You must be well into noseeums time in the far north then, eh? I didn't think I'd ever miss them little buggers...
And also, help me to be careful
Of the toes I step on today as they
May be connected to the ass
That I might have to kiss tomorrow.
And Furthermore: Ask not of what concerneth you not
Lest you hear what pleaseth you not.
The greenhouse was constructed just after my first visit to McMurdo and has been growing and growing vegies ever since (except for at least one time when the heat failed and everything froze.) Kristan has been harvesting about 130 pounds of produce each month, with a majority of it lettuces (approx. 85%); some of the produce includes, in addition to a wide variety of lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, miscellaneous peppers, corn, peas, beans, watermelon, cantaloupe (although I haven't gotten any fruit off it yet), and herbs such as cilantro, basil, dill, &c. Kristan wrote that part. I have yet to see any melons, unless they are being cut up into tiny pieces and hidden in the occasional Waldorf salad.
We use approximately 150 gallons of water per week to sustain the entire greenhouse. The plants are grown in vermiculite, which is mica that is puffed up like popcorn, and used also as a packaging material, so we have plenty of it. The nutrients added to the water comprise a combination of about 20 different elements (such as carbon, potassium, &c.) We get the nutrient solutions from New Zealand.
Last night we had a belated dinner for the feast day of Saint Pelagius. It was also to be the celebratory dinner of the launch of the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (see my last letter and the TOMS Earth Probe page) however the launch has been postponed 48 hours cos they have to replace the umbilical cord between the L-1011 and the Pegasus. So we'll wait 48 hours and see. But if thing does not proceed then we will have to seriously consider renaming the dinner "The Third Annual We're Tired of Waiting For Launch Lunch." This will necessitate redoing all the invites and redrinking all the toasts.
But the real reason for the delay (which nobody else knows) is that one of the computers here, used to relay data back to mission control, lost its netport card and so couldn't communicate but in its last gasp was able to get a message back to the Pegasaurous to break something important, tho not critical, in order to give us time to find the problem here in something that had been just tested and found to be Ok.
Finally, after more than two years of practicing, TOMS-EP has launched. All the practice of tracking COBE by manually steering the antenna and the delays resulting from one thing or another paid off in a "nominal" launch. Too bad we had only one bottle of champagne.
The greatest moment of anxiety, for me anyhow, was waiting for the moment when TOMS-EP came over the horizon for that first pass. Was it late? Had it already gone by? Were we pointed in the right direction? Should I start now to sweep the antenna around to look for a signal? Wait! There it is! I see it! --We have lock! (You have to remember you're dealing with a FNGy at this--notwithstanding all the practice over the course of three winters at McMurdo this is the first time I have participated in a launch that actually placed a bird in orbit.)
The rest of that first pass was mostly uneventful once we figured out why the data was getting stuck at the BitSync. Turns out the bits were sinking rather than sync-ing if you get my meaning, but with that fixed the data flowed over the internet to Goddard Space Flight Center where it was converted from internet packets to NASCOM blocks and then sent to the Toms Mission Operations Control Center. Now it can be safely announced that Friday's dinner was to celebrate. Here is a place where you can see more about Ozone Holes and the TOMS-Earth Probe.
This weeks new word is swinge, as in --I'll give you a swinge!
The Spanish phrase for the day is:
"`Lo uniquo que tenemos que tenerle miedo es su mismo miedo.' Which means: `The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' Fear of falling in a crack in the ice. Fear of going to another town meeting. Fear of smacking someone before winfly and getting canned. Fear of getting bumped at bag drag once to many times. Fear of the hot water running out while taking a shower. Fear of getting a roommate at winfly. Fear of getting a roommate who snores at winfly. Fear of not getting a banana at winfly. Fear of losing all of your underwear from the laundry room. Fear of losing your passport before you leave. Fear of getting stuck in the sauna with someone with bad B.O. Fear of telling someone above you where they can go and losing your bonus. Fear of The Coffee House running out of wine. Fear of someone reading all the stuff you have written on the e-mail and making it public. Fear of e-mail going down during break. Fear of having to see a shrink when you get out of here. Fear that main-body will never get here... Franklin Delano Roosevelt never wintered in Antarctica. Am I right or what? Chico.over."
Chico is a writer and artist undercover here as an insulation specialist--he insulates. He insulates the water pipes from the cold and the exhaust pipes from the people; he insulates the peas from the carrots and the outside from the inside. The one thing Chico does not insulate is us from each other; his Spanish class is sometimes held twice a week, (At least once a week at the Wine Bar, eh?) and his cartoons and essays are forever reminding us that penguins have the right of way even when they are not in the crosswalks. And now I've gone and plagerised his email and made it public.
During the Winter Glen typically makes twenty omelettes a day, and maybe 25 egg-McMurdos (his recipe: start a split bagel toasting on the grill and beside it put a half scoop of "egg product". Sprinkle some mixed cheddars on the egg and put a slice each of Swiss and American on the bagel parts. Add a thick slice of Canadian bacon beside the egg product. When the egg is done fold it in half and layer it onto the bagel with the bacon.) Some folks get two to go in their tupperware take-aways.
Good grease, worth getting up on Thursday mornings for.
Glen says he can tell something about the parties the night before by how quiet breky is and the consumption of orange juice. Generally speaking the quieter it is the more OJ gets consumed--both bespeak of a plenitude of parties. After watching Glen greet his guests at the grill for a few minutes I asked him if he knows all of the winter- over population by name. --Most everyone, he said, but I know a lot of people by what they always eat. As he said that he glanced at the clock and started a rather large omelette with a handful of chopped ham, onion, pepper, cheese. Just as it was cooked to a turn a man came in and picked up a tray. Glen plopped the omelette on the passing tray, exchanging little more than a nod with its bearer and turned to me: --Just like clockwork.
A Hagglunds in a track vehicle we have several of. The one I traveled in today is Orange, known as Hagglund-zero-two, powered by a Mercedes Diesel. Hagglunds is a smallish vehicle, more like a Tucker Sno-cat than a Thiokol Spryte, it has a steering wheel and two cabins--the front seats four but could hold six if four of them had only one leg each, the back is connected to the front by a hydraulic articulator that transmits power to the rear tracks and effects the steering. Our trip was to visit the Barne Glacier down beyond the Cape Evans Hut, that's about eighteen miles north of Winter Quarters Bay, so the Winter-Over artist Dave Rosenthal could catch the "pre- dawn" light on the Barne Glacier and the north slopes of Erebus.
We got off to a late start due to a leaky fuel line (--Is that the same problem that plagued the Hagglunds which burned up over at Scott Base a few weeks back?) and I remembered the last time I traveled in one of these contraptions was back in the Winter of eighty and eight when the transmission couldn't keep up with the engine and we had to be towed in from half way to Black Island. Finally it was nearly time to have lunch but instead we topped up the two twenty-five gallon fuel tanks and headed out between the Water Plant Intake and the Sewer Plant Outfall onto the sea ice.
The runway lights of Pegasus twinkled in the distance in anticipation of c-141's soon to arrive and an orange glow on the horizon marked where the sun was rolling along only a few degrees below the horizon. The sea ice is about forty-six inches thick here, new ice since the bay was entirely open by the end of last Summer in January. But there is movement in the ice and great cracks open and close throughout the Winter. We were only about a half a mile out, at the right turn to go north, when Sarah stopped to check a crack that has been healing.
According to the Global Positioning System satellite navigation receiver we were located at 77s50'01.449" and 166e35'40.341"
This one has new ice thirty inches thick between edges two feet apart. Such a crack is easily spanned by the tracks of the Hagglunds and we went on after drilling three holes. There were numerous other cracks along the way, all less than a foot and fairly old except for one other that we stopped to drill, until a couple of miles north of the hut at Cape Evans where we came to one that is quite new. Last week there was open water between edges four feet apart, now the water is mostly bridged by new snow, slushy in some spots, and certainly not negotiable by our vehicle.
Where we stopped there were two holes being kept open by seals; at one a young Weddell was on top of the ice, while at the other just the seal's nose and eyes were visible in the dark cold water. The air temperature here was -6f, the water +29f. We left the Hagglunds and jumped the crack to walk the rest of the way to the Barne Glacier. From this vantage one could see the sea-smoke above the open water another five miles north. The Hagglunds is supposed to be able to float and its tracks are said to be able paddle along in the water but I am sure it does not have enough fuel to get all the way to Christchurch.
After a while of Sarah drilling a few more holes and Dave making a few sketches and me taking a few ephotos--the light was somewhat less than excellent--we turned back past Big and Little Razorback Islands and returned to McMurdo. We'll try again in a few days.
Thanks Susan! Happy to be of service.
Today I am considering the possibilities of commencing to initiate further recalcitration before announcing plans for a prepacking conference wherein the main topic of discussion will be a first round elimination of things to not include on a manifest to be submitted to non-binding arbitration with the Volume and Capacity Measurements and Sherpas Society prior to actually getting down to the business of seriously making adjustments to my attitude about packing light.
I believe all grown-ups have beans in their ears.
And the plane just landed. I wonder if there is any mail for me?
Stay Gold, Love, me
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Copyright (c) 2002 A.J.Oxton The Cat Drag'd Inn