Friday, July 22, 2005

Chapter 21 - End of Season, End of Contract

29 November 90

Long time no hear! Hope everything is going well for you. Al got a letter from “Risa” who gave us your current mailing address. She mentioned something or another about sand pouring out of the envelope. I guess that should leave no doubts as to your current location! From Antarctica to Kuwait; Antarctica had never looked so good as it does now, eh?

Got a letter from Marcia a couple of weeks ago. She has just moved to Utah and dropped me a marsgram right as she was on her way. I don't have an address right now, so I imagine that she is having the post office forward things. She found a job working with the postal system, so she sounds happy. I saw Pat Sullivan the day before I left to come back down. He's working back on the commodities market and somewhat happy. Have you heard from anyone else lately?

Alison is still sending letters to Palmer and keeping us up to date with her movements. In her latest letters, she took a cruise thru the Panama Canal and is spending time in South America again. She has or is starting up an import business in Alaska. She will be down in Punta during the time I head north, so I've got to contact her through an address she left and hopefully will run into her.

From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Les, Peninsula Operations

Hello Les, 29 November 90

Bob advised me that in speaking with him today you had mentioned that there was an opening at South Pole for a Comms person. Can I have more information on the position and the time period this would cover? I have heard that they are short people now during the summer season and had sent a letter to Eric inquiring about positions, but Bob was saying that they are looking to fill a winter position.

If you could, send me more info that I may be able to consider the possibilities. Either way, there would be some things at home that I would have to take care of at home before a more solid decision could be made. Thanks much and I'll be in contact with you.


From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Eric, South Pole Antarctica

Eric, 01 December 90

Good to talk with you again. I wasn't sure whether you were still needing people or what positions may be open and figured that it was worth asking. I'm not sure how much information you want about what I'm presently doing here at Palmer, but I'll give you a rundown on some of the job.

I have worked communications positions at Palmer since October 1988. After my first winter-over, I took two weeks R&R on the Polar Duke, five days in Chile and came back down for the following summer season. I left in March of 1990, started back to school and then came back down to Palmer in October of this year for an interim period to fill in until the new Comms Tech arrives on the M/V Erebus on the seventh of December. I have been working with Al Oxton since November of 1988.

Processing the traffic here involves extracting files mailed to the LAN system or disk and loading them into a file to be sent to the VAX in Florida. Personal computers are used in all of the work areas here including our interface with the ATS-3 system. When I first arrived at Palmer, we were using Crosstalk or ProComm with Kermit to accomplish our daily exchanges with Malabar. I have seen the advent of Blast and have used it when manual commands were required. Since that time, Al has automated much of the Blast process with script files and macros.

Daily radio communications include the remote sites at Livingston Island and Lenny Station, King George Island, boating operations with the local field parties and with the R/V Polar Duke. Radio comms are maintained with aircraft in the area and with Marsh Base concerning aircraft schedules and weather information at their request. Comms at Palmer is responsible for performing the weather obs. Weather obs are passed three times daily with the British Antarctic Survey station at Faraday.

Telex, facsimile and Marisat private line are heavily used by the science community, tour ship companies and by ASA Denver.

If there is any other information you require, please don't hesitate to contact me by HF or by e-mail.

Dave Gallas

03 December 90

Summer finally looks like it's on the way here. There is more snow now than any of the other two summers I can remember, but the weather is getting a little warmer now. It's snowing lightly now and the wind picked up some. The harbor was socked in again with ice for about a week. There were also a couple of large icebergs coming in close too, but they got snagged up on some low rocks and couldn't come in any closer. Station population is up to 38 now after two weeks of only 19 people. Next week the population will be up to 55 and they will have people sleeping in tents because there are only enough beds for 45. The Antarctic Delegation that met in Santiago is also coming down for a visit. That should be interesting, huh?

The Argentines have arrived in the harbor to dive on the wreck of the Bahia Paraiso. They timed it perfectly so that the Delegation will arrive and see them here doing "something" with the wreck. In reality, they haven't done squat to try to remove any part of it or investigate possibilities of recovery of any sort right from the beginning!! These political things are so much bunk.

I am really glad that I was able to come back down. I have learned a lot of new things and it is great to have a computer at my fingertips again. I have seen a lot of familiar faces too. I just hope the job market back home is better than when I left.

Sounds like things in the Gulf are at a standstill right now. The medical corpsman that was down here my first year and winter-over is now over there. He is sitting on a ship in the Gulf somewhere and waiting. I've got a letter started to him, but haven't mailed it yet. He sent Lisa, our old admin assistant a letter and it had sand in it, so we could pretty much guess where he was!

I hear now that Argentina has had yet another coupe attempt. And Bush is still insisting on going there. I used to keep contacts with a couple of people I knew/met from the Bahia Paraiso, but the mail system is so poor in Argentina that one scientist who writes her family still there said that only one of five letters make it through.

05 December 90

You can't believe how anxious I am to get back home. It will be great to spend Christmas at home again. The last time I had that luxury was three years ago! It is really important to spend the holidays with your friends and family. I keep thinking about how much I want to go through Clarendon Hills again on Christmas Eve and look at the luminaries that line the curvy streets of the south side of town and burn all night. It's really beautiful if you've never seen it. I'm also anxious to set up a real tree and pull out the tree decorations that I haven't used or seen for years. Bought a lot of them in Germany. I miss the smell of a real tree, especially since there aren't any around here.

Got a haircut last night and decided to shave my beard and mustache off. Deneb, one of the scientists here does a good job cutting hair, so I got a bit of a trim. Mike, the science tech has been singing "Baby face" to me ever since last night. He says I look too young without the beard. The only part I don't care for is having to shave every day or every other day.

Thanks for all of your letters that you sent. I received them all at once, but that was the first time we have received mail since I've been here. Tomorrow the Erebus comes in from Punta and will bring more freshies and mail, and lots of people. The guy that I'm filling in for is on that ship. So we are going to have a full house here real soon. They have to set up a tent to hold people due to the number of people scheduled in over the next two weeks! Glad I've got a room.

Another beautiful day today. The sun is shining, a few bits of glacier floating in the harbor and a nice breeze. The temp is at 31 degrees and I'm to leave to come home in less than 10 days. It is going so fast now. I wish my camera worked. I wanted to catch a few pictures of things here. Mike has volunteered his camera to me, so I'll catch a few pics over the weekend. Richie the carpenter has been helping me to build a base for that beer lamp I have. I knew the basic dimensions, so we built a wood base and I'll mount the lamp on it when I get home. Was going to seal it with poly, but I don't think I've enough time to do that now.

In one of your letters, you asked what I did here. My job title is Communications Technician. I work together with the Communications Coordinator to support the station communications requirements. That covers a wide range of communications systems. A typical day lately starts for me at 07:30 with a daily schedule with a field party on Livingston Island. There is a group of geologists on the island collecting rocks for study back in the States. Earlier this week, they had a guy in their group who was suffering from snow blindness. He didn't have sunglasses on and sunburned both his retinas. They spoke with the doctor here on station and the guy is ok now. It took a couple of days for his eyes to heal.

Today the Polar Duke came up after my Livingston Island schedule to clarify a question that was asked. One of the principal investigators (head of a science group) had a question about a message that was passed along from Livingston Island. Somewhere in between all of this, I did manage to eat breakfast. At 08:30, 14:30 and 23:30 I have to gather the numbers for the weather and pass them along to Faraday Station. Faraday is a British Antarctic Survey Station which gathers weather data from the peninsula region and passes it on the Marsh Base (Chilean) for flight operations, and onto Cambridge, England which in turn passes the info to the National Weather Service in Washington DC. Communications at Palmer is responsible for weather observations three times daily.

Projects to be done this morning include inventory update of the incoming stock (using DBase III), start researching the works of the linear amplifier used in the HAM shack. The Linear died last week, so the HAM operators/MARS operators would like to have it to run calls to the States. Mike will help me with that project since he has a better understanding of schematics than me.

We've got two boating parties out right now. They are required to carry handheld radios and check in at all of their locations. This helps us locate them if a storm rushes in, a boat floats off, engine problems, radio problems etc. The climate here oftentimes changes so quickly that a small error can be life-threatening if not corrected or noticed right away. Like two weeks ago when one of the scientists slept overnight on Torgerson. He is studying the penguins and is monitoring their returns from feedings. He didn't take proper food stocks and ended up stranded there for 12 hours longer than expected when the brash ice came in overnight and the weather took a turn for the worse. He and the guy he was with ended up opening the survival caches for food!

I'll start getting the outgoing traffic together for sending over the satellite in the afternoon around 16:00 or so. That requires going into the LAN (local area network) and retrieving messages stored and mailed from different computers on the station. Then assign numbers to the messages in order to send the messages in a batch form across the satellite later in the evening. At 17:00 comms with the home office in Denver over the ATS-3 to catch up on what the requirements are from above. Usually any facsimiles received arrive in the afternoon due to the three hour lag time from here to Denver.

Now that we are into the busy season, the evenings are spent up on the satellite and with daily comms schedules. 20:00: Sched with field party on King George Island. 20:30: Weather with Faraday, 21:00: Sched with R/V Polar Duke and for the next two weeks with the M/V Erebus and over the next few weeks a sched at 21:30 with a field party at Seal Island.

While all of this is going on, you hope that the mail is going without too much noise or other problems. The majority of the programs for sending and receiving mail are automated. The computer follows a program that tells it what to do. Much of the logging of messages received is also aided by the use of macro keys which cuts down on the number of keystrokes. Al and I usually split up the traffic handling so I'll do the loading one day and he does the receive (to include the printing/distribution). So I do get some spare time in between dinner and all the scheds. On the days I work out, I sometimes don't get into the gym until 9:30 or later. Last night I gave up the idea of going to the gym; I was just worn out.

We also do a number of other things to help out the local customers understand using the computers and the LAN system. I really enjoy the job here. It can be a challenge sometimes working and living on the same site, but after doing it for so long, I'm used to it. Can't beat the commuting time! I have also had the chance since coming back to pick up a lot of new knowledge about the computers and the LAN. Let's hope that I can use this knowledge to get a job soon after my return.

Guess I should close for now. Like I said to you over the phone, I will call from Punta Arenas and let you know of my return schedule. We have been having a long string of good weather; so maybe, just maybe the SAAM flights will go as scheduled. It would be nice to be home in time for the weekend. Take care and I'll be seeing you again soon.

Antarctically yours,