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Ch-Ch-Chatting With the South Pole's IT Manager

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the its-getting-hot-in-here dept.

Science 120

Have you ever thought about working at a place where the main worry is keeping the equipment from getting too cold? An excellent detailed interview with the IT manager of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Getting service is a little tough. They try to maintain at least a year's worth of spare parts. Includes an interesting set of photos.

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While you're keeping an eye on IT... (3, Funny)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672975)

watch Clark. And watch him close.

Re:While you're keeping an eye on IT... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673369)

Clark: I don't know what the hell is in there, but it's weird and pissed off.

Re:While you're keeping an eye on IT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674769)

I don't get it. Exp. please? :)

Re:While you're keeping an eye on IT... (3, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674857)

It's from John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing...rent it, horror/sci-fi classic. Great great stuff. Even by today's standards, the special effects are decent. Also notable for not having a single female in the entire movie (unless you count the voice of the chess computer early on in the movie)

Re:While you're keeping an eye on IT... (1)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675905)

Not to mention one of the best endings ever:

"What do you want to do now?"
"Why don't we just wait here for a little while? See what happens."

yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673005)

1st post

LOL antartic humor (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673031)

"My computer froze!"

Re:LOL antartic humor (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676371)

I guess he ch-ch-chats with a p-p-powerbook.

300 club? (2, Interesting)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673051)

Being in Minnesota, I am used to cold weather, but -104F! I wouldn't go out in that with clothes on, let alone naked.

Re:300 club? (1)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673231)

It scares away the Old Ones.

Re:300 club? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673341)

I would have thought a 300 degree temperature change would kill you outright from thermal shock.

Think of Pascal's Law (1)

jorgeuva (963084) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676067)

and the diagram with the hydraulic press. Think of the incredible shrinkage that must come with -100F temperatures and how that displacement of fluid forces blood to all your other vitals to keep you from going into shock. It's just physics.

Re:300 club? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21677231)

Americans...

Re:300 club? (0, Offtopic)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673527)

he probably has (had?) BIG kohones [urbandictionary.com]

Re:300 club? (4, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675331)

Actually, I have done it myself and have seen a large portion of my dad's collegues do it in Russia (with slightly lower temperature differences - +220-230F to -4F).

After a "proper" sauna (not the modern IR shit) you have to quickly chill down. If you go into hot water or try to chill down slowly you feel like shit after that. Now, ice cold water or even snow is a completely different story. It is the ultimate refresher. One of my dad collegues had a sauna near Moscow and we went there nearly every weekend during the winter when I was a kid. Coming out of 110-120C+ into -25-30C, breaking the ice on the water bucket with your bum and throwing snowballs at each other (that is 240F difference so a bit less than on the south pole). Totally nuts. Especially if you do it after a 20-30km ski run.

Re:300 club? (1)

brown-eyed slug (913910) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676231)

I believe he's lying about his nudity, as the top of a sock is clearly visible in this picture [computerworld.com] .

I learned a long time ago never to completely trust an IT Manager.

Santa lives at North Pole.... who's at South Pole? (3, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673059)

When the machines get too cold, they install Microsoft products.

Then Satan shows up and heats up the joint.

Re:Santa lives at North Pole.... who's at South Po (2, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673171)

Who lives at the south pole? Herschel the Hanukkah goblin you insensitive cod!

Re:Santa lives at North Pole.... who's at South Po (0, Redundant)

n0084ever (1042786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673363)

Satan shows up, after installing m$ products... coincidence? I think not

Re:Santa lives at North Pole.... who's at South Po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21675849)

Since your post got modded redundant, it seems the mods agree with you. :)

The one bright side to such an environment (4, Funny)

Enlarged to Show Tex (911413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673083)

It has to be much, much easier to overclock machines when you never have to worry about overheating. Who needs liquid cooling when you can have polar cooling?

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (4, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673227)

>It has to be much, much easier to overclock machines when you never have to worry about overheating.
Two words: Global warming.

And it's all their fault.

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (2, Funny)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673313)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of polar cooled super computers!

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (5, Insightful)

myvirtualid (851756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673357)

It has to be much, much easier to overclock machines when you never have to worry about overheating. Who needs liquid cooling when you can have polar cooling?

Apparently not: The FA mentions that they are at 12,000 feet, so they have a real problem with computer fans not being able to move the thin air.

Other effects of the thin air include laptop disks that don't spin properly, because they are built to float on a layer of air and are designed for near-sea-level densities. The air is also very dry, leading to increased risk of fires and disk failures caused by static.

Fire is a huge problem in general, because in the winter they have no choice but to fight and extinguish. Relocation isn't an option. Very interesting article.

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674909)

I was just wondering if they recommend going to SSD to prevent hard drive failure and if they have attempted to do like they do in surgery tent in Iraq and create a positive air flow (surgery tents in military have sanitized air pumped into the surgery area to push ifectious air out of the surgery area). It may be cost prohibitive but the positive air flow would increase the pressure in the server room and might help prevent crashes. I also wonder if they use wind power as well as diesel for power generation. I heard a rumor that its not really that windy at the pole itself.

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (3, Informative)

myvirtualid (851756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675405)

...they have attempted to do like they do in surgery tent in Iraq and create a positive air flow?

I don't know, but it might not be a good idea. According to http://healthandenergy.com/suggested_indoor_air_pressure.htm [healthandenergy.com] ,

Moisture condensation and damage can occur below the roofs and within outer walls of heated buildings if indoor air pressure is significantly greater than outdoor air pressure.

Of course, the next section of this page appears to contradict this....

http://www.trane.com/commercial/library/vol31_2/index.asp#control [trane.com] has more on this. Summary: It's complicated, man.

I asked about maintaining a positive pressure differential when we had an ERV installed (for reasons similar to those suggested by the PP); the technician indicated that while a nice theory, it could cause the ERV to ice up. They had been instructed to create a slightly negative pressure differential for this reason.

So my modern, plastic sealed house has slightly negative pressure relative to the outside. Several years and counting, and no negative side effects as far as I can tell.

Oh, and that's in Ottawa: Summer highs in the 40s, and very humid, winter lows in the -30s, and very dry. Nothing too extreme....

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21676037)

The solution: watercooling.

I'm sure the processors will be able to heat up the ice to a liquid temperature. In fact, you could sit a block of ice on top of each processor. Most of the water will refreeze, but some of it will get into the air, solving the humidity problems. Just keep the environment contained, and the processors might even be able to heat up the place after a while.

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676385)

Fire is a huge problem in general, because in the winter they have no choice but to fight and extinguish. Relocation isn't an option. Very interesting article.

Which is why, back when the DoD provided uniformed support personell (they contract out to civilians mostly now) - a high proportion of them were Navy, and a large fraction of those were submariners. (Sailors went mostly to the South Pole station, McMurdo was virtually an Army base.)
 
I wanted to go - but never applied because it was almost certain my application would be denied out-of-hand. My job was treated as 'critically undermanned', regardless of actual manning, by administrative fiat. (Except for re-enlistment bonuses of course!) As a result of this, applications to go do things outside of our normal jobs were routinely denied without review.
 
Though to be fair, my job field usually only had about 1000 people in it, including the 30-40 kids in the school at any given time, and it took about 1000 to man all our billets. If about 5-10 more guys got out in a given year than predicted, or 5-10 less than predicted per year made it through the school, it could and did cause problems. (Our school was second in difficulty (at the time) only to the nukes - routinely 30-40% of a class flunked out, with spikes much higher.)

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21676907)

Fire is a huge problem in general, because in the winter they have no choice but to fight and extinguish.

Ummm, in the rest of the world, I don't think you have many other options when a fire occurs.

Re:The one bright side to such an environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21677697)

How about "Leave"?

Sounds awesome (1, Offtopic)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673103)

I don't work in IT, but I would love to have a job at the south pole. Snow and cold any idea of hot weather. How people can stand heat I have no idea.

I'm thinking about moving to Alaska after I pay down some of my student loans. I have some relatives that live there and they love it.

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674089)

My wife and I are considering the Virgin Islands...

d'frent strokes...

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674359)

My brother lived in Alaska for 5 years. I went a visited twice during the summer. My god it was beautiful up there.

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675427)

"My brother lived in Alaska for 5 years. I went a visited twice during the summer. My god it was beautiful up there."

Living there, and visiting in the summer, are two very different things. Much of Alaska (south of the circle at least) is awesome 4-5 months a year, the other 7-8 take some serious fortitude. If the weather doesn't get you down (Anchorage and Juneu can be mild-ish), the short days probably will.

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

COredneck (598733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674491)

I actually thought of applying for jobs where I would some work related to the South Pole which includes going there. What not too many people know is the NY National Guard fly through Christchurch, New Zealand. Having been to NZ, I am interested in doing a job where I can go there several times each year, of course on the company dime instead of my own. I have been looking at the Raytheon Polar Services web site for positions.

If you haven't been to NZ, once you been there, you don't want to leave.

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674865)

heh, i just hope you dont get easily depressed. those long winter months can take toll on the nerves...

Re:Sounds awesome (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21675615)

This AC is actually in the same office at NPX with the subject of TFA.

I've only been here for a month, but I love it. It's weird. You must have a high tolerance for everything: extremes of temperature, people, daylight or lack thereof, variety of food or lack thereof, limited hardware and software choice, members of the opposite sex, etc.

The new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Elevated Station is way cool for a geek. It's like an extraplanetary outpost. Yes, you can go outside whenever you want, but you also take full responsibility for your well-being for even the most mundane of tasks. I snowmobile out to remote buildings with gig-E switches in -60F. I got drafted into a fire response team to help protect myself and everyone else here. I can get called for a fire alarm 24x7x365. And of the three Sundays I have been here, I worked two, doing 13 10-hour+ days in a row.

And after 15 years in the industry, working for Big Blue, SUNW and others, I really enjoy this work environment. It combines extreme adventure with unique technical challenges. Not to mention associating with women who can fuel huge military aircraft and weld.

And I'll be here until November 2008. I suspect that after this article (.25Million hits in 24 hours so far), my job won't be too hard to fill once I move on to a land where birds fly and grass grows.

Regards from 90-South,

The Fingee

PS V-word = "deathbed" I hope that's not prophetic down here.

Re:Sounds awesome (3, Interesting)

rossifer (581396) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676599)

If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Vitamin D (D3, 4000-10000IU/day) is your friend. SAD appears to be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency and supplementation of D3 (not D2, which is harmful in large quantities and ineffective in small quantities) can be very effective at resolving it.

Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in many other diseases of civilization and correcting the deficiency (getting the value above 60ng/ml) seems to help with lots of issues, from osteoporosis to low HDL levels to atherosclerosis to depression to cancer (reduces tumor growth rates).

There are more than 200 kinds of vitamin D receptors in the body. It does an astonishingly large number of things, and most people who don't work outside are severely deficient. Working on the South Pole is the extreme of that case.

Re:Sounds awesome (2, Informative)

jotok (728554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676079)

McMurdo Station is always hiring. [usap.gov]

Ask yourself what kind of stuff you want to tell your grandkids when you're old. Then sign up :P
I'm dying to winter down there--just to say I've done it--heck, I'd apply for the janitor job if that's all that was available. They don't seem to have much need for security consultants :\

Re:Sounds awesome (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21677913)

The thought of working at the south pole has crossed my mind a few times but every time I've done reseach it seems the main barrier to entry for me has been that I'm european and (at least in the past) most jobs had that lovely "You must be a US citizen to apply" line in the requirements...

So I guess I'll take the chance and ask if anyone here who's not from the US has managed to make it to antarctica without getting a second degree and a PhD in something relevant and if so, how did you do it?

/Mikael

An old high school buddy of mine did this (4, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673107)

A high school buddy of mine went to the south pole a couple of years ago. Here's his blog. [blogspot.com]

CDW (5, Funny)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673117)

I click the link, and the first image is of a very cold-looking guy standing next to the South Pole marker. Underneath it is a CDW ad that states "We're there.".

That may be the first time I've cracked a smile at an online ad.

Re:CDW (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674265)

That may be the first time I've cracked a smile at an online ad.
Personally, I launch into hysterics whenever I'm invited to "punch the monkey".

Re:CDW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21677429)

As someone who's done IT in Antarctica I always loved to see those "guaranteed over night replacement, anywhere" so many products have. Of course if you read the fine print it's only "anywhere FedEx delivers", so that means New Zealand is the closest place.

ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager (1)

t35t0r (751958) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673155)

Did anyone else read this as "ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager"?

Re:ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673297)

I did, and I was trying to figure out what "ch-ch-chatting" was a reference to.

Chinpokomon?

Re:ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674219)

Teeth chattering because of the cold.

Re:ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674313)

Well, I understood that when I realized it was the South Pole and not South Park.

Re:ch-ch-chatting with south park's IT manager (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674929)

If it were a reference to South Park, it'd be a reference to Jimmy [wikipedia.org] .

NSFW (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673211)

There's me thinking the 'nsfw' tag on this article was just the /. crown trying to piss-off the guys who were trying to patent 'nsfw' [slashdot.org] . God, how wrong I was.

Re:NSFW (4, Funny)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673247)

Well, I'm not sure how a smiley face [computerworld.com] is NSFW but whatever.

Personally, being that it was a balmy +5F outside this morning on my walk in from the car, I was seriously considering making my dreams come true and showing up in a school completely naked -- well, except for the yellow smiley face hovering over my dick.

Re:NSFW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674293)

aint nobody wanna see THE BRAIN SLAYER's dick at work. sorry bill.

Re:NSFW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674871)

The Brain Slayer pwns you!

Re:NSFW (1)

Project2501a (801271) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675153)

Dude, have the decency to leave the blow-up doll at home. It needs its rest.

Re:NSFW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674159)

Go through the photos listen, there is one of him naked, only covered by a smily face. Some sauna club, or something.

never knew (1)

PrvtBurrito (557287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673267)

While I suppose it is a little offtopic, I noticed in the first picture that the elevation of the south pole is greater than 9,000 feet. I never knew that, and it really highlights the crappy conditions that must exist there. Even at 10,000 feet your body does funny things adjusting to altitude (source [springerlink.com] ).

Re:never knew (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673621)

I know, when I think of the South Pole, I imagine a flat expanse of ice and snow only a few hundred feet above sea level. Apparently, the guy in TFA says they're at 12,000 feet.

Re:never knew (2, Interesting)

lowder (194305) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674065)

That's right, and in fact the pressure is slightly lower than it is at the same altitude closer to the equator (latitude less than 30 deg.), because the earth's rotation pulls some air away from the poles and towards the equator. So even though the Pole is at 9900 feet, the pressure is equivalent to an altitude of 10600 feet near the equator.

I worked there for a couple of Antarctic summers, one month each time. It definitely takes a couple of days to get adjusted. And there are always a few people who CAN'T adjust to the altitude and have to be sent back to McMurdo.....

Re:never knew (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674935)

That's right, and in fact the pressure is slightly lower than it is at the same altitude closer to the equator (latitude less than 30 deg.), because the earth's rotation pulls some air away from the poles and towards the equator. So even though the Pole is at 9900 feet, the pressure is equivalent to an altitude of 10600 feet near the equator.

But while the air pressure is lower, the density of oxygen in terms of moles/liter might actually be higher. Considering that the air there can get as low as 100C below nice balmy conditions at sane latitudes, it seems that every liter of air breathed at those temperatures could have up to 30% more oxygen in it than the same altitude at nicer temperatures. That won't completely mitigate the fact that the total air pressure at 10k feet is 50% lower than sea level, but it might help correct for the elevation issues.

I'm not doubting that conditions at the south pole wouldn't still pretty much suck, though.

Battle of HOTH!!! (2)

AskMeLater (688831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673289)

The antenna looks like it came from the battle of hoth!! Sweet!

cue the jokes now (3, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673427)

worst virus - W32/Snow.a http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_138727.htm [nai.com]
Security software - BlackIce
Snow license Manager
Snow screen savers

  • Frozen Heads Software for the Macs http://frozenheads.com/ [frozenheads.com]
    polar software for the helpdesk http://www.polarsoftware.com/ [polarsoftware.com]

    And of course Penguin everything

    but the burning question: Does he type everything using the CAP lock ?

Unfortunately your jokes are too intelligent for (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673741)

...this forum.

But I applaud you.

Re:cue the jokes now (1)

dextromulous (627459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675459)

When the software gets really bad: SoftICE [wikipedia.org]

Locking down workstations: Deep Freeze [faronics.com]

Don't forget to shop at Polar GPS [polargps.com] before heading out!

watch Clark (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673441)

for sure

Why they cannot get supplies/parts during Winter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21673513)

It's because of the weather?

Re:Why they cannot get supplies/parts during Winte (5, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674629)

It's sort of the weather. It's cold and windy during the winter, sure. But, it's also dark - completely and utterly dark for months at a time during the dead of winter. There aren't any lights on the runway, or air traffic radar either, so there's a good chance the plane will smack onto the snow rather than land. It's very difficult to compact and maintain the snow/ice runway during the winter. If a plane were to land, they would have to keep the engines revved up and the plane moving - if they were to stop and shutdown the skis would freeze to the runway and the engines would refuse to restart.

also bear in mind that any plane they sent up there would almost certainly have to go through McMurdo. They generally use modified C-130s for their heavy transport, and they don't have tremendous range on one tank of gas. So, you'd need to get a plane first to McMurdo, which has its own difficulties of winter flying, and then head to the South Pole.

None of this is to say that they can't fly in during the winter. If the station were to blow up, for instance, they'd get some daring pilots to head in for a rescue. A few years back there was someone on the over-winter crew that needed treatment for breast cancer (it was the doctor, ironically enough), and they did some dicey flights for that (to send supplies, then for an early extraction). It's mostly that they prefer to not have to, because it's logistically difficult and mighty risky.

Re:Why they cannot get supplies/parts during Winte (5, Insightful)

Deep Penguin (73203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675879)

It's more than just cold and windy in the winter. The temperature floor for an LC-130 (C-130 with skis) is -50C. Even in the summer, they don't land when it's colder than that. The various hydraulic systems (including the ski-retraction mechanism) don't work well when it's too cold. As for "leaving the engines running", they do that in the summer.

To come down here in the middle of winter, they would do what they did in April, 2001 for a medevac of a different doctor, send a Twin Otter from Canada. It has a shorter range than an LC-130, so it has to fly down the Americas, hop over to Antarctica at the Drake Passage, refuel and switch from tires to skis at Rothera Base, then fly to Pole and refuel here. They do that at the beginning of every season, then reverse it to go home.

The situation you mention was in 1999, and involved an air-drop of supplies from a C-141, then a C-130 showing up about two weeks early, in mid-October, weeks after the sun rose. The Twin Otter medevac was in full dark and around -80F.

All that being said, yes, it is difficult, and it is risky. It had better be a matter of life or death to bring a plane here between late February and early October. If the station did blow up, and there were no immediate life-threatening injuries, there are plans to be able to survive for weeks/months in either the B-wing of the new station (it can be split in half for a catastrophic fire in the A-wing) or in other buildings that can be heated without depending on the main power plant. The winter crews are large enough that it would take five or six Twin Otter flights to evacuate the station. That would be incredibly tricky to accomplish. An air-drop would be orders of magnitude easier, especially since until 1995, they used to do that every winter.

Too cold ? (2, Funny)

this great guy (922511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673671)

Have you ever thought about working at a place where the main worry is keeping the equipment from getting too cold?

Isn't that a perfect situation to make use of Netburst-based Pentium 4 processors ?

Re:Too cold ? (1)

uniqueUser (879166) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674689)

I saw in one caption that they vent the server/backup room directly to the outside so keeping it cool is not a problem. However my question is why not use the server farm as a heater for the rest of the hab? Even if you have to vent when the room reaches 60 F (the temp we aim for at my work place) any extra heat would help keep fuel consumption lower in a place where everything has to be flown in.

Re:Too cold ? (1)

noahisaac (956470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675773)

However my question is why not use the server farm as a heater for the rest of the hab?
He mentions in the interview that they do use the heat from the datacenter to heat other areas of the station.

inaccurate article (5, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673781)

All those pics are upside-down! :-)

The sign... (1)

charlievarrick (573720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673803)

...was a little underwhelming, looks like it was done a pen plotter although it does convey a certain 70's scientific vibe. Also, where are the iceweasel/icedove/firefox/icewm jokes?

Other Antarcitc Resource (4, Informative)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673871)

This site (www.bigdeadplace.com/) is dedicated to the stories of what really goes on at McMurdo. It's a very funny read; I haven't gotten around to buying the book yet.

Geosynchronous satellite dish at that lattitude? (2, Insightful)

Chris Shannon (897827) | more than 6 years ago | (#21673937)

At 80 degrees north in Eureka, Nunavut, Canada, you would need to point an antenna horizontally to communicate with a geostationary satellite.
There's a photo of an satellite dish antenna pointing horizontally at the south pole. Is communication with that satellite only possible during certain times of the day?

Re:Geosynchronous satellite dish at that lattitude (2, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674177)

If you <ahem> RTFA, you will find that they only have connectivity for about 12 hours a day using at least 3 different satellites. The article is pretty interesting, go ahead and indulge.

Re:Geosynchronous satellite dish at that lattitude (1)

dglo (21986) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674869)

It's actually worse than that, because one of the satellites is currently unusable. Here's the daily connectivity schedule [miami.edu] .

Re:Geosynchronous satellite dish at that lattitude (1)

NMBob (772954) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674837)

I was at a deep field camp at about 127W 82S a few years ago and we could get Internet for about 3-5 hours a day as the GOES satellite poked up above the horizon. We just has a 6' diameter, fixed position antenna.

Re:Geosynchronous satellite dish at that lattitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21676777)

If you're at the same longitude as a geosyncronous satellite with 0 inclination, it will be on the horizon at approximately +-82 latitude. So you'd never see it from the poles. You can only see geosyncronous satellites from the poles if they have an inclination > about 8 degrees, and then only for a fraction of the day. Active geo comm birds will typically have far less inclination then this, as it will degrade service for anybody not actively tracking the satellite. Typically, you'll only see this kind of inclination in older satellites which have run out of gas for station keeping, or have had some other failure of stationkeeping.

Looking at the 3 birds they are using:
GOES 3 - Launched 1978, Inclination 14.15 degrees
TDRS 1 - Launched 1983, Inclination 12.9 degrees
MARISAT 2 - Launched 1976, Inclination 13.5 degrees
(data from Space-Track.org)

These birds are almost certainly out of gas, and so are drifting through the geosync belt and generally considered a hazard to navigation. Current practice is to boost satellites out of the geosync belt before they run out of gas, even if the payload is still operating. At this point, it's not generally useful to the operator, so it's shut down. It would take several years for its inclination to perturb to the point of being useful for the polar station anyway.

So - given the way we now operate satellites, they may not have comm available from geosync birds when these 3 satellites finally die. And the kluge they have working for iridium doesn't provide nearly enough bandwidth - not to mention that it must be enormously expensive.

Denver (5, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674189)

The reason the guy keeps referring to his people back in Denver is because logistics and support for the South Pole station (and McMurdo, too, I think) are run by Raytheon Polar Services [raytheon.com] , which is based in Colorado. The Antarctic program [usap.gov] is run out of Washington by the National Science Foundation, but they contract out the actual infrastructure, operations, and other support.

GoldenEye flashback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674213)

Did the satalitte dish photo [computerworld.com] s remind anyone else of GoldenEye [wikipedia.org] ?

"Image Gallery: The Loneliest Place on Earth" (2, Funny)

trashpickinman (1078113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674243)

How'd they get pictures of my parents basement where I live? Oh wait, pictures of Antarctica, never mind. Still cold in both places though.

Hello, McMurdo? Hello? Hello? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674449)

ping mcmurdo.gov
ping: unknown host mcmurdo.gov


What happened? Their ice foundation melted already? Roving gangs of starving polar bears finally cracked their nut? Some kind of cosmic driveby [imdb.com] took them down? Or maybe the South Pole Station IT department repair to McMurdo's WAN is just glacially slow...

Re:Hello, McMurdo? Hello? Hello? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674821)

heh.

Many moons ago when I worked for an ISP the owner had a friend who was taking care of the systems at McMurdo. One day he called our office asking if there was an issue with the server. (Dec Alpha box. He had an account on it and could telnet into it)

I told him no, however there was a problem with Mae-West. (I think that was the day they had a fire and had to evac the building. The generator ran out of fuel and the UPS's ran down)

That had to be the longest distance tech support call I ever took. There was a full 1 second delay since the signal had to bounce off a bunch of satellites, not to mention the wind sounds in the background, and I still say he had a penguin in the room with him. ;)

FYI

He had a 56K uplink through a satellite feed. That was twice the speed of the modem pool we had.
(Now I'm dating myself)

Re:Hello, McMurdo? Hello? Hello? (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675169)

What happened? Their ice foundation melted already? Roving gangs of starving polar bears finally cracked their nut? Some kind of cosmic driveby took them down? Or maybe the South Pole Station IT department repair to McMurdo's WAN is just glacially slow...

Nothing so exciting; router's just frozen.

Re:Hello, McMurdo? Hello? Hello? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676063)

Their ice foundation melted already?


Most buildings in the Antarctic are built on foundations which can be raised over time to compensate for both the sinking of the buildings into the ice (due to heat) and the covering of the buildings by snow and ice.

Roving gangs of starving polar bears finally cracked their nut?

Polar bears only exist in the Arctic. Penguins exist mainly in the Antarctic with a few that have evolved to live off the southern coast of South Africa.

Please hand in your geek card when leaving the building.

Re:Hello, McMurdo? Hello? Hello? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676171)

Yeah, what about Alien vs Predator!?! I guess you're implying that's the only logical explanation.

OTOH, "The vast majority of people are idiots. The problem is they're too stupid to realize it."

mod$ down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674555)

and 5ling or table

South Poles (1)

gsmalleus (886346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674783)

Why do photo's 1 and 7 both have signs that say "Geographic South Pole", when in the background of one photo is nothing but snow and in the background of the other there is a big building. Can't there only be one geographic South Pole? Both photos have pole markers.

Re:South Poles (2, Informative)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675061)

Because Antarctica is covered by a giant ice sheet, and the ice sheet moves. As the ice sheet moves, the entire station and the marker pole drift away from the true geographic south pole. They have to stick a new pole into the ice every year, at the spot that is over the geographic south pole at that moment.

So in the pictures, one of the marker poles is probably from a previous year.

Re:South Poles (3, Interesting)

Deep Penguin (73203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675619)

There is only one Geographic South Pole, but the sign now has the legend on both sides. One side faces the station, the other side faces away, with a view of, essentially, the polar plateau in the general direction of the departure-end of the skiway.

Also, from looking at the Pole markers in each picture (we get a new one every January), it looks to me as if the #1 shot was taken in either March, 2004 (around sunset) or September, 2004 (around sunrise), and the #7 shot was taken this summer season, sometime since mid-October, 2007. If the #7 picture were high enough resolution, you could see my signature on the aluminum plate on the Pole itself.

Re:South Poles (1)

gsmalleus (886346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675803)

After Googling around for the past half hour (what else am I going to do at work) I found that South pole moves around 32 feet per year.

future geek give it thumbs up (1)

mishelley (1202207) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675121)

I shared this interview with the 7th graders in my computer lab today as an example of an IT career. They thought it was cool (pun intended) see, they are already geeks....

linuxpenguinhome Tag (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675311)

When I first saw it, I thought it said "linuxpenguingohome".

Antartic, why not Hawai? (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675403)

Well, I don't know but the story sound similar to a friend of mine. But he moved to Hawai instead, which I think is a choice I would also vastly prefer.

Still I must say; He definately has a cool job. ;-)

Re:Antartic, why not Hawai? (1)

aksenkto! (997298) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678261)

...except in Antarctica competition for the same job is definitely a hundred times less than in Hawai'i.

My brother's college roommate is currently there (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675491)

I'm not exactly sure when Chris' tour is up, but I'm sure I'll hear about it, since he and I live in the same town. He and my brother both served on the student volunteer force [afde3.com] in Amherst, MA, and that's what he's doing up there now-- fighting fires. Well, he would be anyway, if there were any. Chris seemed hell-bent on doing something crazy after college, and I remember him asking me a million questions about hiking the AT, but I guess he opted for something way crazier!

To prove I read the article (1)

tetranz (446973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675947)

"In the past year we put up a really cool system"

"Liquid water is such a hot commodity"

Hermetically Sealed Hard Drives? (1)

FlyingFork (1202361) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676401)

"Hard drives also have a problem with the high altitude. Most hard drive heads float on a cushion of air above the platter. We have fewer air molecules for hard drives to float on so we have more hard drive crashes than anywhere else."

Dont they make hermetically sealed hard drives anymore?

Hip Hop Hooray, Ho... Oh wait. (1)

ntimid8 (980393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676713)

Damn, I thought you were talking about the hip-hop clothing company "South Pole". Too bad the ch-ch-chatting isn't scra-scra-scratching. Interesting article anyway. Can I still get some swag?

Greatest headline ever? (1)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678127)

I misread the headline as "Ch-Ch-Chatting with South PARK's IT Manager", and I thought "If the IT manager has crutches and a speech impediment, this is the greatest headline ever."
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