November at the South Pole

Monday, 1 November 2004
I started a load of laundry, and kept packing, waiting for Marisat to rise. Right before it did, I fell asleep and woke up before 08:00, and went right back to cleaning my room. Downstairs, in the back of Science, Steffen was in my chair, on the VoIP phone. I went back up and kept packing and cleaning. I was not happy to hear over the all call that the PAX plane was going to arrive 30 minutes early. As I bounced upstairs and down, Christian and Rudy came in. Every other trip downstairs, I worked with Steffen on our Polechomper and filtering issues. Finally, as they announced the plane was at "Pole 3" (ten minutes out), I was vacuuming the floor in UB14.

I ran downstairs, and as I was putting on my FDX boots, Christian, Rudy, and Steffen walked out to the flight deck. I was ready to go about the same time Sarah was, next door; we walked out with Henry. There was lots of ground fog. We could hear the plane had landed and was taxiing, but we couldn't see it. I made a weak joke about there being no plane, just a loudspeaker in summer camp, but Sarah didn't seem to amused by it. The crowd at the fuel shack was rather small. When we got there, I realized that Sarah was the only outgoing Polie there yet. I said my goodbyes to her, told her how great it was to winter with her, and said, "Let's do it again sometime." As I gave her a goodbye hug, I could see the rest of the outbound PAX approaching the area. I went up to each of them for a few goodbye words and a handshake or hug before the plane parked.

Steffen, Rudy, Christian, and I watched the people coming off the plane, until we saw Darryn. We walked up to him, greeted him, then walked back to the new station. I'd said my goodbyes to the winter-overs, so I came in with the rest of the AMANDA/IceCube crew. We stopped briefly at the new station, then after Darryn located his orange bag in the pile of those just brought in from the plane, we went down to the Dome. Darryn looked around a bit, then went up to the bar for a smoke. Lunch rolled around before he got back, so we went up without him.

Today, it was Potato Leek Soup, Thai Curried Chicken, Rice Noodles, and Bok Choy. I sat with Pete, Angie, Billy; then Rudy joined us. Rudy and Billy talked a little about the El Dorm/Counting House, construction schedules, etc. Looks like they'll be towing it across the skiway in mid-December, then starting the interior work right after station close. I finished eating and didn't see Darryn anywhere, so I gathered my things and tried to stop by the store - it's summer hours now, closed on Mondays. I stopped in the hallway, talked with Nick for a bit, then Darryn came past on his way up to eat. I headed down to the dome.

The back of Science was close to full when I arrived. A while later, Jeff showed up and took a seat behind me. We were all just humming away at our keyboards when Darryn came down with a bag of goodies he'd brought from Madison. Steffen got his iPaq; I claimed the network cards we'll be putting in our high voltage crates later. Folks came and went throughout the afternoon. We finished the day with an impromptu meeting about schedules, tasks, etc. As we were going over things, the Raytheon property guy came through Science, looking for some IceCube capital equipment to tag. I don't know why he expected to find a Caterpillar loader in the Science building, but he was ready to tag it once he found it. We redirected him to better hunting grounds, finished our meeting, then went off to dinner.

I sat at the table closest to the galley entrance with Darryn, Steff, Rudy, and Christian, and hung out with Steff and Darryn, talking, after eating. From there, it was back down to the dome to move more boxes out of the hallway, then a recreational break with the soldering iron and my newly-arrived Micro/Elf kit. I also replaced the opto-isolators in the Argus boards, then took a break up in the bar. The place was almost deserted, just Sherri, Christian, and Steve, the new winter-over fire tech. After a while, it was down to just me and Christian. I was going to stop by the greenhouse, and Christian was interested in going with me, but out of the blue, he decided that it was the perfect time to mop the bar floor. I helped him move chairs, find cleaning supplies, and swapped out his mop water as he gave the place the once-over twice. Tony came by after his shift in Met; we stood around talking, watching the floor dry. Jeanne came in for a smoke, then left. Tony, Christian, and I put the chairs back, then went up to the galley for mid-rats.

Tuesday, 2 November 2004
Christian, Tony and I went out the dome entrance, went up the snow stairs and were surprised to find a large snow pile blocking our access to the beercan. There was a gap to the left of it, which we crossed, walking under the A1 berthing pod, between the waste tri-walls, then up the wooden staircase. The galley was crowded - lots of swingers and night-shifters eating. I skipped the Pork and Pineapple, and the Sweet Potato Souffle, and went for the Tofu Fu Young, and the Veggies, sitting with Christian, Tony, and a few of the night shift crew I didn't know. I dropped off my dishes, then followed Tony and Christian back to the dome. Tony stopped off at Met to pick up the box set of "The Sopranos"; I moved another load of boxes, then caught up with him over at the bar. Tony, Todd, and I watched a couple of episodes, then I crashed.

I woke up around 08:00, went down to the back of Science, and to my surprise, I was the first one there. Rudy came in right after me; and by 08:30, we had a full crew. Jules stopped by the back of Science, and worked on a few things at the AST/RO desk until it was time for the plane to come in. We walked out to the plane together. None of the winter-overs were going out today, but Andrea and Steve were coming in for AST/RO, and Per Olof and Klas were coming in for AMANDA, plus a few Raytheon workers I remember from last summer, like Dog, the Carp Foreman, and Little Nick. The plane landed, people piled out, and we greeted those returning folks that we knew. I walked back to the new station with Klas, and when we all got inside, Chad whisked folks away for an orientation video. I went upstairs for lunch.

Lunch was Mac and Cheese, with or without Ham, Peas, and Vegetable Barley Soup. I sat down with Met Tony and Christian, then Rudy joined us. We talked over the meal, and when we were finished, I dropped off my dishes at the dish window, and went down to the store. Rudy didn't have his wallet with him, so I loaned him a few bucks, then picked up some supplies for later. On my way out, I spotted a large envelope addressed to Per Olof, so I took it up to him in the galley. It was his pocket knife he'd Guard Mailed to himself from Christchurch so it wouldn't be on his person. As I was leaving, Cookie Jon collared me to help haul dry goods down the stairs behind the galley. We made a chain and moved many heavy boxes, filled with everything from large cans of Tomato Sauce, to large cans of Yams, Pouches of Potato Flakes, Walnuts, etc. Sore from lifting large boxes over my head, I went down to the dome as the guys were coming back from lunch.

I was going to go over stuff at 13:30, but Rudy had to leave for a Trauma Team walkthrough of the medical supplies in the new station. I found something to do until he got back. He returned, and I gave him and Christian a tutorial on weekly reports, with insightful commentary from Darryn (including, among other things, a mention that the collaboration really like the format I'd worked out for handling the feedback from the shift reports that folks in the North send us for each run). I finished the afternoon with a brief chat with Dave the PC Tech, and with Rudy showing me some panoramic stitching software he'd playing with recently.

Rudy and I walked up to dinner. We passed Met Tony on his way back from dinner. He said something about there being Lamb. I was suddenly much more eager about getting up to the galley. The choices were Catfish or Lamb, Cheesy Grits with Tempeh, Collard Greens, and Mashed Potatoes, with a Greek Basil/Cucumber/Tomato/Green Pepper Salad on the side. I had just picked up a couple of particularly nice looking slices of the Lamb when Cookie Jon walked up and told me to put the Lamb down and follow him behind the counter. He wanted to thank me for taking care of his bass this winter and for following through to a good show for the station opening party by serving me a thin-sliced Duck Breast in Demi-glace he'd cooked up special for a few people. I'd had some of his special items before, and I knew it would be excellent. I let him fan it out on the plate, and went back out to sit with Rudy.

I was bummed I missed out on the Lamb today, but the Duck was the best I've ever had. I ate and talked with various folks, including meeting Chris, the new Power Plant guy who came from Kwajelin (he worked there with Peter and Andrea, and was supposed to winter with us except for some late-in-the-summer complications that pushed him out to this coming winter). After dinner, I went down to the dome for Rudy's board gaming night.

The crowd in the Upper Galley was larger than I expected. Besides myself and of course, Rudy, there was Dani, Henry, John, and Brenda. There were too many people to play most games, so John taught us the rudiments of Pinochle over an open hand. I bid high to get to choose trump, but ended 40 points shy of meeting my bid and fell deep into a hole after one hand. big-time in the hole. Henry had to take off for something, and Brenda left, too. Down to four players, we switched to "Settlers of Catan", one of Rudy's favorite games. Steve and Christian stuck their heads out of the bar to watch for a couple of rounds. Dani was ahead for most of the game, then we all started upgrading our settlements to cities, and Rudy came from behind to win. We finished up around 22:30, and when I checked the bar, it was empty except for a couple of smokers. I went back down to my desk to write stuff up, and crash.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004
I was up early, and went straight down to the back of Science, where Rudy was reassembling his laptop. It was making noises suggesting that hard disk might be crashed. He worked in the corner on it, and I called Cargo Kelly about securing a skidoo out to MAPO so we could get the OTDR out there without freezing it. Rudy and Christian put on their ECW, and we went out to the dome. I walked over to Cargo to pick up the skidoo, but one of the FEMC foreman had just taken it for one of their own errands. I waited for a few minutes, then Kelly and I noticed that Cryo Christina was about to take off for MAPO with and empty dewar. I hopped on the back, and we sped around the new station to the dome entrance. Rudy, Christian, and I helped get her turned back around (even with all the snow they've moved lately, there's still not a of room to turn around a skidoo and a sled), and we all took off for the Dark Sector.

The three of us helped Christina get the empty dewar into MAPO and on a floor dolly, then we headed upstairs for a demonstration of fiber testing and module debugging. Bill, the winter-over site manager, came through the building with Connie, a photographer here for a couple of weeks on an NSF Artists and Writers grant. I gave her the basic spiel about how AMANDA and IceCube work, then it was lunchtime. Rudy, Christian, and I walked back to the station to eat.

Wednesday is still Burger Day. Besides the usual Hamburgers and Veggie Burgers, there was some Chicken Curry Soup made from leftovers from the other day. I ate with a table full of incoming winter-overs, including Rudy, Christian, Met Tony, Cryo Christina, and the ARO guys, Dan and Brian (Brian is only here for the summer). I ate slowly and finished last. By then, I was joined by Dog, Cargo Kelly, and Tammy. I finished my dessert (Tapioca) and went down to the dome.

Down in the back of Science, the guys were waiting on me. We walked back out to MAPO into 9 knots of wind (the temps are still hovering around -60°F (-51°C)). We arrived about 10 minutes before the satellite set and quickly checked the election results. All we could catch was that there were no surprises - all the states that had reported in were falling pretty much the way that the polls were predicting. With no way to get news, we went into the detector room and set up a few fibers to test. I showed them what good fibers and bad fibers looked like, then we left for dinner.

Rudy peeled off to work on relieving crosstalk at SPASE; Christian and I marched on back to the new station. The vehicle path is now dragged smooth; it's much easier to walk on now, not even counting the constant daylight. Dinner was Cornish Game Hens and Tofu Frittata. I joined the future winter-overs once again, then went down to the dome to do some soldering on my Micro/Elf kit, then took a break up at the bar.

Darryn was there, present, but looking a bit tired; Jake was bartending. The TV was missing from its usual spot in the next room. It seems that Billy was in the Old Upper Galley giving a safety talk on the proper use of scaffolding, and neither of his projectors were working. He finished his talk and returned the TV to its pedestal. Darryn left, presumably to get some sleep; Christian came in a moment later. After the Carps who had come in for a smoke after their safety lecture had left, it was down to me and Christian, until Met Tony came in after work. We sat around and chatted about the usual things until it was time for midrats. Christian took a bit of persuading, but eventually, we all headed up to the galley.

Thursday, 4 November 2004
I went to midrats with Tony and Christian, via the dome entrance and snow stairs. The whole way, I was wishing I had my sunglasses with me. The selections were great - Salmon in Vinegarette, Wild Rice, Green Chile Stew, Cornbread, and the best Potato Salad I've had down here (made with fresh potatoes, not the spongy frozen ones). I sat with Tony and Christian, and a few others who joined us at the table. I ate, finished, then went back down to the dome to watch a couple of "Sopranos" eps with Tony before crashing.

I woke up between the frequent early morning all calls, and got down to the back of Science to find myself the first one in. The very first thing I did when I got on the computer was to check the election results back home. Nothing but sad news. Folks started trickling in and the place filled up.

After working on various software-related things in the morning, I looked at my watch and realized that the plane was about to land (I hadn't heard an all call for the plane's approach). I ran out to the flight deck, and arrived to see the incoming PAX disembarking. As I waited to greet Thomas and Christin, two more members of the SWAMP team, I saw a couple of familiar faces go by, Michael, someone I've known since my first visit to Pole in 1996, and Matthew, a weather guy from the AMRC in Madison that I've known even longer. Klas helped me drag handcarries up to the new station where Beth was waiting with room assignments and a quick orientation over in the quiet reading room.

I went up to the galley to wait for Thomas and Christin, and ended up talking to Michael for a bit about seasons past, especially this winter. When people started trickling in, I went back downstairs to find Per Olof talking to Thomas and Christin. We went upstairs, put parkas away, and queued for lunch - Tilapa in Vera Cruz Sauce, Rice, Asparagus, and Shepherd's Pie with Tofu. Christian, and then Henry joined us at the second table from the door. Henry, having been roused at 05:00 to fix a problem with the network (fiber severed by demolition activities in the El Dorm), left the table to go back to his room to crash. The rest of us went down to the dome.

It was a nice day for a walk outside, -61.6°F (-52.0°C) and 6 knots. I got back to Science, and dug into a few things that needed my attention. Darryn stopped by Science for a bit; he's looked better. The flu must have really hit him hard. He didn't stay long. Shortly after he went back up to his room, there was a fire alarm, a false alarm in the new power plant. After things calmed down, Tony came by to see who was ready for dinner; we all went up with him.

Tonight's selection was Cuban-style Pork, (whipped flake, not fresh) Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Squash/Zucchini blend, and Black Bean Stew. I ate at a table full of summer people; Henry joined us. We ate, then dispersed. I went down to the dome to work on stuff. It was nice to get out of my carhartts and relax.

Ready for a break, I checked out the bar - nearly empty, just Christian and a couple of guys I didn't know. A few minutes later, Rudy stuck his head in the door; he was outside in the Upper Galley with Aimee, Krissy, Kai, Anna, Dave, and Nathan, for a going-away party for Kai and Anna (they are GAs, and were only here for a couple of weeks until the Polie GAs could get in for the summer). We looked over the board games on the shelf at the other side of the room, and the girls pulled out "Cranium". Nathan pulled out a bottle of champagne for a round of toasts and photos.

With the festivities duly inaugurated, we commenced to start the game. I'd seen it around, but never played it. With as many people as we had, we split up into two teams, a good arrangement. Our team won the first game; the other team won the second. One of the funniest bits was when Anna was supposed to be impersonating 'Jacques Cousteau', and started off by saying "I'm a painter... I'm a painter...wait... I'm not a painter" (she never did figure out how to pantomime being an Oceanographer). From there, we migrated into the bar for some dancing. With such a large crowd, we took over the place for a while, until it was time for midrats. I think the GAs went off to do photos at the Pole; I hung around the bar and watched an episode of "The Sopranos" with Tony, before crashing for the night.

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