3 May, 2000
Raytheon Support Staff 1 Question 74: Do polar bears eat penguins? Our last dive day! Chuck and I went in at Cormorant Island and were pulled right out again with all of our gear on because the huge local lep cruised by. So we dived Christine Island instead. Just a gray cloudy day, but the water was calm. Now we have to give all the gear a final cleaning and hang it up to dry. After Bill gave the Wednesday night science talk, our whole science group went to the lab to help Katrin free the fish she has been using for bioassay work. Nothing brings home the fact that we are leaving soon faster than heaving our difficult-to-collect study animals into the ocean! In various previous journal entries I have introduced some of the station staff members who make everything run so smoothly for us and explained what their duties are. I have, however, left out several significant people: Besides cooking wonderful daily spreads, our chef, Bob Taylor, is also in charge of our food supplies. Even before Bob arrived at the station, he had spent office time in Denver ordering the food that will get delivered during the winter-over period. Once here, planning ahead is still key. He orders freshies two weeks prior to every ship's arrival from South America. Menus are planned a week in advance, and he does as much ahead-of-time preparation as possible. He has a GA (general assistant) helping every day when he is cooking for 41, and one helping for a couple of hours two to three times a week with 28 on station. Bob works long hours 6 days a week, and like most of the science staff, he only gets part of Sunday off. To show some appreciation for the giant chocolate chocolate chip cookies that occasionally appear in my office, I got up at 5am last Thursday to help in the kitchen. Making even a simple recipe in huge quantities is a big adjustment! The doctor, Will Silva, has more ostensibly free time and a more flexible schedule, but has very serious potential logistical problems to plan for. He is on duty and more accessible to assistance from the rest of the world, but real-life logistics make it just as medically remote as other USAP stations. For someone suffering an acute or multisystem health problem, four days can be as bad as four months. Maintaining readiness with nothing happening is the main part of the job. Will spends some of his office hours time doing meds (medicine) maintenance. Palmer has a good pharmacy; like other stations it keeps medical stocks for most foreseeable possibilities, but every bottle needs to be swapped out and replaced at its expiration date. Exotic traumas are not the norm here. On the ice, falls are the top safety problem, then burns and inhalation injuries. With any medical problems that arise, the doc is the sole provider on station. The level of care he can give depends on the tools available, his knowledge and experience. Our facilities are similar to those of an outpatient clinic rather than those of a surgical hospital. At some level of injury he would be unable to provide effective treatment. A moderately ill or injured person can be helped, but anyone with full-body or major trauma would only be stabilized for transport. The infirmary isn't set up for major injuries, although it can be modified for them in 10 minutes. In his time away from the ice he takes courses on surgery, anesthesia and other things that he usually doesn't get to practice here (thankfully). Besides medical treatment issues, the doc is responsible for some of the search and rescue (SAR) team coordination and training and is a member of the meteorology team. He also helps out with science support, doing some of the sampling for three science groups. Since we are a U.S. station and therefore subject to all the federal workplace regulations, Will is the representative for OSHA-- checking the hot tub water and eye wash stations, certifying fire extinguishers and doing a food service inspection once a month. Some of the construction work scheduled over this winter has already begun. On journeyman, Nancy Swearengin. All heating, ventilation and air conditioning system ductwork comes to Antarctica as large flat sheets of metal. A worker on site has to make them into the necessary shapes with a relatively small collection of machines-- 4 ft pan break, 8 ft leaf break, 4 ft set of rolls. Rolls are used to make round pieces like collars. All the bending, rolling, and crimping to shape the metal is figured out using geometry. The layout for any 3-dimensional piece is found in a pattern set book; the metal worker adds the angles and measurements appropriate for the unique job. Nancy has to be extremely accurate with her measurements! She showed me how to make a piece of duct taking a section from rectangle to round--it is a very artistic process. Nancy also installs exhaust fans, ductwork and air conditioning systems. To become a sheet metal worker Nancy apprenticed for 4 years with a journeyman, working in the trade the whole time. She said that the population of skilled workers is spread thin in the booming construction business, and there are bonuses for good skilled workers. Her work is mentally and physically demanding--sheet metal working is a challenging and rewarding job that she thinks women can be very successful in. Another of our tradesmen is also a woman! Cherie Ude is a painter. The trades represented here include mechanics, heavy equipment drivers, heating/air conditioning servicepeople, painters, sheet metal workers, plumbers, electricians and others. For any of them, with time spent in the trade and competence on the job, it is possible to go from working in the trade to being a foreman (supervising) to running jobs. Cherie got into painting in high school through a program that put struggling students in trade shops for credit. She liked boats and worked out a deal with the owner of a shipyard to help build sailboats. The shipyard had tough physical demands (using a grinder overhead for sanding), but within a year she was supervising--and the opportunity got her of schools teach painting--paint information and techniques; there is no formal apprenticeship. Continued 5/8/00... Answer 73: Overall there is ice, which doesn't smell at all, unless you count the tingly sharp sensation when you breathe in very cold air quickly. Smells are from very localized sources such as seal haul-outs, penguin rookeries, Bahia oil...
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