Saturday, October 31, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
To dive in Kwajalein one has to belong to the Kwajalein Scuba Club (KSC). Once one is a member, all the tank fills are free. I am told that the KSC does more tank fills per year than any scuba club or outfit in the world.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
At 10:30 am Bess, her husband, Stan, Kevin and I went out diving. Stan captained their boat and took us to the Pacific Ocean side of some distant islands. For those readers who know my handicap, seasickness, you will know that this was quite the adventure for me. Thanks to a fabulous medicine, called Zofran, I was able to make the 7 hour trip without incident. We did two dives. While Stan spearfished, Bess, Kevin and I tootled around the reefs. The 82 degree water did not require wet suits. The dives were spectacular. The second site had more clams and enormous stony corals than I had ever seen. Bess is quite good at identifying abandoned shells. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got more sun exposure than I am happy with, but am not burnt. It was obvious that I am new here because my legs were the whitest on the boat.
After returning home I showered, changed clothes and went to Emon Beach. The whole day there were activities there for the holiday. Families were out in droves with barbecues, picnic tables, beach chairs, and all variety of events and music. The sun set at about 7:30 pm and at exactly 8:00 pm (with military precision) the fireworks began. There was a barge anchored off shore from the beach and for the longest time (which was really only about 15 minutes) we were treated to a constant and impressive display of pyrotechnics. I sat with Kevin, Mary, Marian, another Marian and her husband, John. We snacked and listened to the Souza patriotic marches as fireworks exploded overhead. A nearly-full moon lit the beach and water in a awesome display of natural moonlight. It was a special time: sitting on the beach, 50' from my front door, listening to music, visiting with friends, eating good food, and watching fireworks. What a finalé to a fabulous day.
Monday, June 22, 2009
This afternoon Mike Malone took me out for my USAKA-required check-out and orientation dive. First we pedaled down to the scuba tank house and selected our tanks. Along the way, Mike familiarized me with the lagoon dive sites and some of the features and wrecks there are to be seen. He told me about the flags that might fly above the Harbor Tower: a red flag means small craft warning; black and white pennant means the hyperbaric chamber is not available and diving is restricted to above 50').
Sunday, June 14, 2009
My plane boarded and departed on time Wednesday morning and after a 5 hr flight to Majuro (the capital of the Marshall Islands) and a 45 min flight from Majuro to Kwajalein, I arrived at about 11:30 a.m. THURSDAY (we crossed the international date line so the day advanced by one). I was in-processed at the airport, had my photo taken and was met by my friend from Antarctica, Jake Woolery, and a contingent of people from the medical department: Beth Turnbaugh (Hospital Administrator), Stacy Welcher (Administrative Assistant to Beth and me), and Dr. Jill Horner.
After collecting my bags, we dropped them off in my temporary quarters (more on that later) and went to lunch. After lunch was the tour of the medical facilities and introduction to the physicians and staff. The medical facility is a two story structure with ED, pharmacy, doctor's offices and exam rooms on the first level. The hospital, including OR, is on the second level. My office looks out over the Pacific Ocean with gently swaying cononut palms in the foreground.
Right now there are four docs and one PA. Dr. Hallman is our general surgeon, Drs. Horner and Thorne are FPs, Bess Buchanan is the PA, and then there is me. There is an excellent group of nurses who staff the facility 24/7/365.
My house is not finished being refurbished, but I am told it will be available next week. Until then I am lodged in DV Quarters (Distinguished Visitor). It is essentially a hotel-type room, very large though, with a kitchenette. Waiting for me in the room were snacks, Special K, milk, coffee, mixed nuts and some other things. I did get an island tour on my first day and got to stop by my house. It is lovely. It has two stories, two bedrooms, two baths, plus an office. The laundry room and kitchen contain all new appliances. The laundry room even has a dedicated full size freezer in addition to the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen. It has new carpeting, new paint and is very clean. The best part, though, is the view. From the master bedroom I look out over the ocean and coconut palms. It is a million dollar view!
The island has, in addition to the airfield and tracking installations, many recreational and entertainment features. There are two softball fields, a bowling alley, a skate park, two gyms, racquetball courts, an indoor adult recreation center with pool tables and ping pong, two theaters, outdoor bar/lounge (curiously nicknamed "The Snake Pit" but its real name is the Ocean View Club), a small boat marina with boats for rent (sail, ski, dive, & fishing), a Yacht Club, a Country Club w/ 9-hole golf course, a number of gorgeous sandy beaches, a family pool, an adult pool, soccer field, an elementary school, a grades 7-12 high school (ranked in the 95th percentile of all schools, private and public, in the US), and many other features that I am forgetting to include.
There is shopping here too. Surfway is our main grocery - they deliver! There used to be stores called "Macy's" and "Macy's West" but those have been replaced completely by AAFES PX faciities. There is an excellent selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as we get a barge in twice a week with produce from Hawaii and California. The PX faciities are in three different buildings: one is a department store (clothing, gifts, jewelry, linens, etc), another is hard goods (tools, yard equipment, camping stuff, coolers, fishing gear, etc.), and the third is like a convenience store, but larger with more selection. There is a small jewelry and craft store that sells handmade Marshallese items. We have a full-service post office.
Transportation around the island is by foot or bicycle. There are no private cars. There are a few cars & trucks for official use. There are also a number of pieces of heavy equipment, such as fire trucks, loaders and trash collection vehicles.
Since I am in temporary quarters, I have a meal card that entitles me to eat all my meals at Café Pacifica, the chow hall. The food is fresh, well-prepared and tasty. There is always a good selection of items. The cooks and servers are Marshallese and are all very friendly. Once I get into my house I will be off the meal plan and on my own.
This weekend (which, for us, is Sunday and Monday to correspond to the USA's Saturday/Sunday) I am going to ride my bike around to get oriented.
My camera battery is completely dead and I have to mail order a new one, so photos will come later.
Next weekend I am flying to Roi-Namur (an outlying island in the Kwajalein Atoll) to tour the dispensary and visit with John Snook, PA-C who staffs that facility.
My mailing address is:
P O Box 1082
APO AP 96555
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I'm ready to go.
He's blowin' his horn..."
(from "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul, and Mary)
Three days ago the movers came and packed up my things. Two thousand one hundred fifty pounds of my life's stuff is bound for Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. A similar amount will be stored by them locally until I return.
It's sad and interesting that the stuff of my life can be expressed in pounds. How can photographs of my lovely daughter and a gas barbecue be measured in the same units? I clearly value the pictures of her much more than a grill, but in moving company parlance it is completely the other way around.
The packers were gentle and considerate with my things. I trust that most things will arrive intact. Their journey is an interesting one: after being trucked from Virginia to Richmond, California they will be loaded into a container and placed upon a barge. The barge will take two weeks to travel across the Pacific ocean to Kwajalein. Upon arrival in Kwajalein, many containers holding a variety of necessities will be unloaded. Eventually my stuff will be delivered to my home and unpacked.
So, what about my travel itinerary to Kwajalein? Thought you would never ask. Well, Tuesday (09 June) I fly from Lynchburg to Atlanta and then after a brief lay-over fly non-stop from Atlanta to Honolulu, a 10 hr. flight. Arrival in Honolulu is expected sometime around 2 pm local time Tuesday afternoon. I will overnight in Honolulu at an airport hotel. Early the next morning, Wednesday, I take a flight from Honolulu to Kwajalein, stopping first at Majuro, the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The flight is about 6 hours, but since it crosses the International Date Line, I actually arrive on Thurday, 11 June! Wish me luck!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Next month I move to the South Pacific. I will be living and working on the island of Kwajalein, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The military base on the island supports our country's missile defense program. I will be the Chief Medical Office for the island, and will work for KRS.
Keep checking back to see what this adventure will bring....
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Mostly we get together in the evenings at restaurants or pubs. Last evening I went with my friend Patrick to Cafe Valentino. It was his first time there and, as you know from my earlier post, my second. This time I had Fettuccine Valentino, a delightfully cheesy fettuccine with panceta and mushrooms. From there it was off to Bailie's for a Guinness. Already there were large numbers of people from the Ice indoors and outdoors. Patrick and I sat and visited with them for hours.
Tonight a number of the folks from McMurdo Medical will meet at Holy Grail, a local sports pub. There are only three more flights coming to Chch from the Ice: today, Saturday, and Sunday. About 80 – 100 persons will be on each flight. At that point, McMurdo station will close for the winter with a final population around 140 - 150 persons.
Since returning to Chch, I have enjoyed Sushi twice. It was never served on the Ice....unless you count the few times we had lox.
Thanks for following along. I'll keep you posted on my travels as they unfold.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I will hang here tomorrow and spend the night again before deciding whether to return to Christchurch Wednesday or go further up the west coast of NZ to Greymouth before returning to Christchurch on Friday or Saturday. It's nice to be free to choose.
Speaking of freedom, although I haven't gotten the absolute final word, it is looking more and more like I will not have to return to the Ice for winter. The South Pole station is fulled staffed and the last provider for McMurdo is scheduled to arrive today into Christchurch. Assuming all goes well and that provider makes it to McMurdo without a hitch, I will probably be taken off call on Wednesday.
I left my camera's charger in Christchurch (oops!) so my photos from here on will probably be very limited. My camera does not take replaceable batteries, opting instead for a built-in battery that needs periodic recharging. I've currently got a half-charge on it. Speaking of that, I want to assure you that Troublemaker, a rollerskate of a car, is still performing well after its repair in Dunedin.
That's it for today. I'll keep you posted on what I see and do tomorrow in Wanaka.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Back into Troublemaker and back to Te Anau for a quick dinner and a pricey internet connection I went.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Yesterday I was treated to a morale trip up the side of Mt. Erebus. You might remember from earlier posts that Mt. Erebus is an active volcano that is on the Ross Island, near Scott Base and McMurdo Station. It constantly emits a large plume of steam and smoke. Occasionally it will belch rocks. You can watch a live video from inside the Mt. Erebus crater at the MEVO website.
The trip started with a briefing on the outing at the Field Safety Training Program offices. Then we selected helmets to fit us. We then took a Hagglunds tracked transport from McMurdo to the Scott Base sea ice transition. The Hagglunds is a Swedish dual-cab, medium class, over snow vehicle. Six persons sat in the rear cab and four sat in the front cab. A minimum thickness of 50 cm of hard ice is required before a Hagglunds can be driven across sea ice. They are powered by turbo diesel engines driving four rubber tracks through an automatic transmission and transfer case.
Once there, we were briefed on the proper operation of the snow mobiles (Bombardier Ski Doos). Interestingly enough, at McMurdo these are called "snow machines" not snow mobiles. I don't know the history or reason behind this change.
We rode tandem on the snow machines. There were many bumps and hills that occasionally caused the snow machine to become airborne. We took a route from the sea ice transition up the side of Mt. Erebus until we reached a large dome-like clearing. There was a Scott tent set up and inside it there with a football and soccer ball to play with. The wind was ferocious, probably at about 35 - 50 kts. The view was the most impressive part.
There was a giant panorama in 360 degrees that showed Mts. Erebus, Terra Nova and Terror;
the glacier that runs down to meet the sea ice;
the back side of Castle Rock; across the Ross Sea to Black Island and White Island;
the Royal Society Mountains;
and finally out to the liquid open water of the Ross Sea.
I could see the path the ice breaker Odin cut and the fuel tanker just behind it bring us 5.5 million gallons of fuel – enough to last the station for the next 12 months. These last photos are of the fuel tanker waiting just outside our ice pier and the pier itself.
It was a delightful afternoon outing that really gave one the sense of enormity and grandeur that is Antarctica.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco is visiting Antarctica as part of his interest in global ecology and climate. Americans may remember that he is the son of Prince Ranier and American actress Grace Kelly.
Wednesday, January 14, he visited the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Thursday he visited McMurdo Station. He spoke with the assembled people in our dining hall at 7:15 pm. His comments were extemporaneous and unrehearsed. He spoke of his pride that Monaco is one of the signatories to the Antarctica Treaty, that the principality participates with Italy and France in other environmental issues and that his trip to both the Artic and Antarctic arose from his interest in the vital roles the poles play in global ecology and climate.
As you can see in this underexposed photo, he spoke to the crowd for about 15 minutes then he took a few questions from the audience. The questions were generic in quality as were the answers. He describes Monaco as a 2.2 square mile area with 33,000 residents, the majority of whom are not Monegasques (the name given to natives of Monaco....they are not Monicans). There are over 125 different nationalities living in Monaco where they receive over 4 million tourists annually. Prince Albert's grandfather was also a polar explorer, according to his remarks.
From McMurdo he travels to Antarctic bases of other countries: Concordia (France & Italy), Vostok (Russia), and Davis (Australia).