April, 2001
updated: May 08, 2001; 07:00 GMT

DeHaviland Twin Otter Landing!... .darkness, stars, auroras  (scroll to the right to see entire panorama)

Panorama of the the Ken Borek DeHaviland Twin Otter immediately after landing after a 10 hour flight from the British Rothera Base on the Antarctic peninsula (April 25, 2001) . Air temperature was about -91 F at the time of the landing.

The Winterover photograph for Winter 2001

High altitude nosebleed cure (photo by Jerry Macala)

It is now May and the darkness, the stars, the regularly flashing orbiting satellites, and the auroras are absolutely breathtaking. On April 28th the temperature dropped to -96.5 F and the wind was less than 10 knots. Two of us went outside for a one hour walk around station in the darkness. We carry red-filtered head lamps to protect the sensitive telescopes from extraneous light, but rarely use them to walk around and it is sometimes comical as you trip on sastrugi and fall on your face. The wind was low enough so we laid on our backs on the ice and just stared at the heavens for about 15 minutes in awe before we got cold. Laying on the ice at at nearly 10,000 ft altitude at the bottom of the earth at -96.5 staring at natures light show is truly a magical experience that will never be forgotten. The moon is was down for two weeks and several days were windy bringing visibility in the darkness to practically zero, so the flag lines to the Atmospheric Research Observatory and the Dark Sector have been very valuable. The moon just came up for another 2 weeks and when it is clear the visibility is outstanding.     moon     entrance sign moonlit       moonlit station      Some repair work had to be done on the top of the dome.  The work was difficult while using flashlights, safety harnesses when the temperatures were in the -80's F.  This work was done early in the month so there was a bit a twilight left. climbing up the dome    dome work-1     dome work-2     The dome entrance gets drifted in regularly and must be plowed using the caterpillars.   drifting of the entrance in late March     drifted entrance in late March     caterpiller coming into dome in April         backdoor to one of my labs open

It has been quite a month. At the beginning of April, our Doctor became seriously ill with gallstones and associated pancreatitus. Mary, the nurse and heavy equipment operator took care of Doc Ron and I assisted with blood analysis, blood microscopy, and numerous x-rays and film developing. The two of us worked around the clock while also tending to our other regular station duties for about 6 days until the crisis was under control.   Mary doing blood analysis         me doing blood analysis      Mary e-mailing results to doctors in Denver      setting up for x-rays         Several station scientists got the broken ultrasound machine running, allowing Mary to perform ultrasound imaging procedures of Doc Ron's abdomen transmitted live by internet to the Swedish Medical Center in Denver, which ultimately lead to a definitive diagnosis of Ron's medical condition.  repairing ultrasound machine      ultrasound internet teleconference      computer image of Denver doctor      In addition, all station personnel enthusiastically pitched in with help in all aspects of the crisis and subsequent aircraft evacuation of Doc Ron. It was a long month, but it was an interesting and rewarding experience and we were all glad to see Ron out of immediate danger.

Preparation for the aircraft landing took about 2 weeks. Work included re-installing radar reflecting flags on the skiway that we had taken down prior to sunset; installing a fuel transfer system to re-fuel the Twin Otter aircraft with 1000 gallons of JP-8; moving several small buildings to the flight line; setting up and making the TACAN aircraft navigational aid operational; working the HF and Iridium communications with the British Rothera Base, McMurdo Station and the Twin Otter while en route; dragging the skiway smooth with caterpillar tractors; assembling, placing and lighting 55 gallon drum smudge pots along the skiway for illumination; organization and mobilization of the trauma team on the flight line and in BioMed, assembling a search and rescue team and mobilization of the South Pole Fire team in the case of a downed aircraft. There were also many more logistical events demanding longs hours from every station member.   temperature at the time of plane arrival      dragging the runway smooth [photo by C. Martin]       smudge pot to light the runway       five at the flight line (I'm second from left), [photo by Jerry Macala]        the atmospheric research observatory tower lit up as a beacon for the aircraft    mechanic Jim working on cat         me at the flight line        Andrea at the flightline         plane arrives      replacement doctor betty        ken borek twin otter flight crew      twin otter in silhouette [photo, Chris Martin]     heating twin otter with herman-nelson heaters      polies at flight line      salt shipment (we ran out of salt for the season), [photo, Margo Fernandez]

On April 12 I organized a 40th anniversary party in honor of Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight into space. This party was part of a Cal Tech organized world wide celebration of Yuri and also the 20th anniversary of the first U.S. Space Shuttle flight. We held the party up in the Skylab lounge and it was well attended under the unusual circumstances and was fun.   Yuri invitation     Yuri party group      Yuri poster           The Yuri celebration web site is: http://www.Yurisnight.net .

Another nice diversion from the hectic activities was Easter Dinner. A group of volunteers organized, cooked and served a wonderful meal.    before dinner         a toast       dinner       kitchen volunteers
One Saturday we had a barbecue in the new garage

NEXT MONTH..............More Auroras, Stars, Satellites


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