Monday, January 18, 2010

Finally on the Ice

Hello all, I am sure this will take some editing and getting used to as I have not done this before but I will try to explain things concisely as possible and try not to get too carried with any technical details.... right. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I have not published something correctly, etc! The goverment uses a lot of acronyms so I will try to spell them out the first time and use the acronym, but let me know if I forget.

SO, for everyone that does not know me I am an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Labratory (NREL ) which is mostly funded by the US Department of Energy and am in Antarctica to evaluate the incorporation of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency of many of the power systems for seasonal camps, communication stations, and the large bases that various nations have in Antarctica. I grew up on Signal Mountain outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee and graduated (barely!) from the Baylor School. I hope many of you are reading this from Baylor and I hope Dr. Dering and my dad have brushed up on their power and energy system and unit stuff. If there is anyone in Dr. Dering's class ask him what the difference between killowatt hours and joules is, that shoudl take up a good chunk of clas time :)

I am traveling with one of my superiors who is a great guy and willing to take the time to explain anything to me. We left Denver on Jan 15th and finally arrived in Christchurch, NZ on Jan 17th early in the morning. The total amount of flight time was about 18 hours spread over 3 legs which is really quite amazing considering we came about 7700 miles. We spent a few days there to do a bit of planning, a few meetings with the owners of the Ross Island Wind Farm, get all the Extreme Cold Weather clothing (ECW's), and give ourselves some contingency for getting on the flight to McMurdo Station where we will be basing our activities out of.

We flew in on a Boeing C-17 which was configured to haul cargo and passengers at the same time. These flights to and from McMurdo Station ( happen every other day roughly and are commonly turned away due to volitile weather conditions at McMurdo. The runway surface has to be maintained through the season since it is made of sea ice!

The inside of the plane is designed for cargo hauling not people hauling! It was a 5 hour flight for the roughly 2300 miles to McMurdo staion.

We rode on a Delta 2 (meaning 2 axle version from the runway built on sea ice back to McMurdo Station, which was pretty cool, if not the least efficient way to move people around.

On the way to McMurdo Station we saw some penguins, my appologies for the horrible picture but we were very far away and our taxi driver would not stop for us to get out and take pictures. I will get some real pictures of the wildlife for sure, and soon!

At this point we had to get our baggage, linnens, find our rooms ,etc. Once this was done I decided to climb Observation Hill which gave me a good view of McMurdo Station and the Ross Island wind farm. Atop the hill was a cross erected by the party which found Robert Falcon Scott's remains after he reached the South Pole only to find that he had been beaten by 35 days by Roald Amundsen.

The inscription on the plack next to the cross reads, "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." -Tennyson from Ulysses

Obviously there is a massive amount of history surrounding the early Antarctic expeditions and I would recommend to everyone in any walk of life to read any account of Sir Ernest Shackelton's attempted journey of crossing the continent which resulted in one of the greatest survival efforts ever undertaken.

So part of the purpose of my trip was to evaluate the operation of the new Ross Island Wind Farm and to finalize the comissioning testing of the wind farm. Below are the three 330kw peak output Enercon E-33 turbines which are located between McMurdo Station and Scott Base. The installation of these turbines was funded mostly be the New Zealand goverment with the National Science Foundation partially funding the project but now McMurdo Station supplies the main electrical power to Scott Base (the NZ base) and McMurdo. Thus Scott Base does not run it's diesel generators except for peak loads on the grid and the energy from the wind farm goes to both McMurdo and Scott. Much more on this in the next installation.

It was late at this point so I snapped a few more pictures then went to bed.

I will put more pictures in a Photobucket account since the quality of these pictures is obviously horrible. you should be able to reach the pictures at which should take you to a slideshow.

There is lots of fun geeky engineering stuff to come, as well as more pictures of animals and the landscape so I will try to ballance it out. Much more to come on the wind farm and how this whole place works!

Thanks for reading!



  1. This is really neat stuff! Love- Dad

  2. This is great, Owen! Thanks for putting it together!

  3. Owen! This is so interesting and exciting. What an adventure! More penguins please. Have an amazing trip!

  4. awsome! you should see if they can let you bring a motorcycle with you. Do you have snowmachines there? what kind(polaris,formula.etc) I'm following your blog now so if you see any naked eskimos be sure to post it...ha ha. Glad you are doin good. Take care

  5. What an exciting adventure! Makes me want to leave WPI and follow you around. I wonder if they'd let me take my S8 there... Does have heated seats and AWD...

  6. Hooray for penguins!! You need to find more and bring one home!!

  7. Owen--this is fantastic! I'm so happy to hear you are doing such wonderful things. If you don't mind, I would like to share your accounts and site with our science teacher, Kitty McMillan, here at Bright School. They study Antarctica and would love to communicate with you. Let me know if this might be possible. I wish you the best...OJ Morgan

  8. Owen --- This is so much fun for our class to see pictures of someone actually in Antarctica!!! We are so glad you have Flat Stanley with you. Be sure to show him a good time and let us know what he does. I hope his clothes are warm enough!!!! Judy Niedbala, Thrasher

  9. This is amazing! Best of luck to you Owen! I'll keep track of all your exploits from here in Seattle :)