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December 17, 2006

Fly Day

Alright, another blissfully work-free Sunday has arrived! That means it's time to catch up on sleep, calories (great big brunch this AM), and the journal.

Good weather has kept us busy down at the helicopter pad. We specialize in cramming 10 pounds of humanity and science into the proverbial 5 pound bucket, in this case a Bell 212 helicopter. On occasion we have to fly the big loads on the outside. Pictured above is a load of propane and diesel about to be hooked to the belly of the approaching aircraft. It is quite a thrill to have 11,000 lbs of thrashing machinery hovering overhead as you hook the cable to the belly.


Its been said that the Bell 212 can be a dump truck or a greyhound bus, but not both at the same time. Here is a typical dump truck load of science instruments, camping gear, food, and probably a few bottles of wine. A 212 can carry 2500 lbs of cargo, but we often run out of internal space before we max out the aircraft's lifting capability. Packing and securing internal cargo is the art of the Helo-tech. However, we occasionally forgo finesse for the brute force of a Tokyo subway pusher. Just watch out for the million dollar NASA Mars probe instrument! Seriously!!

Just over the hill from McMurdo Station is Scott Base, home to the New Zealand Antarctic Program. Notice the pretty green buildings and contained, thoughtful layout. The station has one main door with all the major buildings and workshops connected by heated corridors. Spectacular nature photographs from around New Zealand grace the station's interior. Windows are plentiful and oriented to take advantage of spectacular views. The base is a reflection of New Zealand's national identity: small, pioneering, connected to nature, and sensitive to quality of life. In short, Scott Base has a soul. To be fair, it also has 10% the population of McMurdo. More on the splendors of McMurdo later.


I haven't seen much of the Antarctic continent, but this place is my favorite so far. Situated about one hour WNW of McMurdo and just on the edge of the polar plateau is a glaciated version of the desert southwest. A geology group led by Dr. Dave Marchant of Boston University believes that they have found ice that is over a million-years-old under the rocks of the Beacon Valley. More on this research can be found at: http://people.bu.edu/marchant/ This is also one of the more challenging places we fly into. Katabatic winds coming off the plateau frequently cause nasty turbulance around these peaks.







Paperwork! What government contract work would be complete without forms in triplicate? In addition to monitoring instruments, scanning for other air traffic (C-130s, Twin Otters, and other helicopters), watching the weather, and generally keeping the pilot awake, helo-techs write up passenger manifests and track flight time. For those of you who've never tried to write legibly while riding in a 212, just imagine a washboard road in an old Toyota pickup at 35 mph. Or at least that's my excuse!
That's all for now. Thanks for the e-mails from home!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the update.....looks nice and sunny... what else are you guys flying besides 212's?

Anonymous said...

Nick & Becky,

We've been enjoying the blog. We may just start our own, though pictures of 44 degrees and rain on 12/23 just don't make Cannonsburg or Crystal Mtn look as appealing as "THE ICE"!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you both.

Michael, Nancy, Kevin & Kristen

Brian said...

Nick,
Great to hear that your adventures are continuing on the ice, how I wish I was there with you, especially for the holidays. Being unemployed is hard work and the boredom is about to take over. I am thinking of taking a discount trip somewhere just to see a change of scenary. I love the pictures, and of course its nice to hear of what you and your lass are up too. Take care of each other, happy holidays, Brian

Paul said...

and he does keep us awake, It's hard work eating and sleeping. So what he fails to emphasise is his MAIN purpose is to keep us awake. I thank you Nick you have a good punch that regularly wakes me.

Paul

dad and peter said...

HEY YOU TWO,
tHIS IS A GREAT SITE. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND MERRY CHRISTMAS AND ALL THAT GOOD STUFF. WE RECEIVED YOUR PACKAGE. I AM ALREADY READING THE BOOK AND PETER LOVES THE HOT SAUCES. WE GOT BACK FROM PANAMA ON SUNDAY. WHAT A FANTASTIC TRIP. THE CANAL IS SO MUCH MORE THAN I EVER IMAGINED. YOU AND BECKY HAVE TO SEE IT. EVEN PETER LOVED IT. WE ENDED OUR TRIP WITH VISITS TO GUATEMALA, COSTA RICA AND MEXICO. MET SOME TERRIFIC FELLOW TRAVELERS AND ARE ON OUR WAY TO BELIZE IN MARCH.

lOVE TO YOU BOTH,
DAD AND PETER