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Antarctic Cement

In the early 80's, I worked at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

The station is on Ross Island, which has an active volcano (Mt. Erebus) on it and so, is entirely volcanic rock. This large island is connected to the mainland by permanently frozen ocean.

Occasionally, the crew needed to install an anchor. To do this we used a handheld rock drill and drilled a 1 1/4" hole into the volcanic rock. Typically, there was very little snow cover as the near constant wind blew it all away. Using standard 5/8" anchor rods, we put a round washer on the end, double nutting it to keep the washer on the end of the rod and then put the rod in the hole. We backfilled with whatever was left of the drilling, snow, and several coolers of water. After three or four coolers of water we left the anchor until the next day. The anchor was then good to go.

One time, some radio tower workers put in an anchor and a rookie engineer questioned its’ integrity. The tower guys hooked a 20,000 lb. dynamometer between the anchor and a bulldozer. The dozer pulled until the dynamometer was destroyed. The anchor held.

We used the same technique to backfill poles, leaving them upright with pike poles overnight. We had to dig pole holes with a 90 lb. jackhammer and 5' shovels because nothing else was available that could dig in that volcanic rock. By the time we had a 5' deep hole it was about 6' around at the top.

It was usually a three-day job, just to dig a 5' hole. We were able to use the auger to set poles in the frozen ocean but that was only needed once a year (for the ice runway).

Once, a Navy dump truck driver let his truck get away from him knocking down a pole. His Chief made him dig the hole by himself!

Dick Weaver – Retired Lineman

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