McMurdo in February

Thursday, 1 February, 1996 (from the South Pole)
I made it! The original flight was canc'ed (due to mechanical problems), but 14 of us took off from Willy Field on a 3.5 hour flight on XD-07.

Monday, 5 February, 1996
Lots of stuff happened at Pole, but my notes are not within easy reach. The good pictures are on my South Pole Page.

Most of the time, the temps were around -30°F (-34°C) with little or no wind. We did have some white-outs, but because of low clouds, not massive amounts of blowing snow. Planes came and went, most days, but one or two had to turn back because of poor visiblity

The food was good, the work was interesting, and the people were great; it was one of the best weeks I spent on the Ice. For me, the defining moment was when I stepped under the dome for the first time and saw the cluster of orange buildings, huddling together, just like the display at the Museum of Natural History on 86th St, in Manhattan. I think I'd enjoy a year down here. I look forward to returning.

Friday, 16 February, 1996
The past two weeks have been a blur. Planeload after planeload of people are heading North in exchange for the occasional batch of familiar faces from last winter. It seems like every day I run into someone I wintered with that just got back. Most ask how long I've been down, surprised at the answer: 13 months. They assumed I'd gone home when they did and just got back to winter again (only 10% of last winter's crew stayed the summer). It's good to see these people again and it makes it all the harder to leave. I tell them all I'll see them when I get back at WinFly.

In the meantime, it's down to Kris, my boss, and myself, to take care of last minute issues cropping up before the end of the season. I have put in no less than three all-nighters per week since I got back from Pole, but if that's the price, it's well worth it. It'd be easier to stay the Winter than get all this stuff done in time.

Saturday, 17 February, 1996
After working frantically all night to back up my systems, I've just learned that there's a one hour delay for transportation time. The plane is late coming in from Christchurch, and there's no point in making us wait the extra time out at Pegasus.

We ended up leaving at 07:00 for our 08:00 flight. The ride took most of the hour. I'd never been out to Pegasus before; there's not much to recommend it. Its only redeeming feature (if you can even call it that) is the hard ice runway, used for a few weeks out of the year, that can accept wheeled planes to land and take off (all of the flights out of Willy are on skis). The actual runway complex is much more spartan than either Willy or the Ice Runway. There's a PAX terminal, a warm-up shack and a building with a U-Barrel.

I wasn't in the first few groups to board the plane. My waiting strategy paid off. The "seat" opposite me wasn't assembled; I had plenty of leg room. I still prefer the 8 hour flight in a Herc to a 5 hour flight in a C-141. It may take longer, but it's easier to sleep.

Landing wasn't as exciting as the other winter-overs told me it'd be. I don't think the air was as fresh and fragrant as it was when we landed in October, but, it was the middle of the night then. I think landing when the sun is up diminishes the intensity of the return to the green world to the North.

Friday, 23 February, 1996
After expending considerable effort over three visits, Karen at Holidaymakers managed to come up with an affordable, workable itinerary for my return home. I'll be leaving Christchurch on March 25th, flying to Hong Kong 'til the 30th, then on to Fukuoka, Japan for 8 days before finally returning to the U.S. My trans-pacific flight allows for a couple of stopovers; I'm taking mine in L.A. and Phoenix, visiting friends I don't get to see often. The best part is that with my returning fare credit (owed to me as a winter-over, returning to my POO) it's costing me less than $1,000 U.S.D to not go straight home.

Saturday, 24 February, 1996
I went with Robyn and Noel (my hosts) and Robyn's parents to Classical Sparks, a concert and fireworks show at Hagley Park. I haven't seen this many people in one place in months. It's quite a disconcerting experience. The announcer said that well over 100,000 people were estimated to be in attendance.

The view is flawless - thin wispy clouds turning shades of pink like the mountains in Antarctica, stars peeking one by one out of the slowly darkening sky. Two weeks hasn't been enough to erase the habits ingrained by four months of a never darkening sky. I still stare at the stars on clear nights, as if I've never seen them before.

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