Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I know you're wondering

Where does our waste go? All of the regular waste like paper, plastic, glass, food, etc gets sorted into 20 different specific categories in the station, then dumped into the various triwall boxes outside. Everything will eventually get shipped back to the US for processing as recyclable material or put into a landfill. In the 2005-2006 season, 62% of the waste shipped back was indeed recycled.

Our sewage waste however stays here. We pump all of that stuff into the "Rodwell", a huge cavern in the ice shelf from which we've melted the ice and used it as our water supply. We're using the original Rodwell, after it lived out its normal life as our water supply and now our sewage gets pumped into the hole that's over 500 feet into the ice.

As Station Manager, Katie has the dubious honor of measuring the level of the sewer outfall each

She has a special pair of mittens just for the occasion too.
To get to the outfall, you have to go into the ice tunnels which are bored into the ice under and around the station and seem to go on for literally miles. It's a constant -57 degrees F and in the summertime, it seems frickin' cold in there, but during the winter, especially after we were out in -117 degree windchill, it seemed warm and pleasant.

Here's the opening to the sewer outfall. Lots of crystals and icicles form here from the moisture condensing out of the opening. It also forms lots of snow on the floor which has to be regularly shoveled out and removed. We're told that the ice that forms here is just water that condenses out from the waste stew and although it looks nice and white and fluffy and doesn't stink, I certainly wouldn't try to lick it.

Katie has the measuring tape wheel and has just let the weighted end start the long downward journey. It pays out close to 300 feet before coming to a stop on something kind of solid. Then she reels it back in, being careful not to let anything splash back on her. Sometimes the Station Manager job is not all glamour.

The ice tunnels have some of the coolest (no pun intended) crystals and icicles I've ever seen and everything is coated in a fragile fluffy frost.

There are no sewer rats down here but there is a dried up sturgeon somewhere and some bizarre little shrines with prayer candles and strings of popcorn. We didn't visit them on this trip but maybe I'll have to return and leave my own personal token of some sort since I won't be back this way for quite a while. Any suggestions?


At 11:21 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

Great posts! I find the practical stuff of living at the pole fascinating.

You should write a book of your years there.


At 8:37 AM, Blogger Neal said...

I would worry about the brown-eye trout more than the sturgeon while you're down there.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger craig said...

How about a plate of Micheal's Thai food, just in case some one needs a snack in the future.


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