Wednesday, November 08, 2006


In a land filled with Ice and Snow, something is needed
to combat the slip factor. At McMurdo they are called
fines. Fines however is a flexible term, although I don't
think it's meant to be that way.

Fines come in three varieties:
1)Boulder - These are just large enough to turn your ankle on
2)Pebble - These roll. Infamous for being on steep slopes
3)Dust - Just large enough to blow into your eyes

At any given time, any one of these may be present in your
path. Usually the one that is least useful is the one that
lies there.

This evening someone who has never wintered,
asked me what fines are for. In the winter, they are
largely important for one's health and well-being. In
the summer, it's just another brown pile of dirt. A few
winters ago, we praised the Fleet Ops department for their
diligence in spreading fines on the roads. The previous
year the same guys were the bane of the town for their lack
of their attention to this detail. When the winter Ops
supervisor tells us that they are running out of fines,
we yell and make calls for his head. Look at the top photo.
Does it look familliar? It should. It's Ross Island.
Fines are made out of Ross Island. (Kind of like Soylent
Green) Not shipped in from America or via large cargo
ship from some little known third world guano mine.
This whole island is made out of fines and gradually, as
they are spread, McMurdo is getting higher and higher
above sea level. We used to be near the beach. Not that
way any more. For now, fines are a mystery. Including
those strange buckets that the summer folks just don't
understand. Ahh...but in June, we will love them and hate
them at the same time.

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