Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Tour of the Station Outlying Structures Part 2

NPX is the 3 letter code for South Pole International Airport of which this is the fueling station. When the LC-130 Hercules (ski-equipped) plane lands most of the AN8 fuel is offloaded to one of these 9,000 gallon tanks where it is then pumped under the ice by the pump on the far left to the fuel tank farm 50 feet under the ice. This tank farm is in the same tunnel area of the power plant, logistics, and Costco, where the food is stored. The Hercules is left with enough  fuel to make it back to McMurdo 835 miles away. During the summer there are several daily flights. There is about 450,000 gallons of fuel stored to power the station's generators. The other tank is used to fuel the smaller planes that arrive during the summer.
There are 9 groups of 5 each fuel storage tanks that hold a total of 450,000 gallons of AN8 fuel. This is the antifreeze version of JP8 jet fuel. It powers all the generators and heavy equipment.

The delivered cost of this fuel is $45 per gallon. The monthly fuel cost to run the station is approximately one million dollars per month. Since the fuel is stored at -70F there is no petroleum breakdown.

Back through the door to Costco.

On another post I talked about the station's emergency pod where if the station fails the winter crew will evacuate to. This pod, of which I am standing underneath, can become completely separate from the rest of the station with refrigerated doors and separate emergency power generators. On the right is shown the ice melting machine for producing drinking water. Snow/ice needs to be manually loaded. To the left of this is a fuel tank (mostly covered by snow) for the emergency power generators. 

This is the emergency pod with the fuel tank shown in front of the ice melter.

There is a network of under the ice tunnels (will be explored on a future post) that can be used during an emergency egress from the station. This is one of the exits. If the station fails along with power these tunnels can be very scary to negotiate through in the dark. Then of course what do you do when you emerge from the tunnel in the dark winter. There are a few heated outbuildings but if power is gone it could be pretty rough waiting for a rescue that could be weeks away. It's gets you thinking about how life can quickly change during a South Pole winter.

Various summer vehicles.

This looks cool!

During my McMurdo Station winter in 2012 I was a station driver of the Pisten Bully during my off work hours. They are fun to drive, will turn on a dime, and I spent many hours taking people to work and on tours. It was really fun to drive out on the sea-ice and watch penguins and seals surfacing from a small opening in the ice. The "roads" across the sea-ice are well marked with flags.

During my South Pole 2013 Winter I learned to drive the Logan Motor Corporation (LMC). It's a bit more difficult to drive since each track is controlled by a lever instead of a Pisten Bully that has a wheel and drives like a car. But with a little practice it is a lot more fun since it drives like a tank. 

From 2013.

Some of the storage berms are well marked but many are covered in snow and ice.These must be new ones.

100,000 gallons of emergency fuel storage on sledges. Beyond that is the "End of the World."

During the few summer months Disc Golf is popular.

Shoveling snow off the GOES dome stairway. 
It has been blowing hard all week again. So Les is out once again to clear in front of the station.

I finally completed my run, bike and row to McMurdo and back a distance of 1,670 miles.

Arriving in McMurdo August 10th then turning around back to the South Pole. I received a really cool carved aluminum shot glass for arriving first.

There were two of us that did the round trip. The other guy finished a day ahead of me. 


  1. Catching up on your blog...yummmm fresh fruits and veggies. Must be like gold...I guess any day now you will be returning to the hood...glad you are feeling better and could complete your round trip indoor adventure...

  2. Thanks Janice and Charlie. Due to weather flights have been canceled so I am still here. Hope to get out soon. thanks for all your comments this season! Mike