The beginning of the adventure of a lifetime

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So yesterday I arrived in Denver and met up with my roommate Renae. We hopped onto the Red Lion Inn shuttle with about 6 other people and headed towards the hotel.

There were four of us in the shuttle with no previous “ice time”. I was sitting next to a very nice lady named Rhoda who is spending her 13th year on the ice. Rhoda took time to answer any questions that we had and she joined us for dinner. She told us that everyone is willing to answer questions posed by first years but not all of them are going to be nice about it. She thinks of herself as a mentor, and judging by the scores of people that greeted her with hugs, she is pretty well liked on the ice. She does something with aircraft maintenance. I’ve also met Mikki, who works in the clinic and a girl who I swear is the future image of my oldest niece. She showed up wearing this little tank top, skinny jeans and cowboy boots. Yeah, that’s Delaney in about 10 years.

Last night I was utterly exhausted so after drinks and dinner, I went to bed, falling asleep before 9pm. It was still light outside. Of course I woke up at 0400 today and was ready to head out by 0500. I met up with Renae in the lobby to get breakfast and then we just hung out until we hopped on the shuttle this morning to head to Raytheon Polar Services headquarters.

The whole orientation process was a bit mind boggling. We went to four different tables to sign different paperwork and get our financial information all set up, then we were color coded and sent off to the main auditorium for the introduction. After a very, very long introduction by the program manager, Lori, my new supervisor, took me, Renae and Pam (another dispatcher who is down for her second season on the ice) to meet the fire Chief who is my boss, as well as one of the fire Captains.

The Chief is very much a by the book, no nonsense kind of guy. He demands the very best from his employees. He has a very dry sense of humor and can be somewhat intimidating. He is very straightforward and doesn’t believe in people doing stupid things that can cause them or others to get hurt. I like him. The fire Captain seems like a pretty nice guy. He is about 7 feet tall. No lie. The Captain is going down to the ice with us and the Chief will join us at Mainbody. I also received my uniform polo shirts and uniform t-shirts. Happy day!!!

**Mainbody is the “summer” season on the Ice. I will be going down at Winfly on the second flight. There will only be three flights going down for Winfly. The first arrived a few days ago and I’ve heard they were very lucky as they didn’t have any boomerangs back to Christchurch. Hopefully that luck will hold.

We went through human resource issues, financial issues, computer security issues (I had to download another antivirus software program and so hopefully my computer will pass the inspection when I get to Christchurch)…grr… because as of right now, I won’t be able to get onto the USAP system with it while I’m there. I’ll be able to take my computer, but I won’t be able to blog or post pictures from it. Sooooo I’m hoping that I’ll pass the next screening. I got my super cool luggage tags as well so I’ll be all ready to head south soon!!!

I’m too excited to sleep!!!

Yes, like the old Walt Disney World commercials with the adorable little kid yelling that to his parents when the tell him to sleep, I too am far too excited to sleep.

Today, Wednesday August 17th, I start the multi-leg journey to Antarctica. It feels like I applied just yesterday.

Tuesday night I had to say goodbye to my dear neighbors, the Bakers. I won’t go into great detail, but the Baker family and I have been through a lot together and they hold a special place in my heart, and I will miss them dearly. Mike, Debbie, Meaghan and Jass (and Kayla) I love you all very much and I will miss you. I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me.

I also got a chance to say goodbye to my sister Beth and youngest niece Reba. They are taking care of Phoebe, my sweet little doggy. Thank you for everything Poopsie! I love you!

So my plan is to wake up at 0300 hours (I know I’m a little not-so-normal), to double check all of my luggage, make sure that I’m not missing anything and to get ready to head to my parents house for breakfast with a side of tears. Yes, I’m excited (very very very excited) about going, but there is nothing like family. I am so lucky to have a family that supports my decision to embark on this journey. I knew that when my Dad e-mailed me while I was on my way to California in July and told me that he and Mom supported my decision 100%, I knew I was doing the right thing. Your parents know what’s best for you. If you’re a young person and you’re reading this, listen to your parents. If you’re an adult and your parents give you advice, listen to them.

Ok now that I have gone off on my little ADD tangent (ooh look! A butterfly!) allow me to get back on track.

I leave today at 1138 from the Brunswick airport. After a short layover in Atlanta, I fly to Denver. This is where I will first meet my future roommate in person. We’re both FNGs (*pronounced fingees – Ice terminology for New Guys. I’ll let you figure out the F part). Then we will spend Thursday and part of Friday at orientation at Raytheon before flying to Las Angeles. Once we get to LA, we have a brief layover (3ish hours) and then head on to Auckland, New Zealand. This portion of the trip will take approximately 13 hours. After arriving in Auckland, it is on to Christchurch New Zealand on a quick 2 hour flight. I get to relax a day and a half in Christchurch. The only major, yet rather important, thing I have to do there is obtain my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. THEN I, along with 100ish other people will board a C-17 (I will confirm this in Denver) and head south 5 hours to ANTARCTICA!!! Hopefully we won’t boomerang.

*Boomerang is the term for heading down to the Ice and then heading back to New Zealand before landing due to hazardous weather. If you boomerang, then you just have to try again later and hope for better luck.

So those are my travel plans. I will be headed to a place that most people don’t consider going to and I will be going there for 6 months. I am only taking two suitcases of clothes for weather that is nothing like I have ever experienced before.
Before I allow myself to ramble on any more, I am going to attempt to catch 40 winks. Good night/morning/afternoon to you when you read this!


Well I might need that…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Packing for Antarctica is an experience. First off, it’s the middle of Summer and in southeast Georgia it is highly difficult to locate clothing suitable for cold weather. Hooray for online shopping!

But really, I’m kind of winging it on what to buy. I have taken the advice of my future supervisor and have gotten fleece pants to wear for work. I’ve also bought a coat. I haven’t owned a coat in years. It just doesn’t get cold enough here to warrant wearing one. I have also purchased a few other clothing items, turtlenecks, long-johns… I still need jeans, socks, boots… This weekend is going to consist of locating those last missing things.

At first I was worried about the fact that I’m basically going to be wearing the same things over and over but so are 1200 other people… No big deal. So now I’m looking through what I currently own and trying to decide if I need it on the ice or not. Or if I want it. Will it be destined for a Skua bin early on in the trip…

* A quick note about Skua bins. Everything on the ice gets recycled or shipped back to the states. Or it goes home with those who brought it. Skua bins are big recycling bins that are sorted by what is in them. Different categories are clothing, shoes, books, decor, magazines, movies. You get the point. It’s a free Goodwill. The word “Skua” is a real word. It is a type of bird that migrates to Antarctica during the summer months (humans aren’t the only crazy beings that flock there). Skua’s are scavengers. I have read that they are like rats with wings and talons. They have been known to dive-bomb people walking through McMurdo. People normally carry things above their heads to prevent said attacks. Picture a large dark demonic looking Seagull. If you have ever seen the movie Happy Feet, the birds that threaten to eat the cute little dancing penguin are Skuas. So, since they’re scavengers, it is kind of fitting that the bins (that anyone is free to go through) are named after them.

Back to the subject of packing… So I was told that I can either take some “comfort food” with me or not. There is a cafeteria that will be the main place for meals and such, but if I wanted anything in particular that wasn’t perishable, I could bring it. Since I don’t think I can get away with bringing a few rib-eyes or sushi rolls, I decided on things like powdered soup mix, hot chocolate mix, individual microwave-able mac n cheese things, canned olives, and other random stuff. A lot of it is going to be boxed up and shipped down before I go so hopefully I will get it by October. I may send a few shirts down too so I can have the excitement of getting “new” clothes while I am there.

Figuring out how much I should take in the way of hygiene products is also interesting. How much shampoo and conditioner will I use in 6 months? It is heavy and I don’t want to over pack, but I also don’t want to take the chance of the store there not having the kind I like to use. And what if I ship it and it bursts all over? That would suck to get an empty, sticky bottle of shampoo. These are things I never really think about from day to day because we have the convenience of “civilization”.

So, if anyone wants to send me something (and I would be appreciative of anything) please remember, if it’s food, it needs to be non-perishable. Don’t send me liquor. And please done use any packing material that will cause way too much excess waste. Packing peanuts or “angel poop” is forbidden on the ice due to the possibility of it escaping and getting tossed about all over the landscape by serious gusts of wind. Also, as tempting as sending glitter filled envelopes is… Same story.

Well, tomorrow is my last day at Glynn Brunswick 911 and I better get some sleep.


Holy crap I’m really going!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I found out on Friday, August 5, 2011 that I PQ’d for my Antarctica trip.  This means I am physically qualified to spend 6 months in the coldest, driest desert on Earth. 

Holy Crap.

I’m really going.  I officially turned in my resignation on Friday and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I’m excited, but it was still hard.  I’ve been working here for over 10 years and it feels like my second home.  Most people here think I’m crazy. 

There’s no turning back now.  I’m going to Anarctica.

My dog care has been settled and my dear darling eldest sister is keeping Phoebe.  The Bakers will be watching over my house.  I’m thankful that I am able to order cold weather clothing on the internet because it’s sure difficult to find it this time of year around here.

For some reason I have a fear that I’m going to have cold feet.  Not cold feet as in afraid to go, but I’m worried that my feet are going to be physically cold while I’m down there.  For some reason this is my biggest worry.  I am worried about that and running out of memory space on my external hard drive.  These worries won’t stop me from going.  I can buy more socks and more memory space.

Oh, if you want to write me or since I’ll be spending my 30th Birthday on The Ice, here is my mailing address while I’m down there:

Victoria Parker

PSC 469  Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

Don’t put Antarctica anywhere in the address field.  Just my name, Winfly, etc…

If you send me something, I will send you something 🙂 

I’m over the moon giddy about the fact that I’m doing this. 

McMurdo Station

This is McMurdo Station where I’m going.  The brown building in the middle of the photo (with the vertical white stripes) is the Fire Station.  That’s where I will be working.