Frontierwatch

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Mainbody 2003-04

Envoy of Russians to drain fuel tanks and inspect worthless plane that was abandoned at Pole last summer.

A Twin Otter is sent to medevac a fisherman from a Russian trawler to McMurdo. The victim of hammer blows by another crewmate, the incident perpetuates the hammer as the traditional weapon of choice for discerning Antarcticans who go apeshit.

The 2003 Geographical South Pole marker is stolen by an unknown party.

The NSF campaign to rename "The Beer Can" (the cylindrical housing for the interior staircase that leads up to the new station) as "The Vertical Tower" has thus far been met with overwhelming indifference by amused Polees, who wonder what sort of tower is not vertical.

A contingent of DVs from the Senate Appropriations Committee arrives at Pole. Four of the DVs, with dubious physical qualifications to fly to a remote polar base at 9000 feet altitude, require visits to the Bio-Med oxygen tanks. During their visit, the book "Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic" is spied lying on a brand new standard-issue orange bag in the hall by the galley.

A man on vacation dies aboard the Russian tourist ship Khlebnikov and his body is transferred to the ice core freezer across from Crary Lab in McMurdo to await military airlift to Christchurch. Because cargo is cargo, a corpse as well as a crucial I-beam requires packaging, a pallet position on the plane, and paperwork. USAP managers display a rare and delicate touch when they, rather than slapping the frozen body with a standard TCN (Transportation Control Number), dub the distinguished cargo "Bluebark".

Vomiting in the urinals, fistfights in the bar, streaking around station: monthly occurrences at McMurdo Station. Yet when South Pole winterovers released to McMurdo for six days of R&R were rumored to be involved in such incidents, Senior USAP management's first response was to demand bringing home all the Polees immediately and cutting R&R for all future winterovers. The South Pole Station Manager flew to McMurdo for damage control, and in a confessional meeting with the suspected Polees, determined that little more had happened than that someone had had sex in a dorm room (which a concerned bystander reported to HR), and that a Polee had drank a beer in the galley and had been apprehended by the Marriott Food Services Manager who had, as is his primary survival tactic in the corporate world, sent an email of the incident up the chain. Bounced around the stratosphere of USAP management as in a typical game of Telephone, the transgressions escalated into sordid accounts of unhinged debauchery that were beyond the capacity of the surely-deranged but well-behaved Polees to live up to on returning to the vibrant Pole rumormill.

Rich people out to help Wildlife by flying from Pole to Pole in a big red helicopter have crashed in Antarctica. Though the ungrateful Wildlife were conspicuously absent from the rescue proceedings, the medevac did involve a Twin Otter.

The Australian was given the fuel he needed by another expeditioner.

Reports are coming in that the Australian begging for fuel in McMurdo quickly wore out any potential welcome by peeing in someone's water bottle and eating all the snacks from a Fuels hut, the rumor of which ruffled the feathers of that department and sent tremors of indignation through the lunchtables. In this regard the unwary tourist was rewarded with an unusually authentic Antarctic experience, much as if he merely worked in a different department.

An Australian who was flying a small plane around Antarctica (drawing minor interest from a few grunts lunching near the windows as he flew over the South Pole) ran out of fuel and so landed at McMurdo Station, where his status as an Antarctic bum was quickly established by U.S. and New Zealand agencies that engage in international scientific cooperation for the good of humanity and who would not sell him 104 gallons of mogas from their stash of 500,000 gallons. While the BBC stressed the Ross Island Gang's refusal to sell the tourist enough fuel to fly himself back to New Zealand, a National Science Foundation press release headline read, "U.S. and New Zealand Offer Australian Pilot Safe Passage Home from Antarctica", which sounds to Joe Public like a warm wagontrain escort through a land full of hostile injuns instead of extortion. Rather than selling the no-good bum what he needed (fuel) for a handsome profit (let's say $100 a gallon) so he could take care of himself, the paternal government agency insists on caring for him (a seat on a military flight) in order to teach the lesson of how dearly such custodial concern would cost him (depending on how NSF spins it, anywhere from $1000 to $100,000). Bad children will have the snot whipped out of them, but we are doing them a favor, says the NSF press release.
[This just in from a McMurdo correspondent: "...U.S./Kiwi management [are] like sullen security guards standing in front of a vacant lot, but one thing I wanted you to understand about it all: The plane is tinier than a dinner plate, and the guy has balls. They can't be big balls, because the cockpit has no room for them. You are taller than the plane, the wandering albatross has a greater wingspan, and we could move it with a pickle if need be. [The pilot reminds me of] Cool Hand Luke in solitary confinement. This guy flew 26 hours from Dunedin, with a single engine, propeller flapping in front of his nose, over the worst seas in the world, in a white plane to the Pole, only to land in McMurdo and get his tiny tires stuck in two inches of snow on the runway."]

A bench placed halfway along the road to the ARO facility is ordered removed by South Pole management, which deemed the resting device a "drift hazard".

South Pole Winterovers who arrive on the ice to begin their year are told by NSF that the PQ (Physical Qualification) requirements have changed and, though they already have contracts, must undergo screening for gallstones or the ill-defined "gall sludge". Those who don't pass the screening will have their winter contracts voided.

At Orientation, an HR rep instructs employees that referring to scientists as "beakers" is now prohibited.

Winter 2003

The Third Annual South Pole Medevac is underway.

Next year's South Pole winterovers train for the coming year of isolation at a remote polar station by attending an Outward Bound course where group kindergarten games emphasize the authority of the committee and reveal "the power of infinity".

The FBI accuses two Romanians of hacking the South Pole network. With dramatic Cold War flair, the hackers sent an anonymous email to administrators in May: "Iíve hacked into the server of your South Pole Research Station. Pay me off, or I will sell the stationís data to another country." Romanian agents made "controlled payments" to the suspects to flush them out. The FBI account of the incident highlights the South Pole computer network's civic uses. The FBI account stresses that the hacker attack disrupted "essential services" such as "telemedicine", describes the network as "a lifeline" for "emotional contact with family and friends", and climaxes with: "What did it take to track down these extortionists willing to endanger the well being of the South Pole researchers and threaten the public investment in scientific research that benefits all mankind?" The FBI account maintains its useful sentimentality by not reporting that in order to send any email from Antarctica, the "personnel isolated at the bottom of the world" must first click an agreement authorizing NSF to monitor all correspondence that occurs on the government-owned network.

An inaccurate "hometown hero" article in The Chatham Courier draws the ire of her McMurdo co-workers

The Heavy Shop's "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign was preemptively removed and hidden by unknown persons before it could be confiscated by the Station Manager.

On Sunday afternoon, the winter Station Manager went to the Heavy Shop with a camera and took pictures throughout the shop. He sent an email the following Tuesday, demanding that the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign in the garage be removed and delivered to the Operations Supervisor, and that the "girlie" magazines in the men's room be removed and destroyed. The Station Manager has also spearheaded a recent campaign to rid the station of incense under penalty of "swift disciplinary action". Meanwhile, the winter HR representative, fearing that nooses used to hang teddy bears in one workcenter might offend "certain racial groups", has seen to their removal.

A member of the British Antarctic Survey was attacked and killed by a leopard seal at Rothera. After her death, the BAS director described the victim as "a vibrant, dynamic individual committed to her science and with a promising scientific career ahead of her."

A sunroom utilizing full spectrum light bulbs has been created for community use. The sunroom is located in Building 155 in the Kiwi Cargo room. A maximum of 18 people can be in the room at one time.

After a guitarist rode the crane across the Heavy Shop with his guitar and landed on the stage to start his second set, the McMurdo Safety Rep set up an interrogation room in the VMF to find out who was driving the crane. No one knew anything about the crane, of course, so the Heavy Shop foreman was written up. Now all personnel must have a license (with photo) on their person to operate an overhead hoist. A few days later the Heavy Shop foreman brought to the Safety Girl's attention that the sheet metal workers were using the telehandler with a man basket, which is clearly indicated as unsafe several places on the machine. This had been common practice since winter 2001, but that day the Safety Rep shut down the operation until further notice.

Weather Condition 1 called at 7:38 a.m. (That's 8 minutes after everyone has walked to work.  A Condition 1 demands that no one go outside due to the dangers of low temperatures, poor visibility, or high wind speed.)

All employees are forced to attend a safe-driving lecture and submit to a practical demonstration of their driving skills (including downshifting on hills and placing a chock under the wheel when parked), or have their driving privileges revoked.  This followed an incident where a GA crashed a pick-up truck into a milvan full of carpet squares.

At the onset of the winter season, janitors are ordered to move a common-area microwave from one dorm to the third-floor room of the (Fingee) Station Manager in another dorm. While scavenging communal property for personal use is a common practice amongst winterovers, it is usually not incorporated into the job descriptions of subordinates.

Mainbody 2002-03
(Recent postings first)

Last flight as reported in the Christchurch "Press" on 11 Mar, 03, boldface added by Big Dead Place:
"An RNZAf Hercules' dash to Antarctica to pick up 55 Americans who might otherwise have been stranded went according to plan, the flight's commander said yesterday. 'There were no real problems at all,' Squadron Leader Ian MacPherson said. 'It went very smoothly.' The flight, which was outside the airforce's scheduled summer season, was reduced to just over 16 hours because of deteriorating conditions. The team of Americans had stayed beyond the last summer flight to lay 5km of hose line to allow essential winter fuel supplies to be pumped from a United States tanker to McMurdo Base."

Due to irregular tanker offload procedure, station close delayed until mid-March.

Offload.

NAVCHAPS begin to arrive for Ship Offload. They are wearing new desert camo fatigues.

At 54-hours a week, a standard summer season contains approximately 864 hours. Last week Raytheon management announced one two-hour stationwide "safety break" to combat a recent rise in injury statistics. During the Saturday afternoon "safety break," an NSF manager found some employees not working and sent a sour report of their "loafing" up the chain to another NSF manager. The employees must now answer to NSF for the Raytheon "safety break".

High-ranking Air National Guard pilot runs LC-130 off the end of runway, knocking out four landing lights.

Helicopter crash in the Dry Valleys. Two medevac'd.

NSF Rep makes contact with Big Dead Place.

As a morale-booster, janitors are given "McMurdo Station Services" fleece-pullovers, but are told they must return them at the end of the season. Faced with uncertain consequences for losing them or getting them dirty, the janitors have refused the gifts. The pullovers remain on the shelf.

A few Air Traffic Controllers quit for reasons unknown.

Congressional delegation set to arrive on 14 January.

Some who had already signed winter contracts are being told their winter positions are now uncertain. "They told me there's not enough money," reports one employee. NSF budget for 2003 has increased by 3.5%.

Scientist stumbles on a rock in the road. Scientist takes formal issue with rocks in the road. GAs are called in to hand-pick rocks from road.

Woman who claimed sexual harrassment against her boss is flown from McMurdo. Her boss is moved to new department.

Rash of vandalism: in building 155 bathroom sinks were stopped up with faucets left running. In dorm 211, two holes were smashed in wall by bathroom. Residents report that all ping pong balls were smashed and paddles broken. Christmas lights in hall were torn down.

Man fired for sending email to USAP Global Address List from account of woman who forgot to log off. Email offered "hairy ball massages".

Human feces found beneath seat of tractor. Culprit unknown.

Woman disciplined for mooning friend.

Anthropologists continue to study McMurdo community.

Psychologists prepare applesauce cups to send to Pole for winter-over T3 study.

Mass Casualty Drill held. One volunteer treated for hypothermia.


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