Wednesday, November 18, 2009
South Pole Station
The C-130 cargo plane that flew us from McMurdo to the South Pole (about 3 hours flight)
Me just getting off the plane by the station, in full Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. It was about -35 F outside with a windchill of -50 F.
My teeny tiny room.
The flight left this morning at around 9 am. We flew in a C-130, which is a propellor driven military cargo plane. It was really loud. They passed out earplugs before the flight. We had two 2-star generals and two 1-star generals on the flight, which was really cool. We figured that if anything should happen, we'd be rescued right away. Those guys are valuable. They said that they were just on a tour of the station, but I figure they were probably going to examine the alien spacecraft hidden under the ice. Since we were so heavy, we could only climb to a max altitude of 24,000 feet. About half way into the flight, the ice/mountains were over 10,000 feet, so we were really close. At one point, we dropped in and flew between the mountains. It was really cool to look out the window and see the side of a mountain. The landing was incredibly smooth (seeing as how we landed on skis on an ice runway). When we deplaned, the temperature was about -35 degrees F. It was coooooooold!!!! We entered south pole station and got our debreifing.
The crazy thing about the south pole is that is sits at an elevation of 9,3000 feet, and with the pressure and temperature, it feels more like over 10,000. So the biggest thing when you arrive is to make sure that you don't get altitude sickness. I started taking Diamox in McMurdo which helps prevent symptoms of altitude sickness, but it's got some weird side effects. Apparently, it works by ridding your blood of carbonate, which makes it more acidic, which triggers your body's natural reflext to breathe more. In ridding the carbonate, it does it one way--it makes you pee a lot. Like every 3 hours. I haven't had any of the other side effects yet, but apparently it can make random parts of your body go numb for random periods of time. Sounds kind of fun.
Here, I have my own room, well more like closet. It's got a bed, a desk, and a closet. I think its dimensions are 6'x10'. It's small. No windows either, which is probably a good thing since it will be easier to sleep. The station is really nice. It's brand new, opened last year. There's a gym for basketball/volleyball/indoor soccer, a cardio gym, and a weight room. The cafeteria is open 24/7 but has normal meal times. The rest of the time you can have left overs or cereal, etc. Lunch today was good, and I'll grab dinner in an hour or so. Lunch was beef sloppy joes (which were really tasty) and they had all sorts of sides, from fries, to fruit, to salad.
After lunch, and unpacking my things, I went to their music room and played guitar for a couple of hours. They have some nice equiptment. I started playing a Strat through a fender blues deluxe, then moved onto a Gibson SG, then moved onto an acousitc (made of carbon fiber).
I haven't been to the lab yet. I'll go tomorrow morning at 8am to check on the status of all our crates.
I haven't gotten a chance to upload pictures yet. Internet can be spotty--it depends on when satellites are flying through. I didn't even see a scheduled internet time for right now...
Weird things about south pole so far:
- Allowance of 2 2min showers a week
- 1 load of laundry /week
- they really REALLY emphasize washing your hands
- The station is on stilts
- the actual south pole is like 20 feet away from the building
- all waste gets shipped out (especially poop)
- all water comes from melted ice
- it's at an elevation of 9,300 feet, of which 90% is ice.
- There are 231 of us here right now
I'll post more of these once I learn more