Cosmic Raspberries

Greetings dear readers!

It is currently 01:20 on Tuesday, 15 October 2019.  I am warm and cozy sitting in BL165 in our new dispatch room.  The merger that we’ve all been pushing towards and sorta stressing over the past few weeks is done.  We have abandoned the dispatch room at the Firehouse for the summer season and are operating in our new home.

For the first half of the season, I’ll be on night shift.  I am scheduled to transition to day shift on the weekend before my birthday in December. The switch to day shift is something I am very much looking forward to as I worked nights all last season.

So, here are a few things that have been happening!  And I’ll add pictures later, or post an entirely new entry of nothing but pictures with descriptions because I forgot my phone cord and am unable to upload any pics from my phone.

My roommate, Robin, arrived on the 30th of September.  He is another dispatcher who worked here last season.  I wanted a roommate that I already knew so I asked him before he came down if he wanted to room together.  He said yes and things have been working out perfectly.  We work opposite shifts and have opposite days off but, so far, we have tried to have at least one evening a week where we have “spa day”.  This means we sit in the sauna of our dorm for about an hour, going outside every 15 minutes or so to stand in freezing temps just to watch the steam rise off of us.  Then we go back in and warm up.  During the course of the going in and out of the building, we will put on clay face masks.  Last week, we were joined by our new co-worker, Kris.  The three of us went out and laid in the snow at one point and we couldn’t quit giggling.  People were walking by looking at us like we had lost our minds.  Perhaps we have.  It’s too early in the season to tell.

The official move to the new center happened.  Unfortunately, I did not attend the walk over and official opening because I was stricken with a migraine.  Thankfully, I don’t suffer from them often.

The last member of our dispatch crew arrived on 10 October and I am so glad he’s back for this season.  Jonathan and I worked night shift together last year and we love to pick on each other.  At least I enjoy it.  He’d probably argue otherwise.

We have had some spectacular sunsets over the past week.  Again, I unfortunately did not bring my cord with me but I will be sharing the photos as soon as I am able.  Perhaps this evening as I will be off of work and will need to stay out of the room so Robin can sleep.

Let’s see, what else…  I have gotten permission to bartend this season so I am looking forward to that.  I didn’t bartend last year but I have previous seasons and I rather enjoy it.  Especially when I get to work Day Bar.

Also, I am writing postcards this year and hopefully once the plane gets fixed I can get them in the mail and on their way their intended recipients.  If you’d like a postcard from Antarctica, email me your address at victoriaTparker@gmail.com.

**The T doesn’t have to be capitalized but when it’s lowercase, it has a tendency to be overlooked.

OH!  One more thing, the title of this post.  Cosmic Raspberries.

One of our new tasks is monitoring HF frequencies as they will be used to communicate with field camps and people doing Science throughout the season.  We frequently get weird transmissions that sound like someone blowing raspberries in outer space.  It can be amusing when you’re sitting in dispatch and it’s pretty *q word*, then all of a sudden “thppt!”.

 

Be excellent to each other!

Dry skin and goodbye September!

Good morning/afternoon/evening, dear readers.

It’s about 15:30 on Sunday, September 29th, 2019.  I’m currently at work in what is most likely my last shift in BL182.  Tomorrow is my day off and also the day that the next four dispatchers arrive.  Starting Tuesday, I’ll be working over in BL165 at our new home.  Last time, I shared pictures of the views from the room.  It’ll be a bittersweet time but I’m excited about the consolidation of the two major communications hubs for our slice of the Antarctica pie.

One of the dispatchers coming in tomorrow is going to be my roommate for the season.  We met last year and he’s a pretty good guy.  I think it will work out well because we will be on opposite shifts on opposite schedules.  So the nights that I’m working, he’ll have the  room to himself, and the days I’m off, he’ll be working.  We also have another dispatcher returning from last year, one returning MacOps person and one brand new person.  They sent a picture of their group hanging out in Christchurch the other day and it looks like we will have a fun group.

Winfly is rapidly drawing to a close.  It’s been full of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, laughter, great times with friends and the occasional karaoke night.  The next few weeks are going to be interesting with the transition to the new work center and job duties.

SO! Regarding the title of this post…

I’ve now been here for almost a month and my skin hasn’t acclimated.  I’m drinking a boatload of water and lotioning like crazy every time I get out of the shower but my skin is so dry.

So. So. SO DAMN DRY.

When I got home from work yesterday, I was changing and noticed the amount of dry flaky skin on my long johns.  Because I believe in showing you what it is really like living down here, y’all get to see a picture.

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12 hours worth of dried off skin on the inside of the leg of my long johns. Gross, right?

Yeah.  One day’s worth of dried skin.  Now picture doing laundry and every garment you grab out of the bag has it’s own layer.  Dead skin confetti EVERYWHERE!  This is also why I wash my laundry bag each time I do laundry.

I didn’t take a picture of my horribly dry skin on my hands when it was bad because I thought that may be a little too much.  A friend of mine found some skin balm that seems to be working so I’m much better there.

Other than that, things are good!  Looking at forward to main body and getting this crazy season underway!

 

All of the hugs!

Good Morning, dear reader.

It’s Sunday, 15 September, 2019.

I am currently two weeks into season 6 in Antarctica.

So here’s what’s been going on, I’ve been keeping a bit of a journal on my phone as I’ve been waiting for a chance to get on a computer and actually blog some.

We (first flight of Winfly) landed at approximately 1930 on September 1.  The flight down was pretty uneventful and I was seated at the front of the C-17 so I was able to be one of the first people out of the plane.

After zipping up my Big Red and throwing on my backpack, I walked down the steps of the plane and started walking towards Ivan the Terra-bus, the deltas and the vans.  About 20 feet away from the plane, I saw two of the firefighters walking towards me.  I immediately recognized both of them.  One of them was the winterover Captain, Emily and the other was Catfish.  He and I flew down together at Winfly last year and I count him as one of my closest friends.  He and I practically tackled each other with hugs.  After a quick Hello, I got into one of the vans to transport back to McMurdo.

After arriving, all of us went to an on-ice orientation in the Galley with some super delicious pizza waiting on us.  After about 45 minutes, we were able to trudge over to the Firehouse to pick up our pagers.  I think I may have audibly squealed when I saw all of my friends when I arrived.  Marsha and Wes had come in to work the flight so I was able to see both of them.  As the crews returned from the airfield, I got more hugs from everyone and then we were off to collect our luggage.

This year, I’m in dorm 208.  I don’t have the magnificent views that I had from my dorm room last year, but that’s okay.  I’m not in my room that often anyway.

After lugging all of my bags up to my room, I went in search of another friend from last year who just finished his first winter on the ice.  I managed to track down Z for hugs and then returned to my room to chat with Marsha for a bit while I sorted through my belongings.  We were laughing and chatting when there was a sudden knock at my door.  I opened the door to find Catfish standing there with my oil diffuser and leftover essential oils, which was a nice surprise, but the news he brought was even more exciting.  There were auroras popping all over town.

So I threw on my big red and grabbed my camera and tripod and headed downstairs.  *side note* I was dressed in leggings and had on tennis shoes, but the adrenaline rush kept me pretty warm during the two hours I was outside.

Sorry these are out of focus but, it’s been a while since I’ve done any night photography.

We watched the aurora dance across the sky over Winter Quarters Bay and then realized that the better viewing was actually OVER town.  The light pollution normally drowns out the colors but the lady was beautiful and green, right over our dorms!  I may have shed a tear or two watching them.  It felt like a great ‘Welcome Back’.

After spending about 2 hours outside, it was time to go inside and thaw out.  I made my bed and took a hot shower and used hair conditioner for the first time in two weeks.  Finally, after two long weeks of waiting in Christchurch, I finally felt like I was home and went to bed around 0315.

The next several days consisted of readjusting to life down here.  Meal times, work, good talks with good people.  Hugs and laughs.  Laughing so hard that I spit out a mouth full of coffee, twice.  We took home the trophy at trivia night Wednesday the 4th, but I honestly played no part in that win.  I just sat there and kept everyone else company because I knew all of like, two answers.

We also had several more days of bad weather which delayed the second flight from coming for several days.  But it finally arrived on September 5.  Of course, this meant that it was also a Goodbye Day to several of my friends, but I’m glad they’re now back where it is green.

September 6 was a karaoke night.  Fantastic time, as always.  Not a lot of people here this time of year (current population is 277) so I was able to sing several songs.  Overall, not too bad.

Week two was a flurry of training and getting things ready for our relocation to BL165.  That’s right, the dispatch center for the Antarctic Fire Department is moving.  Dispatch and Mac Ops have historically been two different work centers with different job taskings, however, we are merging this year.  It makes sense because though we do different tasks, our two centers have been the eyes, ears, voice… hell the heart of McMurdo for ages. So this year is going to be full of changes, but hey, if I didn’t like change and challenge, I would NOT be in this line of work.  One of my favorite parts of the amalgamation – WE WILL HAVE EXTERIOR VIEWS!!!  Like this!

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Weather wise, it’s getting lighter for longer here.  It’s been wicked cold for a few days now.  We actually hit Con 1 in town for about 90 minutes on Thursday.  It was right when we were supposed to get off of work so we ended up stuck at the fire station for a while.  But it was fantastic because Havoc the mechanic and I found some spam and eggs and cooked it up for a few of us.

Overall, things are going great and this may be my best summer season so far!

And here are some other pretty pictures for your viewing pleasure.

 

Season 6 – Deployment

Good morning, evening, afternoon… wherever you are.

So, dear readers, it’s been a while.  A very long while.  But now that I have a new computer, I’ll be able to write more.  And post more pictures.

Right now, I’m currently in Christchurch, NZ.  Specifically at the Breakfree Hotel on Cashel.  I won’t post what room I’m in because that’s just creepy.

I left the states last Thursday, August 15th for my 6th season in Antarctica.  I luckily was given the opportunity to deploy again at Winfly (again, for those of you who are not familiar, it’s the time of year between Winter and Mainbody) and I am so excited.  In the past, it used to be that we’d only have three flights coming down during that time.  However, things change and I believe we are having 4 flights in August (if we get out of here soon) and one flight in late September.  That’s the biggest change.  Between the August flights and the October start of Mainbody, we used to not have any flights.

When I left on 15 August, I flew from Jacksonville to Houston.  In Houston, I met up with several of my firefighter friends and met some fantastic new people.  From Houston, we flew 14 hours to Auckland NZ where we met up with even more people.  Then it was onwards to Christchurch and our hotels.

The day we arrived in Christchurch, several of my friends and I who were booked at the Breakfree hotel caught the same shuttle.  We arrived at the hotel fairly early, like around 1040.  Of course, arriving that early meant that there were no rooms available.  We all hung out around the lobby together talking and laughing, catching up on what we had been up to off ice.  Now, mind you, this was Saturday, August 17th thanks to crossing the international date line and time traveling.  I think my room was ready around 2 so I came up to this tiny shoebox of a room to shower and get ready to head out for a wander.

One of our new fire lieutenants decided that he wanted a new tattoo, so away we went to find a tattoo shop.  After being there for a few hours, he had been successfully inked and we decided to head back to the hotel.  I fought the urge to get a new tattoo but I think when I come back through Christchurch, I’ll end up giving in to that siren song.

That evening, a couple of my friends and I headed over to a place called Little High.  It’s a collection of restaurants in one central location.  The variety of food that one can order is most impressive.  It’s kind of a food court of sorts.  One of my friends, Steven, and I ordered a steak and split it.  It was absolutely phenomenal. Then we meandered back to the hotel for an early bed time.  It was just past 7pm.

The next morning, I woke up early and went in search of coffee only to find that the coffee bar in the hotel is closed.  And there were no places around us that serve coffee at 4am.  So I came back to the room and had freeze dried coffee which of course, is subpar in my book.  Even for desperate times.  bleh.

At 615 Sunday morning, we were all in the lobby and ready to be picked up by our shuttle to head to the Antarctic Center for orientation.  There are going to be so many things going on this year, it’s going to be interesting to say the least.  I’ll post things throughout the season as they occur.

One exciting thing for me personally is that the dispatchers for the Antarctic Fire Department are merging with the Mac Ops department (that’s who talks to field camps and does more science/remote related radio communications).  Or it’s actually vice versa since the operators formerly known as MacOps will be working for AFD.  Schedules and staffing is going to change.  Operations are going to change.  Safety and customer service will still be number one.  Nothing changes there.  I’m sure there will be some growing pains, but for those of you who know me, I love change.  I thrive on it.  That’s why I’ve been doing this job for 18 and a half years.  That’s why I’m good at this job.  It does make me sad that we won’t be physically located in the fire department any more, but that’s only because I like the interaction I have with the fire family.  Because that’s what it is.  Anyone in the fire service knows that those are some of the strongest bonds outside of biological family.

After our 10 hour orientation, we decided to go out to eat at the Rockpool.  It was fantastic as always and my buddy Thomas met up with us there.  Thomas works in a totally different department.  He’s an electronics tech for a department now named NPP. Don’t ask me what it stands for because I’ve forgotten.  But those guys are in charge of runway electronic stuff and things way above my pay grade.  They make sure the planes have the right navaids on the ground side to land safely.

Days are starting to blend together for me so I’m having to count backwards, okay, that was Sunday… we were already aware we wouldn’t be flying Monday…  Okay so we’re at Monday.  Monday was a rough day for me.  The first thing I read when I woke up was that my dog, Phoebe, had died.  Granted, she’d lived most of her life with my fantastic, amazing, wonderful sister, but I still considered her my dog.  She was 10 years old but had a heart condition.  Hopefully, she’s chasing all of the armadillos on the other side of the rainbow bridge.  I won’t write any more about it because I don’t want to start crying again.

Monday, my amazing friends were very gentle with me.  They knew how badly I was hurting so they wandered with me through the botanic park and let me cry when I needed to.  Damnnit Parker, you said you weren’t going to write any more about it.  Long story short, a very emotional day.  I’m grateful for my friends who let me cry as needed.

Tuesday!  We were supposed to have a shuttle come pick us up to take us to the airport at 0815, however, shortly beforehand we were informed that we were being placed on a 24 hour weather delay.  Oh, darn.  After getting that information, I met up with friends for breakfast and then proceeded to go to the botanic park again afterwards.  Even this time of year, when there are very few things blooming, it is still one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been.  Plus, once you know what it’s like to go without smelling things for any amount of time, you embrace every chance you get to smell the green.  So we meandered around a bit more and then I came back to the hotel for a nap.  Because I like naps.  I’m good at naps.  Tuesday evening, we headed to the casino for some roulette action.  I ended up with $25 less than I came in with, so I’m not terribly upset.  Then it was back to the hotel for sleep at about 9.

Wednesday!  We were supposed to have a shuttle come pick us…. yeah, you read that same line on Tuesday.  And we are currently on another 24 hour weather delay.  So far today, I’ve played on a playground, played a round of putt putt (came in 2 out of 4) and have managed to purchase a vacusealed bag of smoked brisket to take down to the ice.  Oh, and start my 2019-2020 season blog.

Until next time, stay cool.

October recap

And hello, dear readers!IMG_3264

An October sunrise, one of the last of the season.

I apologize for the massive delay in blogging, but, life happens.

So let me tell you what has been happening on the ice since our last update.

Mainbody got off to a late start, just shy of three weeks.  What does this mean?  This means EVERYTHING was pushed back by about three weeks.  Science-y things, deployments, redeployments, life in general.  However!  When that beautiful grey bird touched down and brought in fresh people, it was a gorgeous sight.  So I’ve heard.  I was actually at work that day so I didn’t get to SEE it but the morale improved tremendously.

We got in our two new dispatchers and they’re doing great.  Both of them are kicking my tail in calls*.  With the start of mainbody, Tarley and I both moved to night shift once Lobster and Sticker got trained and released.  Even though the evil day star is up 24/7, night shift is a different beast around here.  The night shift community is a lot smaller and a more close knit group.  I vastly prefer it to the hustle and bustle of day shift.

*By calls, what I mean is calls that have required dispatching.  We keep a running tally of calls dispatched, spill team response calls and EOC activations.  As of writing this, I am trailing behind with a whopping 5.5 calls dispatched and 6 spill reports.  I’m happy to say that I haven’t had any EOC activations (and I plan on keeping it that way).

The arrival of new people meant getting used to having crowds around.  Over the past month and a half, I think our population has been averaging between 850-900 people in McMurdo.  People now seem to be in the swing of things and a lot of them have their routines pretty set.

Wrapping up October was, as usual, the Halloween Party.  I didn’t get to attend, but I did see some interestingly costumed people.  The majority of folks seemed to be donning the increasingly popular onesie pajama as a costume.  Honestly, it was somewhat disappointing to see that trend here instead of the amazing outfits that I’ve seen in the past.

Next up – November!

 

Things that have been happening so far

Greetings all!

So it’s been about a month just over a month since I’ve written on here.  My current work schedule does not leave much down time for me to write, but that should be changing soon.  Why?  Because Mainbody is just around the corner.  Actually, it should have started yesterday last week but there were some gnarly storms that have, so far, prevented any planes from coming in.

The change of the seasons has me feeling pretty conflicted, as usual.  There are pros and cons, which I’m sure I have gone over before, but I’ll do it again for the benefit of any new readers that may be out there.

Pros:

  • Freshies – aka fresh fruits and veggies.  Right now I’d maim for a salad.  Or an orange.
  • New dispatchers – New dispatchers mean I get to go to night shift.  Now, night shift when it is daylight 24/7 doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but I am not a morning person.  Which makes me really grateful that I have a roommate that understands this and he makes sure coffee is ready before I get up.
  • Another pro, I already have my roommate for the season, so I’m pretty damn lucky there.  I don’t have to worry about potentially getting someone who is not understanding of my schedule.  It’s actually a friend of mine from my first season down here.  It works out well because he totally understands my schedule, isn’t a big party guy, and will be working during the day when I’m sleeping.
  • More people – I’m going to list this under pro’s and con’s.  New people means more energy and more liveliness around here.
  • PACKAGES! – Okay, I’m really excited about this one.  I mailed myself WAY more than I should have, however, I also did a crappy job of packing for winfly.  I somehow managed to only pack two long sleeve shirts.  Overall, that hasn’t been that big of a deal since I’m working 6 days a week, but it will be nice once I get on my summer rotation.
  • As I’ll be on night shift for a long while, I am excited about the nightshift community.  When your hours of socializing are outside of the norm, you get to know the folks who work the same hours as you.  Some of them will be calling for work related information, others will be at DayBar.  I’m also hoping for the opportunity to bartend again this season.

Cons:

  • More people – Right now, the galley is nice and subdued and you don’t have to stand in line to get food.  More people will bring more noise and lines.
    • Orange people also bring in the crud.

Scratch that.  In the past week that it has taken me to write this, we have gotten no planes.  We have people here that are ready to get out of here and back to reality.  New people, even with their germs and pestilence will be a welcome sight.

*Note, I don’t really think anyone will be bringing the bubonic plague down here.  I’m just in dire need of a salad.

 

Anyhow!  With the weather as it is and the schedule as it is, I haven’t been able to go out and take any photos, which is kind of a bummer.  But, things are going pretty great here for me overall.  I’ve gotten into a routine with my roommate and with my friends when I’m off work.  I’m finally getting back into the gym on a more consistent schedule.  I am down 20 pounds though, so that’s pretty awesome.

I’ll probably write another update later.  Just wanted to put out the word that I am still alive since Facebook isn’t currently working down here.

 

It’s good to be back

Hello friends!

My last post from Christchurch was almost two weeks ago.  It seems like the past two weeks have FLOWN by with getting back into the swing of things down here.  Here’s what’s been happening.

After an extra day in Christchurch due to poor weather on the Ice…  Hold on.  Let me back up.  So the extra day delay in Christchurch was interesting.  The hotel that I was originally staying in, The Crowne Plaza, was completely full the night we were delayed.  All of us Ice-peeps had to transfer to another hotel, but no one knew where they were being moved to…  It was a cluster.  A great big Charlie Foxtrot.  However, it all worked out and I happened to get placed in one of the Penthouse Suites at the Fino Hotel, which happened to be right down the road.  Rather than going out and enjoying the botanic park, I decided to spend my extra night in my super posh room because, let’s face it, who knows when I’ll ever get to stay in such a nice hotel room.  I had wine, cheese, and amazing bread.  I was good to go.

The following morning, it was an early pickup to head to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Centre) to gear up and board for the Ice.  This deployment I was able to fly down on the airbus.  My previous flights down I have either been on a C17 or an LC130.  After a 5.5 hour flight, we touched down at Phoenix airfield.  I had originally thought the flight was going to be much longer, but I was thankfully mistaken.

Walking down the steps of the airbus, my nose hairs froze.  As I crossed the ice to Ivan the Terra Bus, my glasses fogged over and ended up freezing.  But looking out towards the mountains, I could see the alpenglow.  My last redeployment, which for personal reasons I believed would be my actual last redeployment ever, I saw the same view, and cried.  My return brought tears again.  Tears of happiness this time.  Then I remembered how quickly tears freeze down here so I wiped my face off quickly and hopped into Ivan.  One of my friends saw how badly my glasses were frozen so he pulled me into the seat next to him, near the front, so I didn’t have to try to stumble my way to the back.  We chatted about things that had been occurring in our lives in the four years since we’ve seen each other on the way to Mactown.  It was good to catch up.

Upon arrival in McMurdo, we were taken to Crary for the arrival brief.  Which wasn’t exactly brief, but that’s normal.  Afterwards, Jonathan and I went to the Firehouse to get briefed on what all was going on and so Jonathan could start his shift.  I ended up staying for a few hours and then had one of the guys help me transport my bags to my dorm room.

I am living in BL209, which is the building I lived in my last time down, and I took over the room that Wes and Marsha were living in.  It was so awesome to walk in and see all of the notes they left me, as well as all of the other miscellaneous goodies.  Wes and Marsha are THE BEST.  Plain and simple.

Over the next few days, I managed to get my room set up to how it will best fit myself and a roommate when I get one for the summer season.  I’ll eventually take some pictures of it but I keep forgetting to.  It’s a little paradise in there, in my opinion.  I am amused with how much I love my oil diffuser and how people will walk into my room if I’m in there with the door open just to actually SMELL something.

As far as work goes, wellll…..   It’s been four and a half years since I was last here.  A lot of procedures and protocols came back to me immediately, and some others have taken some brushing up on.  Then there are other things that are brand new to me.  And the work load has been incredibly busier than the start of my other seasons.

Right now, I should probably add that I’m on hour 13 of a 10 hour shift.  So if this post is rambling and doesn’t quite seem coherent, that is why.

But Tori, why are you on hour 13 of a 10 hour shift.

WELL!

The weather has been NASTY over the past few days.  We’ve had longer Condition One declarations called in town called than I did during either of my winters.  This, of course, is causing people to be contacted in the middle of the night for alarms or system failures and the result is a lot of people are cranky right now.  I just got off the phone with someone who was not very happy but I know not to take it personally.  Just doin’ my job.

Before the weather turned bad on Saturday evening (keep in mind we are 18 hours ahead of east coast time) I had a chance to take a stroll down to Hut Point with one of my firefighter friends.  So before I continue this long rambling post, I’ll share some photos for your enjoyment.

Cheers!

Tori