Monday, December 09, 2013

Snow removal

I've been hearing about the snow in the Midwest so I thought I'd make you all feel better about the amount you have to shovel.

All winter long, snow blows across the Antarctic continent, stopping only when it drifts against some obstacle. Unfortunately, the buildings at the Pole are major obstacles, so we end up having large drifts. One of the jobs here at the start of the summer season is moving all that snow.

Before any planes arrive, the winter-overs have to get the heavy machinery warmed up and then they need to clear off the runway so the first planes can land. They also clear away the drifts which have blown up against all the buildings.

One of the last buildings to be cleared is the main station, officially known as the Elevated Station. As you can see, the entire station is built on pillars so tractors can drive underneath and clear out the drifted snow. This will hold off the snow for a couple of decades but eventually the snow behind the station will be too high. When that happens, The station is designed so that the entire thing can be raised. I'm not sure if they'll add more segments to the pillars or if they'll just jack up the station, haul in and pack down a bunch of snow and then place the pillars on the newly packed snow.

Hopefully, this station can avoid the fate of the old station which, as I wrote earlier, is now buried under 20-30 feet on snow. Ian, one of the IceCube winterovers succeeded in getting a picture of the explosion which further buried the old station

If you'd like to learn more about Old Pole or other Antarctic details, the website has more details about the Old Pole station and details of both Antarctic history and current goings-on!

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