Sunday, September 14, 2008

This year.

It seems to me, when one speaks about what Antarctica is like, one should speak in poetry. The sheer scope of this continent, the fact that while humans have messed up some parts of it pretty badly already (McMurdo, for example, is a cesspool of past pollution, and of course, we're doing our best to warm the world up now, and the pretty white parts of Antarctica might not always be with us,) it's probably the continent we've messed up the least of all of them. I wake up to white mountains, and somewhere in my soul, someone's singing. They are so big, and so white, and so reflective of the colors of the sunset that only poetry and well-crafted prose do them justice.

But when people ask me how I feel about Antarctica, words don't always come. What my heart really says, is simple.

"I like it here. It's pretty."

I took these pictures in the last couple of days, just point and shooting around town. The first is the moon over Observation Hill. The second is the sun setting over the Dry Valleys. This place astounds. I hope I never get cynical enough to be bored by the land here. Town, maybe. Never the mountains.

It's been a hard start for me here. Last year's ghosts melding into this year's odd Winfly. There were parts of my last summer at McMurdo that mixed me up a little, and there's always carry over here. Echoes of the past at every corner. But I'm trying to accept this year for what it is, and appreciate everything going on around me.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be able to hike here, and I think that will make all the difference in the world for me. (I've had lock-out duty the last week, which means I carry a key to let people into their rooms when they forget their own keys, and I can't leave town for anything.) Until then, I'm reconnecting with old friends, and making some new ones. There's a lot of hanging out in the dorms, and one of Mac Town's strengths is the high percentage of bad ass people here. So below, two amazing women who are nice enough to hang with me, Lisa and Quinn.

Thursday, September 11, 2008



It is quiet here. Very quiet. I do not recall Winfly being this quiet. Building 155, the formerly rocking dorm where I am temporarily housed, is a ghost town. I think I hear crickets...

Winfly is progressing. We got here late, and I think everyone is swamped with work. Maybe we're all just dog-tired at the end of the day. Who knows?

For those of you who like to follow the science, there are three groups of note down here right now. There's a group who studies seals, a group using a laser to take measurements of what's in the sky above us, and a group using balloons to measure all sorts of data about ozone and other things going on in the air around us. Yes, it's a lot more technical than this. But that's the best explanation you'll get from me tonight.

It's lovely to be here when it's dark. It's lovely to see the dramatic sunlight behind the mountains. It's lovely to be in Antarctica again. I like it here. My new job gives me fewer body aches, but more brain aches. My new roommate is a lovely friend named Quinn.

So now, to bed, although I'm not tired. It seems like something should happen soon. We'll find out soon what it will be...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hello from Mac Town!

Well friends! I have arrived safe and sound in beautiful Antarctica, and it's good to be back, although it's different this year.

Last year I was a wide-eyed puppy dog-esque freshman, and I'll admit, I'm a little older and wiser (hopefully!) this time around. But I am here, and one step outside to take a look at those beautiful white mountains makes me feel peace in my soul, and so I am very very glad to be here.

For those of you who are curious, a few photos to share. We do take a C-17 down to the ice, flown in by a New York wing of the Air National Guard. Here's a photo of the plane from the inside, and the outside, after we landed, in -30 F temperatures this time, but the light was so pretty! It's amazing how cold that actually doesn't feel when there's little wind. Or maybe I was just excited.

The view from the air on the 5-hour trip down is amazing. There are only a few little windows we can look peep through, but if you take the opportunity, it has excellent rewards.

The weather here the last couple of days has been beautiful and sunny. Yesterday, the sun hit town for the first time this season, and all of my winter friends were so euphoric! I can't imagine going six months without sun. I have it in my mind that I'm going to try, though. Maybe soon.

In any case, we did have some Antarctica-esque weather a few days ago. The weather here is rated Condition Three (normal Antarctica), Condition Two (sorta bad) and Condition One (really really bad. Hurricane force winds. Potentially trucks are flying around. Etc.)

So.... it went Condition Two in town, and of course, if you were caught out in it, you had to snap a picture, right?

And then, it got very exciting. The season's first Condition One! I have never had a Condition One happen in Antarctica before. It doesn't happen very much in town, as McMurdo is protected by hills. So it was a lot of fun to watch the notification board inside! (No going outside in Condition One!)

Otherwise, the early season flights are rolling in. One more, and then we are cut off from the world for a few weeks. There will be about three hundred of us here until October, and then it will get crazy busy in a hurry.

So what do we do in the meantime? That right. We rock out.

Antarctica friends lurking on this blog will recognize some of these faces, at a live music show at the Carp shop this weekend. All of the people in these pictures except me were in Antarctica all winter long (that's all summer for us North Americans) and many have been here since I arrived last year -- more than a year. Now some of them have left back to the real world. Will miss you a lot, friends! But that's the way it rolls in Antarctica...she gives and takes away.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New disease, but also fruit

The clock is ticking for those toasty winterovers at McMurdo. They know well that their long sleep is about to end, and there are 100+ of us right now in Christchurch, NZ, ready to descend on sleepy little Mac Town. (Cue the scary music...)

Those of us heading down for the upcoming Antarctic summer season are very excited, flush with Kiwi per diem, and cramming as much sushi and Indian food into our little mouths as we can before we are forced to eat expired cafeteria food for months on end. Look at all my Kiwi cash! Ahh, but it goes so much faster here...

Today, we got hooked up with our cold weather duds at the CDC. Here's a pic I took in the boy's locker room. (Tee hee!) All of those orange bags are filled with coats and boots and other cold weather gear. I neglected to get a photo of myself all duded up, but that's a task for tomorrow.

To my winterover friends, who have grown used to each other's germs, and those germs only, I am sorry, but we come bearing disease. But also fruit. So it's probably a wash.

I've got requests from friends for strawberries and avocados, so my next step is to persue the Kiwi produce sections to see what they have to offer in their late winter. (I'm thinking some anemic looking things, but you never know.)

Otherwise, a few photos of friends I've reconnected with here in Cheech, and will live and work with for the next six months. For those in the know, these were taken at the Dux last night! Also, a pic of the craziest hotel room I've ever stayed in, complete with mood lighting, plasma TVs that play mood pictures, and a big glass-encased shower and toilet. We like Hotel So.