Archive for November, 2009

Week 1 in Antarctica
November 1, 2009

ok, so the antarctic so far!

Here I am at McMurdo, still. The schedule was for one night only, but a week later and were still here. I dont mind a bit, who would, getting paid, well, on down time. If it hasn’t been the weather at this end, its the weather at the Casey end..

So, it all started on Monday 26th October, with a 4am pick-up – destination airport. Made that ok, and after some confusion at Hobart airport, we finally got checked in. Thank God the coffee kiosk was open early, and it went down well. Time for a toasted chicken sandwich to, in through customs (shouldn’t take food in there, but they let me through anyway). Well, the sniffer dog harassed me on the way through, running circles around me, sniffing like crazy. Everyone was cracking up, cos Id been making jokes all week about having ‘class A’s’ (repeat, that WAS a joke)..

Quite swanky flying down in a passenger jet. Leather seats, air hostesses, fresh fruit and a cooked breakfast. I was feeling pretty wrecked, only having slept for one hour the night before, and kinda got some shut-eye in.. not much though.

Five hours later and we arrived in McMurdo. Wow, good to be back, so good to be back. And wicked having a window view of the landing – in a C-17 you can’t see a bean.. Not too cold on exiting the plane because of no surface wind. Onto ‘Ivan the Terror Bus’ and bound for ‘the Chalet’ for the ‘Welcome to McMurdo’ briefing. It was shortened for us, because of our ‘transient’ status, or status as ‘transients’. All 50 of us were roomed here, there and everywhere, and as much as I didnt want to be put into ‘155’ I ended up in… 155. Actually, it’s not too bad – being in the same building as the galley has its bonuses, and my room is at the end nearest the gym, coffee house and derelict junction – sweet! I was in a room with three girls who were bound for the pole, and one other australian. There were drinks put on for us on Monday night, (in the all new NON-smoking Southern Exposure) but after sticking my head in, I bailed to bed, and passed out into the ten hour mega sleep!

Tuesday was a free day – we were scheduled to leave Wednesday morning. I walked over to Scott Base, had a shop and a look around at the renovations. Wicked to catch up with some of the peeps who were there when I was. Taxi’d back to Mactown in time for lunch, and then an Australian onslaught to Discovery Point, where we were kindly granted a look around inside Discovery Hut. I saw it last time but its always wicked to see these gems from the past again. Oh, we also did a group photo outside the hut, to augment the one wed taken earlier that day beside the ‘Mcmurdo Station’ sign.

And the scheduled two night stop has blurred into a week! Each day has involved ‘bag drag’ – taking our bags up to get palleted for the herc, and after a couple of false starts, they kept them on Thursday – 3 days ago, so its slim living for now (and the shop here is doing pretty well of the Australian contingent) 🙂

I haven’t done too much exploring, its been cold and, Ive been going hard in the gym each day and then cruising around afterwards. For some reason, I havent been sleeping either, which is doing my head in, so Ive enlisted some help from the doctor. A lot better if you’re not woken up by some ‘boomers’ voice first thing the following day, but the second sleeping pill session I had, a night later, was pretty awesome.

I know, if I hadn’t been here before, I’d be out exploring everything, and much as I love it here and don’t like heat – you do forget how cold an Antarctic breeze is! It’s quite something to be out in it for any length of time.

Wednesday night at Scott Base was opened up for us Aussies. I went to that, but wasn’t a late one..

And then there was yesterday, Saturday, Halloween and we were off! 1 x hercules flight to Casey coming up. Breakfast, 8am morning meeting (in the Coffee House, opened especially for us in the mornings) and then flight prep. I gymed then packed last minute things. Check in was 11.15 (getting your name ticked off a sheet) and we were herded into two shuttles and ice runway bound. The herc was there, not quite ready for us, but we eventually got on. And, as I was preparing my cargo net seating, to make it comfortable, I found out that I had won a draw and would be traveling in the cock pit, with one of our guys. Sweet! Leg room, views and coffee (yes, I swindled two cups from crew..) Deal was, we’d have the first two hours of fly time up there, and then change with the second ‘lucky two’. Well, straight up in flight prep time, one of the engines wasn’t working, so that was an easy half hour waiting while it was fixed.. but then we were off, and wickedly, the captain waved us up to look out the cock-pit windows, seemingly, straight after take-off. We were only around 9,000ft though, so maybe thats why the ascent seemed so short – but, what a view! Totally awesome – I’ve always looked at the trans antarctic mountains in awe, and flying over them was amazing! Within minutes of sitting down again, we found out the Dry Valleys were coming up on our left, triple, MEGA awesome! With lots of photos to prove.. It was my first time in a herc, and .. they’re ok, bit loud and appeared to fly SO slowly.. the toilet situation? A ‘urinal’ up the front, and a bucket with a seat down the back, both behind curtains only, no flush, no water and fun to get to, climbing over cargo and people to get to either.
During all this, I knew the weather at Casey was sketchy, and happily, I kept tabs on it and knew it wasn’t improving. When we’d left McMurdo I’d been telling people I’d see them later at the Halloween party.. Well, an hour from Casey, we got ‘boomeranged’ , ha! I knew it! So it was another couple of hours back to Mactown. We got back at 1930, dinner had been put aside for us, and then it was party bound. Another great party on the ice, lots of cool costumes crazy people and general madness. I had a couple of wines, small ones, poured from some guys ‘udder’ – he was dressed as a cow, and was wearing a camelbak filled with four bottles of wine which he was passing around.

All up, it was about 3am when I got to bed – after a midnight bowl of cereal and some hallway creeping checking out the scene..

Which brings me to today, Sunday. Brunch was on the menu today, so we had our meeting at 0930 and then ate. I went back to bed an had a ten minute power nap, before hitting the spin bike again – another rpm max for me today, gotta love those x2 sprint tracks! Felt pretty good afterwards though – and I’ve been cruising ever since. I think I’m back in sleep mode, so hopefully, it will all go well tonight and I’l get the much needed sleep that I’ve been chasing for the last week – minus any input from the good doctor.

Ground hog day again tomorrow, up and ready as if were leaving, though still not sure what time thats for. Find out soon..