Saturday, September 13, 2008

Awesome images

Greetings from Antarctica!

Today is Sunday for me. The wind is howling outside, gusting to 35 kts There is little to no blowing snow. The temperature is now a balmy +3 F with wind chill down to -17 F. They expect more wind with blowing snow later today.

I've washed and dried my clothing and linens today. I've cleaned my in-room sink area and the bathroom this morning. We have to care for our own room and bathroom areas.

Yesterday was interesting. I saw a couple of patients and took an x-ray. When I say "took an x-ray" I mean everything: warm up the x-ray machine, load the digital film carrier, and literally shoot the film. Then I processed it in the digital reader and send the image to Denver for review. In three weeks there will be a radiology technologist here for the summer, but for now, we are it. In addition to seeing a couple of patients, I also filed charts for the incoming summer people (it took two days and was about 1000 charts). I vacuumed the hospital's carpet and mopped the floors with bleach+water. That wasn't covered in my internship. Janitors arrive the first week of October with Mainbody. Can't wait. Today, ostensibly my day off, I saw two patients and took another x-ray.

We recycle nearly everything at MacTown: batteries, cardboard, aluminum, light metals, mixed paper, glass, plastic, and probably other things I am forgetting. It is amazing how little trash I am generating. Each morning I throw into the sanitary disposal bucket a couple of Kleenex. If I eat an orange in my room, then I dispose of the peel in the food items bucket. That's about it. The galley has us recycle our paper napkins. We bus our own tables and separate the silverware by type. During this period, Winfly, before Mainbody arrives, everyone has to do a shift of dishwashing. Mine is Sep. 30th from 12 - 3:30 pm.

Last night about 20 of us took a shuttle over to Scott Base, the New Zealand base on Antarctica. They have a smaller base with about 100 people that is 4 km from McMurdo. We joined the Kiwis to watch the Tri-Nations Rugby match between New Zealand and Australia. The Kiwis won and it was smiles all around. There were three Australians who were disappointed: one of them was Colin, the other doctor that I work with here. We got back around midnight, the latest that I stayed up in Antarctica!

It's interesting to meet people here. The majority of scientists won't arrive until mainbody. The Raytheon people I've met have been very interesting: a state legislative lobbyist working in construction; a culinary institute graduate working as a dining assistant; a fellow in his master's program working in the fuels department; an environmentalist attorney working in the hazardous materials and spill clean-up department; a registered nurse working in logistics; a former flight attendant works in payroll, and the list goes on and on. These are people who see the adventure and excitement of travel to Antarctica and are willing to take any job available that will get them here. There are a number of OAEs (Old Antarctic Explorer) who keep coming back season after season. One 69 year old fellow has his master's degree and has been coming down for the past 9 seasons to work in the supply area (our version of Home Depot). Yesterday I met an old guy who retired as an electrician years ago, but wasn't ready to stop working. He and his wife have been coming down every season since.

Colin Muir, the current lead doctor, is a former Ob/gyn. He left ob/gyn a few years ago and became a cruise ship doctor. He'd be gone months at a time, but his wife and son would fly out and join him aboard the ship for a week or two at a time. They loved his job! This McMurdo gig is a new experience for him: no warm weather, no tanned bikini-clad passengers, no liquid water, etc. He's been here continuously since February and is eager to leave in October. He will be going to Australia to visit friends before returning home.

Today I am volunteering to work in the library from 3 -5 pm. I have no idea what that entails, but am willing to do it because it will familiarize me with the library...where it is located and what is located within.

I've signed up for Snow Camp. This is a two-day experience where they take us out onto the continent and teach us how to build a snow shelter, create heat, cook, sleep, and survive out on the continent. The OAEs call it "Happy Camper School". It may also include helicopter safety training. I don't know the dates for this training as scientists and others who require these skills have priority. It should be in late October.

The still image you see is of nacreous clouds. Due to their high altitude and the curvature of the surface of the Earth, these clouds will receive sunlight from below the horizon and reflect it to the ground, shining brightly well before dawn or after dusk. In the Antarctic, they are made up almost exclusively of ice crystals. The 30 second QuickTime movie (below) is of Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. I have these images courtesy of my friend, James, who spent a great deal of time acquiring these excellent specimens.

For Mrs. Shuwarger's fifth grade class: can you look up nacreous clouds and see why they call them by that name, by what other names they are known, and how they differ from the clouds we know in Forest, VA?


Art Gorski said...

Wow, Don, it's just like living in cohousing!

Evil Transport Lady said...

Amazing! Wow! thanks for the update and pictures!!!!!!

D... said...

Absolutely breathtaking pics and video. Wow.

Greg Burns said...


I'm not sure my first comment went through, so I'll try one more time. Really looking forward to reading of your adventures. Is there a height limit?

I'd like to buy you a beer when you get back to Forest and hear more of your adventures.

Keep warm,

Greg Burns

Polar Doc said...

Thanks for your comments. The living is more like college than co-housing. The biggest difference is that the dorms are quiet.

Glad you like the photo and video. I'll keep them coming.

As for that beer, Greg, I'll take you up on it. As far as I know, no height limit here.

Terry said...

Video is awesome. Hey - do you get much snow, or is it so dry, you really don't get much???

Bill said...

Don, sorry to have missed your Blog until now--Quite a trip! Duties about the same as in Africa, but the temp is a bit different. Christchurch is a wonderful spot and hope you had a little time to see the gardens and some of the surrounding area. Spent 3 months in NZ and loved it. I'll keep up with your blog. Bill Gayle

Polar Doc said...

Terry asked about snow. In the 8 days since I've been here, it really hasn't snowed. The OAEs say that the winter snows can be pretty impressive.

Glad to see Dr. Bill is now following the blog. Welcome aboard. I did get to spend a couple of days in Chch on the way down. I'll do more on the way back, probably to include scuba at the Great Barrier Reef.

mark said...

Great pictures, thanks for sharing your adventure

brother of the leaf

Bubba's Sis said...

Wow - I've never seen the Southern lights - or the Northern lights either! Beautiful video and awesome pictures! Sounds like you're doing great down there! We've been dealing with Hurricane Ike here - no fun at all. Maybe we should have evacuated to Antarctica!

Anonymous said...

Hi Don,
sounds as if you are fitting in nicely. Enjoy your postings.