Voyage Across the Drake Passage

To deploy to Palmer Station you must take a ship from South America across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. The trip typically takes four days. For my deployment, I traveled on the Laurence M. Gould, a United States Antarctic Program research vessel, which can accommodate around 30 passengers and 15 crew. I boarded the ship in Punta Arenas, Chile after being issued my cold weather gear.

The Drake Passage is notorious for its rough seas, and the crew was concerned about poor weather for our passage. Luckily, we were able to avoid the worst of the storm but did have some pretty big swells of about 6 or 7 meters. I spent most of the time during the rough weather in my bunk.

The last day of the voyage we traveled along the antarctic peninsula and we had some striking views of the islands and continent. We safely arrived after four days and we were greeted by the summer crew and a lot of wild life. I am very excited to start my job at this beautiful new place!

 

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Palmer Station Fire Fighting and Ocean Search and Rescue Training

For my next contract I will be deploying to Palmer Station, Antarctica for the winter season. Palmer is a much smaller station than McMurdo where I have previously worked. McMurdo has a summer population of up to 1000 and a winter population of about 150, whereas Palmer has a summer population of around 50 and a winter population of around 20.

Because Palmer station is so small, each of us has to take on several additional duties, such as janitorial and kitchen tasking. Additionally, community members are trained to be part of the emergency response teams.

I had the pleasure of being selected to serve on the Fire Fighting and Ocean Search and Rescue (OSAR) teams, and I was sent to training to learn these skills.

I trained with eight of my colleagues for two weeks, one week of fire fighting training and one week of ocean search and rescue training.

The fire fighting training was very exciting. We learned to correctly wear SCBA firefighting gear, how to search burning buildings, how to extinguish fires, and how to work the pump and hoses. We performed many drills in a simulated environment that was used by real fire fighters with real fires. The class and instructors were wonderful, but lugging around the 65lbs of gear was very tiring!

The OSAR training was also very fun. I learned to pilot a Zodiac inflatable boat, how to land the boat, how to pin the boat in place, and how to perform man overboard rescues.

Overall the training was a great experience, and I look forward to continue training at Palmer Station!

New Zealand, South and Central America Trip

After my second winter at McMurdo Station I had 4 months off to travel before heading to my next contract at Palmer Station.

This year I began my travels in New Zealand where I was left off by the Air National Guard. From there I traveled through South and Central America visiting many countries along the way.

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New Zealand

In New Zealand I relaxed in Christchurch for a week and enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables. Afterward, I traveled to Stewart Island where I hiked the Rakiura Track, a beautiful three day hike on a remote island at the very south of New Zealand. I was able to stay at camping huts along the way so I only had to bring a sleeping bag and food which made it very convenient. On the hike I met a lot of interesting people from all over who were also traveling around New Zealand.

South America

From New Zealand, I traveled to Santiago, Chile with one of my friends from McMurdo Station. We rented a car to go to the beach at Valparaiso and to see the milky way in the Andes.

Next I traveled by bus from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina. It was a great experience traveling across the Andes and seeing the climate change. From Mendoza I flew to Buenos Aires where I met a friend from San Francisco, enjoyed the city life, and took some Spanish classes where I met a lot of other travelers. After Buenos Aires, I traveled to Uruguay by ferry to see Montevideo, and then flew to Ecuador to see the Galapagos Islands with my parents.

The Galapagos were very beautiful. My parents and I were there during calving season, and we saw a lot of baby sea lions. We also saw lots of blue footed boobies, sea turtles, crabs, and lizards. On my way out of the Galapagos I said goodbye to my parents and relaxed in Quito for a few days.

From Quito I flew Columbia to see Bogotá and Cartagena. These cities in Columbia have beautiful historic districts and were very interesting to explore.

Central America

From Cartagena, Columbia, I took a sailboat to Panama City via the San Blas Islands. This was a 4 day voyage and was one of the highlights of the trip. There were 9 passengers on board and it was very beautiful being on the sea, snorkeling, exploring the little islands, and eating fresh seafood.

Once I made it to Central America, I saw Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. I would have liked to see Nicaragua but the political situation there made me decide to skip it and spend more time in Guatemala.

The highlights of Central America for me were seeing Panama City and Antigua Guatemala. I had few friends join me in Guatemala, where we saw the striking ruins at Tekal, and then visited beautiful lake Atitlan.

Overall the trip was a huge success. I really enjoyed my time and I left revitalized and excited to head back to work!

Antarctic Search and Rescue

One of the best experiences I had this year at McMurdo was being a part of the Winter Joint Search and Rescue Team (JSART). This is a joint emergency response team made up of members of both the US base, McMurdo, and the New Zealand base, Scott Base.

It was really great to learn a ton of new skills, such as climbing skills, knots, pulley systems, using GPS to navigate in whiteout environments, and taking ice thickness measurements. It was nice to meet and work closely with our NZ counterparts as well.

We had a lot of great training scenarios. We trained climbing up Castle Rock and repelling down. We did multiple stretcher raise and lower exercises on Observation Hill, in very extreme -40 F weather with low visibility. We trained driving tracked vehicles with no visibility by GPS alone. We also did two exercises measuring the thickness of sea ice near cracks, to determine if they were safe to travel on.

Luckily we were never called up for active duty this winter. The most excitement we saw was putting up rope lines between buildings before a big storm!

A lot of these great pictures below are from my fellow SAR member and excellent photographer Josh Swanson. Enjoy!

Post Antarctic Trip

After finishing my 13 month contract at McMurdo Station in November 2017, I was very excited to travel.

I signed another contract for McMurdo winter season 2018 starting in February, so I had about three and a half months to travel the world before returning to the ice. Luckily I was able to recruit several of my friends to travel with me on my trip.

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New Zealand

The first Place I traveled to was New Zealand. The USAP dropped me off in Christchurch, and from there I traveled all around the south island for six weeks. I traveled here with my friend Will and later Allie and Alex.

New Zealand is a beautiful place, and the best way to see it is by car. The main attractions are the breathtaking landscapes themselves. It is a great place to camp and enjoy the outdoors.

The south island has many varied landscapes from glaciers to jungles to beautiful beaches, it was wonderful to see so much nature after my time in Antarctica.

India

After New Zealand I traveled to India, where I met my friends Jared, Chris, and Ben who joined me at different times.

India is a huge country and I was able to see just a small part of it in my six weeks there. I traveled mostly on established tourist routes, covering the north west, central north, and southern parts of the country.

I began with the “golden triangle” of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, and then headed into the deserts of Rajasthan in the north west. The ancient cities and forts here are a sight to behold.

Next was the central north where I saw Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha achieved enlightenment, and Varanasi, the famous holy city on the Ganges.

To see another side of India, I traveled to the south which was a totally different experience. The warm weather was welcome after my time in the north, and the change in cuisine was appreciated as well.

Hong Kong and Taiwan

On the way home I traveled for a week to Hong Kong and Taiwan with my friend Chris.

We visited a family friend Sonali in Hong Kong, who has an apartment in the new territories, and we stayed in a hostel in Taipei to get a taste of Taiwan.

Our time in Hong Kong and Taiwan was spent mostly eating, enjoying the local cuisines. We enjoyed many meals, such as beef noodle soup, roasted duck, soup dumplings, and dim sum.

Overall it was a great trip and I was very lucky to have so many friends join me. It did leave me exhausted though, and I was thankful for my week in the US before redeploying to McMurdo!

 

Seasons of McMurdo

June 21st marked Midwinter’s day, an important holiday for Antarctic winter overs. It is the middle of the winter season meaning there are now more days of darkness behind us than ahead.

Over the past few months I have observed the changing seasons from my office, from the balmy 35 degree summer to the current -30 degree winter. Here are a few pictures of the transition to summer to winter.

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Creating a Python Web App with Heroku

I decided to create a simple web application with Heroku to help improve my Python skills.

This application uses beautifulsoup to scrape Linux distribution websites for .torrent files of their ISOs.

Once the torrents are downloaded they can be accessed via HTTP using simplehttpserver running on a Heroku web dyno.

The application also records its access times in Heroku’s Postgres service using SQLAlchemy.

You can see the site in action here and check out the source code at my github account here.

linuxtorrents