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
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.