"Greetings from the South Pole!"
Dave Whitner - January 3, 1995
Greetings from the South Pole! My name is Dave Whitner, and I am a General Assistant working for Antarctic Support Associates. This is my first season on the "Ice" and I am having a blast. The living conditions here at the Pole really are not as bad as one imagines.
The job of General Assistant (GA) is not a very glamorous position at the Pole, but without us, life here at the Pole would grind to a stop very quickly. The best part about my job is that I do something different every day.
Today, for example, I did about four different jobs. My first responsibility was operating the bus on the SPART system. SPART is acronym for the South Pole Area Rapid Transit. We came up with the name as a joke, and made some bus stops. The bus is a bright orange Ford Van. However the van is not your everyday van. It has four wheel drive and about 8 inch lift kit on it and the tires are about 44 inches in diameter. If you are into monster trucks, it is pretty cool to drive.
When I wasn't driving the van I was working on a new Goreman Rupp pump and refueling station for the aircraft and the Station itself. The Station Engineer designed this project last fall, and we are building it now. About three weeks ago we received about a dozen boxes with all the stuff that needs to go in it. This is not a direct bolt together kit. So we've had to cut and weld all the pipes together. I didn't know much about pipe fitting before I started this job, but I am quickly learning.
I was also supposed to help defuel an incoming flight today. But the weather was bad at McMurdo so all the aircraft were grounded. The Navy flies LC-130 transports down here regularly to bring us the things we need to survive. When the plane lands, we have to work pretty quickly to get everything done. Unlike in warm weather areas, they do not shut off the engines of the airplanes. The less time the plane spends idling the more fuel we can unload to keep the lights on. Once the plane is unloaded, and then reloaded with waste and returning cargo, the fuel team moves in. We must bring the hose to the plane and they off load any extra jet fuel they have. The fuel then goes into one of the big fabric fuel tanks in one of the arches of the dome. The tanks hold about 25,000 gallons and each plane brings about 3,000 gallons each flight. But if the plane has a lot of cargo on it we sometimes have to pump gas back into it.
The last job of the day was "House Mouse." It's my week to help out in the Galley washing dishes, and vacuum the floor after dinner. The job isn't glamorous, but we have a lot of fun doing it.
This was just one day in the life of a GA. I get to see a lot and do a bunch of different things. When I first got down here I had to shovel out the cargo berms. I also have spent tons of time working with the science groups getting their experiments up and running. I've also been in every part of the station, including the utilidors underneath the dome (utilidors are small tunnels that carry the utilities to the buildings in the dome).
Well I have babbled on quite enough! I hope things go well for the next year. Take care and have a Happy New Year!
Dave "Too - Tall" Whitner
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