Davis Station Medevac Update

Friday, November 7th, 2008

The injured Davis Station chef was successfully airlifted to Hobart by a LC-130 aircraft. The crew at the station rushed to build a temporary 3000m sea ice runway. After flying from McMurdo the aircraft remained at Davis overnight before continuing on to Hobart.

Read press release

More Bad News

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The string of bad news from the continent doesn’t stop. An Australian colleague at Davis Station came off a quad bike on a trip to Trajer Ridge. The man suffered a fractured pelvis and multiple fractures to both ankles. He is in a serious but stable condition and options of an evacuation are being investigated.

View Larger Map

The Norwegian explorer from Troll Station arrived in Cape Town and received treatment at the local hospital.

Hopefully there won’t be any more of these posts. This is the time of the year when those of us who have been here all year turn into space cadets and zombies and the new people are full of too much energy. Definitely time to be extra, extra careful. Everyone out there please stay safe!

Medevac from Norwegian Troll Station Update

Monday, October 13th, 2008

The medevac for Norwegian Sigurd Sande, 30, was aborted last Friday. A private jet had taken off from Cape town, but had to return 1500km out from Troll Station due to bad weather. Another attempt will be made as soon as weather conditions improve.

Read article

One dead in fire at Progress Station

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Another unfortunate accident to report from Antarctica: A fire broke out October 5 at the Russian Progress station, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring two others.

“All the radio equipment was destroyed. One of the station’s construction workers… died, and two others received serious fractures and injuries”

according to expedition leader Valery Lukin.

View Larger Map

Progress Station (Photo: Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute)
Progress Station (Photo: Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute)
Read Article

Medevac from Norwegian Troll Station

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

One of our colleagues at the Norwegian Troll Station was injured in an accident. A male mechanic suffered a complex leg fracture. He is in a stable, non life threatening condition. Troll is a small Antarctic research station with only six winter-overs. They are working to clear the airfield for the medevac to South Africa.

View Larger Map

This is a trying time, especially for such a small, close-knit crew. Best of luck to them. I have been here for two winter medevacs from our Station and I was also involved in a the rescue of a Troll station crew member who got injured in a snowmobile accident in 2001 and was flown by a German aircraft from Troll to the South Pole and then on via McMurdo to Christchurch on a LC-130.

Read article

Rodney’s Death Remains a Mystery

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

“The Press” reports on the coroner’s formal findings, released today. From the brief article it seems that nothing new was learned:

“Dr Marks’s death was unintended and he died on May 12, 2000, at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as a result of acute methanol poisoning.”

Rodney was a great person to winter with in 1998 and it is unfortunate that his death remains a mystery.

Plans for South Korean Base

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

South Korea is considering building a new Antarctic base in Marie Byrd Land in remote West Antarctica using Christchurch, New Zealand as a logistical hub. They are looking at spending $70 million on the research station.

Read “The Press” arcticle

MacGyver Award

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

SpaceRef.com published an article on how our satellite dish elevation drive got fixed back in July. Nice job on pointing out how the dedicated folks down here dealt with what they had and put in long hours to fix the problem.

South Pole RF Building and GOES/MARISAT 9m antenna radome

However, considering that the piece was written by an editor of NSF’s Antarctic Sun it comes as no surprise that he fails to mention that the elevation drive also failed the previous winter and that they somehow forgot to test the grease before they used it for the drive. One can only hope that a few lessons will finally be learned by the management and engineering folks back in Denver.

The Budget Crunch

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Well, the budget cuts in the Antarctic program have now gone further than just reducing the number of issued pairs of socks from five to two. Today, the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs issued a letter detailing the impact of the budget constraints on the 2008/2009 season. Operations will be cut back and a number of projects, science and construction, have been deferred. A number of IPY projects have also been limited in scope for the upcoming season.

The US Antarctic Program is not alone in its struggle. Nature reports on the impact of the increased operating costs on other national Antarctic programs. The German icebreaker Polarstern operates at a cost of $100,000 per day and costs have increased to the point that canceling the entire Arctic program next year is under consideration.

PLATO Gone Cold

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

After 204 days of continuous operation the PLATeau Observatory (PLATO) at DOME A has lost power. During the winter PLATO was powered by one of two German built diesel generators, which now have apparently failed due to an exhaust leak. They use Hatz 1B30 engines. Coincidently, the smaller version of the Hatz 1B40, the engine that has been used in one of my favorite motorcycles.

PLATO has a number of instruments for site testing for astronomical telescopes at the future Chinese Dome A Station location. They look at the sub-mm spectral region, atmospheric turbulence in the first few tens of meters above the surface, and cloud cover. This will hopefully lead to an even better site than South Pole for the next generation of sub-mm telescopes.

We had a similar site testing program, run by some of the same scientist, here at the South Pole. It was originally powered by a propane generator, which failed in 1997 and filled the whole building with propane and shut the observatory down. It was as much an actual site test as a test of a remote observatory. Later one of the propane tanks developed a leak on one of the LC-130, which caused a bit of excitement too. During my first winter at the Pole the observatory was run off Station power, but it again failed and was shut down sometime during the winter.

Scientist are hopeful that PLATO will be able to generate power through its solar panels once the sun rises high enough.