Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More Waiting: January 12-14, 2015

I'm trying blogging via email, so we'll see if this works.

Monday morning I woke up to a call from the SuperGroom team. At that
point, the Basler was planned to come to the South Pole and then,
depending on how long it took and the weather, continue on with Sean,
Dana, and I to SuperTIGER. We assured them that we were ready to go,
but reminded them that the weather looked questionable in the
afternoon and that we still hadn't gotten a Herc flight in with the
last bits of camp cargo that we needed. We went over to the carpentry
shop to ask for a couple more pieces of wood, and then walked into the
station to warm up. We sat around in the galley for a while and then
decided to go watch a movie. By the time we had a movie picked out,
we got paged for another call from the groom team and I went outside
and talked to James for a while. At this point, we found out that the
Basler was not coming to the Pole at all that day. By that point it
was almost lunch, so we ate and then returned to the lounge to watch
Blade Runner. The rest of the afternoon Sean and I learned how to play
cribbage from Dave and Carol, who work on automated weather stations,
and are also basically just waiting here for a plane. After dinner,
Sean and I stopped by the store for a couple of minutes while Dana
called Thomas out in the field.
When our flights back to Christchurch changed, there was limited space
on the different flights, so Dana was scheduled for a January 19
flight. Monday was exactly a week before that, and there hadn't been a
flight to the South Pole by a Herc in a week. We started to get very
worried about Dana not being able to make it back in time, and when it
became clear that he wouldn't be able to get much time on the ground
at SuperTIGER regardless it was decided that he should leave the Pole
soon to get back to McMurdo in time to fly out to Christchurch as
planned. If he didn't make the January 19 flight, he could be stuck
here another two weeks (and has been here since late October/early
November). He called Bob in the afternoon and Thomas after dinner to
talk over this plan with them.
At 7, we went to an Antarctic history talk, given by yet another Dave
(a different Dave from the one who works on automated weather
stations, and also not the machinist Dave, and also not our groom team
Dave). We'd missed the first two lectures in this series, about the
Heroic Age of Antarctic explanation, but this talk was about the
explorers who many different parts of Antarctica are named after, and
what happened with their expeditions. It was very entertaining and
informative (fun fact: the area around WAIS divide had pretty much
constantly terrible weather as early as the 1930s). After that, we
stopped by the galley for dessert and then went and got on the
internet.

Tuesday I woke up and checked email, and then went to breakfast with
Dana, Dave and Carol, and "Kiwi" and Bryan, the Twin Otter Co-Pilot
and Flight Engineer. At that point, the Basler was on a weather delay
but still scheduled to come to the Pole today. A little before 9 I
went back to the Hypertat so that Sean and I could talk to Thomas for
our daily check-in. There wasn't too much new, but we had to tell
Thomas that the Basler was on a weather delay and not on its way to
the pole right then. Dana was told that he was on the flight back to
McMurdo that night, and had to bag drag more or less immediately.
Back inside the main station, we sat around in the galley looking at
some SuperTIGER construction photos to get an idea of some things we
need for recovery. We lasted all the way until 11:15 (about an hour
after I predicted!) before the Basler flight to the Pole was
officially cancelled.
After lunch, we talked with Henry the Twin Otter pilot and watched a
bunch of really awesome videos he took with a GoPro camera that he had
either strapped to the front ski or inside the cockpit of his plane.
Some of the aerial shots of the ice shelf and Mt. Erebus were
especially amazing.
We had a little bit of a brainstorming session about contingency plans
for recovery if the Basler keeps getting delayed, and then talked to
Bryan the Flight Engineer until dinner. The weather was pretty
terrible here all afternoon, and apparently wasn't good in McMurdo
either. It didn't look good for the Herc to fly here tonight, but Dana
kept insisting that it was going to happen. After dinner, we played
cribbage for a while and got the news that Dana's flight was on its
way (with another cargo Herc about an hour behind it!).
Once they announced that Dana's flight had landed and was ready for
passengers, we went and said goodbye. Then, it was on to the computer
lab for the evening internet, where we heard that his flight had
successfully taken off.

Wednesday was a rest day for the Basler crew in McMurdo, so there was
no flight to the Pole or SuperTIGER. I woke up early and walked in the
-47F windchill over to the station, where the internet wasn't working
well and I wasn't able to load anything. Then we went back to the
Hypertat and called Thomas, who gave us the most recent iteration of
the plan. The plan now includes me not camping at the SuperTIGER site
but accompanying the Basler in and out with the cargo, and then
dealing with the cargo here at the Pole. It's a little disappointing—I
was actually looking forward to camping, and getting on with the work
that I came here for and waited so long to do, but it's apparently
what needs to get done at this point.
After lunch, Sean and I went to our box of tools and pulled out the
stuff that Thomas thinks we'll need in the field. We then went out to
the science machine shop and helped organize the stockroom for a
couple of hours. It was good to have some work to do. After a break,
we headed back over and helped Dave (the machinist) load a bunch of
pieces of metal into sleds and then snowmobile them over to a shipping
container for storage, and by then it was time for dinner.

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