Life in Twilight

Photo by our friendly station meteorologist.

The sun is well below the horizon, and we are now in twilight! Being a pretty regular, non-astronomically-aware guy, I was unaware that there are three phases of twilight, each roughly lasting two weeks. We started off in civil twilight, are now well into nautical twilight, and will have a few weeks of astronomical twilight before it's really dark. Of course, it's dark enough as is to see very faint aurora if there's strong enough activity. The above photo was the first one we've seen all season, and in real life it looked much more... underwhelming. Like a faint green smudge, or moonlight reflecting off a cloud. But still! Aurora!

It being dark enough for auroral activity to be visible also has the consequence of it being dark enough to make outdoor work more difficult. When trying to find shipping labels on crates or dipping the emergency reserve fuel tanks, a headlamp is absolutely essential. Headlamps are provided to anyone who needs them, which is nice. There are two important things to note about headlamps here. The first is that all light outdoors has to be red now that the very sensitive cameras on the roof have been turned on. We have some red gel to put over white lamps, but I have found that small units with built-in red LEDs are much brighter. The second important thing is that the units with built-in red LEDs are small and have internal batteries which will freeze after an hour or so of outside work. A fixable problem for another day.

Meanwhile, back in the logistics arch, it doesn't matter where the sun is. We're still finishing up putting away and organizing all the new food we got for this year. There's something funny about finding a crate containing 800lb of sliced cheese. Or overly-generic cereal. Every time I see a label for that sort of thing, I laugh and my co-workers look at me like I'm crazy. I fail to see how you can't laugh at a crate containing 972lb of shortening and a single box of Cheez-Its, but apparently it's possible. The more you know!

For the entire time the sun was still up and it was warm(ish), my main job was to do outdoor work and operate machinery. I spent most of any given day in a track loader or a skidsteer moving crates around and locating cargo. But now that it's dark out, my job has moved indoors and onto a computer. It's a weird transition, and I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of using our inventory control systems. I do still get out, which I like because I'm away from my desk and dislike because I'm conducting inventory audits. We have an open inventory system at Pole, meaning if you need something you just look it up and go get it. More often than not, items retrieved from inventory are not noted on log sheets, and so we end up in situations where we think that there's stock of something that's been gone for months. So with reduced population and activity on station, winter becomes the ideal time to fix that. Which means audits, or counting everything on station. It's... tedious at times. But at other's it's fun, like when I discovered a box full of TIG welder parts we didn't have recorded in inventory. I've had enough interest that I may start teaching TIG classes over the winter, but parts are hard to come by. Unless you can stumble upon them, which seems to happen a lot during audits.

In other news, it's getting cold here pretty regularly. The night after I took this screenshot, it got down to -99.4º ambient. So close to -100º! The strange thing about temperature is that it all feels the same below -60º if there isn't any wind. On days when it's over 8kt though, it's just plain cold. I'd rather go out in -90º and no wind than a day like today when it was only -60º but with 18kt of wind. Although I am a firm believer in the saying "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear," there's really only so much you can do.

Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin

Machinist, Welder, Driver, Adventurer, Mechanic, Always smells like something flammable.