Tuesday, March 8, 2011

28 Time changes and all things Wilkins related and how we get water in Antarctica...

Hello friends,

over the last couple weeks now its been growing noticeably darker and darker in the mornings with the oncoming change of season. Dawn has been breaking at around 8:30am and with some absolutely amazing sunrises and sunsets.

Over the height of summer the thought of darkness was a distant memory. Thick blinds and rooms without windows are a way of life. Now late in the summer season night time is growing longer and longer on a daily basis. So not really a lot has been happening so I'm going to do a little catch up on some of the past projects that i have been involved with and Webby is going to give us a video tour about how our water is made.

Wilkins if you don't already know is the camp 65km inland from Casey where the Australian Antarctic Divisions Airbus A319 lands which opened for its first test flight on 12 January 2008. The full history and more info can be found if you CLICK HERE.

Last year i was involved in the infrastructure crew  that was tasked to build a number of new sleds. The two main sleds were built and transported up there last year and some of the work done and this year the work was near to complete. There is one sled with 2 *40' containers situated in such a way as there is a hallway down the middle which contains the bedrooms. That sled will ultimately be connected via a walkway, similar to the concertina part of a banana bus, to the main living sled which is 10 * 20' containers stacked two high. This makes a very comfortable 2 story building with way more space that they currently have. Wilkins is a very harsh environment, normally if it is -5c on station then it can be between 5-10c cooler up there without the wind chill.

Last seasons winter crew built the other main building for Wilkins which is the Opps Building. Another 2 story number with viewing decks made from 3 *40' containers. This building is going to be the offices for the Runway Manager and also the departure lounge, just a little more comfortable than what we currently use, see below!!

The accommodation sled

Rooms are very comfortable as i had a couple problems in getting up to Wilkins as early as i needed to be i ended up staying the night and i think the night i spent up there was the best sleep i had since Ive been here!

Then the main building or LQ as it is also known............it dose have a name though, Hawke Hut which the Governor General has been attempting to open now for the past 2 seasons but unfortunately the "A" factor keeps getting int he road and stopping her!!

Anyway Keenan the BSS (Building Services Supervisor) for the Wilkins Infrastructure job did he did an absolutely incredible job getting as much done as we did with the amount or road blocks that were thrown at us last season. We got it up there and it looks like this...........

The lighter green looking box on the side of the building is a snow melter. On station we use a  melt lake but at Wilkins they need to make it the old fashioned way by melting snow.

Currently inside looks like this................

Below notice the toilet..............its a Incinolet have a look at this video on YouTube. Good friend of mine had a VERY FUNNY story about one too but that's a story for him.............Criag

Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith
Picture: Ken Smith

Kenny is the Wilkins BSS this year and picked up from where Keenan left it. Kenny made lots of rubbish which is where i came in. Kenny asked me to head up there with the Challenger tractor and pick up the rubbish and a couple little containers and bring them back to station. Sounds easy enough right, well got my stuff together (survival pack, spare 2-way, spare GPS, spare set of clothes, sat phone......ect ect) and packed all the stuff onto the tractor. Redundancies takes up alot of space but it also saves you bacon down here. The machines all have 2-ways and GPS's but spares are always taken just in case of a failure and the sat phone is taken on the trip to Wilkins as there is a 2-way black spot. 

So I'm packed ready to go 9am, pre-start on the machine shows up a coolant leak. AGHHHH went to the dieso to assess and he fixed the leak but asked me to take some spare coolant just in case the leak comes back. By this time it was morning tea and never one to pass a Rocket (the station Chef) food i decided to stay the extra 15min and have a nice bite to eat. 

Refreshed i hightail it off station only to have an alarm on the machine go off after only about 15 min of travel. It was one of the fan belts had come off. The machine had spares in it BUT not the tool needed to change it. AGHHHH call up a dieso and get to tool brought out...........................................................Finally I'm off and its now about 11am for a 3 hour trip up there..................

Stopped at the Antarctic Circle truck stop for some refreshments and all i got was the cold air on my face..............

This is actually a pic from the way home loaded up and you might notice the weather isn't quite as good as the previous day!!!

On the way up there are a couple really icy patches and in these patches there are these lines running as far as you can see................Some are 1cm others are 1m wide, don't know if this is accurate but i was told last season that they are stitched crevasses. A crevasse is formed as the ice flows over a hill. While the crevasse is open it fills full of snow and then with the continued flow of ice the pressure of the crevasse trying to close up again form's these very different colours in the ice..................

So as i mentioned i stayed up there the night, here is a video from what is is like with near low visibility and low light................

I mentioned some time ago that i was attempting to do tours around the station and now that things here are starting to slow down, material is getting harder and harder to find to put into my blogs i figured it was time to continue it again. Besides its a good fluff piece.......... i mean interesting stuff. John is one of the summering plumbers and the only summer plumber who has been on the ice before.

Here it is....................sorry for the sound but hang in there is dose get better once i go inside!!

Well time is quickly running out on me here with Dave the Station Leader reminding me that we only have about 4 weeks before the ship is here to pick us up. Time is a funny thing here you know, the project Ive been involved with has kept me that busy time went slow. Now that the project is coming to an end it seems to be moving very quick. Before i know it ill be on the ship heading home. Just need to soak up as much as i can while i can i think.

Temps here dropped very quickly on the weekend with the formation of grease ice over night, the beginning of sea ice is happening before our eyes. (interesting web site on ICE too if your interested CLICK HERE). Mind you it probably will blow out before it sets in for good but its started. Last season i was gone on the 21st Feb so everything that is happening now is new and its all interesting.

Anyway better save some of my thoughts for next week or i will run our of things to say. If however anyone has any questions of anything they want more info about this too would fill up more space in the blog and possibly answer something you've been itching to know!

Be good...............or good at it.


P.S................"The world stands aside for he who knows where he is going."
                      Ancient Proverb