Ice Projects

Clearing snow for the runway on the frozen Ross sea

Ice pier under construction

Greetings ice fans,

            Just when you thought you’ve seen it all with ice sculptures on cruise ships and fancy weddings, the local guys with big machines can turn a frozen ocean into a runway for the 500,000 lb C-17 planes next month and an ice pier for the cargo ship due later in the season. I saw them clearing the snow off the future runway with tracked snow blowing rigs yesterday when I went for my hut training walk in 30 below temps. The hut we visited was more than a hundred years old and stocked and manned by the toughest of the Antarctic explorers who were destined to bring honor, glory, scurvy and frostbite to their home countries. It was an educational and teeth chattering experience and made me appreciate my cozy dental suite even more, where I’m able to work with only three layers of clothes instead of the guys who work outside with enough layers to make a polar bear jealous. The ice pier is taking shape from a rink-like boundary of snow, with 4 inches of water sprayed at a time, allowed to harden for a few days and repeated until it rises 20 feet above the sea to serve as a dock for the cargo ship when it arrives behind the ice breaker in a few months. The runway will eventually melt by December or January and the planes will have to land elsewhere, but they hope the pier will be frozen enough to last a number of years before it rejoins the waters of the Ross sea.

            I debuted as a shuttle driver last night to Scott base, the New Zealand station that is just a few miles up the road and invites the Americans over for their bar scene once a week.  My required check of all fluids and instruments was modified by the bone chilling cold and dark, and after I popped the hood and confirmed that there was indeed an engine underneath with lots of caps, blocks, hoses, and framits I closed it up, climbed in and cranked up the heat. My frozen hands felt like clubbed stumps, and I had to assure the startled passengers when I went off road that it was an intentional bonus feature of the ride at no additional charge. We made it there and back without any further incidents and I even got to play a little ping pong with our Kiwi hosts, although they didn’t seem too pleased by the scores and promised to bring out their best player next time, and I sensed they might strengthen their relationship with the Chinese base for retribution.

            Hope your ice is chilling some hooch instead of your digits.

            Cheers,

                        Thawed out Bob