit him for a game later in the winter. I went back to work for a little while, then off to bed.

Thursday, 26 February 2004
I woke up after lunch and checked the detector from my room before heading downstairs to the back of Science where I worked until dinner time. After dinner, I went down to Skylab for band practice, stopping off at the back of Science to pick up the bass. We had a good turnout: Dana, Sarah, Kris, Justus, Brett, Richard, Adam and Angela. We listened to a CD with some of our potential songs, and settled on "These Magic Changes", "Lucille", "Pastey White Girl" (written by someone on the Ice), and "Saturday In The Park". We went back and forth between listening and trying to play along. A couple of the numbers came together quickly. Richard also belted out some other stuff that we might be able to do.

We ended practice around 21:00, but Kris and I stuck around for a little while longer. He looked for sheet music for "Saturday", and I found a book of Paul Simon music and whipped out a little of the "57th Street Bridge Song", and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" before hauling the bass back down to the back of Science.

Down at my desk, I waited for TDRSS to rise, then tried to move a little bit of data - it's really slow tonight. I think lots of other people must be trying the same thing at the same time.

Wednesday, 27 February 2004
I walked out to MAPO at 01:00 to rebuild the dead server. It was a nice walk, bright and sunny again, and not too windy. The first obstacle of the night was a lack of a CD-ROM reader on the machine. I found an external one, but couldn't boot from it. After resetting a high voltage channel, I set up in the outer room to fix the hard drive enclosure. I worked on that while I watched "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", then broke for breakfast.

I didn't leave for the station early enough. By the time I got there, breakfast was over. The only two people in the galley were Pete and Glen. I gave Pete a copy of "The Onion" I'd brought back from MAPO with me, and made a bowl of noodles for myself. Back down in Science, I grabbed my EarthDial, and walked back out to MAPO. It's hard to walk a kilometer while carrying a square meter of plywood on your head. Once I arrived, I was so tired I dropped off for a short nap. When Allan left for lunch, I tried to keep up with him, but couldn't. I got back to the galley just as Richard was pulling the burgers off the line.

After lunch, I went down to the back of Science, but wasn't able to accomplish much, and just gave up and went to bed. I slept until the noise of a vacuum cleaner in the hall woke me up. I got up, got clean, and put on a nice shirt and went over to the new store for the wine tasting. It was mostly over by the time I arrived, but I managed to find a couple of varieties to sample. There was a party game going on as we mingled - they had taken photos of the faces of 28 of us, and cropped them until all that was showing was some identifying feature, a nose, an ear, an eyebrow, and we had to name the person in the picture. There wasn't really enough time for me to formally play, but it was fun trying to figure out who was who. Kirk won with 23 out of 28 correct. The picture of me was a stumper - it was from Thanksgiving when I still had my beard (I'm clean-shaven at the moment, and have been since New Year's). After the wine tasting officially shut down, a bunch of us went upstairs to the galley to continue the festivities.

There were about 20 of us, sitting in a big circle around the bar-end of the galley, telling stories and generally having a good time. When we'd gone through what little wine we had, some of us migrated down to the bar to finish off the evening. I stayed for a couple of rounds, talking with Allan about this and that, then went home to bed.

Thursday, 28 February 2004
I woke up early so I wouldn't miss OV's breakfast burritos - Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Sausage and Cheese on a Tortilla, with fresh-made Pico de Gallo, Sour Cream, Guacamole and Salsa on the side. They were so good, some people went back for a second one. Jeff came through the galley after everything was done and cleaned up. We went down to Comms for our weekly call to Madison, but Darryn wasn't in. I spent the rest of the morning at my desk checking on the detector.

I went up for lunch, but since today is a day off for RPSC folks, there wasn't a formal lunch, but Don set out some cold cuts and sandwich fixings as Sean set up the projector for "Shackleton". I made a sandwich and settled in. The movie was good but quite long. Parts of the story are known to most people who spend any time on the Ice, but there were a few things I didn't know (like some of the last-minute changes he made to their plans, and how many attempts it took him to rescue his men). The movie ended about an hour before dinner, so rather than make a round-trip down the beercan, I went down the hall to the A3 Computer Lab to check on a few things.

Back at the galley, Justus was making the pizzas, tossing the dough in the air like a pro. We all waited eagerly for each pizza to come out of the oven, descending like a horde of locusts. At one point, when Jules was away from the table, Angela smeared some vegemite on the crust of Jules' slice. I wasn't sure how well that would go over, but Jules loved it. Before leaving, Angela and I set a time to play a game of cribbage later, after we both got some more work done.

Angela's work took longer to finish than my own, but eventually, we went over to the bar to play cards. I brought along a bottle of the newly-available ginger beer, and sat at the bar, trying not to let "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut", playing on the other end of the room, distract me. I started off OK, with a couple of 14 point hands, but a couple of empty cribs late in the game killed me. On the last hand, Angela counted first and went out exactly. After "South Park" they put in "Princess Mononoke" but I only watched a bit of it. I had a bit of a conversation with Adam and Sarah before leaving to do some final e-mail of the evening, then going home to crash.

Friday, 29 February 2004
I slept in, despite the all call that "Pole Mart" was open. I eventually dragged myself out of bed and cleaned the Upper Berthing bathroom for House Mouse while I did a load of laundry. After my chores, I went up to dinner late for some Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce, and Seafood Newburg, with Real Mashed Potatoes. I sat with usual crowd, Nick, Sarah, Jason; we were all waiting for dinner to be over to have a crack at making beer. It was a long wait. Sarah stretched out for a nap; Nick read; I had a cup of tea with my particularly stale brownie. Finally, the galley staff was done and we could move in.

There were lots of people there - too many, really. The crowd self-selected down to me, English Nick, UT Nick, Kevin, Sean, Kris, Justus, Larry, Henry, Chad, and a few others. We settled on an IPA bitter (to which we added some crystal malt and extra cascade hops), and a Brown Ale (to which we added some crystal malt and some chocolate malt). We spent a couple of hours cleaning, sterilizing, measuring, boiling and sparging. Unfortunately, our sparging gear wasn't up to the task, and we lost a lot of our sugars in the spent grain. I added dextrose to the wort to boost the specific gravity a bit. The whole exercise was a bit tiring because, while we had a few experienced brewers in our group, I had been doing it the longest (since 1985), and turned the exercise into a brewing class, explaining each step of the process to the new guys.

Eventually, we had a pair of carboys, loaded with hopped wort. We let them cool, pitched the yeast, then took our young beer down to a dark, quiet corner to let them bubble away. On my way down to the dome, I paused in the hallway to talk to Nick for a while, then spent a little time at my desk, catching up on things. I didn't work too late, but I did go up to my room for an IM session that ended when TDRSS set. From there, I just rolled over and went to sleep.

{-- Previous month's journal  | Following month's journal --}

To Ethan's Home Page

Valid HTML 2.0! Last modified: 15 November 2005
© Copyright 2004, 2005, Ethan Dicks (contact me). All rights reserved.