It is finally happening. We are getting flights! The very first LC-130 of the season just landed. It carried a bunch of firefighters and our ARFF vehicle, both now a requirement for any passenger flights.
Finally, things are looking up! Obama has won the election and we are getting flights in!
Our satellite connection went down before the polls closed and we had to get the results via phone from McMurdo. They were put on the big displays in the galley during dinner time and people were positively cheerful.
I think most of the people here took this election more serious than most and made an effort to cast their votes. Absentee ballots came in on the first Basler flight and left with the next one, to make it back to the US in time for the election.
I have a feeling that South Pole was very strongly in favor of Obama. This is the place were Ralph Nader won the mock election eight years ago in a land slide.
A very optimistic feeling was permeating the Station last night. On top of the election results we had a good weather forecast and two LC-130, one Basler, and one Twin Otter flights were scheduled. Looks like most of the winter-overs will be leaving.
[tags]Antarctica, South Pole, election, Obama, flights[/tags]
A few days ago we had the traditional winter-over ceremony. Since only a couple of Basler flights had made it in we were basically congratulating ourselves in one of the lamest ceremonies in Antarctic history.
Yesterday morning we established our last communication link to MARISAT F-2. Today Intelsat initiated the de-orbit maneuver. The satellite was launched in October of 1976 and performed for 32 years. We have used MARISAT F-2 for number of years from the South Pole and it has been one of our most reliable links to the outside world. The end has come suddenly. Deterioration of the telecommand link caused concerns for the operator INTELSAT and they scheduled de-orbit for the end of November but moved it forward to October 30 with a week’s notice.
The first commercial mobile communications satellite, MARISAT, in 1975, built by Hughes for Comsat and used by both U.S. Navy and merchant marine ships. (Courtesy of Hughes Space and Communications Company)
I work on the BICEP telescope and thus observe a sidereal schedule, which means I shift forward roughly four minutes a day, just like the satellite schedule. For two years MARISAT F-2 has been my steady companion, becoming visible form the South Pole roughly the same time I get up. I’ll miss it! No more reading the daily news while having a cup of coffee in the morning :-(
MARISAT F-2 offered global maritime communications when launched in October of 1976 and was the second member of a three satellite system all launched that year. The satellites were manufactured by Hughes Aircraft Company and became the first global maritime system. It was launched aboard a Delta-2914 from Cape Canaveral by NASA.
[tags]Antarctica, South Pole, Comms, MARISAT[/tags]
After a few days of weather delays we received the first plane load of passengers. Most of them were seasoned veterans who, along with the FNGs, received the typical warm South Pole welcome right on the flight deck.
The crews of the Kenn Borek Basler and Twin Otter were nice enough to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables in Chile. It was great to shock the system with some vitamins after eight months. We had grilled pineapple for dinner, with tomato and avocado salad and fresh oranges and apples for desert, washed down by a Gin tonic with fresh lime.
A few minutes ago a Basler made the first landing of the 2008/2009 season, bringing our winter officially to a close. The flight had been delayed by bad weather at Rothera Station. When the weather cleared up enough around 1am they decided to go for it. It is a beautiful day down here and the temperature was just above the cutoff of -54°C. They touched down shortly after 8am and took off for McMurdo after a very brief fuel stop. We expect to see them again with 16 passengers tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon an FAA Challenger jet came over from McMurdo for a skiway inspection. They buzzed us a few times and didn’t actually land. This was the first aircraft we have seen since February and it created enough excitement to draw some of the Station dweller out in the open to watch it.
It is the time of the year when empty cardboard boxes are in high demand and people start asking around for packing tape. Another post office day had people lugging their boxes up to the galley. Of course all of us procrastinators used this last post office day before Station opening and there was quite a long line at times.
Quite unexpectedly the galley finished the winter with a very big bang. Last week chef Michael cooked a huge Thai dinner, followed by the “Biggest Breakfast in Antarctica” (BBIA) on Sunday, and if that wasn’t enough we had some great Indian food this week as well.
Most of the time I ate too much to even lift a camera but I managed to get a few pictures of the Thai dinner preparations while I was washing dishes in the galley.