Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Waiting Game

Our fourth canceled flight.

Mainbody (summer) was supposed to start on Monday with the arrival of a hundred plus people on the first flight. After that, we'd keep getting flights every other day until the 17th. Our population wouldl jump to 600 in the first week and then plateau off near 1,000. Instead, not a single plane has arrived. We are playing the waiting game.

The people in Christchurch are generally loving the delays because they get paid extra per diem money every day that they are there. Some people make more on per diem than they do while working if they are frugal. For the folks on the first flight, it can be hard because they have to get up every day before 5am to find out if they are flying. However, the second and third flights don't have to wake up. They get to play each day until that first flight gets out. It is a great chance to explore a new place on the company dollar.

The flip side is that some people here thought they were leaving the ice on Monday. The first extra day on the ice was fine. They still get paid and got to wrap up loose ends. The second day they really thought they were out of here because the plane took off. Unfortunately, it boomeranged because as it approached the weather got terrible. The people on the flight had a five hour flight turn into nine hours. Some of the people here got pretty demoralized. I can't imagine the third and fourth delays have improved their mood. Interestingly enough, the snow has cleared and it looks like a nice day outside, but I don't have to fly through it. Back to waiting . . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Antarctic Moments, Part II, Cape Evans Flagging Trip

Scott's Hut

Last week started out rough. I just couldn't get into any kind of flow. I wasn't being too productive at work. I was being too social. I was missing work outs. Nothing was working. Things weren't bad, but they also weren't good. That changed on Friday when I went back out to flag the Cape Evans route that I had deflagged seven months ago.

The main room of Scott's Hut.

The 1916 Ross Sea Party losses on a bed post in Scott's Hut. The bottom one is Shack? because he did not make it across Antarctica as planned (instead we have the story of the Endurance).

After a short snow machine safety course, we took a pisten bully and two snow machines out to Scott's Hut at Cape Evans. I'm always awed to think about the explorers who spent so much time in these huts. The Antarctica that I am experiencing is very different from what they experienced. They probably didn't even have cookie day on Wednesday!!

A bike in Scott's Hut.

Penguin eggs in Scott's Hut - the missing link between fish and birds

There was a team here over the summer and winter restoring hut artifacts. I think one of the pieces they returned since I was last here was a box of penguin eggs. I believe they were fetched from Cape Crozier in the journey recounted in the Worst Journey in the World.

Icebergs in the Ross Sea off Cape Evans

The 300 foot Barnes glacier, Cape Evans, and our ride home.

On the way out to the hut, I got to drive a snow machine. It was great because I got to drive for a while instead of stopping every 150 feet to drill a hole and put in a flag. Unfortunately, that meant I also just had to ride in the pisten bully for the first part of the ride back. At first, it seemed like a good idea to warm up, but it got boring in a hurry. Riding on top of the pisten bully is the way to go. Ask Dave.

Dave B tosses flags out from the pisten bully to the hole drillers.

Our snow machines in front of the seal hole and McMurdo.

I think the trip back to town took almost five hours, but it was a blast once I got out of the pisten bully. I warmed right up because I was hopping on and off the snow machine so much. After that, it was just nice to see the scenery. I'm not sure I'll see that area again before I leave. I'm starting to say my goodbyes.

A Weddell Seal.

I think my favorite goodbye of the day was also a hello. For the first time since February, I saw something other than a human alive. I saw a seal near town and we were fortunate enough that researchers were able to take us a little closer and my zoom lens was able to get me the rest of the way there. Another Antarctic moment was complete.

For mom.

Antarctic Moments, Part I, Grand Slam

Our work camp, McMurdo base

This place can be tough. You work long hours. You spend most of your time indoors in a work camp. You may or may not enjoy your job. You might not like the food. If you are lucky, you only have one roommate. You could have up to five. There are a lot of things that could make this place difficult, but we keep coming down. I keep saying I'm enjoying myself. I could be lying to myself, but I like to think the positive moments in between just make it all worth it.

Ross Island winter grand slam trail map

A few weeks ago, Dave B took me out on what was supposed to be a short hike. Instead, we turned it into a grand slam of all McMurdo's winter recreational routes. I haven't done that since my marathon training ended in January.

Me on the way to Castle Rock (photo by Dave Barud)

Castle Rock and Dave B.

I was a little concerned if I'd be able to handle the hike. I'd been feeling more tired than not recently and just didn't think I had it in me. We started out slow and just figured we would play it by ear. We also took plenty of breaks to keep my old man legs moving. The one place that we stopped was a warming hut on the way out to Castle Rock. It doesn't have a source of heat, but it does get you out of the wind. Based on the amount of snow in there, I wouldn't want to have to rely on it too long to stay warm.

Inside the red apple warming hut.

Overlooking the Dellbridge Islands.

There isn't too much to stay about the hike itself. We walked. It was a beautiful day. It got cold when the sun set. The end of the hike was definitely a slog. I was tired. I wanted a warm meal. However, none of those can carry the emotion of overlooking the Dellbridge Islands to the north, looking into the great expanse of nothing to the south, or sitting on top of Ob Hill at the end of a good day. Those who have done long hikes know what I'm talking about. Those who don't, I don't think I have the right words to invoke the right feelings.

The great nothing to the south.


There is a peace of mind that comes to me when I am outdoors here. I can't achieve the same feeling with friends over chai, while working out, or even while tucking myself into bed. I'm not sure what it is about this place, but I think the beauty is part of why people keep coming up. The rest is probably the community. At least, those will be my reasons.

Enjoying a day well spent (photo by Dave B).