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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One year ago...

It just occurred to me that on this day last year, I was seeing Antarctica for the very first time. What a trip. I am a completely changed person since then.

Curious to think about what will have happened for me one year from today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keri's Rules for Antarctica - Year Two

1. Don’t fall in love in Antarctica.

2. Seriously. Don’t fall in love in Antarctica.

3. Make friends with all the Kiwis you possibly can.

4. Dress like a girl sometimes.

5. It is never a waste of time to go for a walk in Antarctica.

6. Have a good supply of food to make from home. This will ward off insanity and starvation. When in doubt, Jello and bread.

7. Remember to check the I-drive for good pictures. Remember to start trading pictures early, so you aren’t scrambling at the end. Remember to bring enough memory to store said pictures.

8. Blog more. Blog better.

9. Remember your “real world” family and friends. Write. Email. Call.

10. Bring a change of footwear on the plane for the return trip so you don't look like a dork clomping around in your bunny boots at the CHC airport in late summer.

11. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Going back, post-FNGee

It is August, and I have now less than one month before I leave for Antarctica again. Ahh, white continent, how do I love thee? So many, many ways. I've never felt homesick for a place before in my life, and I only lived there for about a half a year, but I miss that place, and yearn to be back.

This year, I go back as the custodial coordinator, basically in charge of jano world, and the laundry. It means I can't be a happy little responsibility-free FNGee, and I actually have to be a supervisor this time. But it also means more cash, an actual office (and its associated privacy), and a chance again to work in a department I love.

I'm excited, I'm thrilled, I feel like I'm going home. For all its ugliness and craziness, it is the best place I've ever been. I love Antarctica. I love McMurdo. I love the traveling lifestyle it allows me to have. I love the people, and the feeling that I've finally found my "tribe." In a world where I have always felt like I'm the minority in just about every category I could be placed, including race, sex, background, etc., I have finally found a place where I am part of the majority in a very important way -- world view. It's exhilarating.

But, because I write this blog in part to help other people really get a good idea of what the Antarctic experience is like, I have to share another dimension of the lifestyle. They don't warn you about this when you are a FNGee, and though I've read many Antarctican blogs, I haven't really seen it addressed. But it exists, and not just for FNGees, although it's taken many of us by surprise, I think.

It is this sense of displacement, post-Antarctica. The feeling that you have one foot in two worlds, so different from each other that functioning well in one takes a completely different skill set than functioning well in the other. I've been lucky enough to see many Antarctica friends, and touch base with even more over the summer, and I think we all feel this way to some degree. For some, it hits us with deep, inexplicable sadness. Depression. Inertia. We emerge from the ice completely changed as people, and our relationships with the people in the "real world" have changed profoundly -- some in very positive ways, and some in very negative ways. If you are a first-time Antarctican reading this blog to find out what life's all about, be prepared for this. Maybe it will make it easier to not be taken so by surprise. But maybe not -- it's a feeling shared by many of my second and third season friends as well.

I realized today that in the last couple of weeks, I've finally, FINALLY, felt like I am a complete, functioning person in the "real world" again. I leave that world in less than a month. So I think, as acutely as I've missed Antarctica this summer, I will miss my real world loves in the winter (your winter, not mine. I will again experience summer.) I'll miss my family. Miss my friends. Really really miss my dog. I might never see my grandmother alive again, and that goes for any one of you reading this blog.

So anyway, a reality check. I am making it my goal to blog much more frequently this season. I won't have to wait in line for a computer, so that will help immensely, I think. Most of my posts will probably be enthusiastic, and show you all of the fun and excellence that is Antarctica. But this entry, I wrote, so you could know what's going on under the surface for many of us in that wonderful white world.

Let the adventure begin again...