McMurdo in February

Not all entries are fully fleshed out. I'll fix that when I get home.
Saturday, 1 February 1997
The ship's store is packed; it's the last day to buy liquor before the vessel arrives. It's also the last night that the bars are open. I'm going out to the Instructor's Hut for the Third Annual "Rocking The Ice Shelf" party.

Sunday, 2 February 1997
The party went until 03:00. I got out to the Instructor's Hut around 21:30. The shuttle dropped us off at the intersection of the flagged route to Willy Field and the flagged route to the Instructor's Hut, about a kilometer out. The music from the hut was audible quite a ways out. It was an excellent night for jamming and hanging out. There were some high, thin, wispy clouds, not enough to block the sun, but just enough to take the warm edge off. At least it was fairly calm. After taking a turn or two on the didjeridu and playing bass for a set, I crashed out in one of the Scott Tents.

For dinner, I still had some of the Antarctic Cod and Coconut Shrimp left over and there was a grill set up outside The Erebus, so I took the opportunity to cook it all up. It started snowing big fluffy flakes while I was still tending the grill; I got some one to take a picture of me to show the folks back home the lengths we go to for a bit of fun.

Looking for something to do, I went to coffee house after dinner. It's been re-opened for ship's offload, but with no booze. Predictably, the place was a tomb. I think there were three customers the entire night.

Monday, 3 February 1997
Big rush at mail room.

Greenwave arrives after dinner.

Tuesday, 4 February 1997
Greenwave arrived, ship offload underway. Roads closed, doors blocked off, bus stop moved.

Last radio show?

Wednesday, 5 February 1997
The ship's store is open tonight with new stuff from vessel. The line was out the door, around the corner and past the barber shop.

With the wine bar in the coffee house closed and all, Mike and Steve came over to the room for an evening of wine and cheese. Mike brought with him cheese he purchased on his recent trip back to New Zealand, and his latest batch of pictures. Chris and I both groaned at the snapshots of Mike's trip north on a Kiwi '130 with the Prime Minister - real seats (not cargo webbing), real food on real china plates (not a stale sandwich from a brown paper bag), and, of all things, beer! There's a great shot of Mike toasting the camera with a big smile and his glass raised high. It's a rough life at the top. The rest of us have 8-1/2 hours crammed into 18" of webbing with 49 other people trying to eat and/or sleep, looming in our future, not that it's a shock or anything.

Still, I'd rather redeploy on an LC-130 than in a C-141. The people leaving on March 7 for reverse-WinFly will be packed in that '141 like sardines with no room for the oil. The last count I heard was 130 northbound PAX and no room for any excess cargo. We came down with 97 and it was nearly impossible to get out of your seat, even to go to the head.

Thursday, 6 February 1997
I heard in the weekly staff meeting that I'm not going north on the M/V Greenwave; I'm outta here on the 19th on a C-130. It's a relief, actually. I've been sitting on the edge for a week, not sure how or when I was going home. With the boat leaving on Saturday, I wasn't going to have much time to do a lot of last minute little things, like back up my Amiga. It would have been different to go out by ship, but there's always another chance another year.

Friday, 7 February 1997
D.V.'s in town... two-star Admiral and Command Master Chief of the Navy (the only E-10).

Saturday, 8 February 1997
The D.V. flight from Pole had blowout on the main cargo door seal in mid-flight. They had to fly back to Pole, unpressurized, at the lowest altitude possible and scramble another LC-130 to pick up the DVs. Lots of folks going Home got bumped because that aircraft was scheduled for a run to Chch.

Ship offload not finished, departure delayed. No party tonight.

Sunday, 9 February 1997
Party in D-207 lounge last night went past 03:00. Both the Greenwave and the Polar Sea departed today. The next boat scheduled in is the M/V Bremen, a tourist boat, on the 10th. The NBP is also due in this week. The crew for this cruise showed up on yesterday's southbound flight. I saw Yon at dinner last night, and again at the B-5 showing this afternoon.

With the departure of the vessel, things are starting to return to normal. The Erebus was open again, and the coffee house was serving wine and spiked coffee. I stopped by both places and made an early night of it.

Monday, 10 February 1997
No Bremen today. The ice in the channel was too thick. The Kapt. Klebnikov is due in on Thursday. It's a converted Russian icebreaker, unlike the Marco Polo and the Bremen, and should have no problem getting here. We've got so much open water that I expect the tourists to be coming ashore on zodiacs, not in the rickety Russian helicopter.

Dinner was halfway decent for a change - Potato soup, beef strips, tofu in black bean sauce.

Tuesday, 11 February 1997
It turned cold today, +1°F (-16°C) with 23 knots of wind for a windchill of colder than -45°F (-43°C). If this keeps up, I'll have to dress warmer. The Nathaniel B. Palmer pulled up to the pier this morning. I was inside and missed the whole thing. I need to get some pictures of it now: the wind is kicking up mist as though the seas were boiling. I've never seen this place look anything like this.

Thursday, 13 February 1997
The Kaptain Klebnikov passed through today. I gave a tour of Crary to the first wave of tourists. I took them through an analytical lab, past the environment rooms (walk-in, constant temperature freezers/refrigerators), past the offices and up to the public computer area. After my group, five more toured the lab; when I left for the day, the last group was just finishing up.

After the tours of town were done, but before all the tourists came down from Ob Hill, we McMurdo tour guides were invited onto the boat by the Klebnikov tour guides. Because there was open water in front of the station, we took zodiacs, hard-bottomed inflatables that seat about 12. The water was just starting to freeze up; we chugged through a thin layer of ice that was more slush than anything else, but it was strong enough to support the weight of a skua. I sat near the bow, taking pictures the whole way.

Once on the boat, we split up into several smaller groups. My group hit the ship's store first. A few pins and a T-shirt later, I made my way forward to the bar where we were treated to an open bar. It was excellent to taste beer that was a) fresh and b) not a flavor I'd had before. It was Austrian beer, a lager, with a sharp hoppy taste, but I can't remember the name. All too soon, it was time to go; the tourists were returning and the sooner we left, the sooner they'd get dinner. I took the long way back to the zodiac to get some photos of Mactown and the NBP from a new and rare angle.

My nautical adventures went so late that I missed dinner. No big loss. I got to the Galley as they were putting the food away. Someone offered to give me a go at the bins, but I saw the selections written in grease pencil above the steam line - Veal and Liver. Ugh. To make it worse, one of the guys picked up a piece of veal (at least I think it was veal) with his tongs and waved it at me, asking, "are you sure you don't want some?" If I wasn't sure before, I was sure then. I grabbed some crackers and sifted through some dehydrated food packs in my room - a much more pleasant alternative.

Tuesday, 18 February 1997
It's ugly out - windchills of -55°F (-48°C) and I've got bagdrag.

Wednesday, 19 February 1997
The winds are no better, 30+ knots, but two flights came in last night and two more tonight; mine is the later one - it arrives in little over an hour.

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