While the Station continues to be plagued by problems with electrical supply and demand, the Pole has also been visited by more skiers.
The New Power Plant (NPP) for the Elevated Station and the outlying science buildings continues to be plagued by problems. The biggest problem at the moment is a lack of necessary parts that need to come from the US. We're currently running on one generator, with another about to enter reserve status. Unfortunately, the generator we're currently using, #1, is overdue for a major overhaul, so as soon as #3 is available, it is possible that #3 will become our working generator and #1 will be torn down for repairs. Due to the fact that our generator system is somewhat precarious, we have no peaking generator and the Station's electrical load is carefully and constantly monitored. Towards that end, many of IceCube's computer systems are currently shutdown and will likely remain that way until I leave the Pole.
Yesterday, Hannah McKeand reached the Pole breaking the previous record for a solo, unsupported ski to the Pole from the coast by two days.
Last night, the British Royal Navy/Royal Marines PolarQuest team, Hannah McKeand, and a representative of the Indian Navy all gave talks about their respective quests to reach the Pole on skis. In general, all of them were engaging speakers and their physical exertions cannot be diminished. The Indian Navy might only have skied the final 97 miles to the Pole, but considering that most of them had never been on skis before April, 2006, their trek was worthy.
This morning, myself and some other Polies went out to see the Indian Navy and Ms. McKeand off as they were picked up by a pair of Twin Otters operated by a private contractor. The image at the left is of two members of the Indian expedition, Sven Lidstrom (an IceCube winterover), and myself at the ceremonial Pole.
The Brits are still here as they are trying to wait out persistent winds. Since they are planning to kite-ski back to the coast, the direction of the wind is a fairly critical component of their departure planning. They were hoping to get out today, but the winds were a direct headwind. The picture at right shows a bit of the British camp out near the Pole, their sleds, and one of the Twin Otters that came in to pick up the others.
After their talk last night, myself and a couple of others invited members of the various expeditions down to the Station's bar for a couple of drinks. All told, there were six members of the various expeditions, and perhaps eight or so members of the South Pole community. Expedition members are allowed to purchase most everything from the Station store, except liquor or beer, so we made sure to have a good supply on hand. As one expedition member reverentially said, "This is the first beer I've had in seven weeks." Some folks wanted to pay us for the beer. Our response? "Your money is no good here."
My departure date has been moved up from 05 Jan 07 to 03 Jan 07. I asked for the change since it meant that I wouldn't have to spend four days cooling my heels in McMurdo, waiting for a flight out. That could still happen if the weather turns sour, but at least it isn't a sure thing. The odd thing is that I'm getting more comfortable here, meeting more people, and yet am just about to leave. The time seems to be rapidly slipping away.
Unlike McMurdo, where some television stations are available via the Armed Forces Network, there is zero television here. That makes watching football something of a novelty. During the NFL season, a handful of VHS tapes containing of football games from the previous weekend are flown in to the Pole once a week. The tapes are made in McMurdo off the AFN broadcasts and are hardly the highest quality. Today I spent part of the afternoon watching the Denver/Cincinnati game from a week or so ago with a number of people in one of the Station lounges. We had pizza (it was pizza night in the galley) and beer and if you could get past the snowy picture and the extraordinary number of public service messages on AFN, it was almost like being back in the States.
Tomorrow night, there is a station-wide New Years party in the Station gym. There are two bands here on Station that are planning to play, and apparently there is a supply of non-alcoholic sparkling wine hidden around here somewhere, so a good time should be had by all.