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February 20, 2013

Goodye McMurdo!

Today is my last day in Antarctica.  I took a short hike up Observation Hill to say goodbye.  Notice the cargo vessel at the ice pier and the open water all around.  It is time to go!

February 14, 2013

Last fly day of the season!

That's it!  Today we're finished flying.  Time to clean up, pack up, and go home.

Here's the crew (minus the mechanics)

February 13, 2013

One last flight with Jack

Today likely marks the last flight of Jack Hawkins' long helicopter career.  Jack began flying with the military in Vietnam.  For the past 16 years, he has headed up the helicopter support effort in McMurdo.  Today, we're flying a group of distinguished military visitors on a flightseeing tour.  They're getting to see the sights and Jack is saying goodbye to his backyard.  Here are some highlights:

Beacon Valley

VXE-6 Icefalls

Lake Vanda, look closely for the hut.

The Labyrinth

Jack and Nick at Cape Evans

February 11, 2013

Just a few scenics

Victoria Valley Dunes 
Koetlitz Glacier

Sea Ice near Marble Point

A sling load arrives at MacTown

February 9, 2013

McMurdo Sound Ice Breakout

Russian icebreaker at the pier  
Tourist shuttle
This is the time of the year that vessels begin arriving in McMurdo Sound.  Our sea ice has thinned and the ice edge has moved close enough the the station to make it easy for a contract icebreaker to open the shipping channel.  Soon our fuel tanker will arrive along with a research ship, followed by our cargo vessel.  Cruise ships occasionally visit McMurdo as well and use helicopters to shuttle their guests ashore.  

February 4, 2013

TED Talk about the xAlps Paragliding Race

This talk is a great overview of the Red Bull X-Alps paragliding race.  Salzburg to Monaco with one main rule:  the athletes must carry their paraglider or the paraglider must carry them.

January 24, 2013

Killer Whale Tagging

Examine the cargo carefully and you'll see two crossbows.  Yep, crossbows.   These implements are used by one of our science groups to take tissue samples and to tag Orca Whales in McMurdo Sound.

I could write more, but you should really just watch the video shot by one of our pilots, Ken Kuwahara.

January 23, 2013

A-Star Pollywog

Our A-Star helicopters just returned from the Pine Island Glacier deep-field camp.  The aircraft were partially disassembled in order to fit onto the LC-130 Hercules cargo plane for the flight to the camp.  The poor things...

January 22, 2013

Mac Truck of the Sky

Here are a few photos from camp moves.  Our Bell 212 helicopters are essentially big flying dump trucks.  Ugly, noisy, rough-around-the-edges, tough, and capable.  Workhorses. 

Check out the sling in the foreground

Creative Rigging - techs will get it...

Surely we can get another box in there somewhere...

University Valley

Garwood Valley

January 21, 2013

A glory at Cape Crozier

Cape Crozier lies on the northeast side of Ross Island.  It is the location of an immense penguin colony and home to a small group of dedicated (and stinky!) researchers.  Every once in a while we fly out there to drop off goodies.

Flying between the sun and a low cloud creates a "glory".

Ross Ice Shelf on the horizon, the tan ground is the penguin colony or rather, their poo.  Don't get downwind!

January 14, 2013

XC Hang Gliding featured in NYT Today

Just saw this article in the New York Times this morning.


If you've ever wondered just what cross country free flight is like, in a hang glider or paraglider, this article is a good introduction.  Good Stuff!

January 13, 2013

Another reason to understand airspace - because the cops don't

Here's a story on AOPA from a sailplane pilot who was arrested and held overnight for violating a nonexistent "no-fly zone" over a power plant.  Meanwhile, his pals were searching for him.  No FAA violation occurred and charges were dropped...one month and 20 hours of legal fees later.


James Fallows sounds off on this topic in the Atlantic here:


This incident makes clear that we should expect more level-headed and even-handed response from our law enforcement officials.  But the main take-home for me was the fact that the Federal Aviation Regulations protected the pilot in this situation.  The glider pilot was simply doing what glider pilots do, searching for lift to make that final glide to his home airport.

The FAA Notice-to-Airmen in question here states, "In the interest of national security and to the extent practicable, pilots are strongly advised to avoid the airspace above, or in proximity to such sites as power plants... .  Pilots should not circle as to loiter in the vicinity over these types of facilities."

Key words in the notam are "practicable" and "loiter".

It wasn't "practicable" for the glider to avoid the facility and still get home.

Further, AOPA notes in its article:  Because gliders routinely circle to gain altitude in thermals, the Soaring Society of America sought a clarification from the FAA, posting on its website on March 7, 2002, that the FAA did not consider this behavior loitering.  "The key is to spend only as much time as needed to gain lift and move on beyond the facility," the association wrote.

The FAA essentially shrugged its shoulders over this whole incident.  Meanwhile the local police, DHS, and power plant security end up looking like....well, you be the judge.

So, free flight in this country is a privilege and comes with rules and responsibilities, absolutely.  However, those same rules, when we understand and abide by them, can protect individual pilots and our ability to do what we love to do.  And it never hurts to have an advocacy group like AOPA and the Soaring Society of America on your side.

January 7, 2013

Ozone Test Pilot Russell Ogden on Glider Handling

It is getting to the time of the season when thoughts turn to things other than snow and ice.  For me that means looking forward to cross country flights on my paraglider.

In the clip below is some of the most detailed advice that I've seen about flying modern high performance gliders.  Not just two-liners either.  At one point Russell makes the comment that his tips apply to gliders like the Rush 3 as well. 

Listen up, this is like a lesson from Yoda on how to use the Force.

January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year from Antarctica!!

Its not all about work down here.

Keith Heyward composed this video of our New Year's Eve music festival, Icestock.

6 hours, 11 bands, one stage.  Not bad for a town of 1,000.  This is what New Year's Eve looks like under the midnight sun.  I went for a nice solitary skate ski.

We might not be getting any fresh veggies or fruit down here, but there is still plenty of beer and wine for the holiday.

See some of Keith's other work at www.prehensileproductions.com