Saturday, February 02, 2008

The end is nigh

Base is changing. The ice breaker has come and gone. The fuel ship has come and gone. The only major events of the season left are cargo vessel offload and station closing. In preparation for vessel offload, our population has swelled to over our maximum capacity of 1,100. We actually have around 1,300 beds, but our maximum is regulated by the amount of water we can produce and the number of people the galley can feed. We exceeded our capacity because we brought in the NAVCHAPS (Navy Cargo Handlers and Pier Support?) who do most of the work for unloading the vessel.

These young men and women aren't looked upon favorably by station because they aren't part of the community. They come in for a couple weeks after everyone else has already made their friends and is ready to go home, they do their job, and leave. They didn't choose to come here and many of them don't seem to understand why we are here. In the past, some earned all of them a bad name by stealing out of rooms. To this day, everyone says lock your doors when the NAPCHAPS come to town.

Additionally, they are used to being allowed to recreate more freely at their other postings, even in the Middle East. Their options here are so limited that they've been overheard saying all there is to do is walk and exercise. We do have a few more options, but unfortunately gear issue is closed for end of season inventory. Others were mad that they couldn't rent a snow machine. None of us get to. They've been busted smoking in non-smoking lounges and trying to hide it by hanging out the window. I haven't seen that one other time this year. It reminds of my freshman year of college. I don't have a perspective to know how they normally live, but it definitely isn't in line with what we've come to expect from our base down here. I can't imagine it makes this a fun place for them either.

Vessel offload is our busiest time of year. Lots of people who normally only work nine hours a day are expected to work twelve hour days. They don't always get their days off. Some people who have been working days the entire season our forced over to nights to make sure we can unload the vessel 24 hours a day. The bars even close for the week of offload. It is tough to relax.

To make matters worse, people are also ready to go home. It is the end of the season and everyone has travel plans. They can't commit to flights though because their redeployment dates are likely to be changed based on vessel offload. I think some people were delayed up to a week because the vessel was stuck in a storm and will be late. That is all the negative on base, I think.

There are still plenty of positives though. Life here still offers up amazing things regularly. The sun will set later this month. Consequently, we are seeing our first twilight in months. It is amazing to see an evening light change the way we look at everything. Friends are trying to spend their last few weeks together. Winter overs are hunkering down. I'm learning to skate ski. I got to see a skua territorial or food battle yesterday. There are more seals than ever before and we can see open water for the first time in months. The people here are still wonderful and I'm trying to maximize my time with them before they all go. I'm really bummed they are all leaving, but when the galley looks like it does in the picture below, I'm very ready for winter when everyone leaves. Being over the max makes it feel very crowded.

Crowded galley.

1 comment:

  1. That also means there are going to be fewer Antarctica blogs to read. :(