A couple of field seasons, several new countries and places were places I laid my head in 2016... 44 different beds in 9 US states and 5 countries:
Mountain View, CA Emeryville, CA San Leandro, CA Camp Navarro, CA Mendocino, CA Santa Clara, CA Santiago, Chile Antofagasta, Chile Yungay Station, Chile Salar Grande San Pedro de Atacama, Chile Guayaquil, Ecuador Puerto Ayora, Galapagos (Ecuador) Puerto Villamil, Galapagos Houston New Orleans Santa Rosa, CA The Woodlands, TX Orlando St. Petersburg, FL Cocoa Beach, FL Pasadena, CA Santa Cruz, CA Arlington, VA Springfield, VA Minneapolis Austell, GA Murphys, CA Salt Lake City Yellowstone National Park Teton Village, WY Ottawa Resolute, Nunavut Devon Island, Nunavut Reykjavik Heimaey, Iceland Skaftafell, Iceland La Jolla, CA San Diego Scotts Valley, CA San Francisco Guerneville, CA Incline Village, NV San Jose, CA
Today marks the halfway point of another HMP field season, my 18th. It feels familiar... yet continues to change, both in the climate and facility here and the group I'm with. Weather has improved today, clear and a bit warmer. Last week's bad weather left us stranded for 4 days in Resolute, so even though this is the midpoint travel-wise it is just 1/4 through the time on Devon. I hit my "wall" on Friday and am feeling better now.
Wed. evening we arrived and put up our tents in the drizzle... Friday we put up the tents and generator in the crater at Drill Hill, with snow flurries. And began drilling tests. Today the drill misbehaved, first with a bad motor controller and then what sounds like a broken hammer camshaft.
There are ten people here, up from the past few summers but still fewer than the 25-30 we had back in the 2000s. Well-fed, since my project bought most of the supplies. And online since my project likewise provides the satcom and local safety radios.
Well... After a 4 day delay in Resolute, we made it over to Devon Island. Bit of a bumpy landing, but ok. We ate a meal, newbies were oriented, and then as the mist rolled in we pitched our tents. Now we can dry off and get going... No email yet, this is via satphone.
After being in Resolute since Saturday evening... one planeload got in to HMP on Sunday morning. Then the weather worsened, and we were stuck here for the rest of Sunday and Monday. Today the weather is better, but we are now considered standby in favor of the groups with today's charter bookings, basically a backlogged flight. So, no planes available to us, while we continue to sit. Possibly we will get a chance late this afternoon. Tonight… the weather is predicted to worsen again.
Meanwhile, I've shown the newbies Resolute, we've gone to the post office and the Coop store, taken short hikes. As well as work on papers and proposals. But this will likely deepen the us-them psychology between the "Pascal group" that made it in Sunday, vs the "Brian team" still here.
Annual physical completed... eyesight 20/30 or 20/40. hearing at 1995 levels, bloodwork results show cholesterol in the 180s, ratios excellent, glucose fine, STIs clear, weight stable, blood pressure still a bit elevated but not enough to flag me. Cleared for another year of extreme environments as well as FAA 3rd class.
Adapt to local work patterns and conditions. Regular meal times were good for coordination. But given the heat (and desiccating wind, starting in the afternoon) we should follow the local examples, work 9-2pm then a 3 hour break before picking up again 5-8pm until dinner. Put most of the effort into the mornings, when the conditions are more tolerable.
Tie down and anchor the portapotties, so they aren't blown over again by dust devils. Euw.
Get a base station with a VHF/UHF antenna on a mast, so we can get more than 8km range on our handheld radios.
Auto-updates when on wifi by phones and laptops causes massive data usage overnight, wiping out every block of data purchased. If we don't have Ka-band, then severely restrict net access.
Chilean customs is fastidious and expensive and in no hurry. Expect 2-4 weeks just to clear basic items on a carnet or as a temporary import. Expect lots of nit-picking about how to exactly format where weights and values go (top, bottom, besides) on any given listing.
Don't put on a carnet anything that can be easily broken, lost, or kept in country afterwards.
Ask for bulk shipments to be dropped at the field site.
Need better chairs, not flimsy plastic shells that collapse.
More fans? a refrigerator, 110V 2kW generator, large nitrile exam gloves?
Staggering the science team with the instrument team worked very well, both in building cohesion and morale among the subgroups and the whole team, without overwhelming the logistics for more than a few days. It fostered spontaneous investigations and ideas.
Next year, maybe the rover team gets staggered as a third group?
Having running (non potable) water and mains power was really, really helpful. Maybe get a water tanker or large delivery next year -- running back and forth to Antofagasta for 6x 5gal carboys every evening was a distraction.
Having a fixed, shaded structure in the hot afternoons was valuable for both crew health and workspace.
After a few years of reproposing it, last March I received notice that my combined field science/drill/rover tech demo project had won funding. We will deploy and test to the Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest place on Earth, to study ways of drilling down to and detecting microbes in an environment analogous in many ways to parts of Mars. It will culminate after 4 years with a simulated autonomous rover mission, with a drill, arm, and carrying 4 life-detection instruments.
This year is the first set of tests... no rover, 2 of 4 instruments, an earlier model of Mars-prototype drill (test software and generate samples to test instruments) and a lot of baseline field science. Over the past 6 weeks, I've been largely absorbed in the logistics of getting 24 people to a remote location, with test equipment, dealing with hazmat, customs, safety, food, water, portapotties, etc.
Yesterday I left California behind and headed south, overnight into Santiago this morning. I will head tomorrow to Antofagasta and the desert. Testing and field science will run to the 24th. Then some personal time off (Galapagos) and business at JSC in Houston will mean I won't get home until March 6, gone a month.
Oddly, once I got on the plane, I relaxed... as though I'd done all I could and now had to just go with it.
Today I read a link from a friend-of-friend regarding one of these "modern manhood" organizations (The Man Kind Project), one that conducts "New Warrior Training Adventure" weekends. "We're looking for men who want to be powerful Leaders and Role Models." I found myself reflexively making a gagging gesture at the screen. The last thing society needs are more entitled, controlling, preening self-promoting guys having pissing contests with one another and trying to dominate anyone not in their club. "Men ready to take real risks and step into their full power." Really? They should just do what is true and meaningful for them (like any other person), deal with the risks, make stuff happen and STFU about it. Accomplishment needs to be self-motivating.
Granted, I have a chip on my shoulder, more like a 2x4 sometimes. From age 7-16 I was bullied and harassed (and even once sexually assaulted) by my male peers. I learned quickly that (in my experience) my own gender is/was not trustworthy or generally worth the trouble of getting to know better. And that many men seemed to me to be overly aggressive, predatory and/or clueless jerks. So I tend to write off my own half of the human race as too flawed or too dangerous. Growing up, the girls were neutral, so in later life nearly all my friends (particularly close ones) are women. Even in the workplace, I tend to prefer working with women as colleagues, staff, or my bosses, as I feel they are likely to be smarter, have better social skills, and less attitude than their male counterparts. Really, In my view guys have little really to recommend ourselves, besides greater brute strength.