Archive for December, 2010

Antarctica – The Getting Here Part!
December 22, 2010

Antarctica, 3rd time, from the beginning!

 

Yeah, I missed this one when I blogged last time! Doh!! A bit going on, and time flies!

Same same as last year, we had over 2 months training in Hobart – most of it aviation specific – meteorology, radio use, fuel safety, dangerous goods, quad biking, first aid (8 days) and some! Included in that was a weeks pre departure leave – I shot off back to NZ for 5 days r and r, then back to Hobart, final packing, things into storage, clearing up my gear (messy hotel room..).

Our scheduled day of departure – for a direct flight on the airbus of Hobart to Mcmurdo was scheduled for the 26th of October – due to weather and then the unfortunate and sad incident at the French station where they lost three members of their crew in a helicopter accident – we left in the very early hours of the 1st of November.  That was a Monday – on the previous Friday we had changed hotel, and then changed again on the Sunday.  The first hotel was great, nice spacious rooms, balconies, views.. the second one (Hadleys), not so sweet.  I renamed it ‘Cell Block H’ – rooms long and skinny, beds skinny, old furnishings, I guess to look ‘period’ in keeping with the theme of the hotel, but its all kinda wrong.  I sense a new reality show ‘Queer Eye for the Tight, Over Priced Guy’.. (hotelier).  Anyway, we had Saturday night in there, and then found out we would be staying for Sunday night to.  Sunday, I was picked up by the ‘thermo-mix’ woman to be given a demo on how to use a… thermo-mix! Pretty tired, but stayed focused for it, which was about two hours in all.  Not a bad machine, will decide more once I start using it more (its arrived on V2, its out there, in the bay, somewhere on the ship as I type!)  im worried it will make me lazy, and Il start doing everything in a machine..

Sunday night, and were on stand-by again.  Im sharing a room and at about 10pm, we decide to try and sleep – but were girls, we talk.. and then I get a txt message from someone, and then we both get a text message – we’re to be ready for bus pick up at 0030! Holy crap! Its gonna happen! Much sleep? Hardly.. up, showered, packed and ready for the airport.  It seemed to go a lot quicker this year, we were boarded around 0230 and McMurdo bound.  Great flight, amazing views – the big night time moon, turning into a stunning sunrise. And before ou know it, were flying over ice bergs, then land and then ready to land at mcm.. (oh, and of course the stunning view of Mt Erebus from the left hand side of the plane – my side J)

Mcmurdo, 3rd time for me. The plan was we land, disembark and then get onto a waiting Hercules and head straight for Casey.  This is the Antarctic, and plans don’t always go as planned – first up, we’re put in the departure lounge to wait.  Maybe an hour or so, then we get a heads up, we will be heading into ‘town’ (mactown) to wait, then its updated again, we will not be flying that day, HALLELUJAH! SLEEP! This is mid afternoon, and most of us are wrecked.  Due to a (normal at that time of year) lack of beds, we are housed in the ‘big gym’ which is a basket ball court.  We’re given stretchers, pillows and bedding, and I was stoked to find a niche on a very small landing outside the cleaning cupboards and what a sleep! Absolutely brilliant – awoke to the sounds of a 212 helo outside (we were backed onto the helo pad), felt like an extra from M*A*S*H!

Up and adam, we will try for departure today.  Turns out we are headed for the runway at lunch time.  We board, we sit, we leave – half way through we are told there is a prop issue – theyre going to cut that engine and we will head back to Mcm on three props and stay another night.. arrgghhh.. bonus – all our baggage, that we have not had access to during our time at mcm, is on a pallet in the back of the plane, and my bags are on top and within reach!! DOUBLE BONUS! I reached and and scrounged around and got my toiletries, yay, il be showering tonight.

We get back to mcm around 2000, this time, we’re not in the gym, the Italians that arrived that day have got our ‘room’ – but we get rooms, proper rooms and narelle and I have one to ourselves, and! theres a clean towel in there – I forgot to get mine, so, im showering.. amazing.. within about an hour, 4 girls turn up to get beds in that same room – their flight to pole was also ‘boomeranged’.  Theyre disappointed, they have guests.. deal with it, its the ice. (and we don’t bite!)  We’re all up early the next day, and us aussies are airside by 0830 and then boarded in no time.. im last to board, and as I go to step inside im told ‘you! Up here!’ – the cockpit! How? Why? Don’t know, but I do as im instructed! Now, I got this seat last year – which I decide has been gifted by the universe, to me, again – point taken! I love the trans-antarctic mountains, and I get to fly over them again.. theres an engineer on board for the flight, we talk the whole way, its great! Im not a travel-sleeper and neither is he. Such a good flight, a great guy, and then were nearing casey. So, I did get up and give up the seat for someone else.

Absolute stunning day for arrival, great to see everyone – don’t really go the ‘winter hair’ though, stations clean, everyones hapy to see us, and.. were back again!

Im exempt from the training this year – survival training, travel training.. so my days on station are about 5 – spent getting food ready for taking up to Wilkins.

And since then, ive been ticking along, and counting off days til resupply!  The joys of not having JUST beans and peas to eat! Personal effects are arriving, im surrounded by the joys of my parcels – protein powder, supplements, another t shirt.. heaven! And we’re halfway through our season already!  Yes, I bought too much stuff with me, again, but, I have learnt, one can NEVER have too much protein powder or vital greens!  Or vitamin c, or black cohosh, or efa’s…

 

On that note, off to have a protein shake, yay!

 

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Antarctica, 6 weeks in
December 10, 2010

ANTARCTICA – 6 WEEKS IN

Yep, the time is flying!  Hows it feel, 3rd time around?  Its different, yet again.. Same station, but different – crew and accommodation.  And the accommodation is a biggie – five of us are in the new block, which is 8 rooms.  Its two shipping containers joined, with a central hallway and four rooms on each side.  Oh the awesomeness of being able to move around a bit, during a blizzard!  And to ‘visit’ others, so easy now!! Found that out this week – we have been blizzarding since Tuesday, and four days later, the winds continue to blow up at Wilkins.   So, 4 of us headed to Casey on Wednesday – 2 vehicles, the hagg and one of the case’s with the fuel trailer.  What a trip, 3 hours normally, but 9 hours later we arrived at station – partly due to reduced speed in a blizz (I was driving soley off GPS) and because we had mechanicals in the hagg.  Managed to get it going back at its normal speed though, for most of the rest of the trip.  It was the wettest snow ive ever experienced down here, insanely wet.  Random!  And this blizz was big, it had been up to 90 knots, which Ive never experienced down here, I think the biggest has been mid 80s.  I cant imagine being in a polar tent during a blizz like that, but I often think of the great Antarctic expolorers of days gone by, during those conditions.. yep, you cant beat a warm, dry room, with movies on the laptop and games on the ipad!

So, ive been ticking along at wilkins, day by day.. the tests and limitations are predominantly food based – we have the choice of beans, peas, corn or spinach for vegetables.  The spinach tastes like grass, and it gets everywhere if u use it – sticks to the pan, to plates, to forks.. its been aptly renamed by one of the guys as ‘blizz grass’ – couldn’t agree more!   ‘Blizz’ is not just a verb, its also the build up of snow you find in the built up on one side of a tiny opening, that you may never have known was there, ie a door seal.

So, looking very eagerly towards the arrival of the ice-breaker, which was on schedule to leave a week ago, up to the day before, when its crane was broken.. however, word came through last night, its leaving late tonight – oh the joy!  Some fresh faces and fresh food!  Double yay!

 

So, my primal eating plan is slightly skew-wiff at present.  I have consumed some grain products in the last six weeks, but, I also scored more protein powder from two different sources, which is a god send, cos I wasn’t so sure mine would last, especially with no set day of the ice breaker while we were in ‘wait mode’.  Getting to use the gym most mornings – which is bloody cold some days.  Usually, im the first to feel the heat, but find I can row or ride for half hour or so in a hoodie, or even a fleece jacket!  Along with the ‘breathing out condensation’.  Love it.

The night before this huge blizz hit, was stellar.  Not a breath of wind, sun out, very little cloud.. so I went for a walk up the runway – not quite to the end, but about 7 km all up, sweet as.  My mission is to keep doing that regularly during the season, else it’s a bit of a shock to get back to the real world and start walking again!  I did the runway walk once last summer – on the last day we were here!  And it was then that it hit me, I hadn’t walked that far (8km) in over four months!  Yikes..

 

The runway is starting to appear nicely, might be hard to say that now, since the 5 days of blizz!  Such is the nature of this great white beast!  First flight to wilkins is still on schedule for 20th December – which could be a nice clash with the arrival of the ice breaker, but, Im not required for any decisions on that front so.. let it roll!

 

Today I started my ‘met obs’ for certification.  The two week course in Hobart isn’t enough – we need 60 antarctic observations to then get certified, the certification being ‘Antarctic Aviation Meteorology’ – good for two years.  Im about 11 in now, so, 49 tomorrow.  Might get a whole heap more tomorrow though at Casey Skiway – our resident met obs dude is going to be up there as two flights (at this stage) are expected, so, gotta follow him wherever he is!

 

Rock on