Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sara goes to South Pole!!!

A small rendition of my trip to the South Pole, the furthest south any human can go! It was a merry Christmas to me! This trip was suppose to be done earlier in Dec. but was postponed. I found out on Christmas Eve that I was going. We planned to leave Dec 26th and return on the 27th, but the ever changing itinerary did just that - changed. We left for the terminal on Monday Dec 26th at 6:45 am. It included a 1/2 hour ride to the airport and then on to an LC-130 (military) plane for the 3 hour, 800 mile ride to the pole. All started out well. At 9:15 am on the 26th we boarded the LC-130 plane number skier 96. When they went to start the plane, the 3rd engine would not start so they had us deplane and head back to the galley at Willy air field. After an 2 hour wait, they reloaded us on skier 96 and tried again. This time we had take off and I remember thinking I am finally going! How wrong I was. An hour into the flight, the plane had trouble with the auto pilot and we were forced to turn around and head back to McMurdo, Willy airfield and back to the galley. We landed around 11:30 pm and were waiting to see what was going to happen. The first air crew changed and a second crew arrived. Still no plane. Once the auto pilot problem was fixed, they loaded us back on skier 96 and we tried yet a third time to take off. Again engine 3 failed, this time losing parts onto the snow. Off the plane we went and yes back to the galley. By this time we were all ready to head home but the pole wanted us down there asap so we waited for a new plane to be ready. At 9:00 pm after sitting in the galley all day, they put us on skier 00 and tried one last time. This time, with a third air crew, we made it into the air. Again I thought I would make it to the pole this time, again I was wrong. 13 min into the flight, the weather at the pole changed and would not allow us to land so the plane turned around and took us back to the galley. This flight lasted a total of 26min 39 sec. We arrived at the galley at 10:30pm and were finally able to head back to McMurdo and into bed. They decided we would try again tomorrow.

This is skier 96, the plane we loaded an unloaded 3 times before finally deciding that it just was not going to make the flight.

Tuesday Dec. 27th 2005. Trying again to make it to the South Pole. Transport to the airfield at 7:45 am. Out at the Willy airfield galley (again) by 8:15. This time we were suppose to take skier 00 at 8:30. Again the plane did not start. Again we waited in the galley. This time only for 3 hours. At 11:15 am we finally boarded skier 90 and headed to the pole. This time we took off and actually were on the way! This time I actually landed at the pole!

On an LC-130 the passengers, referred to as PAX, sit in the cargo part of the plane in webbing seats. There are no regular seats on a flight like this. It is really loud in the back and ear plugs have to be worn at all times. Also it gets really cold in the back and heavy coats and boots are a must.

Standing on the flight deck with the pilots. I knew the air crew and was able to sit on the flight deck for the flight down. The windshield is actually made up of 20 smaller windows creating a ton of light coming in the window.

This is Matt. In McMurdo we drink a lot of coffee together. He is the co-pilot for this flight. Here he is making me some coffee for the flight.

Pictures of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. This was about 1 hr 40 min into the flight. These mountains are the major range that separates the pole from McMurdo. There are areas in this range where no human has ever stepped.

We landed at the South Pole at 2:30 pm on Dec. 27,2005. The South Pole station is being rebuilt. The old station was under the dome as on the right, and the new station now sits above ground. The new station is able to hold more people and science experiments. I was able to stay in the new station.

The entrance to the old station and dome.

Under the dome the old structure are being taken out and replaced on the outside.

The structure under the dome and station is dug into the ice. It is like climbing around in a ice mine. It is -65 in the tunnels. They hold the piping structure for water and sewage.

Tons of ice crystals form around the heated lines.

People make shrines in the ice tunnels. The sturgeon has been at the pole since 1996.

The UFO Base and Vostok are some of the more famous "land marks"

The "pole". The reflection in and the flags behind.

The actual pole is moved each new year's day. The ice moves about 2 inches a year so they move the pole each year to keep it exactly where it should be.

There are 3 pole markers at the site. This is the one that looks the most official.

I was at the South Pole until Dec 29th. We were there for a HAZMAT cleanup. Once the job was done, they sent me back to McMurdo. The flight back was not as interesting as the one to the pole and we made it back to McMurdo by 2:30pm with out incident.

And Yes Mom, Noopy did go with me- See..

Monday, December 19, 2005

Meet My Fire Crew

This is the 20 or so people I work with every day. You can see why work is so much fun.

Chief Sharon DiGicomo. Chief has been down for the last 8 years. She worked as a firefighter before she made chief. Off season she lives in the Denver area.

Capt. Brian Walters and his wife Christin. Christin is a dispatcher. They are from Nebraska where Brian played football. He was on the national championship Nebraska team in 1997. In the off season Brian works for Lincon Fire and Christin is a personal trainer. This is their first year on the ice.

Lt. Drew Martin. He is originally from New Hampshire but now calls California home. This is his third year down on the ice. At home he is a wild land firefighter. Drew is the one who always has playing cards and is a real killer at the game RISK.

Lt. Trent Meyers. He is from Calfornia right now but tends to move around a bit. In the off season he is a river guide. This is Trent's 5th season down on the ice. He is one of the few on the crew who has wintered.

Lt. Scott Brock. Scott is married to the dispatcher Vanessa. They are from Florida but have moved to Georgia. Scott was working as a firefighter in Key West, FL. before they came to the ice. It is the Brock's first year. I hike and recreate with the Brocks quite a bit. When the season is over, they plan on hiking the entire Appellation trail.

JT Tuning (blond) and Nick Caple (dark hair) Nick is the last LT. He is a smoke jumper in the offseson in Idaho.

JT is from Oregon and has been a volunteer firefighter up there. He was the last one to come down this year.

This is a first year for both.

Trish Christenson. Trish is orginally from Utah but now calls CO. home. She works for Pridemark Ambulance and Louisville Fire in the off season. This is her first year. Together with Dianne and myself, we are refered as the "fire flys". Trish also makes a killer berry smoothy!

Emily. She works in CO in the mountains. Emily had a family emergency in late October and had to leave the ice.

Nick Yarns. Nick is from Seattle where he works as a volunteer.
This is Nick's first year.

Brian Spegial. Brian was a dish washer down here last year. Over the summer he did all his fire training so he could return as a firefighter. This is his second year on the ice.

Lori Grevel. Lori is the dispatcher. She has been coming down to the ice 5 years now. She has wintered a few times also. Lori is from Arvada, Co, went to the same Jr. high as I did, swam on the same year round swim team and lives about 3 miles from my mom. I never met her in the states.

Andre Fluette from Baltamore. This is also his first year and he is wintering this year. What was he thinking? Andre is a great photographer and has taken a bunch of the photos I have sent out.

Scott Griffith (in the hat) and Justin Smith (green shirt). These are the 2 youngest firefighters of the bunch. Scott just turned 20 on the ice. He is from Castle Rock CO. We all call him Bobby Brady. Justin is from Florida. He is "New Guy" eventhough he was not the last one here. He is also going to winter.

Shawn Powers. Shane is one of the other medics. He is from Alaska and is not afraid to wear pink! This is his first year.

Diane Mibich. Diane is from San Francisco. She works for the forest service with Drew in the off season. This is her first year. Diane is always up for a party and is a kick to hang with.

Jimmy Widell. We call Jimmy the squirle on crack. He is a hyper one. This is his first year. He plans to come back next year and winter.

Matt Gigolitti. Matt is another of the paramedics. He is from Co. Springs and this is also his first year.

Patrick John. Pat is from Salt Lake. He is a medic and this is his first year

Dispatcher Sheri Nemont. Sheri is the most Sr. person in the fire dept having come down more than anyone can count. Sheri is from the Denver area.

So this is the crew. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cycle Cross!!!

Last Sunday was the McMurdo 3rd Annual Cycle Cross Bike Race !!

It was a day of biking in costume and having a bit of fun. The object was to get as muddy as possible while looking as crazy as possible.

The race was all of 2 miles (it almost killed a few people.) The weather held at a balmy 26 above with over cast skies, a wind of 20 mph and a bit of rain.

Prizes were given out. I was 3rd for the women. The prize consisted of a free game of bowling (yes there is a 2 lane alley here) and a free hamburger with fries (they have burger days on Wed, Fri and Sunday.)

The next big adventure, the 5K re-run of the Turkey Trot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seals, Seals everywhere

For the last few months the seals have been on the ice giving birth. I was never able to go out and see them for myself, but one of the scientists was nice enough to send me some pictures. These are Weddell Seals. The are native to the area. In this particular colony has had every seal has been tagged for the last 35 years.

This is an crabeater seal. The are also native to the area. When pupping time occurs, both species give birth at the same location.

When the seals are first born, they weigh any where from 25 to 30 pounds. This new born is only a few day old.

Pups grow up fast. For the first few months of their lives they live on mom's milk. They do not start swimming until around 6 months. Most of their time is spent next to mom sunbathing.

This is a pup at about 3 months. He now weighs about 90 pounds.

The crabeater seals are mainly white. The pups are similar in size and weight to the Weddell seals. This is a toddler with mom.

The scientist weighs and tag each seal and new born pup. They track how many babies are born and how many babies each mother has over her life time. To get their weight, the scientist places the babies into a weighing bag and hangs them from the scale.