Sunday, 9 December 2007

Ships, skiis, and automobiles.

Our schooner and our sloop in Ferryland they do lie
They are already rigged to be bound for the ice
All you lads of the Southern we will have you to beware
She is going to the ice in the Spring of the year

Laddie whack fall the laddie, laddie whack fall the day!

Our course be south-south-west for two days and two nights;
Our captain he cried out 'Boys, look ahead for the ice!'
And we hove her about standing in for the land,
And 'twas in a few hours we were firm in the jam.

Laddie whack fall the laddie, laddie whack fall the day!
That's an excerpt from Ferryland Sealer (with a direction change); one of my favourite songs by my favourite band, Great Big Sea. I'm sure it's available on iTunes! Check it out. It's the only song I know about icebreaking, in any case.

Yes, the Shackleton has now hit the ice, and the icebreaking has begun. This year, the ice is thick. From satellite scans, it hasn't been this thick since 2002, and that year, the Shackleton didn't get in at all. However, this year, with Halley IV arriving on a very expensive ship behind the Shackleton, the captain will be very motivated to find a route. Whew, wouldn't want to be him at the moment.

And it's confirmed; we're unloading at the Creek. The duty postings are posted on the bulletin board; it was funny seeing everyone on base crowd around the sheet, as if they just posted the volleyball team at high school. My job, predictably, is "Sea Ice Driver's Mate", meaning I'll be sitting in a Sno-Cat and loading/unloading from ship to shore. I'll probably be driving a bit, too. My "mate" is Rich Burt, my partner-in-crime for all my field trips. So we know we'll get along just fine.

Anyway, it's Sunday morning here - my day off. And the weather is absolute crap, so it's really a day off. Might curl up with a book, some movies, or maybe a long game of Civ IV. But first I thought I'd show off some of the vehicles around here. Almost all of them have been purchased or modified in Canada. I shall introduce them in increasing order of boo-yeah.

So, we start with x-country skiis. You can ski within the 2km perimeter of the station. In the clean air sector, one quarter of the circle, that's all you can do. I don't ski as part of my job, but I try to do the perimeter a couple times a week, just to partially undo some of the damage my new food regime is wreaking.

Next, the skidoos. Here, we see some of the base skidoos, which are pitiful in comparison to my powerful new field skidoo. The idea is that I need the best and most powerful, as a breakdown for me is much more of a problem than a breakdown in the backyard. But these are still good for chugging stuff between buildings. We use them with sledges to drag stuff around, and it's surprising how much a skidoo can pull. All of these skidoos have stickers showing they have been purchased from a dealer on Hwy 11, near Midland/Penetanguishene.

I'll skip the field skidoos - you've seen mine.

Next, the tracked quad. I forgot to take a picture of one, so I stole this off another website. (an Australian one, actually!) These machines are great. I remember that my old neighbour Derek once had to choose between an ATV and a snowmobile, and he went with the ATV for fuel economy, if I recall correctly. This thing is a bit of both.

Now, the comfy vehicles. The Sno-cats are the big people-movers around the shelf - and they will be our sea ice vehicles. Relatively light, but still capable of hauling up to 6 tonnes, which is our sea ice limit. They break down fairly often, though (to be fair, they were never meant to be hauling 6 tonnes around).

And finally, the big boys.

Bulldozers, tracked John Deeres. and the Cat Challengers. The John Deeres are our versatile machines; they can lift containers around, and will be all-purpose machines on the base.

But the raw power machines are the Challengers, whose sole role will be transport across the ice shelf, from Creek to Halley V. Back and forth, 24 hours a day, other than maintenance periods.

And so, all these machines lie in wait, ready to be unleashed upon the tonnes and tonnes of supplies slowly making their way in our direction. All that is between us and this cargo is several hundred kilometres of sea ice.

Laddie whack fall the laddie, laddie whack fall the day!


Eva said...

Guess we won't complain about one inch in Pittsburgh then. Don wants to see one of the John Deere's in your suitcase in April!

Ryan said...

That's pretty quick off the mark with a comment...I just finished editing the post!

Nicole said...

That picture of the Challenger looks cool because it appears as if you have just posted a picture of a model tractor. I have been looking at it for the last few minutes, and realize that it must appear that way because of a complete lack of depth cues. Moreover, for some reason the reflectance does not indicate a larger machine. Vision science rocks.

Ryan said...

I was quite far away - in fact, it's just a zoomed version of the picture above, and that was cropped from a 10-megapixel camera. So the depth of the subject was minimal compared to the distance viewed. That might be part of it too - minimal perspective distortion.