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Comment Re:I worked on this a bit (Score 1) 109

Around 1 mbps, but with *huge* round-trip times (over 1000 ms). Additionally, geosync sats are below the horizon (their coverage is only from ~80N-80S and nobody else in the world lives between 80-90), so they have to use deprecated sats that aren't in the "groove" anymore, Iridium sats, and NASA's TDRSS network. Those old sats and the TDRSS birds are only above the horizon for a few hours at a time, but Iridium is a full constellation, providing 24/7 coverage. The costs are such that Iridium is used for textual emails when the other sats are not visible (there's a filter on the mail server and messages of a few K bytes are pushed over the Iridium equivalent of SMS via several modems in parallel) but the phone bill would be too expensive for megabit service 24/7.

I also worked for UW between 2003-2009, for the same department, and was on the other end of those racks (among other things, I spec'ed out and ordered the individual shipping crates for the HP servers), and installed equipment, and ran the detector for two winters. If Gherald's immediate boss was Australian, we worked for the same guy. I mention the dates because over that time frame, while I was there, the drive mechanism on the 10m comms dish broke multiple times (which affected bandwidth and uptime because they couldn't track on the sats), two birds were splashed (MARISAT-2 and one of the oldest TDRSS birds) and one reallocated by the DoD (LES9). We had wild flucuations of how many hours per day we were online, sometimes as little as 2-3, sometimes as much as 10-11.


Comment Re:Summer (Score 4, Informative) 387

The previous record is a matter of record: +7.5F in December, 1978. A few summers ago, we had a very warm week and we hit +7.0F in the middle of several days of above-zero temps. While I'm not a Global Warming denier by any means, the specific cause of these record and near-record temps is weather - specifically large masses of warm(er) air coming in from the coast.

Normally, the weather at Pole is so predictable it follows a simple pie chart hanging up in the Meteorology office - the chart divides the wind direction into dominant categories such that you can look at the reading from the wind vanes and make a pretty good prediction of the present and impending weather (mostly, winds out of Grid North bring in clearer and drier air; winds out of Grid West are warmer and moister; and winds out of Grid South are infrequent and bring unsettled conditions). This is in part because most of the time, the air movement is katabatic, meaning it's rolling downhill, and the terrain around Pole favors winds from Grid North. While thermally-induced winds are not unknown, they aren't the dominant force. It takes a lot of energy to disrupt the usual patterns; that's part of what "Global Warming" means - the entire atmosphere has more (thermal) energy, so there's more available force to create disruptions on a global scale.

Comment Barometric altitude at Pole is higher than that (Score 1) 264

Apparently, according to her own words, Renee is already acclimated at about 10,000 feet. Wikipedia confirms that Amundsen-Scott station is at an altitude of 9,301 feet.

That's the GPS altitude, but the density altitude (because of the low temperature of the air) fluctuates between about 9300 feet and 14,000 feet (approx 630 millibars to just over 700 millibars), hovering in the 10K-11K range most of the time.

Comment Ski-equipped aircraft (Score 1) 264

You can't just strap skis on a C-130 and make it into an LC-130 - it's a different plane, structurally. For a C-130, the gear is retractable; on an LC-130, the gear is fixed and the skis go up and down around the tires, allowing it to land on snow or hard surfaces on any flight.

The differences start at the keel. They have the same exterior shape, but internally, the LC-130 and C-130 aren't identical and aren't convertible.

Twin Otters and Baslers (stretched DC-3s) have strap-on skis. For Antarctic operations, they land at Rothera Station on gravel, are towed to snow, and are equipped in the field with skis and spend the entire summer landing on snow. At the end of the summer, they do the process in reverse, occasionally passing through Pole a day or two after the last LC-130 flight in mid-February.

Comment Re:C17 landing photo at night, proof here (Score 1) 264

That landing was at McMurdo, on an Ice runway. The C-17 has made airdrops to Pole (summer and winter), but it can't land there.

And years before that C-17 landing, they landed a Twin Otter at Pole in April, weeks into winter darkness. The "first" was the night vision goggles, not the landing in the dark. In any case, the sun has been up at Pole for two weeks. It's about temps and visibility and has been since 4 weeks after her stroke.

Comment Re:For the metrics among us... (Score 1) 264

And -50F in the original article is incorrect. It's -50C / -65F that's the floor for LC-130 ops. Between 15 Oct and 1 Nov, the temp at Pole hovers right around there. It's been ordinary over the past 15 years to schedule station opening before 1 Nov and it's also ordinary to have issues right up to Halloween.

Comment Re:Hmm... (Score 3, Informative) 264

The problem is that the C-17's have wheels. Unless things have changed recently, Amundsen only has a snow field, not an ice runway like McMurdo. Landing anything other than a twin-otter or LC-130...

Another issue is that the LC-130 doesn't have the legs to make CHC-Amundsen-CHC non-stop. Therefore, it has to land at McMurdo at least once. That means that the weather has to be agreeable to allow the mission to happen (putting aside the issues with fuel jelling and gasket failure at the Amundsen temperatures). In early October, some days the weather at McMurdo is good, but it's not the rule. Nasty storms this time of year.

Pole still has a packed-snow skifield. No jets, no tires. Skis only. That means an LC-130 or Twin Otter (as you mention) or a Basler BT-67 (upgraded and stretched DC-3). Of the three, only the LC-130 is pressurized, and, yes, Hercs have a 9-10-hour flight range, so it uses one load of fuel to get from CHC to McMurdo (9.5 hrs), then another to get from McMurdo to Pole and back to McMurdo (6-7 hrs). They'd use a C-17 for the McMurdo-to-CHC return this time of year - it's faster and roomier for all involved (faster matters double because you have to have good weather at the flight endpoints throughout the flight in case you have to abort-to-departure, or "boomerang"). There's also the requirement for an additional plane on standby in case it has to be sent out for Search-and-Rescue if the first plane goes down. They never operate only one LC-130 at a time. There have to be two or perhaps three present and functional to launch the primary mission.

The issue with temps below -50C is more about seals and gaskets than gelled fuel. They got a waiver in 2004 to open the station with LC-130s at -57C. I watched as one of the planes taxied back from an aborted take-off and spent 3 hours in the pit cycling its engines. They did eventually take off and arrive at McMurdo successfully, but after that incident, the Air Guard became unwilling to operate the planes when the ground temps at Pole were below -50C (and in 2005, I watched the third station-opening flight turn back because it got too cold between #2 and #3. It was 6 days and two more attempts before it returned). In 2006, station opening was delayed 10 days due to weather (visibility or temps - ISTR it varied from day to day).

Comment Re:Lighting. (Score 3, Informative) 264

I've wintered at Pole multiple times. It's a very different place than Troll or McMurdo. The coldest coastal temps are like a warm October or February day at Pole. It's not practical to deploy electric cables in those temps (80F to -100F late in the winter and into sunrise). For airdrops (and the April, 2001, medevac via Twin Otter), they use "burn barrels" to mark out the skiway.

Wind and visibility is indeed an important factor, though unlike a hard-surface runway, you don't clear the snow off of the skiway so much as grade and shape the snow pack so the skis don't sink in. They have limited equipment and limited qualified personnel in the winter (usually 1-3 people) and it takes weeks to take the skiway from mid-winter conditions to ready-for-station-opening condition, and one storm can demolish a week's work.

I'm not there this year and can't comment on specific issues with Renee's situation. Once the Winter is over. I'm sure we'll hear more about how things got to this point, but right now, from 10,000 miles away, our speculation here can't possibly be based on enough facts to be remotely viable.


Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory At South Pole 78

Scryer writes "Construction of the Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory was completed on 18 Dec at the South Pole. It's now the world's largest neutrino detector, with 5,160 optical sensors on 86 strings embedded two kilometers below the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. It has been gathering data since construction started, and will be fully operational after the last strings freeze in March 2011."

Submission + - Windows XP Dips; IE9 Leads Beta; Chrome Continues! (tech18.com)

An anonymous reader writes: October Market Share is out by Net Applications and Stat Counter. Microsoft XP dips below 60%, IE9 started leading Beta market with Chrome running on

Submission + - Google Sues The US For Only Considering Microsoft (techdirt.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Late last week, Google sued the US government for putting out a Request For Quotation for the messaging needs of the Department of the Interior that specified only Microsoft solutions would be considered. Google apparently had spent plenty of time talking to DOI officials to understand their needs and make sure they had a solution ready to go — and were promised that there wasn't a deal already in place with Microsoft... and then the RFQ came out. Google protested, but the protest was dismissed, with the claim that Google was "not an interested party."

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