Thursday, November 25, 2010

Refrigerated freight...again

Wow, the Philippines is a land of extremes. We went from the extreme tranquility of Corregidor to the manic, rain-soaked insanity of Manila, to a frigid night on a bus to Banaue with the A/C so cold we're planning on wearing stocking caps and winter clothing for the night ride back to Manila tomorrow night. Banaue has been the acme of humid, and we got pretty soaked walking up to Batad to view the rice terraces there yesterday. It's beautiful and green and totally different than Antarctica, but we're dreading the couple nights back in Manila before our flight to Puerto Princessa on Palawan. Oh well, that's travel.

I'll try to get some photos posted at some point.

"California sunlight - sweet Calcutta rain - Honolulu starbright - the song remains the same.”~Led Zeppelin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A bit of a contrast after much contrail

Yeah, a marathon day-long displacement with flights from Chch to Sydney to Brisbane to Manila, Philippines really took it out of us yesterday. We got in late and ended up in a pretty sparse guesthouse. Manila is most of what Pole is not: hot, wet, loud, crowded, etc. The people seem pretty friendly when you talk to them, which is nice. We saw the Manila Hotel's oppulent lobby today, and I couldn't help but be reminded of "The Shining". The old Intramuros district and the raucous walk back trying out the old navi-skills without my nose in a map went well. Looks like the trip to Mt. Pinatubo isn't happening tomorrow, but whatever. We'll find something to do.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's shakin' in Cheech?

Yesterday evening our C17 arrived in Christchurch with little fanfare. Suddenly one finds themself stepping off the plane into a moist world at sunset, with things called "trees" towering in the distance. It feels good to be back, though I haven't ventured out since getting to the hotel. Just as I was falling asleep last night we had what felt like a pretty decent earthquake, which tossed me around a bit. That was a first for me. The packing situation is my priority right now, so tomorrow I will return to the Antarctic Center to repack and ship the last of my stuff home. The next couple days will probably just be spent relaxing and taking care of business in the final break before the big trip gets underway.
"We learn geology the morning after the earthquake."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Yeah, we made it to McMurdo and I'm definitely feeling like I've been hit by a truck with FATIGUE written on the mudflaps. That the interior of the plane was sweltering the last 15 minutes of the flight probably didn't help much. I just don't seem to be operating at the same speed setting as everybody around me. Apologies to those friends I've already probably mildly freaked out or insulted as a result of what must be seriously aggressive fatigue finally being able to rear its ugly head. We have to wait until 8pm to weigh in ourselves and bags-"bag drag"-for tomorrow's flight to Cheech. I hope I can stay awake long enough.
"Can't sleep...clown will eat me!"~Bart Simpson

Chapter 1

Well, my plane is supposed to arrive in a little over an hour, and I might be not at Pole for the first time since last 28 October shortly thereafter. That seems like quite a long time ago. A lot can happen, and has, since I left home. There has been a lot of work, a lot of good times, as well a lot of not-so-good times during this contract. That is just how life goes, regardless of where one is. When I left last time I ended up with wrenching sobs and tears, not knowing whether I would ever be back. This time, like many things that have changed, I find I'm sailing much more of a middle passage through the Emotional Archipelago. I don't know if/when I'll return, but I'm not ruling it out. I have no clue where I will end up. So, with today begins the abrupt unplugging of a year of life on Earth, and the beginning of a new chapter, though there really is just one chapter, which is one's life.

So, as the fedora moves north, its first major destination (country-wise) is the site of what was probably the largest excavation of earth in the calendar year 1991. Chew on that, and I'll update you from the road when I get there. First comes McMurdo Station, followed by New Zealand, and I'm not sure how much time I will have to do any reporting/touring in either place. Frankly, some serious sleeping is in order, as well as some eating of different foods and getting reacquainted with things like trees, animals, rivers, etc. Leaving, as I say, is probably about as interesting as staying here at Pole for a winter.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
~Matsuo Basho

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dramatics @ Pole

Oh, the Antarctic blast goes on. Allegedly today (Thursday in this time zone) we will be able to fly, but it still seems the same windy outside as the previous however many days this blow has lasted.

Give that man an Oscar!

So, today marks one week prior to my departure for the first stop on the long road home. Following my prescription, I took the first dose of anti-malarial medication for that destination. Hopefully that won't jinx my efforts to leave the Ice and get to this destination on my already-scheduled flights.

Thanks to R.A.B. for the photo.

“A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Still here, still windy

The forecast looks like we winter leftovers probably won't be leaving Pole until Friday. The clouds cleared up overnight, but the wind is still blowing pretty strong and carrying quite a lot of visibility-decreasing snow along with it. Oh well, planes will fly when they fly. I just hope I'm on my flight to {destination redacted} a week from this Thursday.

Sunday night I had what (I hope) to be the last of my movie nights. It's a great flick, and seemed only to obvious and germane a choice to pass up.

A roped flag line was actually set up from the station to Summer Camp. I guess it was the conservative move, given the fact we have so many new-to-Pole/Antarctica folks at Pole now, but seems a bit odd from the perspective of somebody who has spent a couple winters walking around in the dark/wind/storms. Better safe than sorry.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
~Leo Tolstoy

Monday, November 8, 2010


Well, yesterday we got to do some project troubleshooting for one instrument. Otherwise, it has been quiet on that front for problems during turnover. In the evening my plans to do laundry and pack for my (alleged) flight out Wednesday were interrupted by issues with the power plant. So, today I'm trying to do the last bits of archiving personal data, packing, and finishing turning over. That being said, it's still blowing outside, so I'm not betting either way I'll be leaving on time. At least I'm done with my service as firefighter, since I was unceremoniously told my gear was needed by the new team. That's fine. I held up my end of the bargain, and then some, for that station responsibility for long enough.

It's always strange getting ready to leave, either coming or going. You pretty much unplug everything in your life and have to be ready to plug it back in wherever you end up. I think leaving is about as interesting as the process of spending a winter here; perspectives change pretty drastically after this long on the Ice. The trip home is definitely about both the journey and the destination.

“To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go. The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the stories of sea danger.”
~Capt. Joshua Slocum, “Sailing Alone Around the World”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Science turnover continues at a pretty aggressive pace. My voice is definitely not used to doing all this talking all day long. We are making good progress, and I am set to depart next Wednesday. I’ll most likely have to spend at least one night in McMurdo before I catch a “17” to Christchurch. There are only a few of the winter crew left here, with gradual departures happening as days pass. We are forecast to have a pretty gnarly storm this weekend, but hopefully it will be done here (and not relocate to McMurdo) by Wednesday. I’m supposed to get my performance evaluation/bonus recommendation this afternoon, which will be interesting. It’s too bad that lump sum bonus gets slapped with higher taxes than regular salary, but it’s also annoying that coming all the way to Antarctica doesn’t mean you get out of kissing cheddar goodbye to taxes in the first place.

One of the things we did yesterday was to do the pre-summer leveling of one of the magnetometers. I put in a request for the vault entrance to get extended upward, to counteract drifting, last summer, so hopefully they will get to it this year. It makes it a lot longer process with that much more snow to displace before being able to access the vault to adjust the instrument. This is definitely one of those “rites of passage” that introduce new techs to work out in the field.

"Without Knowledge, Skill cannot be focused. Without Skill, Strength cannot be brought to bear and without Strength, Knowledge may not be applied."
~Alexander the Great's Chief Physician

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beginning of the End

A Hercules flight with my science replacement and a bunch of other folks got to Pole last night, and carried about half the winter crew back out with it. So, now I'm actually able to start turning the reins of my science job over to the new guy, which is a bit of a relief. I am currently scheduled for one more week at Pole, and hopefully the weather here and at McMurdo will be decent come that time. Today's flight is currently on delay due to some mechanical issue with the airplane.

With all the new folks arriving from the diseased pit of nastiness that is McMurdo Station, I'm trying to wash my hands and do everything I can to avoid getting sick on the way out. I really don't want my first days of freedom to be detracted from by any illness, let alone once I wing off to my first big destination on the voyage home.

With people showing back up in droves, I find it interesting to reflect upon how long and autonomous a winter is in this job of mine. One really must have the inherent programming to do things right on their own, and to keep doing them right day in and day out. Without societal pressures of having others supervising your work on-site, the wrong personality can end up letting too many responsibilities slide. I wish I could figure out some bellwether exam, maybe something like the Voight-Kampff test in Blade Runner, to predict whether somebody would be able to keep doing the right things (i.e. have honor) throughout an isolated mission/season/voyage like wintering here at Pole. It certainly would come in handy.

“ takes many thousands of years of advanced technological development for a society to reduce honor to an abstract moral truism devoid of real meaning.”

~Luke Skywalker, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”