Monday, September 22, 2008

First Days at Work

The day after we arrived, it was time to get to work. The clear and calm weather that had greeted us on our arrival was gone and we were in for several days of icing and high wind.

Several of my most enjoyable tasks are outdoors. In good weather, being outside gives me astounding views of the glacier, station and nearby islands. But in wind, rain and icing, the work is shadowed by concerns of hypothermia or injury. This week, since lots of the weather fell into the rain and icing category, every task became an adventure, performed with blowing ice and snow stinging my face. For the VLF experiment, my regular tasks include climbing the glacier along the route of our cable and chipping it out of the ice.

Another task I do regularly is collect air samples to be sent back to labs at NOAA and Scripps. What scientists want to get in these samples is the clean air of Antarctica, the most pristine in the world. What they don't want to get is my exhaled breathe in the samples. So, I get to operate the equipment while I hold my breathe. Out on the snow and rocks this is more challenging than it was in the lab in Boulder. On the day I took my first samples, the only possible spot was surrounded by knee deep snow with a crusty layer of ice on top. With icy rain lashing my face my job was to place the collection unit, run away and then run back stop the sampling device. I went through this a couple of times just to make sure I got a sample without a trace of my own breath.

Down at station, here's what the ship looks like at dock. Its a dominant and familiar presence. Along with the other summer people I came in with, I am sleeping aboard until space becomes available in the station buildings. The photo is of Diane, the station chef delivering bagels to the ship's crew.

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