|Storms and Fuel|
We've entered a month of storms. Our daily forecast went a week or two predicting a strong blow at the end of the week, but each day each new forecast pushed the predicted battering back a day, tomorrow adjusted to be as good as today. These few clear days of warm sunny weather let us get out to enjoy the sun and get a few jobs done.
I spent one filling our fuel tanks. The generators that keep us alive and power our experiments are thirsty for Avtur, drinking some 18,000 litres, or around 90 drums, each month. We keep the fuel in dumps out on the edge of the base. Black barrels stacked neatly on the snow like freshly cut logs by a forest track. As time goes on these piles get burried, their position marked by flags left waving above the surface. We head out with a crane, dig down with a bulldozer to locate the top of the dump then free the barrels with a shovel before hoisting them onto a sledge. The icy sides of the barrels are slippery so caution is required while attaching the drum lifter.
Later, the dump excavated, the sledge is pulled over to the Piggott or the Laws, and each drum is pumped out into tanks lying deep under the snow. It's fairly dull, taking a couple of hours to empty a sledgeful, moving the spout every five minutes, tipping the barrels to ensure that every last drop is sucked out. On a sunny day it's not so bad, though, stood out in the warm with a simple task and time to develop my thoughts, watching the other activity around the base as people tear down tents or prepare Nansen sledges for their field trip.
Once all the barrels are empty we put them out on another dump but this time can throw the barrels into place without mechanical assistance. Eventually the empty drums will be shipped back to the Shackleton in two months and finally sent to the Falklands to be refilled or recycled.
After this spell of blue skies and sun the forecast storm marched out from the end of the week and towards tomorrow. It finally hit us last weekend, but wasn't quite as strong as expected, only managing around 40 knots at its peak.
Then the weather cleared for the middle of the week, a field party set off for their trip, and we used the mild winds to get in a bit of kiting. I was quite enjoying myself out on the fresh surface, not too soft and not to hard, until making an attempt at a jump but sending myself down wind rather than against it. My kite fell from the air, its lines curled on the ground and my momentum on landing throw me and my sharp skis straight over the ropes. The kite caught a gust, inflated, started a swoop and pulled the ropes hard against my skis which won the battle and severed the lines. A very disappointing moment followed as I watched my toy float gently to earth trailing two strings beneath it as I realised I'd have to walk back to the base. Oh well. I am feeling slightly happy with myself, though, as I have a spare set of lines and should be ready to relaunch now that the fresh pair are attached after an evening of careful untangling in the bar.
Following that minor setback another storm is passing through this weekend. Stronger and more sustained than the last, now reaching 50 knots and playing havoc with some of the electronics on our equipment. The passage of tiny snowflakes suspended in the blizzard slowly builds up a static charge on buildings, wires, masts and machines, which discharge through little shocks that confuse the loggers. The swirling gusts drive hard into the radars and whip their elements about like young trees, injecting false signals that attack the integrity of our data.
|^Back to Top^ | © Alex Gough 2006-10-29 | RSS 0.91 | RSS 2.0||In which it gets dark and cold|