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Scott McPherson, M.D.

Author; Physician who loves fiction

Antarctica! Life at McMurdo

6 Feb 2007

From my duty at McMurdo Station, Antarctica in  2007

(second installment)

Not everyone who comes to McMurdo Station in Antarctica has the opportunity to travel to distant stations.  Travel here is on a “need to go” basis.  There are people working at McMurdo for years who have never been to the South Pole.  Ed works here but his wife has spent the season at the South Pole.  They will be reunited at the end of the season in New Zealand but they have not seen each other all summer.  Ed has never been to the South Pole.  I am among the privileged and will be able to fly to the South Pole on Wednesday.

Supplies

Today is the beginning of a very special and busy time at McMurdo Station.  The arrival of the annual cargo vessel occurred today. One might think that with sea access there are cargo ships coming and going all summer but this is not the case.  There is one cargo vessel a year and it brings supplies for the entire year (not just the winter). The oil/fuel tanker likewise comes in only one time per year.  The operation for off-loading fuel took about 2 days and 7 million gallons were pumped into waiting fuel tanks above McMurdo Station.  The ship would have left two days ago but strong winds threatened to push the now lighter ship into ice or rocks in the narrow bay.  No tugs are available here to maneuver such a large ship so under its own power there was fear that they would not have enough control to prevent an incident.  The tanker finally backed out and proceeded through an ice channel kept open by the Coast Guard Cutter “Polar Sea.”

Cell phones?  What are those?  We do have pagers but must find a land-line phone if we receive a page.  There are places on the base with wireless internet but I believe these areas are for the scientists.  Thankfully we have a good internet connection (via satellite) with speed equivalent to DSL at home.  We are asked to be prudent about the amount of bandwidth we use, however.  I have sent pictures home but I reduce the size of the files first.

Recycling

Everything here is recycled.  There are waste cans for each type of material.  When broken down into “Burnables, Plastics, Food Items, Bio Hazard, Aluminum, Tin-metal” it doesn’t seem to complicated.  Everyone does it everyday.  When you empty your waste can you separateout the different types of material and that is that.  Where does it all go?  There is no recycling station here but it all gets deposited in containers and loaded on a ship to be recycled at home.  At the sewage plant water is thoroughly processed and the effluent is clean enough to drink.  The only reason it is not used for drinking is peoples’ perceptions of the idea of drinking “treated” water.  The more solid waste is actually packaged and shipped away for further processing to avoid contaminating the local environment.  I find it interesting that even the seeds in food we eat are not substantially changed as they go on through the treatment process.

 

Crary Science Center

Yesterday I was privileged to have a tour of the Crary Science Center.  Through this center the bulk of the scientific research is processed and distributed to the world.  Most of the equipment and samples have been packed up as the scientist prepare to leave the ice for the season.  Nevertheless, the center will be staffed was able to see a see spider and a creature that looked like a large cockroach.  There were fish called “Borg” that contain in their cells chemicals that act as “antifreeze” and lessen their risk of being frozen into the ice pack.

Also we viewed a live webcam of the lava lake below the rim of mount Erebus.  This 12,000 foot active volcano doesn’t spew large volumes of lava but has a stable lake that occasionally “burps” up lava “bombs.”  There is only one other volcano in the world located in Africa has such a lake.  This volcano is unlikely to explode, like a Mount St. Helens, because the lava lake demonstrates the stability of the pressures beneath.

The People

I have been meeting very interesting people here.  Everyone has an interesting story of how they got here.  Some have always dreamed of doing research here.  Others willingly took jobs such as dishwashing and janitorial service just to be here.  It isn’t very glamorous for them but in time most people get to see interesting things.  Here are a few of their stories:

James – works in recycling/waste management.  He has been returning to Antarctica for 8 years.  He came following his girl friend.  She met another and was married.  Later he met someone else and she now goes with him to Antarctica.  He loves it here.  “It gets me out of my cubicle in back home.”  He has spent the winter in the past but prefers to return to home at the end of the season now.

Sherrie – Has been to McMurdo one other time.  She is part of the 109th Medical Group and works as a med tech here.  In her civilian life she is a nurse-practitioner with a pulmonary/critical care group.  She will be leaving this week and is anxious to see her sons again.

Chris and Cindy – Chris flies helicopters and Cindy is involved in logistics here at McMurdo.  She distributes equipment to the scientists who travel into less hospitable areas of Antarctica.  The couples have a ranch in the US to which they will return when they are finished here in about 1 1/2 weeks.  Chris has flown helicopters in the US and has worked in an operation in Angola.  They love coming to the Antarctic and plan to keep returning as long as possible.

Bethany and Stephen –  This couple met in college and Stephen learned about the Antarctic program while studying in Australia.  He applied and was able to find work here two years ago as a journalist.  After their recent marriage Bethany came along and works as the clinic janitor.  They love their experience and will plan to return.  They have rented a small house in an idyllic setting on a mountain in Vermont biding their time until they can return again next year.

 

“In Antarctica, science is a parking permit, and those who want to stand in the parking spaces must first be able to afford the permit to stand there.”

The Big Dead Place

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ANTARCTICA!

Mission to Antarctica

Antarctica!  In honor of the 10th year since I stepped foot on the ICE I will reprint, over the coming weeks, the posts I sent back to readers at that time.  I was a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard and, as a flight surgeon, had the great opportunity to provide medical support to the McMurdo station in 2007.  It was a life-changing journey and one that I tried to repeat, to no avail.

My next novel, now in the review stage, “Crisis on the Ice” borrows from my experiences and those of others who have traveled to Antarctica.  Of course, as a work of fiction, it borrows from my imagination as well.  Stay with me and learn about this fascinating world that few are privileged to visit.  ANTARCTICA!

4 February 2007

February second was the day I was scheduled to travel to Antarctica.  The flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00 but was delayed because of fog at the landing field.  Until they were sure the fog would lift in time for the flight to land they did not want the C17 to leave Christchurch.  Weather in Christchurch was beautiful.  It was about 70 ° F and a calm breeze.  Prior to being loaded onto the C17 we were expected to have with us all our cold weather gear.  Before stepping off the aircraft we needed to don boots, wind pants, gloves, and parka.  There were only seven passengers (PAX in military terms) but on the plane with us were three containers of liquefied helium gas totaling about 75,000 pounds of helium.  The containers are so large that a C130 is only able to carry one at a time.  These huge tanks were secured by chains in multiple places putting me in mind of a rogue elephant being held down by ropes and chains.  These banged against the sides of the tanks during take-off and I watched closely to be sure they didn’t move side to side.  I needn’t have worried, the loadmasters on the C17’s know their job.

                                                

The C17 does not land at the same place (called Pegasus) on the ice as the C130 so once the plane lands the helium tanks will be loaded on sleds and towed about 2 miles to the C130 landing area (Williams’ field).  These will be flown to the South pole individually and utilized for stabilization of the radio-telescopes there.  These telescopes were strategically placed at the South Pole because they can be used 24/7 throughout the long Antarctic winter night.  According to one of the scientists they use the information to try to learn more about the origin of the universe.  If I get to the pole he has offered to let me look them over.  The names of the telescopes are “Bicep,” Quad, South Polar Telescope.  From what I now know about my trip to the South Pole, though, I won’t have time to do much looking around.


This is summer time in Antarctica.  As a consequence the weather has been very nice with highs in the 30’s ­ 40’s Fahrenheit.  However today the weather has changed and the high was only 18° with a  fairly strong wind.  The wind caused the fog to form.  This had delayed our departure but also had the effect of moving ice out of the bay so that there is open water visible from McMurdo base.  Several people have reported whale sightings, though I haven’t seen any yet. (This is a Killer Whale photo)  I saw seals on the ice yesterday but they were too far for a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

McMurdo Station is located on Ross Island so technically I still am not “on” Antarctica.  The ice shelf is solid here and the aircraft actually land on the permanent sea ice of the Ross Ice Shelf.  When we landed we were transported to McMurdo station by van with regular, albeit large, tires.  The ice of course is white but as soon as we neared Ross Island the white landscape changed to the brownish gray of lava.  This entire region is volcanic in origin.  Mt Erebus which was covered in clouds is not far away and is an active volcano spewing gases and occasional lava bombs.

Scott base is run by New Zealand and consists of “kiwi green” buildings on the shore of Ross Island.  Just over a pass we drove by large fuel tanks above McMurdo Station then descended into the small town that is McMurdo Station.  I was surprised by how many buildings appeared before me.  These weren’t little Quonset hut units but large 3 story dormitories, modern design buildings, and even a chalet style structure.   There were dozens (at least one hundred) of vehicles from the boxy “deltas” to tracked pickup, vans, sno-cats, the terra bus.

My dorm is the one in the middle and I have a first floor room.  Most people have roommates but I am on my own.  What is actually happening now is that most scientific research and polar operations are winding down.  While I am just beginning my time here many are preparing to leave having been on the ice all summer.  The “winter” people are anxious for the “summer” people to move on so they can get on with the work they will do through the winter time.  I have missed many of the scientific lectures and field trips that earlier visitors could take.  Nevertheless, I hope to get to the South Pole yet.  More to follow.

Scott McPherson.

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Back on the Grid – Writing Again

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Writing Again!

I’ve been off the “grid” for a while because I have recently changed jobs.  I am currently a teacher of family medicine.  Just a few short months ago I was in a busy practice seeing about 100 patients a week.  Now I work with family practice residents and medical students to help them learn what they need to know when they go into the “world” to practice medicine.

I am loving every minute of my new position but it takes some getting used to.  I miss my former patients but am getting to know some new ones.  I still see patients some days but most of the time I am teaching.

This transition has affected my time for writing.  I have had to develop different habits and different practices.  My commute to work is longer so I have a little less time to write each day.  I have begun to get used to it but this has slowed my writing.  I have just finished the first draft of a new novel  “ICE CRISIS” and hope to publish it by mid –winter or early spring.

On the other hand, my new position has allowed me to serve on the disaster preparedness committee at my new hospital.  Some of the things I have been involved with there have helped me develop the idea for a new Jack Sharp Novel.  The working title is “Ransom.”

As much as I have enjoyed writing “Ice Crisis” with new characters and an amazing plot, I am happy to be back to writing about Dr. Jack Sharp.  I hope you will stand with me in this new endeavor and stand with me to produce this addition to the series.  Watch for my new novels on Amazon and on my Twitter page @scottmcphersonmd.

While you wait for my new offerings, if you haven’t read all of the Jack Sharp Novels, go online and purchase Congo Mission, A Step Ahead of Death, and Witness in the Window,  The Jack Sharp Series.

Subscribe to receive email updates and an opportunity to read and review “Ice Crisis.”

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Retired!

Retired from the Nebraska Air National Guard after 25 years of service

Retired with flag reduced

United States Air Force Retired, what does that feel like today? I woke up with the realization that something that has been a big part of my life for many years is now over.  My military career began almost 4 decades ago as I looked for a way to pay for medical school.  Though I have a few token weeks officially remaining, my career as an Air Force Officer is now over.

I still have a job, I’m a doctor and I teach family practice residents. It is full-time and is not a slack position.  For the last 15 years, though, I have had another job.  Its minimum requirements were 60 days of duty per year.  Some years this exceeded 100 with a significant portion of them away from home and overseas.

Though I began in the 1970s I have actually only served 25 ½ years, some on active duty and some in the Air National Guard or Reserves. The last 15 years I have been a flight surgeon in the Nebraska Air National Guard.

So what does retired mean? I guess I don’t have to get a haircut in a few weeks.  It was never supposed to be the “high and tight” variety but we were supposed to keep it short.  It will take some getting used to.

I won’t have to wake up on Monday after a drill weekend (once a month) and try to juggle all the things that I need to accomplish for the Guard with my day-job. My focus can narrow a bit.

I won’t be in charge of the medical services provided by the medical professionals in our wing. We have nearly a thousand people to care for.  We are an important cog in a very big wheel.  Our wing provides fuel to planes all around the world.  In addition we have many other missions to be a part of.  I won’t be a part of that any more.

I won’t be gone from home 60 days, 12 weekends a year. I won’t have to come home and work on plans, charts, waivers.  I won’t run out to the base to sign some document or have to call the National Guard Bureau to try to advocate for someone’s health related issues.

Not being a part of the mission means not going with the planes when they travel to a far off place. I have had some wonderful opportunities to do this.  Iceland, Turkey, Crete, Spain, Guam, New Zealand and Antarctica were among the locations I had to go.  I wasn’t a tourist, I had work to do.  But I got to see those places and experience the culture and was paid to do it.

Of course it was the grim reality of war was the ultimate reason our planes were and are needed.   That fuel goes to aircraft that have supported our troops, flown protective patrols over our nation, and helped put offensive aircraft where they needed to be to carry out that war.  I would rather that we weren’t needed, that 9/11 had never happened and that the past 15 years could have been just a boring desk job.

As many who retire from the guard have said, “I’ll get my life back” but I will always carry in my heart a desire to be a part of that great organization, the United States Air Force. I has been great to be needed and I will keep those who take my place in my prayers as they go forward.  We don’t know how the world will change in the next 15 years but I know that the Air Force will be there and the great people of the Air National Guard and the medical service will be right there in the midst of it all.

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FREE! A STEP AHEAD OF DEATH

A Step Ahead of Death  is Free! Starting April 23

Step Ahead jpgDownload your Kindle Version for $0.00 for 3 DAYS ONLY

 

Meet Jack Sharp, M.D. and get wrapped up in the mystery of A Step Ahead of Death

Jack Sharp’s quiet life as a family physician in the heartland of America is shattered  when he stumbles upon the body of a murdered young woman.  Now seen as a              potential suspect by local detectives, he must use all his training and intuition to find the real killer

Murder    Intrigue    Mystery    International Crime    Romance

 

GET YOUR FREE COPY HERE  You won’t be disappointed

 

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A STEP AHEAD OF DEATH

AVAILABLE NOW

A Step Ahead of DeathStep Ahead jpg

A Step Ahead of Death, by Scott McPherson 2nd edition is now LIVE ON AMAZON!

Available for Kindle.

Reviewers have said:             “A great read!”

“I couldn’t put it down!”

“An excellent mystery.”

Order A Step Ahead of Death NOW- HERE and get the mystery that will keep you guessing.

Jack Sharp, M.D. stumbles on the body of a dead girl just minutes from his office, while walking on the bike path.  First he has to extricate himself from being a suspect, then he tries to prevent another murder.  Suspense, conspiracy, and a little romance highlight A Step Ahead of Death.    Order your copy today – HERE

Get the first three Jack Sharp Novels Congo Mission, A Step Ahead of Death, and Witness in the Window all by Scott McPherson M.D. published by Esengo Publishing.

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A Murderous Affair by Jonathan Digby-REVIEW

The Novel :

In the novel, A Murderous Affair, John Lovat, illegitimate son an English nobleman, finds himself called upon to investigate the death of an unfortunate friend of his half-brother, Lord Rokesby.  Used to scraping out a living in sixteenth century London, Lovat humors his half-brother in order to stay on his good side.  Hopefully, he will also set aside suspicions of Lord Rokesby’s involvement.  Despite his lowly upbringing, Lovat is no fool.  He doggedly tracks down leads, even at the risk of his own life.  Lovat dodges distractions and ultimately comes to a brilliant conclusion.

Review:A Murderous Affair - Cover

A Murderous Affair is an embodiment of what makes up a great mystery novel. The setting of sixteenth century England is fascinating. The author does a marvelous job of carrying the reader directly into the scenes. Not a historian, I appreciated being immersed in the life of the city. The plot is obvious, but not the solution. The amateur sleuth, John Lovat, is not quite a member of the gentry. He is well acquainted with street life, yet he is a half-brother to a gentleman. His position provides unique access and knowledge, and his cunning gets him out of dangerous scrapes. Digby uses just enough archaic language to stay realistic. The characters are bold, varied and well developed. Subplots and side-trips keep the reader off balance, and the answer to the mystery remains hidden until the end. I love this kind of novel that keeps me guessing. I hope we’ll see more of John Lovat, Elizabethan private detective.

A Murderous Affair is available on Amazon

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Book Sale/Signing and Craft Sale

Join my wife and me at Indian Creek Mall in Beatrice, NE for the Handmade and Vintage Wares sale.  The sale is Saturday (10-5) and Sunday (12-5), Oct 3-4.  I will have my three novels available to sell and she will make her debut with a wonderful selection of handmade jewelry.  Handmade bookmarks (free with purchase of a novel) and seasonal craft items will highlight the sale along with  Vintage glassware and gift items.   See some of the selection at Kim’s Nostalgic Whims.

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Congo cover for articles

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CONGO MISSION now $.99 on Amazon

Purchase Congo Mission: A Jack Sharp Novel as an e-book from Amazon Kindle Publishing.  Now priced at a new low $.99
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Congo Mission begins in Dr. Jack Sharp’s younger days as a missionary in Congo in the 1980’s.  As a Christian missionary Jack has stepped out beyond his comfort zone into an unfamiliar world desiring to do what he believes God wants of him.  He is challenged by daily activities as he tries to learn the local language and culture surrounding him.  Facing challenges in every aspect of life, from daily meals to life saving surgery, Jack’s skills, knowledge and faith are tested as he learns what existence as a missionary has to offer.  There might even be romance ahead for him.

Outside of his awareness, forces are gathering which will impact his life forever.  His will and character get a work out as well when danger and intrigue engulf his new life.  Nevertheless, his future is brightened by a beautiful young woman while the peaceful jungle erupts as the seeds of rebellion begin to grow.

The corrupt John Levy sets in motion a plan to enrich himself.  As his own plan dissolves his life becomes intertwined with Jack Sharp, and they find themselves thrust against each other in a deadly competition.

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Writing a Novel?

How do you begin writing a novel?

Fountain Pen

 

My first novel was a training ground for me.  I had always been taught to plan out anything you intend to write for others.  This meant a dreaded outline.  I hate outlines.  I don’t really know why, but when I try to write an outline, I begin filling in details to the point that it is no longer a shortcut for anything.  Another suggestion was to use a “story board” approach.

A story board is a graphic outline.  Picking scenes or segments of the story and trying to find an orderly approach to present them, makes sense.  I like the idea, but, for me it still means knowing the end from the beginning.  That is my real problem.

When I start writing a novel, I don’t know where it will go as I write, much less how it will end.  Some have termed this “seat of the pants” writing.  Whatever the technique, it is how I write.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that how you write is WRONG!  (an exception might be in a formal classroom)  When it comes to your writing style, your method, your characters, they belong to you.  Outlines can help and story boards can aid in organization, I just haven’t employed them.

Of course there is the issue of who will read what you have written.  If your story is disorganized, the characters are unrealistic, and the plots go nowhere, you my love your writing, but few will want to read your premier novel.  Structure and content are important, but that isn’t really what I am addressing.

When I began writing I started by just describing the world around me in prose.  I tried to describe the variations of the color of the sky, the noses along a dusty path.  I wanted to be able to convey our beautiful world to a reader through words.  Transporting the reader from paper into my world was my goal.  Then I began to branch out into “what ifs.”  What if I just kept walking until I ran out of road?  What if a storm blew up?  What if . . . a character, whom I invented, stumbled upon a dead body?

The “what ifs” turned my prose into a story and ultimately a mystery with a touch of romance.  I wrote a few pages almost daily.  I added sub-plots where they seemed appropriate.  I added likeable and evil characters, all the while trying to keep my world “real.”  I didn’t know much about formatting and my grammar wasn’t (isn’t) great, but I plugged away.  I actually liked what I was writing and still enjoy reading it.  I could never say this about papers I wrote for school.  A Step Ahead of Death was born as my debut novel.

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Please comment on this and tell my how you write –

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