Monday, December 06, 2010

A Week at Byrd

Day 6
Byrd Surface Camp:

What was to be a short two day stay has turned into 6 so far...Erin and I arrived on Wednesday expecting to finish work by Friday evening so we could fly out on the next available flight - Saturday. But our equipment and hardware did not show up on time and we have been left to scrounge around. We did well and we were able to borrow tower sections, uni-strut metal bars for antenna mounting, a wooden 4x4 to be used in place of a tower, extra cable and many other things. Improvising is regular at field camps in the Antarctic Program.
Camp is located on the plateau, there is nothing in sight but what has been brought to the camp. There is a line of shelters used for medical, materials, comms and other such important things. The most important and biggest of the structures is the galley. Past all the structures is Tent
City. A grid of approximately 40 tents that we all sleep in. Shelters, tents, lines of cargo on wooden pallets, outhouses and a bunch of vehicles. That's about it. And a continual wind West.

The temp hovers around -18C which is around 0F. It is quite comfortable with our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear but when the wind is really blowing (like almost all the time) one needs to keep the skin covered except for short runs to the outhouse or pee flag.

We've now had 7 flights of the LC-130 canceled for various reasons. Mostly weather before the left "the deck" at McMurdo and two have been turned around - one for a cracked windshield and the other, today, came within 80 miles, circled for an hour, and then returned to McMurdo much to the disappointment of the nine folks that have been waiting to head back to McMurdo for what's getting close to a week.

The HF (high frequency) antenna is up as is the irridium satellite antennas which gives the camp a data connection - 1/1000th of the bandwidth of a normal household in the US - for the approximately 50 people who are here. No web surfing, just a simple email account.
To pass the time, something which comes relatively easy to me, I've mostly been learning morse code from my ipod. My dad and I both have our ham radio licenses and being that we're nearly 10,000 miles away voice contact may require more power than we have on each radio. But morse code can make the distance, amazingly enough. Last week, during a test, I could hear him sound out a few signals. So I've spent my nights listening to dits and dahs - and reporting on the sample contacts I've been listeing to, to my partner in crime, Erin...much to his enjoyment.
I like the field camp life. It is colder, harsher and the community tighter. No regular email, no regular phones, just VHF radios (which, naturally I love) throughout the camp. We entertain ourselves with Boggle and speed Scrabble. Lief is simple and I can't complain. But work is all but done here and I am looking forward to returning to "Mac Town" to continue learning the trade of a rigger, which I am quite enjoying. (Only one three hour flight away).

That's all for now. Hopefully two flight tomorrow! I hope all is well.

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