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Closing Siple Dome

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

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Back in Town. I am sitting in the coffeehouse writing this. As it turns out someone made a mistake and realized that we needed to pulled out before the twin Otters leave the continent on the 7th of February. We arrived at Williams Field last night around 8 PM on the Twin Otter SJB after a bit of an ordeal during our pullout.

Phase two of I-205 got settled in after their arrival on the Herc that took out our old Tucker. Then SJB arrived to take them out to their GPS sites so that they could retrieve all of them and begin processing the data. But soon after their arrival the weather went down for ten days. So the three I-205 guys and the three Twin Otter crew were hanging around with nothing to do. Because of our anticipated pullout we were busy trying to get the camp ready for closure. We spent the week doing final maintenance on the machinery and making inventory lists. Our final Herc was scheduled to fly out all of I-205ís gear and whatever was and retro we had to fly out from the camp. They were scheduled for Monday but because of the Twin Otter weather delay their arrival kept getting pushed forward later in the week. On Wednesday They finally got out to their GPS sites and retrieved their equipment. They worked through the night backing up their data and tearing down their work-tent. The next morning we started building their air force palettes of equipment to be loaded on the Herc. By late afternoon, the Herc was finally on the ground and we had them turned around in an hour.

Now that the camp was mostly empty of people other than the three of us and a carpenter who flew in to help us close up the structures we had to dedicate all our time to closing up the camp an putting everything up on berms so they donít get buried during the winter. It was really difficult to build berms with the tiny blade of the tucker but somehow we managed.

SJB was scheduled to turn back around and pick us up on Friday to fly us back to McMurdo. Friday morning we woke up to sun and calm winds; perfect weather for tying up all the loose ends. We spent the morning closing up the fueling system and cleaning out the Jamesway. SJB arrived on schedule and we got it all loaded with our remaining gear and took off for Mactown. About an not even an hour into the flight they picked up so traffic on the radio. Apparently the weather a McMurdo had gone down and they heard a Herc returning from the South Pole request a weather observation from Siple Dome for a potential divert for fuel. SJB chimed in saying that they had the camp staff onboard enroute for McMrudo at the moment and the camp had officially closed for the season. But, the Herc was already en route to Siple and could not make it back to McMurdo without fuel. So we had to turn around and go back to Siple where we unpacked the whole fueling system and got prepared to fuel the Herc. What a hassle. Everything went smoothly though and we got up in time and torn back down in a couple of hours. There was a bonus though. On the flight back to McMurdo I got to fly the plane for a bit. Exciting. I guess I did a good job of it because the captain asked if I had flown before. I have never even been in the cockpit of a plane before. For some reason I was reminded of the time I took my brother Joel driving for the first time when he was about 13. When I finally got him out of first gear he found driving so amusing that he began to laugh uncontrollably. So much so that he stopped paying attention to the driving and we almost wound up in the ditch. It didnít happen to us in the air though, thank god. I was able to control my laughter and we made it safely back to Willy Field.

So here we are back in Mactown. We have our own room this time which is nice. It is kind of overwhelming having so many people around. Today we are showering, doing laundry and getting ourselves presentable for the general public. Tomorrow is Sunday and we are off. On Monday weíll start putting everything away, finish our inventories and start getting ready for NZ. We are scheduled for the C-17 flight North on the 3rd.

Goodbye Jethro

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

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Oops. I guess I missed a Sunday. The past two have not really been days-off as usual. The Twin Otter crews arenít bound by a weekly schedule as their counterparts in the LC-130s are. So they fly when the weather is good and donít fly when it isnít. When the weather got better here they got out to Fosdick and pulled out the camp there. The plan was to get G-088 in here at Siple Dome during the day and have them spend 1 night. The next day we would build palettes of their gear to go out on a Herc in the afternoon. The whole thing went like clockwork until 10 minutes before the plane arrived and the infamous Siple Doom fog set in. It was too thick to land so they circled for two hours waiting for it to clear. It finally cleared at about midnight and they got in and out with all of G-088 and their gear and were able to leave us some fuel in the bladder. They didnít lift off until 1am taking advantage of their full flight-day hours.

The next chore on the schedule was to fly our old broken Tucker out. The task has been on and off the schedule for a couple of months. Its main problem is that it has a cracked cylinder head where all the coolant sprays out so it canít be run with coolant risking a seizure if the engine gets too hot. Since it has been sitting here for almost a year we have been using it for parts for the good Tucker. But, we have been careful not to take parts that would render it immobile. We did take a universal joint off the forward drive shaft making it a 2TD.

There was a technical disagreement as to the best way to get it on the plane. It is hard enough to get it on the plane when it is running and it becomes a huge project when it has to be winched. One camp wanted to start the Tucker and drive it the 100ft onto the Herc and then use the winch if necessary. The other camp wanted to tow it to the back of the plane with the good tucker and winch it on hence ďsavingĒ the engine. When they first had it on the schedule to be flown out we actually had it running to the point that it could be moved under its own power making the former proposal entirely feasible. But, in the end, it was decided to go with the latter proposal. No preparations were made to insure the engine would start prior to towing it to the ramp in the back of the plane (aside from a vigorous Herman Nelsoning). As a result, when we found ourselves in a bind getting it in the cargo hold and badly needed steering, the motor wouldnít start because it had a dead battery. Ultimately, the Herc shut down (something that they never do at a remote site) and we spent two hours towing it this way and that and winching it ever-so-slowly into the belly of the beast. We heard from the Twin Otter guys that they saw it broken down on the ice road to the Willy Field Runway at McMurdo. Apparently, someone jumped it and tried to drive it back to town without much luck.

The same flight brought in the second phase of the I-205 group, our last science group of the season. Their job is to pick up all the GPS units the first phase placed out in the ice streams around Siple Dome. The same Twin Otter crew that pulled out G-088 are here again supporting I-205. Our last scheduled Herc flight it to pull out I-205 and all their gear. The schedule is ALWAYS subject to change. We will most likely be here until around the 7th of February. They are trying to keep us here as long as possible as a potential divert landing site for WAIS Divide and South Pole. Once again: subject to change.

Hurry Up and Wait

Monday, January 9th, 2006
IMG_3567 (Custom).JPG This week might as well not have happened. We have been on the flight schedule to receive a Herc and a Twin Otter all week but the weather has not cooperated. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Merry New Year

Sunday, January 1st, 2006
IMG_3554 (Custom).JPG Merry New Year! We have had a busy holiday week. Christmas was pretty uneventful. We had flights up to Christmas but we didnít get any mail. While we were ... [Continue reading this entry]