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Happy Holidays from West Antarctica

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Rifugio Boccalatte

This picture was supposed to be our christmas cards but we never had enought time to print them up.  So I decided to just post it instead.  It was taken at Boccalatte in Italy in August. Yep, Northern Hemisphere summer. Yep, that is snow on the ground.   


Tuesday, December 19th, 2006


I have been making more modifications to my fueling system during the past week. Over the past winter, most of the camp equipment was stored in the Arch. This winter we won’t be able to store as much material in there so we are making our plans to store the stuff outside. One of our equipment operators has been plowing up a big cargo berm. If we were to just put the stuff on the ground it would be drifted over before we could get out of camp. Up on the berm it will at least escape getting buried until sometime mid-winter. Burying wouldn’t be particularly good for the fueling station. If we were just to leave it out in the open the way it is now, every little nook and cranny would fill with snow. Digging it out would be tricky because of the risk of breakage to fuel lines and pump motor parts. So in lieu of putting the pump inside, the idea is to put the inside on the pump.

At the moment the USAF has a “worldwide shortage of cargo palettes”. These are the standardized wood and aluminum boards that all Air Force cargo is first built onto before being loaded into military aircraft. It is a pretty ingenious system really how all this cargo can be slid on or off any military cargo aircraft as long as it has been build onto one of these palettes first. Especially if you consider how much longer it takes to load and unload a Russian cargo aircraft of the same class. They don’t have a standardized rolling palette system on their aircraft so everything has to be stowed in the hold manually.

Needless to say, these palette are extremely useful on the ground as well. Not only do we store all our cargo on them (making them easy to move after a storm to clean up around them) but we also use them for myriad other purposes. The Air Force rightly prefers that we only use the palette for its original function and with the recent shortage of them throughout the world we have been instructed to return as many of them as possible to Mcmurdo.
To replace them we have been shipped out a non-standardized replacement. They are roughly the same dimensions and weight. But, the new ones stand about six inches tall and are made of molded and reinforced plastic and have holes in them where the standard ones were a solid piece of two-inch-tall wood and aluminum. The new ones also don’t have the nice D-rings to clip cargo straps to. But, since the plastic takes well to screws they make great forkable platforms from which to build onto. The idea, of course, was to replace the air force palette that the pumping station is strapped to with a new plastic one so they can have the standard one back at McMurdo (to most likely find its way back here full of more cargo).

New Pumping Station

I spent the end of last week building the base of my new pumping station with the idea of eventually building a box that can be forked onto the whole apparatus making it easy to store for the winter and put back together at the beginning of next season. The biggest design hurdle is the eight-foot-tall rocket ship that is the new Velcon V3 filter. I started by building the floor with sheets of plywood with a frame of two-by-twos so the cover box fits snuggly onto the base. Then I built a sand box out of two-by-twelves that the pump and filter containment berm could fit nicely into. At this point I had to break down the old palette to put the equipment into the new base. This had to be done with the Tucker forks piece by piece: First the pump and motor, then the filter. Then the containment could be slid nicely into the box and both could be secured (screwed) to the floor. Then the static reel and nozzle cradle could be put into place.

It all went of without a hitch and I was able to pump fuel with it for the first time on Saturday. Of course the problem of the tall filter still stood. The solution I came up with was to build a cradle so that it can be drained and laid on its side for storage. Otherwise the top-box would have to be ridiculously large. But, because I didn’t want to have to drain and disconnect the plumbing from the two-hundred pound filter and then lay it down for measurement, I had to on-sight the thing. Kind of a pain, really, considering I’m no carpenter and I have spent a good part of my life using the metric system. I really hate having to do figures in fractions instead of decimals. I don’t understand how American carpenters can stand to use such an arcane system of measurement. But, it seems to have worked out. The cradle looks nice anyway and the measurements are all good. I won’t get to see how it holds the filter until the end of the season.

Now that the base has been fabricated I need to start thinking about the top-box. Hopefully we’ll get another spell of nice weather so I can start working on it.

More Fuel

Saturday, December 9th, 2006
  The weather got better before it got worse. The flight made it in a half hour early and gave us 1150 gallons of AN-8. AN-8 is a cold temperature jet fuel that we ... [Continue reading this entry]