This past week has been a bit stressful around the firehouse. Six weeks into the actual winter season and we’ve had a medevac. Hopefully our only one this winter. For the fire department, medevacs mean that we have to have our ARFF vehicles taken back out to the airfield, and since they were “winterized” it meant a lot of work for the guys here and the workers at the VMF. *The VMF is the vehicle maintenance facility*. It also meant that every other department was busy with various tasks getting ready to safely get the patient out of Antarctica.
The big stress for the fire department also came with the abrupt departure of two of our firefighters. This means that we are down to 1 captain, 1 lieutenant and 2 firefighters for the foreseeable future.
Also, another stressor that occurred this week, was that it appears that staffing levels for the fire department for next winter may be changing. The big change for me, is that the number of dispatch positions may be cut from three to one. No final word on this, but it’s something that is now a reality that we are going to have to face and decisions must be made.
We’ve all been a bit stressed out. Understandably, in my opinion.
And what do you do in Antarctica when you’re stressed out? You find the closest slope and go play in the snow/ice. Luckily we have a nice little snow/ice hill right outside of the firehouse. We’ve all been eyeing it for a few weeks now, and yesterday was the day we decided to tackle it. After brunch, I ran to my room, switched out of my lightweight jacket to my big red, grabbed my wind pants and camera, and went back to the firehouse. Marsha was working in dispatch, so Raymond and I decided to attempt to slide down the hill. At first, we didn’t use anything extra (if you watch the video, the outtakes portion shows us attempting to slide without the plastic sheet). Then we discovered that it was SO MUCH BETTER with the lack of friction that the plastic sheet provided on the ice. So myself, Raymond, Marsha and Wes all took turns sliding down the hill. After a while, we started doing fancy slides (head first), but of course my camera froze right before we attempted those.
Next time, I’ll bring my bigger camera since the battery lasts longer.
No zombies, yet. I have a sneaky suspicion that before long we’ll see a few of the suckers. Not real ones, of course. McMurdo would be a poor place for real zombies to be. Not because we’re lacking in richness of brain matter, but because they’d run out pretty quickly. Then what are they going to do?
Fact: We have some people with amazing intellect on this continent. We have several people with master degrees, ph.d’s and other various levels of education. I know one person with several different bachelor degrees in addition to his masters. And we have some very “street smart” people. The few of us who don’t have college educations.
The thing I love the most about this place is the way everyone treats each other. We are all equals. Race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background… who cares. It’s an extremely tight knit community. We all look after one another. We all care about one another.
Next Sunday, the 28th, is the 34 Social. The 34 Social attendees will be the women of McMurdo. There are 34 of us, hence the name. It looks like it will be an excellent time, and both Marsha and I will be able to attend. I’ll post more after the get-together. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to talk some people into doing photo-shoots because my creative side needs an outlet.
All in all, I’m doing pretty well. My emotional post a few weeks ago let me get a lot off of my chest and I’m feeling much better.
So, one of the main reasons that the Antarctic Fire Department has a permanent station at McMurdo, a temporary station at the airfield (depends on the season and which airfield is operational – Pegasus or the seasonal (temperamental) ice runway – as well as the South Pole station (also seasonal), is to provide ARFF services. ARFF stands for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting. ARFF certified firefighters have gone through special courses, and they continue to train yearly, in order to become the best at handling aircraft emergencies.
From (yes I know I love it) Wikipedia –
Aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) is a special category of firefighting that involves the response, hazard mitigation, evacuation and possible rescue of passengers and crew of an aircraft involved in (typically) an airport ground emergency.
Due to the mass casualty potential of an aviation emergency, the speed with which emergency response equipment and personnel arrive at the scene of the emergency is of paramount importance. Their arrival and initial mission to secure the aircraft against all hazards, particularly fire, increases the survivability of the passengers and crew on board. Airport firefighters have advanced training in the application of firefighting foams, dry chemical and clean agents used to extinguish burning aviation fuelin and around an aircraft in order to maintain a path for evacuating passengers to exit the fire hazard area. Further, should fire either be encountered in the cabin or extend there from an external fire, the ARFF responders must work to control/extinguish these fires as well.
But Tori, what does purple stuff have to do with this?
Well, I’ll tell you. Purple stuff – AKA Purple K, and PKP – is a dry-chemical fire suppression agent used in some dry powder fire extinguishers. (yep, Wikipedia) It also –
Purple-K is normally non-toxic, but ingestion of large amount can cause alkalosis. In high temperatures it decomposes to carbon dioxide andpotassium oxide, which is toxic and highly corrosive. (Wikipedia again)
But why am I talking about it? Okay, last Wiki reference –
Purple-K is commonly used in oil refineries, airport ramps, service stations, military facilities, naval warships, power plants, and other places where flammable liquids are handled. It is often paired with foam in twin agent systems, usually found fitted to airport fire appliances.
Purple-K is used in many forms, from small handheld fire extinguishers to large mobile and stationary units, including fixed-nozzle piping systems.
Cleanup of spent agent can be difficult, as it creates a mess when discharged. If the spent agent is dry it can be removed by suction, but when combined with water, hydrocarbons and other liquids, it forms a thick crusty scum that can be challenging to remove.
Hrm… Why am I writing about it. Well! I’ll tell you!!!
The last portion that I referenced, you know, the part about the spent agent being a mess when discharged… Well, heh, we have purple stuff in the bay. And I have pictures and videos of the discharging process of dry chem and photos of the mess it leaves all over the place.
Well, at least people around here are. With the increasing darkness, it is now time to start looking for the Aurora Australis, commonly known as the Southern Lights. I know I blogged about them last year, as well as posted some photos, but the Southern Lights are the counterpart to the well known Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
From Wikipedia – … It’s southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has almost identical features to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone and is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. Aurorae occur on other planets. Similar to the Earth’s aurora, they are visible close to the planet’s magnetic poles. Modern style guides recommend that the names of meteorological phenomena, such as aurora borealis, be uncapitalized.
There haven’t been any reports of the amazing phenomenon (yet) but they’re coming. I can feel it. The question is, how well will I be able to see them…
A few days ago, I was pulling an impromptu barista shift. Late into the evening, two of my co-workers and I decided to play in the snow. While Wes was doing a backwards flip into a snow angel, I decided to put my glasses into one of the pockets of our lieutenants “Big Red” and tried diving over a snow bank. I’m short. I didn’t make it. After a hearty laugh and floundering in the snow, I went to retrieve my glasses and lo and behold, they were no longer in the pocket. So there we were, in the dark, looking for my glasses. I caught a glimpse of them against the snow and picked them up. That’s when we discovered that my right lens was missing. The three of us, plus a good friend of ours, Suzy, searched through the snow for the next 30 minutes or so. No luck.
The next day at work, Raymond (our Lt), Mason, and FlareBear (two of my other firefighters) went in search of the lens. Marsha also informed me that she went looking for it at another point that day, and I went looking for it when I got off of work at 1500. So around 4 hours have been spent searching for my missing lens.
It’s still missing.
I get off work at 0700 and plan on going and searching for it this afternoon, before dinner. Hopefully the snow will continue to hold off. The weather has been lovely as of late. And I can still see the stars. I’m very thankful for that.
On a positive note, once I return to my bespectacled state and peruse the photos that I plan on taking throughout the season, it will be like I’ve been down here twice in once season since I don’t have the best vision. But for now, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that I’m able to locate my lens and it won’t be in too terrible a shape.
I’m also very glad that I can enlarge the font on my personal computer, as well as my work computer so I don’t make too many typos when blogging.
I hear the weather is warming up back at home so stay safe and stay cool.
Why haven’t you been blogging lately? It’s disappointing.
Well. Frankly… I haven’t felt like it. The past few weeks I’ve been averaging about three hours of sleep a night. The exhaustion I’ve been feeling has worn me down physically and emotionally. I also went through a pretty rough patch of the crud. Not as bad as some people, but I still felt like poop. I won’t lie, these past two months have been rough. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life and have been sticking my head in the snow trying to avoid everything. Not literally of course. Snow up the nose hurts. First, it freezes all of the hair in your nostril, then it melts and you experience a feeling like snorting water up your nose… But in all seriousness, I’ve been rather blah. I haven’t felt like going out and experiencing the amazing beauty of this place. I haven’t felt like going to the gym. I haven’t even felt like going out and taking photos. (I know, weird…) I haven’t felt like doing much of anything.
But, on a good note, I have amazing friends here. Friends that I can talk to, vent to, complain to… And that’s why I’m here. This place is now an extension of my home and family. No one here is a replacement for my family or friends at home. There are times when I want to be with my parents more than a person dying of thirst wants a glass of water.
Things are looking up though. We’ve been having more recreational opportunities happen so that helps with the “routine” around here. I’ve also taken up a few more opportunities than I did last year. I’m working as a barista at our makeshift coffee house. The building that is the actual coffeehouse has been closed for the season. It’s now in one of the bars that is being used as a lounge due to renovations occurring in 155. During the summer, it’s the bar I prefer to go to because of the games (shuffleboard, darts and billiards). I’m also a peer counselor, but I haven’t had to use my listening skills with anyone yet.
So, just bear with me while I find my feet again. I’m working on getting back to my normal self.