Been there, done that..

But YOU haven’t!

Most of my readers (and you all are lovely readers at that…) haven’t been to Antarctica…  If there are any particular questions that you want answered (and I will answer them publicly in a post so you’ve been warned)…  Email me at victoriatparker@gmail.com.

The people who send me questions that I choose to answer will receive lovely prizes!

Let’s have bizarre celebrations!

A snazzy gift is in store for you if you can name the song that line is from.  It has a lot to do with this post.  This post will hopefully transport you here for a  wonderful, joyous celebration – my boss’s wedding!

February 19, 2013

This past Saturday, February 16, 2013, I attended a wedding in Antarctica.  Not only did I attend, I photographed it.  And it wasn’t just any wedding.  It was my boss’s wedding.  No pressure, right?  Weddings in Antarctica are not legally binding unions, however, the chaplain did require that the bride and groom attend a few pre-marital counseling sessions with him, as a church may do in the states.

The ceremony took place at 7pm in the Chapel of the Snows, followed by a reception at Southern Exposure, one of the local bars.  The weather was amazing.  Clear skies, light breezes and temperatures on the plus side of zero.

The bride wore an ivory lace gown complimented with a birdcage veil adorned with various feathers.  She carried a bouquet of hot pink and black gerber daisies.  She was escorted down the aisle by long time friend, Moose.  The brides’ attendants each carried a single flower made of various pages of popular novels. The groom wore a black suit, complimented by a light pink button down shirt and diagonally striped pink and black tie.  The grooms’ attendants wore complementing shirts, olive green and navy blue in color, with boutonnières that matched the bridesmaids single flower bouquet.  The flowers were made of book pages and sprayed with hot pink paint.

The wedding ceremony was officiated by the chaplain, Captain Rose as well as Antarcic Fire Department Captain, Neel Pahl.  There were readings from the Song of Solomon during the ceremony and a Buddhist prayer was recited as well.  Captain Pahl gave a tearjerking speech recalling having the groom, Tim, as his first supervisor in Antarctica and recalling that there had not been a season that he (Captain Pahl) was not working with Lori.

After the ceremony, the bride and groom were escorted around town in one of the new fire engines with the lights flashing and the siren sounded once or twice.

Southern Exposure, the site of the reception, was decorated in different shades of pink, black and grey.  The food was made by our winter over chef and was positively delightful.  There were shish kebabs, teriyaki chicken skewers, cocktail shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, and other delightful snacks.  The cake was a three tier cake, comprising of chocolate, vanilla and marbled chocolate/vanilla layers.  The frosting was white with hot pink and black decorative markings.  The cake topper was a black penguin with a top hat and a white penguin with a veil.

There were many guests, and a comment was made by the sister of the groom that she had never seen many of the attendees in clothing other than Carhartt coveralls.  I had to agree.  Everyone cleaned up quite nicely.  All in all, it was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful party.

Congratulations Lori and Tim!

Myself and the happy couple
Myself and the happy couple
The unity candle
The unity candle
The groom
The groom
The lovely ushers
The lovely ushers
The boys
The boys
The boys will be boys.
The boys will be boys.
The girls.
The girls.
Antarctica Fashionable Footwear
Antarctica Fashionable Footwear
The lovely couple, the chaplain and the fire captain
The lovely couple, the chaplain and the fire captain
The maid of honor and the bridesmaid.
The maid of honor and the bridesmaid.
The best man
The best man
The maid of honor
The maid of honor
Prepping to exchange the rings
Prepping to exchange the rings
The kiss
The kiss
The couple walking out to their chariot.
The couple walking out to their chariot.
You'll never guess where I am to get this shot.
You’ll never guess where I am to get this shot.
This may give you a clue to where I'm standing.
This may give you a clue to where I’m standing.
The wedding party
The wedding party
Lori and one of our other fire captains - Andre
Lori and one of our other fire captains – Andre
Wedding decor
Wedding decor
Cake toppers
Cake toppers
The oh-so-tasty cake
The oh-so-tasty cake
Table decor
Table decor
Yummy shish-ka-bobs
Yummy shish-ka-bobs
Bacon wrapped scallops!
Bacon wrapped scallops!
Mini quiches
Mini quiches
Chicken teriyaki!
Chicken teriyaki!
Ildi the hairstylist and Liz, the MOH
Ildi the hairstylist and Liz, the MOH
A few of the attendees
A few of the attendees
Andre, Lori and Tim
Andre, Lori and Tim
The party was winding down, a good time was had.
The party was winding down, a good time was had.

Dorm, sweet dorm

My door. Soon there will be decor, but I’m waiting til the roommate leaves.

Since this silly site isn’t behaving properly, I’m having to post another blog to give you all a chance to view my building.

 

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Trash sorting area – Food waste, skua, paper towels, non-recycle, et.
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First floor hallway
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The ginormous laundry room in our dorm.
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The sauna
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First Floor Lounge
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The other side of the first floor lounge
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Up, up, up we go
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My hallway, second floor

This is where I live.
This is where I live, which will change in appearance once I no longer have a roommate. My side of the room is located behind the hot pink curtain.

I like big boats and I cannot lie…


Tuesday, February 12th, 2013.

The past couple of days have been comprised of getting back into the swing of things, unpacking and getting my room set up as much as possible.  The dorm I’m living in, BL209, is one of the “upper case” dorms.  Basically, now that the icebreaker is in the area, I now have an ocean view.  Well, not from my room, but from our lounge.  Right now I have a roommate, but she is slated to leave this Friday.  After that, the room is mine, ALL MINE!  Not saying anything bad about her.  She seems like a good person, but I need my own space.  I’ve been mentally playing around with some room design plans, and I can’t wait to put those in to place.

Over the next few weeks, if you go to the usap.gov website and check out the McMurdo station webcams, you will see some exciting things going on.  If you view the ice pier camera, you will see the fueling ship that is currently docked and getting ready to unload.  The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel is also docked next to it and the ice breaker is still lurking out there, doing it’s thing.  The next ship that comes in will be the cargo ship.  This will contain a plethora of things, including vehicles, food, merchandise, and everything else that makes this place run.

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The C-17s started flying yesterday.  People, like my co-workers/friends/partners-in-crime – Marsha and Wes, finally received the packages that they mailed themselves back in February.  Also, it means that we’ll get a few freshies.  I’ve been holding back on eating the freshies I brought down as long as I can.

In other news, Rick and I decided to end our relationship.  We’re still close friends, and we always will be, but right now this is the best thing for us.

Take care, stay warm.

Getting back in the swing of things

Greetings!

So it’s now Friday, February 9th at approximately 01:30 hours.  I arrived back on the ice on Monday, February 4th.

The trip down was fairly uneventful, minus being flagged and questioned when I entered New Zealand, as well as flying in an LC-130 from Christchurch

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to McMurdo.  8 hour flight in a plane that, I later found out, was actually rescued from the plane “boneyard”.  I’m glad that I flew without having that information.

When I left the states, I flew from Brunswick to Atl

anta, Atlanta to L.A, L.A to Sydney, Sydney to Christchurch.  All of the flights were rather uneventful, but I will say that the 14 hour flight to Sydney was probably the worst out of the trip.  We flew on United Airlines and instead of being one of the fancy airlines with individual screens on the back of each seat, I had to crane my neck to look up at the TV’s in the aisles to watch the in flight movies.  I wouldn’t have been watching the movies if an over-enthusiastic flight attendant had just let me sleep, but c’est la vie.

Upon arriving in Christchurch, I met up with a few other folks going to McMurdo, as well as South Pole, and caught the shuttle to the Elms Motel.  As I was checking in, I saw several familiar faces, and started catching up with everyone.  It was easy to settle back into familiar conversations with the people that I spent the winter with last year.  As I had incredible jet lag, I laid down for a nap that turned into 12 hours of sleeping, after making my trip to the liquor store to stock up on provisions for the following months.

I woke up the next morning and decided to head out for some fresh air and see what the surrounding area had to offer.  I walked down to the mall and found a few things that needed to come to the ice with me.  Then I headed back to the hotel and chatted with Rick online for a bit.  I met up with the rest of my group to load up in the shuttle at approximately 1330 to head to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC).

Walking into the CDC gave me a familiar rush of excitement.  The blue tone interior with floors speckled with orange baggage that contained our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather gear, for those of you who may be new to information regarding working in Antarctica), brought back a flood of memories from my first time down to the ice.  It made me think of the many friends I had made since August 27, 2011.  It made me remember meeting Rick, Renae, Lori, Raymond, Brooke, Pam, Genevieve… the list could go on for quite some time so for your sake, I won’t name everyone that I’ve met (including my eventual meeting new people during my first winter, and now new people starting my second).  It’s amazing how many memories returned the moment I stepped through the doorway.  Pushing all of those thoughts aside, I got down to business of trying on my gear and deciding what I really needed to take, and what I could afford to leave behind.

After leaving the CDC, I took the shuttle back to the hotel along a scenic route.  I had stayed behind the majority of the group to help a person going to the South Pole with her gear.  After we got back to the hotel, I went to dinner with her and then we went to the grocery store.  I loaded up on carrots, lemons, avocados, blueberries and other items.  We walked back to the hotel and then I settled in for the night.

The next morning, I got up at about 0400 to finish packing and get ready for the shuttle.  The shuttle arrived just after 0630 and 8 of us loaded up and headed onwards to the CDC.  We all finished small packing details, got dressed, and went over to the passenger terminal.  After watching a few videos about life on the ice, we went through security, got onto the shuttle and headed towards our plane.

Normally, we catch a ride on the giant C-17 for our transport to Antarctica.  Not this time.  The Pegasus runway has been affected by the seriously warm weather that Antarctica has been experiencing over the past few months, and has become somewhat slushy.  For this trip down, we were going to ride in an LC-130.  Basically, it’s a regular C-130 with a few small additions – skis.  The plane is much smaller and working in the dispatch center, I know that there is a…potential for problems with the engines or landing gear or other things that we refer to as In Flight Emergencies (IFE’s).  I also recently heard to them referred to as In Flight Entertainment.  Getting into this plane was interesting.  The stairs don’t go all the way down to the ground, so I had to actually crawl up the stairs into the plane.  The joys of short legs.  The plane ride took 8 hours and with 28 passengers, it was a long ride and a tight squeeze.  We also had two large pallets of luggage and unknown cargo on board with us.  Finally, after many long flights, I arrived back in Antarctica.  We all loaded up into Ivan the Terrabus and started the 14 mile trip into McMurdo.  I kept looking around at all of the melted and then refrozen snow/ice/slushiness realizing that it had been exactly a year ago when I last headed into town.  That was the day I returned from R&R between my summer and winter seasons.

As we pulled into town and dropped off a few R&R folks that were returning, I turned to look out of the window and I saw Marsha, Wes and Laurie!  I started waving and them, they started waving at me.  Wes cried out “Let my people go!” (we’re all dispatchers so we’re a close group), and then they boarded the bus when they realized I was going to the Chalet.  Hugs and happy squeaks were exchanged.  Then I had to go endure the mandatory arrival brief.  This is where things got really interesting.

Apparently, there was another person due to arrive a few days after I was scheduled and her name was Laura Parker.  There had been a slight confusion and the housing office believed that I was she, so they put me into a temporary room for one night.  She was supposed to be going to South Pole, and instead of moving me into the room that should be mine through the winter, I got to spend one night in building 188, also known as MMI or Mammoth Mountain Inn.  The housing department is required to give people that occupy a room a 24 hour notice before they get a roommate.  I was told I could move to my new room the next day after noon.  Before I went to my room, I went to the fire house to visit people and see if I could bribe one of the guys to take the station van up to the building where our luggage was taken.  One of my winter over firefighters volunteered to go pick up my luggage and my linen.  I gave him a carrot for his hard work.

Don’t judge me, freshies were few and far between this season.

After a few hours, I grabbed a few things from my suitcases, as well as my linen, and headed towards my room.  I had never been in MMI before and I was really glad that I hadn’t had to stay there my first season down.  The rooms were tiny but the comfortable bed made it easy to fall asleep quickly.  At 0430, the people above me woke me up moving their luggage out of their rooms.  I knew it was the group that was headed to South Pole, so I went ahead and got up as well.  I was moving slowly that morning, so I went to breakfast and then got to the station around 0600.

After a few hours of refresher training (and getting hugs from Lori and Renae), I went to a mandatory safety training and then came back to the station where I was assisted by one of our fire lieutenants in moving my suitcases to my permanent room.  Currently, I have a roommate, but she is redeploying on February 15th.  At this time, I still haven’t actually met her, but she was late to work this morning and I sort of saw her rushing around the room as I was getting settled into bed.  Oh, I forgot to mention.  I’m immediately going on night shift so I had stayed up all night visiting with Marsha and working on a scarf (I’m seriously getting into crocheting).  I hope when my roommate leaves, she offers me anything she doesn’t skua.  I like her decorating style and she has some really cool stuff.

So yeah, I’m now getting back into the swing of things.  I’ve met the summer fire crew and most of the crew that is staying for winter.  It seems like we’ll have a pretty good group this year.  I’m very happy that Wes and Marsha will be staying for the winter as well.  I’ve run into some old friends and I’m very much looking forward to the return of other friends and meeting new people this season.  There are a lot of changes in the program, but I’m confident that it will still be a good season.  I’m still hoping/praying/crossing my fingers that Rick will get to come down to the ice this season.  We’ve still got a few more weeks and it actually looks like the summer season will be extended a little bit due to the issues regarding planes and not being able to get packages and such, so we’ll see what happens.

I’m looking forward to doing the polar plunge again, but I’m disappointed that we won’t have a greenhouse.  I’m looking forward to setting up my dorm room once my roommate leaves.  I’m looking forward to getting into the work groove which will let me get into my workout groove.  I’m looking forward to getting out and taking some pictures and I’m looking forward to climbing Ob Hill.  So, all in all, I have a lot of things to look forward to this season, and I’ll keep you updated.  I’ll also start posting pictures once I get a chance to go out and take some good ones.

Hope you’re all safe and warm.

She’s doing it again… But this time, it’s only for Winter

Of course, there are those that doubt I am only staying for the winter season.  I’m wondering if there is a pool of people wagering whether or not I’ll stay the summer season as well.

So here I am, at my parents house, all packed up and ready to go eat breakfast.  I am also ready to go.  I think.  I still have to weigh my luggage and possibly readjust some things prior to heading to the Brunswick airport.  Have I mentioned that it rocks that I have amazing parents who are going to take me to the airport?

I have made a promise to my parents, Debbie and some other people that I would blog at least once a week.  Even if it is boring stuff like “It’s cold.  It’s dark.”  I promise to write something.  Just to make sure you all know that I’m alive and I haven’t been pulled down to the dark depths by a colossal squid.  Yes, you can read into that and assume that I’m going to be doing the polar plunge again this year.  That’s the plan.  My bathing suit is packed and I bought goggles.  If I can find a tutu, to do it in, you can bet I’ll wear it too.  But I won’t take a waterproof light.  Nope.  Not gonna get beaked.  But I digress.

It’s now just after 8am.  I’m flying from Brunswick to Atlanta at about 12:30.  From there I will fly to LA, and from LA I will fly to Sydney.  I will skip February 1st.  Sure, it’ll turn Feb 1 while I’m flying, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, but I’ll be crossing the International Date Line and when I land, it will be February 2nd.  The plan is to stay in Christchurch for 2 days before heading to the ice, but I’ve heard of some weird stuff going on with the flight schedules so it is possible that I will end up on the ice earlier than planned, but who knows.

Right now, I know that I’m looking forward to the adventure.  I didn’t get much sleep last night since I was still going through things mentally and trying to figure out if I had enough stuff or if I had too much.  I remember thinking last time I headed down “Do I have enough wool socks? (I took 10 pairs).  Do I have enough long underwear? (I took three sets of tops and bottoms).”  This time while packing, I found myself wondering “I can fit more fake flowers/makeup/fake fish/glitter/skirts/bright colored tights/crocheting yarn/other random stuff in my suitcase if I pack them in ziplock bags!”  It’s amazing how your priorities change when you go there.  I’m also crossing my fingers that my 13 boxes I shipped myself make it there.  13.  12 large flat rate boxes and 1 larger box that has a bunch of my yarn in it.  I’m really really hoping it gets there.  All of them might not make it, but hopefully some of them do.  It’s all stuff that I can live without, but I’d prefer to have a few luxury items with me.  And truthfully, that’s all that I have in those boxes.  Luxury items.  Items that I will either skua (most likely) or pass off to somebody when they come in for the summer season.  I’m hoping that my box ‘o stuff that I kept down south will still be there, or it will be a cold season without having a hairdryer.  

If you’re wondering what I’m most excited about, here it is, not in any particular order:

  • Seeing friends
  • Working again (this is the longest time I’ve been without a job since I was 19)
  • Seeing Auroras (and using my snazzy new camera to take pictures of them)
  • (Hopefully) losing more weight – Lost 60 lbs last time I was there, hope to do the same this time
  • Getting the chance to photo a wedding in Antarctica – my boss and her fiancé are tying the knot
  • Learning how to knit (Debbie B. taught me to crochet last week)

If you’re wondering what I will miss the most:

  • My family (let’s face it, they’re amazing)
  • My boyfriend (we still don’t know for sure if he’s going to get to come down or not) so pray, cross your fingers, wish for good luck for him, or whatever, because he’s my best friend and I’m going to miss hanging out with him if he doesn’t come down
  • My friends (especially Debbie because she’s awesome)
  • Driving (no, I’m not driving down in Antarctica)
  • Shopping options
  • Grass, trees, rain, lightning, thunder, dogs, cats, birds (penguins don’t count), kids, fresh produce…

Things that I will not miss:

  • Bugs
  • Heat
  • Traffic
  • Paying for gas
  • Cell phones (eh, more like other people talking loudly on THEIR cell phones)  I like mine.  It’s how I get to talk to my boyfriend.
  • Tourist season

Okay, I need to go weigh my luggage and possibly rearrange things, because you know, I NEED everything I’m taking and I don’t want to leave anything behind!