All Signs Point to Yes

This morning I walked into work and found a tray of airplane cookies made by John le Summer Baker at Pole, and they really mirror the feelings of the winterover Polies right now. We been waiting on a plane for several days now... first it was a weather delay... then a mechanical error.. then weather delay again. But, tomorrow the light is green and with 4 Herc planes at McMurdo and clear weather we should be getting some new folks and fuel. When that first plane arrives I'm outta here. Roughly 24 hours to go. I got my boots tied tight and my bags packed, all I need to do now is a plane dance and give some offerings to the Skua goddess.


My Last 72 Hours of 24/7 Sun

And now it begins... my departure from Pole. As I'm packing my bags I'm unpacking all the things I have learned and witnessed over the last 9 months. The faces I have grown to know day in and day out are soon to be just memories. Goodbye my 46 Polie brothers and sisters, I hope the food was good enough for ya. Words won't really explain what I feel right now, so I'll just pack my bags and get a move on. Change is good.

Oh Alaska, you are felt even way down here.

Our population is now at 92 and in the next day or two the big Hercs and C-17s fly in with tons of gas, cargo and people. I'm on the first flight out. Sad, but exciting, and at the same time really awesome. The transition to mainbody summer includes a huge population increase as well as the creation of giant mountains of snow for people to ski and sled down.

On my way to work at 3 AM.

A couple days ago we had our Antarctic Winterover Medal ceremony.

The summer station manager, Mr. Lewis and I, Bon Cody.

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each person who serves, or has served, as a member of a United States expedition to Antarctica between January 1, 1946, and a date to be subsequently established by the Secretary of Defense shall be presented a medal with accompanying ribbons and appurtenances, under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Departments under whose cognizanze the expedition falls, such regulations to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of Defense...

The ribbon of the Antarctica Service Medal is elaborate in its symbology. The outer bands of black and dark blue comprise five-twelfths of the ribbon's width, representing five months of antarctic darkness; the center portion, by its size and colors - grading from medium blue through light blue and pale blue to white - symbolizes seven months of solar illumination, and also the aurora australis.

Although the former rigors and dangers of antarctic exploration have largely been banished by technology, the words on the reverse of this medal are yet a wise injunction to those who go to the Antarctic: COURAGE - SACRAFICE - DEVOTION. "

Been there, done that, saw green clouds, got a medal and am going to Panama to learn how to surf. Simple as that.

Tasty blueberry muffins.

Fresh papayas.

And fresh kiwis and apples. Their vitamin C is very welcome given that with the new faces comes the crud and coughs. This is only a taste of the real world... soon I will be there.

So cheers to my departure with a glass of morning ginger tea and the volunteer Ford hat.


10,000 Leagues Beneath the Ice

I'm trying to take in everything I can during my last week at Pole. It started by moving out to the Jamesway. Flights have been delayed all week long so I still got the palace to myself. It's a cool experience to live a 1/2 mile from the station with no one around. We got a few helpers in the kitchen so the load has been lifted a bit, and now I get to volunteer with other departments. Right now I'm hanging out in the Head Module babysitting a sewer barrel and pump system for 4 hours. Yesterday I got a chance to visit the ice tunnels and that was fun. Beneath the elevated station and summer camp is a maze of tunnels, pipes and sewer outfalls.

Here's one of the entrances.

Every 100 yards there is an escape raise that the surface.

Ice 'stalactites' hang from the ceiling.

I love this shot.

In some of the tunnels there are memorials from crews in past seasons.

I just had to taste the ancient ice... probably 10s of 1000s years old... before the US recession, before the ozone hole, before the industrial revolution, before the pilgrims, before Jesus, before the Egyptian pyramids... and it tastes just like plain old ice, but is perhaps the cleanest Ice I've ever tasted.


Station Population: 62

Yesterday morning started off with the MelCake. I really shouldn't be blogging about this since someone might steal the idea, so consider this photo my copyright of the recipe. First you begin to cook a regular pancake using butter and not oil, when you flip it add a bit of shredded cheese. Then top the cheese with sauteed bacon, sausauge, red pepper and onion. Add more cheese and cover with a bowl for a couple minutes until the cheese is melted. Slide onto a plate carefully and drizzle mushroom gravy around the sides of the MelCake. Eat.

After work I waddled outside to see the new faces arrive.

Here they come.

The baggage handlers with snow mobiles and sleds.

Some of the winterovers journeyed out to greet them (and their freshies).

Yeah, they just put a box of fresh bananas on the sled... no big deal.

The people.

Welcome home summer crew.

While chattin with Erik le Pirate someone handed me a fresh banana (and an avocado and a pear).

This morning I found the mother load (:


Here Come the Baslers

At 11 o' clock this morning a station-wide call goes out saying that Baslers will be arriving in a half hour. Here's our air control room.

Everyone preps for the arrival.

Folks gather to take pictures and meet the new faces.

First we heard de plane then we saw it's shine as it's wings glistened in the sunlight. The first visitors in 8 months.

The Baslers were only making a 20 minute stop to refuel. They originated in Canada, flew to Chile, then to Rothera Station and stopped here. Their next destination is McMurdo where they will pick up some summer crew and fly them back here... if all goes to plan.

No freshies :(


Migration to Summer Camp

Lately the temperatures have been hovering around -45 F, which makes it feel like summer. I only have to wear 2 layers beneath my Big Red instead of 4. Accompanying the warm temps are high winds so snow is blowing around everywhere creating giant drifts right where we shoveled the drifts a couple weeks ago for our summer opening tasks.

Two days ago, after breakfast, the winds died down and the sun had a sweet halo around it. I got the sudden urge to move from my A1-118 room to the J13-3 room. The jamesways are about a 1/2 mile from the station. Walking to them from the station ain't bad since the wind is almost always against your back, but waking up at 2:30 AM and walking to the elevated station, walking into the wind, with a windchill of -70 F and sleep still in the eyes and no coffee and no bathroom (just an empty bottle) to go potty in is a big wake up call. I've created the habit of having my ECW and chef clothing next to my backpack in the jamesway room so that when I wake up all I have to do is throw my chef gear in my bag, bundle up and walk to work, head down fur up just follow the dozer tracks until I hit the stairs of DZ.

Here's a synopsis of the move.

I packed up everything in my room into two suitcases and the two orange bags that they give us in Christchurch, NZ. Half of my stuff is blankets and chef outfits, the other half is fake flowers, black lights and gym clothing. I drug the bags outside of DZ and shoveled out a wee little yellow sled.

I then pulled the bags to my new home.

There are still huge piles of snow around the jamesways so it took a bit for me to wander through the snow maze to get to J-13.

Home sweet home.

Inside the thermostat is at 65 F and it is 65 F right next to the heater, but against the walls in the rooms it's more like 45 F. That reminds me, I need to bring out another 3 blankets today to insulate the walls because last night I had snow drifting onto my matress right next to my feet. The jamesways are well aged and look as if they were pulled out from a vietnam war US military camp, dropped onto the Ice and had a heater thrown onto the side. There are cool drawings all over the place and eerie red lights keep the hallway lit.

This is when I first got to my room. Boring.

Here's the view of my room (to the left) and another room (to the right) from across the tiny hall.

After a few hours I had the room tronikfied (yes, that's a new word, but the galley staff will understand).

This is way more like it. The first Basler plane has been delayed several times and the earliest we will see new faces is Wed. of next week. That means I get the jamesway to myself (: for a bit longer and it will keep quiet. Lying in bed you can hear/feel the ice crack and I wonder where that cracking is coming from... maybe it's from two miles below me where there are giant mountains and hidden waterfalls and possiblly penguinish aliens.

Here's the view of the frontyard.