Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dry Valleys Opening


To the valleys!  

The sun has just a few more times to dip behind the mountains, the summer is upon us, and scientists are gearing up to head to their sites to do their thing.  But, thankfully, science waits for renewable energy!  So off we go across the sound in a helicopter to the valleys to open 4 camps in some of the most spectacular spots on the continent...and I think in the world!

Below, the camps at Lake Hoare and Lake Fryxell.

Lake Bonney panels.
Our general routine: helicopter flight in the morning to the next camp in the sequence, turn on the diesel heater, chip ice from the lake to start melting water, check the state of the batteries, connect the batteries, pull the solar panels out of storage, mount them on their pole mounts, test the panels, wire in the panels, inspect a the wind turbine tower if there was one, climb the tower, inspect the turbine body and tail, reattach the blades, back down the tower, turn on and check the solar charge controller, turn on  and check the inverter, confirm the right voltage is going to the camp outlets, load the system with a space heater to see what the solar and wind are capable of covering, then check and record all the charging settings.  Then monitor the system to make sure all is working as it should.  That's the deal.  Some sites take longer than others, there's always more to learn about and investigate and parts of the system to tweak.  It's good work, sometimes cold work, but flying in the valleys is fantastic.  

The "wind bird" at Lake Fryxell and the inverter at F6.

Here's a link to a video of the blades going onto the body of the wind turbine from a new helmet cam!  To give you a visual taste of the tower work:  Working Aloft  

Just a bit of "good" ice near the shore.
While waiting Vito to finish the diesel generator work, I had a little time off and used it to lace up my hockey skates and take a lap around Lake Fryxell.  It was adventure skating if there is such a thing.  Big cracks, I had to watch out for to not twist an ankle, cold winds when opposing the direction of travel, sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth, sometimes snow.  But how wonderful to be skating on "the ice."

So we flew to and then opened: Lake Hoare, Lake Fryxell, Lake Bonney and F6, spending three nights in the valleys, forever grateful for the opportunity to go and work there.  Going to sleep each night in my -40 degree sleeping bag, I felt a little like being in a spaceship.  Some of the spots feel like a different planet.  And when there's a little time for a hike, I can't help but feel like I'm an astronaut exploring Mars without a space suit.  And then I think I can breath the air, swim in the seas, and just a matter of hours to the north in an airplane brings trees, animals, all the wilds of the world.  What a world we live in!

Now we are back in town and preparing in town energy supplies for scientists and looking forward to our next camp to set up.  I wasn't quite ready to come back to town but town is not so bad.  Lots of good people and tons of ping pong!  That's all for now!

Our ride: the Bell 212 underbelly.
Snow mobile tracks to infinity and beyond!
While doing a little of solar outfitting one of the local fish huts that live on the ice near McMurdo, we had a visitor.  At first the seal just poked his nose up out of the water as if checking to see if we had a friendly scent.  He did this many times, until we began to talk to him.  Then, as if our words smelled amicable, he came up to say hello and sat there floating in the dive/fish hole looking up at us with his big brown eyes.  Very cool.

If you're interested, check out the McMurdo Webcam link I just added to the right side of the blog under the LINKS section.  Enjoy!


  1. Wow site is looking good, Benny.
    Love the 'hockey skating to the South Pole.' Endless memoir titles at play...

  2. AnonymousMay 19, 2013

    Wonderful!I reviewed your blog site. We need to take back the power from environmentalists who could care less about anyone other than themselves. diesel generator for sale.
    We need to put logic and common sense back into our legislative processes.