October across the Globe

    October 2007      
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Sunday, 14 October 2007

The party was still going strong when Susan got off work and showed up at midnight. I popped in a "Star Trek" disc for Tom, and a few of us watched "Devil in the Dark" and "The Doomsday Machine", then it was late enough that folks went on home. I set the alarm for 07:30 and crashed hard, surrounded by cats (for once, not staying up the entire night before departing).

I awoke on my own at 06:00 and tried not to fall back asleep. I got up for real just after 07:00 and went back to packing. Erin got up sometime after 09:00, and made a Burger King run. We munched on their usual breakfast fare, then I went back to packing. I was running short on time, so I never did make it over to 4th to pick up a few items. I guess I'll have to tell someone how to find them, and try to get them shipped.

I finished packing right about on-time to leave, and loaded the car. I was worried that one suitcase might have been too heavy, but I figured I could deal with that at the counter if I had to. The drive was easy on a Sunday morning, Erin took the car to go park it; I dragged my bags to the checkout counter. They tried to wave me over to the self-serve kiosks, but decided to try and help me when I showed them the excess baggage coupon. With less hassle than some years (none of my bags were close to the limit), I was checked in and free to wander. Erin and I had a farewell lunch over at Max and Erma's, then we wandered over to the security line and said a long goodbye.

There was nobody in front of me at the security line, so I cleared it quickly. I waited at the gate, and called my buddy Bill. We talked for a bit; I wished him luck with the impending layoffs at AOL, then it was time to board. The flight to Chicago was on a CRJ - about the size of an Embraer 145 - and was fine except for a lack of under-seat stowage. Once we landed, it took a long time to get our hand-carry back at the top of the jetway, but I was finally off.

On the boards, I could see that we already had a 45-minute delay for the Chicago-to-LAX flight. I called the emergency travel number, and they told me that if I missed my Auckland flight, there was a later LAX-to-Sydney flight I could catch. I settled in and paid for a one-day Boingo pass to be able to get on the 'net while I waited. Erin called me back, and we talked for a bit. Our inbound plane was even later than projected. I spent about an hour online before it was time to board. I boarded and took my seat (an up-front aisle!), then read and napped my way to LA.

I disembarked quickly, once we landed, and headed straight over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The walk was quick, but the lines almost out the door when I reached the Qantas counters. Fortunately for me, I got whisked out of the check-in line and sent straight to the security line. In the past, we had to exchange our American boarding passes for Qantas, but that doesn't seem to be a requirement anymore. I would like to have been able to stop at the Sushi booth, as I have done most years, but there just wasn't time. The security line moved quite slowly - there were several elderly folks in line, and even more folks whose native language was not English (I think there was a flight to the Philippines or Singapore leaving about the same time as ours), leading to even more delays in line. Eventually, I cleared security and made the hike to the gates.

By the time I arrived at our gate, they were already boarding first and business class. I took a last opportunity to charge my laptop before boarding, then got in line when my section was called. I found my seat quickly, wedged into the middle of a row, and waited. Once we were all boarded, there were periodic announcements that a passenger missed the connection, but his luggage was aboard. 45 minutes later, they located his bags and extracted them from the hold, and we were cleared to take off.

The flight was the usual experience - smashed into tiny seats with drinks, dinner service, etc, all pretty much on schedule. I was disappointed to see my usual selection of "Asian Vegetarian" replaced with a Vegan meal, but I was able to swap it out for some rubbery chicken (still a dramatic improvement over ratatouille). I ate, watched part of some movie on the seat-back on-demand system, then fell asleep while watching the map channel.

Tuesday, 15 October 2007

15 October was misplaced somewhere over the central Pacific.

Wednesday, 16 October 2007

As the flight progressed, I slept, I chatted with the folks on either side of me, I watched movies on the seat-back ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", "Shrek III"...) Finally, we approached Auckland. My Vegan breakfast wasn't too bad, but the omelette-loaf the other folks had looked pretty good. From my position near the front of the plane, I was able to dash off fairly quickly and get through the passport control line. Getting baggage took a little while, but not too long, then a quick trip past customs, through the MAF X-ray, then out of the terminal.

I walked with Tex to the domestic terminal. It was warmer than I was expecting, especially for it being just after sunrise. We were all set to check in for the flight to Christchurch, but found ourselves surrounded by a batch of travellers from some church group that was running out of time to check in for their flight to Wellington. We let them pass, then finally got to the counter ourselves. For once, I didn't have a problem checking in, but for some reason, Tex did. I spotted another person I knew from the Ice; I think I know her from Pole or from the BFC, but this year, she's going down to be a field-camp manager. We all made our way upstairs to the boarding lounge to await our final leg.

The boarding went quickly, and we were off. Unlike in the U.S., on Qantas, we got a hot drink and a snack (cheese and crackers or a "chocolate slice"), even though the flight was barely over an hour. We landed, deplaned, claimed our bags, and walked over to the CDC. Since it wasn't a big travel day for the Program, the CDC was nearly deserted when we arrived. Tex and I spent an hour shuffling our luggage to get ready to ship stuff down on Thursday, then went over to the Travel office to get online and catch up on e-mail.

Mid-afternoon, or so, we called the shuttle company for a ride into town. The promised 10 minutes turned out to be closer to 30, but we were eventually picked up. The fare from the CDC went from $5 NZ to $10 NZ, with these concession fare tickets we had to keep track of (but at least we have a reciept). We rode down to Armagh Street, dropping Tex off at The Windsor, me at The Devon.

Sandy was there to greet me. It was good to see her again. I hauled my rolly-bag and laptop up to my room (number 5, on the front of the building), and unpacked what little I had drug with me from the CDC. The Devon now has wireless, so I jumped on the 'net and sent a few e-mails. I also spotted Gold on Google Chat and pinged him. He suggested we catch lunch. After chomping through a bit of my e-mail backlog, I shut down and headed down to Manchester Street.

Gold's new digs were just a block or so off of what I usually think of as the main part of the downtown Christchurch area. I met him in his office, then we walked down the block to Joji's Sushi. He was working his way down the menu and had gotten to the $9 NZ sashimi lunch. That sounded really good, so we both ordered the same. He caught me up on how his new consulting business was going; I told him stories of my career as a consultant. After lunch, he went back to work, I went on a short walk-about to hunt for Asian delicacies for Sushi Night sometime in the middle of winter.

I found a new mostly-Japanese market just around the corner. They had several items I was interested in, but some of the prices seemed a bit high. I walked back to The Devon, then over to the Asian Food Warehouse for the first round of shopping. I found many things at quite reasonable prices, especially in the light of being able to send them down to the Ice for free (via Guard Mail). Going over my haul back at the Devon, Gold called me and asked if I had any plans for the night. He offered to pick me up and see the new flat.

When we got to the new flat (only a few blocks away from the old one), Luci was home, but I didn't see Seth. We all caught up on what we've all been up to over the past year, then got pretty hungry. Luci picked up the tab for an order from Hell Pizza. We each ordered a small pizza to our preferences; mine was the "Mordor" (Chicken, Bacon, Capsicum (Green Pepper for you Yanks), Onions, Pepperoni, and Smokey BBQ sauce). We got an order of "Hell Dogs" to split. I really wish we could get a Hell Pizza in the States - normally, I'm really tired of pizza from getting it week in and week out at the Pole, but Hell Pizza is so unlike the stuff we get there (or in the States), that it's the one pizza I'm not sick to death of.

We ate and kept swapping stories. At one point, something in the conversation sparked Luci to pop in an episode of the British TV show "Heavy Gear" where they race a Land Rover and a dog sled team from Northern Canada to the North Pole. It was quite entertaining, especially when they kept bogging the Land Rover down in slush and cracks in the sea ice. Finally, around 22:00, the travel caught up with me and I started nodding off in mid-sentence. Gold took me home and I was asleep mere minutes later.

Thursday, 17 October 2007

I got up for breakfast around 08:45 or so, and ordered my usual - toast, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, tea. Late into the breakfast hour, Angus, Sandy's Westie, came snuffling through the breakfast room, looking for fallen manna. I had forgotten how large he was - probably twice as wide as Erin's Alistair. I finished a second pot of tea, then headed into the middle of town to do some more shopping for winter goodies. I took lunch at the Samurai Bowl. They had a daily special for $9 NZ that I was unfamiliar with, but looked good - I forget the name, but it was much like a negi-hamachi bowl (yellowtail sashimi with spring onions), but with local salmon. It was really good. I'm glad I ordered it, because apparently, I got the last serving of it for the day. I savored each bite, then when it was all gone, I wandered down to the South City Mall. In addition to various local delicacies (like the ingredients for "Kiwi Dip"), I spotted a nice collection of Belgian beers going for between $8 NZ and $10 NZ. I didn't want to cart them around all day just to get warm, but unfortunately, I never got back there to pick any up for tonight.

Toting several grocery bags, I rode the free Yellow Bus back to the stop nearest The Devon, then walked over to the Asian Food Warehouse for my big buy. I got Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono), Sushi Rice, Udon Noodles, and more. I had three sacks and a large bag of rice to walk back. By the time I returned to The Devon, I didn't have much time to get cleaned up and out the door again.

I dropped off the groceries, grabbed my laptop, then headed towards the Bus Exchange to catch the number 11 bus to Barrington Mall. The ride was quick, so I had time to stop off at the Countdown and pick up some beverage for the evening - since I was still longing for Belgian beer, I picked up a bottle of Kriek. The one Fish and Chips shop around the corner was open. Dinner was a fillet, plus some mushrooms and squid rings and a half-scoop of chips - $4.20 NZ, my cheapest meal in NZ yet. By the time I got through all of that, it was just past 19:00, and I headed up Frankleigh Road to Matt and Belle and Phil's place.

It was turning colder - probably about +41F° (+5C°), and windy. I came through the gate, let myself in, and found everyone in the TV lounge. Things started off quiet and built up. I ate my fish and chips and swapped stories with Matt, mostly. Phil and I talked about The Kingdom of Loathing, and he pointed out someone else in the room who also still plays. Charlene came in and we swapped stories - she was especially curious how Pennsic went this year. I told her tales of rain and mud. Matt was watching some odd bodice-ripping adventure program. I never did catch many details, but I think it might have been set in Colonial India in the late 19th Century. Enough folks had arrived that they started to congregate in the front room. I bopped between the two rooms visiting with various folks. Gold stopped by, but Luci wasn't feeling well. I'm glad I got a chance to visit with her last night. Before long, it was getting late for most folks. Gold again gave me a ride back to The Devon, and I didn't last long before I crashed hard.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

I woke up earlier than yesterday, and made my way down to breakfast by 08:30. Charlie was there, so I sat with him. We fielded Antarctic questions from the other guests. It was raining, so after eating, I took my time gathering my gear for the day, but it just wasn't letting up - a steady, cold drizzle. Tex stopped by to see about transport times to the CDC. Sandy knew how much weight I had to haul around, and offered all of us a ride at 11:45. Tex went off to run a quick errand, and so did I (more Asian food shopping). We returned at the appointed hour, loaded up Sandy's SUV, and headed out to the airport via Papanui Road.

I'd never gone out that way, but the first part was familiar. We turned left near the Post Office facility, and snuck up on the CDC from the other direction. Tex and I spent about an hour re-shuffling our stuff, then it was time for the briefing. There were a few new things, like no liquids in hand-carry bags, just like the States now; but most of the information was the same as for every other deployment I've done. When they cut us loose, I went around the corner to drop off my laptop for inspection, then back to the clothing issue room to try everything on.

At least this time, they did get my job and winter status correct. I still had a pile of things to turn in (mittens, the wrong style of expedition-weight thermals, the wind pants, and more). Also, for once, I didn't have to request the light-weight red windbreaker that I like to wear in McMurdo in January for R&R. After much luggage shuffling, I filled two large boxes to send down via Guard Mail, and had my checked bags all set. I took my Guard Mail over to the APO, along with a present for Erin, and sent them on their way. With any luck, I'll see those boxes before Thanksgiving.

I plugged my laptop in over at the Travel office, and caught up on the morning's e-mail backlog. After a while, I showed Tex where to wait for the bus - 8 minutes to go, according to the timer gizmo on the pole. If I'd been quicker, we could have caught the Number 10 bus in front of the Antarctic Centre, but I had calculated that we'd already missed it by two minutes and that there was no point in waiting for it there (much to my regret as we saw it whiz past, 3 minutes late). The actual "Airport" bus arrived more-or-less on-time, and for the usual Metrocard fare of $1.90 NZ, we were off. We ran into Sheri at the Russley Road stop - she had walked down a bit to avoid paying the airport-area cash fare of $7.00 NZ (it's only $2.50 NZ cash for all the "in town" stops). We caught up on the latest news from Pole on our 30 minute bus ride, until finally, she got off at The Square, and Tex and I got off at the Bus Exchange. Two Fat Indians was just around the corner, and we arrived just as they were opening for dinner.

They seated us by the fire, and we were off with drinks (Lassi and a draft Monteith's). So much on the menu looked good, but we finally decided to do the "Silver Banquet" for two - $36 NZ each, plus our drinks. It was spectacular. We had two lamb dishes and one chicken dish, plus starters, rice, and naan. We could have easily fed a third person from what they put in front of us. Next time, I'll have to do this when I'm staying at a place with a fridge and can take home the left-overs.

It was nearly 20:30 when we were finished. We walked back to Armagh Street and called it a night. Tomorrow starts way too early.

Friday, 19 October 2007

I woke up on my own, really early, well before 03:00. I checked my e-mail on the wireless network, put the kettle on, and helped Erin with a Perl question via IM. Before long, it was time to leave for the airport. I hauled my bags downstairs. Charlie K. was already waiting. We talked for a bit, and at one point, I thought I heard the squeal of brakes out front, but there was nobody there. When it was 10 minutes past transport time, I called the shuttle company and they said they didn't have booking for us. They said they'd send someone when they could, and we went back to waiting. Sandy heard me moving around and came out to see what was up. She kept an ear out for the shuttle, and Charlie and I got ready to haul our gear out to the curb.

Finally, just before 05:00, the shuttle came back for us. We said our goodbyes to Sandy and were off. At that hour, it was a quick trip to the CDC, delivering us right into the middle of the deployment chaos. I threw my gear on, got in the baggage check line, and got my boarding pass, one of the last four or five in the stack. I thought I had enough time for breakfast, so I headed across the way to the Antarctic Centre, only to find a huge line and 20 minutes left before they locked the boarding lounge.

Slowly, I worked my way to the front of the line and was one of the last customers served. I grabbed a quick ham and egg and cheese english muffin ($5.50 NZ) and returned to the CDC with some of the Air Guard folks. We milled around for a bit, then they popped in the departure video. From various scenes of Pole, I could tell it hadn't been updated since about 2003 or 2004. We all milled around a bit longer, with the drug dog making sweeps through the departure lounge, then we queued up for screening prior to boarding. With all the buckles and rivets and snaps on our ECW gear, most of us failed the metal detector. They were prepared for that and wanded us through. I stopped at the door to grab a box lunch (the "Deluxe Picnic" in my case, apparently), then boarded the transport bus as the sun was beginning to rise over the buildings.

One 3-minute, crowded bus ride later, we were moving right to the C-17. I think we were the second or third busload to get aboard. Most of the good seats in the center seat pallets were already taken, so I opted for a side seat near the middle of the plane, right behind the last of the center seats, in front of some large milvan marked for the Long Duration Balloon guys. I was tired enough that I started nodding off as soon as I sat down, and awoke a couple of times while we taxied around (including taxiing back to deal with a minor maintenance problem). Finally, though, we got to the runway, the engines spun up, and I was hurled sideways in the takeoff roll.

I slept through most of the flight, and ate part of my flight lunch (the pasta salad was especially heinous). I finally woke up enough to realize I should visit the lavatory while I had the chance, but noticed a second line - a line to visit the flight deck. We had about an hour left in the flight, and it seemed that folks were taking about 5-10 minutes each. I calculated that if I got to go, it would be a close call, and I was right. The folks in front of us chewed through so much time that I only had about two minutes before we were asked to swap out for the next batch. There wasn't much to look at - flat white, mostly - but I do enjoy the chance to see out on our flights. Getting through the restroom line, I got back to my seat as they were asking us to strap in for the descent.

We landed and taxiied for a while, then finally came to a stop and began to deplane, slowly. I was one of the last PAX to get outside. It was a nice day, probably close to +0.0F° (-17.8C°), with sun and not much wind. We were herded to the various transport vehicles. I decided to stop in the line for Ivan, the Terrabus, since I hadn't been on Ivan in many years. It was just as crowded and bumpy as I remember, but at least it was quick (the Ice Runway was right in front of the station). It dropped us off between The Chalet and Crary. We all headed into Crary, and went upstairs for our in-brief.

Most of what the NSF Rep had to say was familiar, but there were a few changes. One that I noticed was that there's now an elaborate system involving a "party pack" to check out Hut 10, not that I'll be doing that myself this trip. After the main part of the in-brief, the Grantees split off to get our re-deployment forms (not that they matter for us winter-overs), then we all got called back to the main area so BK could fill us in on the latest happenings at Pole. Two Basler flights had already made it in, with the next one scheduled for Saturday at 08:00. Two of the 2007 winter-overs came out on the Basler today and were heading North on the C-17 that we just climbed off of. There's a trip to Cape Evans on Sunday afternoon, with an emphasis on getting Polies to go. I made sure that Tex got on the Cape Evans trip, and I said not to put my name above any new folks, since I've been more than once. I picked up my housing packet (Dorm 207), and grabbed my handcarry.

Over at my room, I discovered that my McMurdo roommate was someone I know from Pole, Chris, one of the FEMC supervisors. I dropped off my handcarry and headed up to the MCC, and it was a total zoo - checked bags everywhere, all the cubbies full... chaos. I moved a pair of boots into a cubbie with some dirty dishes (!!!) and shoved my larger items into that. There was no place for my orange bags, so I hopped on a shuttle and hauled them upstairs.

It was somewhere between -1.0F° and +8.0F° (-18.3C° and -13.3C°), way too hot for a Polie in Carhartts and FDX boots. I changed into jeans and sneakers and headed over to the computer kiosk area in B-155 to check my mail, etc. Before long, it was time for dinner. The good news is that it was Lamb Chops. I grabbed a plate and looked around the Galley for somewhere to sit. I saw lots of familiar faces, including a few from my first winter (it still amazes me how many folks I see from 1995 that are still coming to the Ice). I sat with Amy and Carol in the tiny back room in the corner of the galley, then sat with Mike B. (the refrigerator tech from 1995) over dessert. When we'd swapped enough stories and the Galley was clearing out, I headed over to Gallagher's.

The place was empty, even the Burger Bar, so I went straight over to the Coffee House, which was teeming with Polies. A single-shot latte was only $1.50, and the big surprise was getting served by Kevin, yet another 1995 winter-over (who's been working summers in the Heavy Shop" for the past few years). We caught up over the past few seasons, and swapped a few stories about folks we knew in common (like Guy T.), then I went over to sit with "Doctor Bahls" and Erik and some other Polies. My first seat was a floor-mount speaker because there just weren't any empty chairs. Closer to closing time, some seats opened up and I settled in. One of the other surprises was running into Damien. I last saw him a year ago at Pole, on my way out. He just finished the winter here, and is scheduled to leave around 15 November - he'll probably be the last 2007 winter-over left when he does. Jeri and Allan came in and joined my table. Jeri bought a bottle of wine to share all around, and we stayed until a little past closing time. From the Coffee House, I took my laptop over to the B-155 Kiosk and plugged in to try to keep current on my e-mail.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Matt D., one of the guys I've known down here the longest, stopped by the B-155 Kiosk area. We caught up on what we'd been up to over the past couple of seasons, then Jeri and a couple other folks I know stopped by to check their e-mail while waiting for their laundry across the hall. After I'd caught up on my own e-mail, I headed out for my room.

It was darker outside than I was expecting. The sun was as low as it was going to get tonight, but the surprise was how deep the twilight colors were this late in the Summer. Town itself was in a bit of a dusky shadow, but there was still a bright glow from behind the Transantarctics. I got inside Dorm 207, and stopped through the various lounges on a hunt for books to read, but came up empty handed. I finally retired to my room, and despite trying to stay up to write, fell asleep moments after my head hit the pillow.

Awake at 06:30, I tottered over to B-155 for breakfast, ordered an omelette, and sat at a large table with Wayne (the guy whose brother is a neutrino researcher in South Africa). As I was finishing breakfast, they were starting driver training in the Galley, so I went down to the manifest board to find a 24 hour weather delay posted. On the bright side, I'm now on the fourth Basler flight, and have bag drag today at 16:30.

I remembered to run up to the Post Office to buy some 2-cent stamps, and while I was already at B-140, I stopped up at Central Supply and was finally able to get a stack of those field notebooks that I like to use at Pole. After stopping back down at my room to organize my stuff for later, I spent the next bit of the morning at the B-155 computer kiosk area, then had to head over to the fire house for some supplimental fire training.

I arrived pretty much at 09:00 (even if Dave the Firefighter busted my chops for being "40 seconds late" - in return, I did point out to him that the last time I looked, there were still 60 seconds in a minute). Amy, Tex, Carol, and Chris (the cook, not my roommate) were already there. We went upstairs to pull bunker gear, then went outside to play with the large, wheeled fire extinguishers. Unfortunately we didn't get to fire any of them off, but we did get a feel for how heavy they are and how hard it is to coil and uncoil a cold hose. Back inside, we went over MSX SCBA gear, and drags, especially dragging fellow responders out of bad environments by their SCBA harnesses. Then, we geared up and broke into two teams and practiced rescues up in the bunkhouse.

Amy and Tex went first. Carol, Chris and I waited downstairs, and waited, and waited. We were sure that if they had really been on air, they'd have run out long ago. Finally they came back down. Apparently, they had some communications problems and had some difficulty getting the victim out of the room. They rehydrated and recouperated, and it was our turn. We put on our masks and blacked them out with our nomex hoods, and went upstairs.

We designated Chris as the team leader; I took the middle, and Carol was in the back. Chris was hard to keep up with, so I did it more by voice than by touch. When we got to the door, Carol stayed behind as our anchor while Chris and I searched the room. I remembered to search both levels of the bunk bed. A couple of times, I heard the victim cough. I had to just about grab Chris to get him to listen, but we did find the victim and started to get them out. Mostly, I didn't want to injure him (since this was a drill), but we managed to drag/push/pull him out, snagging only once on the furniture. We got him out into the hallway, then stood down from the drill.

The room was very different visually. What I had thought was a shallow closet was some odd wall feature only a few inches deep. As always, the room itself seemed much larger blacked-out than it really was. Overall, Firefighter Dave was pleased with our efforts. We returned our gear, then headed out to lunch - Chicken Pot Pie or Hot Pastrami Sandwiches. I ate, then headed over to Medical for my respirator exam. The paperwork took more time to do than the exam itself (which was little more than blowing into a tube three times and recording the deflection of the needle). With that out of the way, I went around the corner to the Dive Recompression Chamber to get the initial assessment for the Mayo Clinic's Altitude Study.

There were already some Polies in there, but I didn't wait long. For a baseline, they take weight and fat/water amounts via an electronic scale, get rest heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation, standing heart rate, etc., plus various lung pressure readings via a spirometer, and, the part that gave them their nickname at Pole (the "bloodsuckers"), several tubes of blood. I'll have to repeat all of this after a couple of days at altitude, so they can compare the changes. On top of this, there's a packet of questionaires to fill out - one before leaving, one on the plane, one before bed the first night, then one per morning for a week. I also get to wear a pulse oximeter/datalogger overnight for one night at sea level, and three nights at altitude. Other folks get to wear an activity logger on their arm, and still others get to sleep in a "Life Shirt" that measures and logs lots of different data overnight. I was pleased to confirm that my rest pulse is still in the upper fifties, and that my blood pressure is still more than 10 points lower than it was a few years ago.

With all of my medical appointments done for the day, I went back to my room to pack for bag drag. I finished with plenty of time to call a shuttle so that I didn't have to haul several large bags and all of my ECW gear up to B-140. I had forgotten that Susie, the sister of someone else who works for IceCube, works in Mactown. She checked me in quickly, and I caught a shuttle back down the hill to my room. After a quick shower (long by South Pole standards), I went over to the Galley to find Steak, Roast Potatoes, and the largest bowl of salad I've seen in a long time. I grabbed a seat in the pit area with a couple of folks I knew, but the tales of the days before Antarctic Support Associates that were drifting over from the other table kept pulling me over. I tried to figure out if I knew the storyteller, and eventually figured that I must have known him, back in the day. I walked over and he immediately addressed me by name, confirming my suspicions. Embarassingly, I had to ask him his name - Mike. That was enough to jog my memory. We didn't winter together, but I did remember him from one of my first two seasons on the Ice (in my defense, he did change the style of his facial hair). We swapped couple of tales from ten years ago, then I returned to my original table with Myrna and the other Mike-the-UT (the one I wintered with in 1995). I hung out in the galley chatting with various folks until the place started to fill up for some film festival involving lots of mountain and rock climbing (a big deal for lots of folks here, but not for me). I escaped to Gallagher's.

Caesar, one of the summer cooks from 2005-2006, was around the bar from the corner seat (he's been coming to Mactown since he left Pole). We talked a bit until yet another Mike (I think he's new this season), spotted my IceCube T-shirt, and asked about the project. He had apparently read a bit on neutrinos and was able to ask some rather well directed questions about our project. After providing a little edutainment to the other patrons, I took a try at the multi-arcade game machine behind us. It was set to free play, a bonus, but only had about a dozen classic games on it, and, unfortunately, though it had a trackball, none of the classic trackball games (Missile Command, Centipede, etc.) used it. It's really hard to play those games with a joystick. I tried out about half the games, then got kinda bored with it and went over to the Coffee House.

The place was packed. I ordered a single-shot latte and visited various tables to talk with folks I know. They closed around 22:00, so I went back to Gallagher's, which is open much later on Saturday nights.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I went from the Coffee House back to Gallagher's to find it a lot more crowded than it was earlier. The music had improved as well. Some folks were even dancing in the aisles. I watched a bit of the air hockey action, then threw darts for a bit. The dartboard is by the door, so I caught Chris, my roommate, on his way out. We talked for a while about flights and when we are going to get out of here, then some time later, I walked home myself.

It was a bit dim out, but not the dusky blues of last night. We are close to the last sunset of the summer right about now, and each night I'm here will be less and less "night-like" (but I won't see the sun over the mountains at midnight until I come back through in January). Chris was still awake when I got back to the room; he was watching "Enter the Dragon". We watched through the end of one of the famous fight scenes, then turned off the TV and called it a night.

I woke mid-morning and organized my ECW Gear for later. On TV, the scroll said that the third Basler flight was delayed 24 hours, which means that I won't be leaving until Tuesday at the earliest. I dragged my ECW with me to Brunch.

It was a typical McMurdo brunch. I picked up a unit of Eggs Benedict and some Turkey Ham from the steam line, then toasted a bagel, and found an empty seat with Henry, Tim, and some other IT folks. They were mostly finished when I sat down, so I ate alone, then went over to the Kiosk to check my mail before the trip to Cape Evans left at noon.

When it was time to go, the foyer was packed solid. Toby gave the pre-departure speech, as I counted heads. There were at least 40 people packed in there - more than enough to fill two Deltas. I waited around outside with a few other stand-by folks, but it was quickly apparent that there were no empty seats. If the third Basler hadn't been delayed past today, there probably would have been room; but I have been to Cape Evans before, and didn't feel right taking a seat from someone who has never been. Back inside, I asked BK about the weather, and she seemed hopeful that the third flight would go tomorrow, but unfortunately, she was going to have to reshuffle the manifests for flights four and five to make room for the asbestos abatement contractors, which meant that Tex and I would probably get bumped to the fifth flight.

After a bit more time on the computer, I went back to the galley for a cup of coffee. I sat with Myrna from the Chalet, and Fleet, the station Dentist. He was very interested in IceCube and wants a look around when he visits Pole next month. When I went back by the Kiosk, all the seats were full, so I went over to Crary. It was a gray day; I could barely see the Ice Runway from town. It took me a few trips down to the PC Techs to get my Mac happy on the Crary wireless network, but eventually, they were successful. I chatted with Erin briefly - she had just gotten home from a long and busy day, and went to bed early.

At dinner, I sat with a few folks I knew, then got back on my laptop until the science lecture. It was about various discoveries from Lake Vostok, and while I was interested in the topic, the presenter wasn't particularly good at holding the audience's attention, and I spaced out through most of it. From the Galley, I went over to Gallagher's, and though it was Burger Night, I was too full for a burger. I ordered some Tater Tots instead, then headed over to the Coffee House and hung out with other Polies, and my old coffee-house buddy Dennis, until closing time. With everything closed, I went back to the room, watched TV for a few minutes, then turned everything off and crashed.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Since I knew I wasn't flying today, I slept in a little, and awoke to Condition 2. The third Basler flght was delayed until 12:30. I made it to the galley at 07:40 to find the entrance hallway barricaded by the plate cart - all I was able to scare up was cold cereal. I returned to my room for my camera, but the weather cleared up to Condition 3, barely. I took a few pictures of town, then checked e-mail. By the time I was mostly caught up, the weather had slipped back to Condition 2. I shot some more pictures, especially of the lights on the pole behind B-155 (white for Condition 2, red for Condition 1, if you can see them when it's that bad out).

Over at lunch, it was a nice Seafood Bisque, with Open-faced Turkey Sandwiches and Whipped Potatoes. I was eating with a bunch of the other Polies, when BK found me to tell me that I was probably going to get bumped from flight 4 to flight 5 to make room for Equipment Operators. The weather didn't improve, so flight 3 was cancelled. I went home for a nap, and slept most of the afternoon.

When I woke up, I called my friend Mike at Scott Base, and arranged to go over for a visit later tonight. The start of the dinner hour was upon me, and I went over to the Galley to find that it was "Pizza Night". Unfortunately, they weren't doing a good job of managing the crush of diners and fresh pies. There were a few slices of some dubious veggie combos, but the simple ones, and especially anything with any meat, were in short supply. When they did finally bring out fresh pizzas, folks descended upon them like a pack of starving animals. The guy in front of me ended up taking about half of one onto two plates. What gets me is that the pizza really isn't any good, but from what I've heard in previous seasons, it's a rare treat in McMurdo, which drives the frenzy.

I ended up with a slice of cheese and a slice of veggie (since there wasn't much competition for them), and a single slice of the coveted pepperoni. As anticipated, the pizza left a lot to be desired. I filled up on soup. Back at my room, called Mike to find that he just wanted to get away from things for a bit and to come over to our side of the hill. We arranged to meet in the Coffee House in a few minutes. I threw on a jacket and headed over, but found a flaw in our plan - just about every Rec activity is closed in McMurdo on Monday nights. I grabbed Mike as he pulled up, and we went to about the only place that was open - the galley, for some conversation and some uninspiring coffee. We swapped stories about the past year (like about him buying a place in Christchurch, around the corner from where he'd been renting), then he had to get the car back to Scott Base. With nothing much to do in town, I went over to the only thing posted on the Rec Board - the Yacht Club meeting at Hut 10.

The meeting started hours before, so by the time I got there, there were only a few die-hards left. I met the remainder of the group, and since I didn't know much about sailing, we compared the similarities between sailing and flying small planes. Someone popped in a video about so-called "Sail Training" courses. It looked like an interesting way to get some time on Tall Ships. After watching that, things kinda broke up. I made my way back to my dorm, walking against some biting wind. Up at the room, Chris was watching "My Super Ex-Girlfriend". It looked amusing, but all I can guess is that it must have come out when I was on the Ice, because it really didn't look familiar. Chris didn't last to the end of the movie, but I watched it to the end, then tried to get on the 'net. That lasted about 5 minutes before I was sound asleep.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

I awoke mid-morning and watched part of "Team America" while I caught up on e-mail. After getting through the priority stuff, I hauled my gear over to the B-155 Kiosk, and spent the rest of the time until lunch on the 'net. By the time it was time to eat, the third Basler flight was delayed about an hour, and there was talk that the C-17 from Christchurch might be delayed as well.

Lunch was some sort of Chicken over Pasta or a Spicy Breaded Fish, which were both good, but the Fries, even the fresh ones, were very soggy. I ate with the Pole IT crowd, then Henry and Jeri ran off to finish packing and report for transport at 13:30. I stayed at the table with Jesse, swapping Pole stories for submarine stories over a cup of coffee. Back down at the Kiosk, I helped Mark the equipment operator with some installation problems of some disk he had. In the end, I was finally able to get him the one tool he needed from the disc, a load balance calculator program for crane loads.

I remembered I needed to mail some stuff home, so I went up the hill to B-140 and the Post Office. It was a quick trip and a nice day for a walk, nearly calm, and probably about +10F° (-12C°). I returned for the Kiosk, then checked e-mail on one of the Station machines while I waited for a laptop spot. About an hour later, I was finally able to move, but then less than an hour after that, it was time for dinner.

It was Asian Night, but I should learn not to expect that Asian food here matches the posted names (like the peanut-sauce noodles that are invaraiably labelled "Padd Thai"). Tonight, the "Ma-Po Tofu" bore zero resemblence to its namesake. I grabbed some "Fried Rice" and Marinated Flank Steak, and sat with BK and some other Polies. Shana the Fuelie that I know from prior seasons at Pole, joined us. For dessert, I moved over to a different table of Polies, next to yet another table of Polies, new arrivals on today's C-17 in this case, Craig the UT I wintered with in 2006, and Jay the Physician's Assistant from the past couple of summers. Craig is only deploying for the Summer this time, and Jay is just down for a few weeks to fill in until the Summer PA arrives. It's good to see them both.

After dinner, I went over to Crary for the Safety Lecture. I arrived early and got a good seat. The place was packed by 19:30. We watched a PowerPoint presentation and a video about recreational travel and hazards in the area. There was a short question and answer sessions, the most intersting part of which was identifying where the video was out-of-date. On my way out, I spotted a helo popping out of the low clounds and brining a slung-load back to the helo pad. The odd overcast layer was still hanging around - we could see the base of the mountains, but not any of the peaks.

I dragged my laptop over to the Coffee House and got on-line via an unclaimed LAN jack. I alternated writing with hanging out with various groups of Polies (who collectively constituted about a third of the people present). Up at the bar, I ran into Craig the UT while waiting for another latte. We caught up some more about what we'd been up to since he left Pole on the Basler a year ago. Even with all of the conversation, I managed to write up and post several days worth of my trip so far. I left just after closing time, and headed back to the room. Chris was still up, watching TV. We talked about the flights and were hopeful that the fourth Basler flight would depart tomorrow, making us next. I had wanted to go out around 02:00 to photograph town in the low light, but I was so tired when I went to bed that I was sure I'd sleep right through any interesting photo opportunities.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

I was up at 06:30 and tried to get on the 'net, but the wireless hotspot was throwing hairballs again. I took that as a sign and went back to sleep.

The phone woke me at 09:00. I had tried to answer it, thinking that it might be related to flights, but they hung up after the first ring. I threw on some clothes and headed across the way to B-155 to check the manifest boards - no change. It was snowy out, a bit on the warm side, but not windy. The Coffee House has morning open hours on Wednesdays and Fridays. I headed over that way for a latte and to check my e-mail. Morning Coffee Hours were over around 10:00. I packed up and walked out to find the Airporter disgorging its passengers at Derelect Junction, not a good sign. I asked what was up, and they said their flight was cancelled due to weather (it was about +5F° (-15C°), snowy, with light winds right now, but was forecast to turn sour sometime in the next few hours). I had to wait for a spot in the Kiosk to get online, but eventually, someone vacated a seat.

I chatted with Erin when she got home from work, until it was time for lunch here. The Galley was serving up "Mexican Day" with a Burrito Bar. I picked a filling that was vaguely like a Barbacoa, topped it with lots of Green Onions (a rarity down here) and sat with Jesse and some other folks that I knew. After lunch, back at the Kiosk, I grabbed the open laptop spot next to Tex, and updated my view of the maps of the spread of the San Diego fires to see if my Dad was in the danger area (close, but so far, so good). It was suddenly time for me to go over to the Dive Chamber to pick up my Nonin "wrist watch" Pulse Oximeter and Datalogger for my part in the Altitude study. The Mayo Clinic folks finally got N-sized batteries in, and they handed me a "Nonin" and I was back out the door in a flash.

Back over at the Kiosk, someone was posting flyers for a "Support Meeting" forPSNAP (Polies Still Not At Pole), tonight at Gallagher's. Tex disappeared to take a nap; I almost did the same, but stayed on the 'net until dinnertime - Beef Stroganoff w/Black Bean and Pork Soup (Cuban, perhaps?). I ate with Tex and some folks I didn't know, then went to check the Manifest Board. They had totally reshuffled the fourth flight to make room for some of the Galley Staff, and the Asbestos Abatement Contractors who will be cleaning up the Old Power Plant Building prior to its removal. The asbestos guys have two PAX worth of gear, leaving only about 15 spots on the plane and bumping some folks to the fifth flight. As of right now, I'm still on the fifth flight, but Tex is not. If the fourth flight doesn't launch tomorrow, there will probably not be a fifth Basler flight, and I'll probably fly out with Tex on the first Herc of the season.

I dropped by Gallagher's and the Burger Bar and indulged in a small Burger. I ran into Woody, a Science Carpenter I knew from way back, who, like me, had taken a few seasons off and was getting back to the Program. We reminisced about the mid-1990s (his first season was 1988), and caught up on recent events as more and more Polies showed up for the PSNAP "meeting". All of us Polies swapped our bumping and travel woe stories for a while until the crowd started to thin out a bit. I chatted with Damien, who was at Pole last summer, but spent the Winter at McMurdo. He's been on the Ice for over a year, but isn't scheduled to re-deploy until the middle of next month.

From Gallagher's I dropped by the Coffee House to caffeineate a bit, and ran into Woody again, sitting with BK and a few other folks. I talked with BK a bit about the delays and the bumping, and got to hear some of the priorities she's juggling which helped take the sting out of being here for a week. When that crowd broke up, I moved down the coffee bar to talk to Dennis for a while, then back to B-155 and the Kiosk. Tex was either still there or there again. I parked next to him and wrote for a while.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

After writing into the wee hours, I went back to my room, put the Nonin datalogger on for the study, then crashed. Every once in a while, I'd wake up, roll over, check the numbers, then go back to sleep.

I woke up mid-morning and checked the scroll. Today's flight was CNXed, but it looks like the Basler was reassigned to the WAIS Divide mission, meaning that it won't have to go there on Saturday, and, perhaps, we'll still get two more Basler flights in before next week.

I walked over to B-155 to check the manifest board - the signs are good for a Saturday flight. There was also an announcement for a Polie all-hands meeting in the Coffee House to answer questions about flights and such, followed by a screening of "Manmade: The South Pole Project", the National Geographic special they've been filming for four seasons.

Lunch was Chicken or Tofu wraps or Swiss Steak. I opted for the steak with some Mac and Cheese (since pasta really doesn't cook well at Pole, due to the altitude). I couldn't find an open spot at the tables that were full of the people I knew well, so I sat at a mostly-empty table with one other Polie I kinda knew, Jeff, a beaker with the South Pole Telescope. We talked about our respective projects, our busy summer schedules for maintenance and upgrades, and what it's like to walk to and from the Dark Sector in the dark of Winter.

I filled the early part of the afternoon at the Kiosk, then went back to my room to tidy up for room inspection, and to grab a shower. I arrived at the Coffee House just before 16:00 and it was packed. There was a seat at a table in the back of the room, but at least a dozen people arrived after I did. Once the crowd settled down, BK filled us in on the latest news - the Basler did go to WAIS today, and we would have a scheduled flight (my flight, hopefully) to Pole on Saturday. There is even a small chance of a Sunday flight to finish out the pre-season schedule.

After the informational part of the meeting, my roommate Chris popped in a copy of the National Geographic special, and most folks stuck around to watch. It was as artificially over-dramatized as I'd heard, but I did get to see plenty of familiar faces including my own (helping to drag the in-ice cable for String 29, our first string of the 2005-2006 season). When the show ended, most of us went over to the Galley for dinner. I grabbed a bit of the Baked Cod and a bit of the Lasagna and sat with Carol and Amy. Since it was Thursday Night, "American Night" at Scott Base, I didn't linger over dinner. I ate, then went home to grab my parka, then went out to wait at the bus stop.

I wasn't sure if the first shuttle of the evening was at 18:30 or 18:45, and I knew it tends to fill up with store shoppers, so I got to Derelict Junction at 18:15. There were already several people waiting including most of the Mayo Altitude Study folks. The crowd grew until the shuttle van pulled up at 18:45. We managed to all pack in, then off we went.

After a bit of a wild ride (I think the driver was new), we pulled up at Scott Base. Everyone else got out for the store; I went in the other entrance to go find Mike. I found him just finishing up his dessert and told him to meet me next door at the Bar when he was done. As early as it was, most of the people there were Scott Base residents. I met a few new folks, and surveyed the new surroundings. They have just finished an extensive rennovation, including changing the shape of their Galley and their Bar, and adding a small quiet lounge off of the one corner of the Galley that used to be little more than a book niche. Mike eventually came in, and we swapped stories about our recent experiences in our respective Antarctic Programs as each shuttle van brought more and more people from over the hill. Eventually, it was so crowded that I thought it might be a good time for a quick tour. Mike showed me around the science lab, to his office, and a few nearby places. By the time we got back to the Bar, the flow of Americans had begun to reverse, so before too much longer, I said my goodbyes and hopped a convenient shuttle ride back to town.

The van dropped me and a few others off near my dorm, but it was still early. I wandered over to Gallagher's for Karaoke Night. I found the song roster and signed up for one of my usual numbers, "Sister Golden Hair Surprise" by America, and hoped I'd make the cutoff before closing time. There were plenty of bad singers on the list, including one guy who spoke the lines to one song rather than sing, but he was only doing it because the video for it was so trippy. I did get to belt out my tune to a largely relieved audience (relieved that I wasn't yet another in the parade of painful singers), and we were at the end. The person running the show played one last song as a group number (I forget what), and that was it. The place cleared out quickly. I went home, watched a few minutes of TV, then turned in.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I was so groggy when I woke up that I forgot they were serving Morning Coffee down at the Coffee House. By the time I remembered, it wasn't worth trying to go. Instead, I checked the scroll (yes, the fourth Basler flight did get out this morning), and fought with the wireless to try to catch up on e-mail and the news from home. One unusual bit was getting to IM with my old buddy Bill from AOL/Compuserve. He's out the door in mid-December with the other 150 people who got laid-off last week. Just like Erin's experience, you can't go back because there's nothing to go back to. Bill was about the last person they'd consider laying off, so if he's gone, it wouldn't have mattered if I'd survived the axe in 2002. I just would have gotten a few more years there and missed out on all of my recent experiences here.

After catching up with Bill and promising to send him some contact names for jobs, I walked over to lunch to find French Dip Sandwiches and some sort of Bean and Cornbread Mexican Casserole. I sat with Rechelle and Tex and a table of other Polies. When the table cleared out, I grabbed a cup of tea and swapped stories with Jesse and Charlie.

After lunch, back at my room, I called Erin (since she can't call me when I'm here), and we talked for a while. When we were finished, I went over to Crary for an empty box and to get online somewhere reliable and quiet. I took the opportunity to photograph the Ice Runway and the mountains from the large windows upstairs, and watched today's C-17 take off. I would have gotten better pictures if I'd had my 1.5X extender lens with me, but I still managed to squeeze out a few nice shots. After I was caught up on my correspondence, I dropped my gear off back at my room and went to dinner.

Tonight was Grilled Pork Chops and real (not pre-frozen) Roasted Potatoes. I ate with Holly and his SO Sharona, Kimber and a few other folks that I'd just met. I ran into Cargo Nick on my way out. We wintered together at Pole in 2004, and he's back in Mactown for the summer. From B-155, I dropped off a small box at the MCC, which I'll probably get when the Herc's start flying next week, and rode back in the Taxi Shuttle with Kimber, who just finished bag-drag for tomorrow's Basler flight. I picked up my laptop and camera at my room and went over to the Coffee House for the evening.

The Coffee House started out deserted, but as I sat in my corner, writing, it filled up, mostly with Polies, unsurprisingly. Tex was there, trying to map some network project with pad and paper; Kimber and a bunch of other Polies came in and took over a double table. Eventually, Mike came over from Scott Base, and for as long as he could stay (he had to get the car back by 21:15), we hung out and talked for was is probably going to be our last chance this year.

When Mike took off, I packed up and went over to Gallagher's to see who was out and about. Surprise, surprise, there were lots of Polies there, too. I sat with Chris and Nick and Dog, the Summer Carpenter Foreman, for a while, and stared at the mural of the Transantarctics from 1989 on the wall behind our table. When Gallagher's started to clear out, I went outside for a few pictures - the light was good, and there were several folks climbing Ob Hill. I stopped by the Coffee House one last time to hang out with the table of Polies, and with Dennis, who was in his usual seat at the end of the coffee bar. At closing time, I hauled my gear back to my room and commenced to pack my handcarry for the flight in the morning.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

I finished packing, checked my e-mail one last time, then crashed.

Spurred by the fear of missing my flight, I was up at 06:00. I collected my hand-carry and went over to B-155 for breakfast. I stood in the egg line for an Onion/Cheese/Bacon/Olive Scramble, and toasted up an English Muffin. We had a 07:30 transport time, so I dragged my stuff up the hill to the MCC to find I had arrived in about the middle of the pack. The room filled up to overflowing, then it was time to climb on the airporters and head to the Ice Runway.

I snapped a couple of pictures of the Basler before we climbed aboard. I've never flown on a tail-dragger before and wasn't used to the up-hill walk from the door to our seats. I found an open window seat over the left wing, and settled in. We off-decked pretty much right on-time, a few minutes past 08:00, and we were away at last!

The view was spectacular. We were flying barely above the tops of the mountains to either side of the glacier. When we moved from 12,000' (3650m) up to 16,000' (4675m), someone in the crew came back and showed us how to plug into the O2 system. We took turns at the windows at the back of the plane, taking pictures of the mountains just off the wingtip. Eventually, perhaps a bit over three hours into the trip, the mountains fell away, and we were over the plateau.

After a bit of flatness, we got near the station. The floating crewmember collected the O2 cannulas, and we buckled in for landing. It was pretty smooth, as ski landings go. We taxied for a short time, and I could see the Dark Sector, and then the Elevated Station as we swung around. There was a huge crowd to greet us - probably most of the station. We dragged our hand-carry bags back to Destination Alpha, and got inside.

I picked up my housing booklet with my assignment slip in it - Beth put me in A1-209 - just down the hall from where I was less than a year ago. I dropped off my gear and decided that I will need to slide some of the furniture around. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think this room is slightly different than my old one - there's a covered beam in one corner, and the desk doesnt' quite fit flush up against the wall with the window. At least I have a window, and at least it looks out on the Dome.

I didn't linger long in my room. It was still lunchtime, and a boxed "Go Picnic" just wasn't enough to carry me through until dinner. Beth was warning the new arrivals not to touch the fresh eggs or the freshies, but everything else was OK. Unfortunately for me, lunch was Fried Chicken with the trimmings (Mashed Potatoes and Greens). I skipped the bird and went for the veggie option, Polenta with Gouda, and a Cucumber-loaded Tabouleh. I sat with Karthik and Kris. I filled Kris in on a bit of news of a couple of our fellow-2004-winter-overs, Dana and Kevin, then headed down to B2.

I was disappointed to find my old desk was unready to move back into, but before I could find a spot to settle into, there was an all call that the Basler was departing. Hoping for some rare pictures, I grabbed my camera and dashed out to the observation deck by Comms. Unfortunately, the contrails were thick on the ground, and the plane turned left from the fuel pit and departed along Grid South. I didn't even see the plane until it was probably half a mile away and climbing. I shot a couple of dim, foggy pictures and headed back inside. It was -64.7F° (-53.7C°) and about 5 knots. Not a bad day for late October, but I'm not acclimated to yet.

I found a workstation in the corner and was trying to catch the last few seconds of the satellite, when the fire alarm rang for the turn-over drill. I tried to keep with Team 2 (the ones in full fire-fighting gear), but I since I hadn't been issued any gear yet, I was worse than a third-wheel. The scenario was a knocked-over lamp in the B3 movie lounge catching the furniture on fire, with the person who knocked it over, unconscious on the floor. From my vantage point down the hall, I tried to take a few pictures, with mixed success. Team 2 finally entered the scene, dragged out the patient, then the Trama Team packaged her up and carried her to Medical. I tried to help get her on the gurney at the top of the stairs, but the flow at the top was uncoordinated enough that about all I was able to do to help was to grab the gurney so it didn't slip. I waited back down at the bottom of the stairs until they called a stand-down.

Up in the galley, during the debrief, the alarm went off again, but strangely, it didn't announce a location. This makes a fire hard to find in a large building. Eventually, it was determined to be a ghost from the drill (residual smoke in a random detector?) and we finished our de-brief for the original drill.

Back at my room, I got Jay to collect the oxygen concentrator that was in there from when it was being used by one of the pilots, so that I finally had room to start shoving furniture around. I got things in a standard configuration, then bounced around the station until dinnertime. Being Saturday Night, it was Pizza Night. I get so much pizza here that I just can't work up any enthusiasm for it. I waited until the BBQ Chicken pie came up and had a slice, along with a slice of Cheese, then after lingering a bit, chatting with various groups of folks, I went to my room to grab my wallet, intending to head to the store.

If I hadn't stopped to hang some stuff up, I might have made it. As it was, I arrived about two minutes late. Neal and Noah, two winterovers from both this past year, and my last winter, had already locked the door, and certainly weren't inclined to open it for someone who just got here.

Back up in the B1 movie lounge, seats were vanishing quickly as folks streamed in to see Emrys' new time-lapse movie of various happenings over the past year. He did a really nice job with a digital still camera (an EOS 20D, perhaps?) and automatic settings to snap a picture every so many minutes. The August Lunar Elipse was stunning to see compressed to a few seconds.

After the movie, we all filed out through the Game Room. I decided to come back in a bit for the festivities, after checking things in my workspace in B2. When I returned, I started a round of 9-ball. For not having played in a year, I did OK, but I really need to practice. I made one moderately difficult shot, but blew three 'cake' shots. With most of the winter-overs sticking to their familiar groups, it was easy to slip away and see what was up in the Galley - Paul and Andy, two of the Mayo Clinic Altitude Study guys, set up at the bar-end. I hung out with them for a bit, but was entirely distracted by the state of the espresso machine.

When I left, the community Estro "Vapore" was working fine. Now, the cover was off, several screws were missing, and I could see that the pump thermal-cutout was physically broken. It also looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since the last time I did it. Happily enough, Paul is a bit of an espresso junkie, so between the two of us, we checked it out, and I decided to give it a go with the cutout bypassed. Paul insisted on packing the grounds too tightly in the basket, and from the soft trickle, my recommendations were shown to be reasonable. Being my first night at altitude, I didn't take a sample of Paul's work (too much caffeine is a bad thing, early on), but once he sussed the machine out, his shots were looking really, really good. I'm looking forward to sampling his work after I get a bit more acclimatized.

Having exhausted the fun in the Galley, Paul, Andy, and I, headed back to the B2 festivities to find that most folks had already packed it in. We hung out for a bit with the dozen or so remaining hardy souls.

Sunday, 28 October 2007
Before too long, I was really starting to tire. I headed back to my room to crash. I'd been on Diamox for a couple of days, to try and avoid any altitude illness, but it's a highly-effective diuretic (which is how it works), and I kept having to get up and go down the hall. I didn't get any sleep worthy of the name until 07:00. Fortunately, I didn't have to be anywhere in the morning, so I was able to sleep until noon. Eventually, though, I was hungry, and especially thirsty enough to venture forth to the Galley. Unfortunately, the schedule on the local web was the winter schedule, and I arrived about 30 minutes late. At least the waffle station was still operational, so I cooked one up, and sat with a few folks who were long done and just hanging out. They decided to go down to the B1 movie lounge and look for something to watch. I went back to my room to write and ended up napping until dinner.

I woke up for good then headed down to the galley as they were starting to set out dinner. I watched a few folks play a few hands of Euchre, then grabbed a plate (choice of Salmon Fillets, Sliced Flank Steak, or Meat Lasagna plus some Vegan Fritters) and sat nearby so as not to interrupt their game. When they all were done with cards and had plates, I re-joined them and hung out for bit. I made the mistake of stopping by my room for something and dozing off again. I made it back to the galley just as the winter-over award ceremony was letting out. Following the crowd down the hall, I peeked into the B1 movie lounge to find it empty. As I was looking over the wall of VHS tapes, Tracy came in, picked a movie, and left. With nothing on, I popped in "Goldmember" and watched it 'til the end. Paul from the Mayo Clinic Study stopped in, looking for a sci-fi movie with some action. We considered over a dozen possibilities, then settled on "Eraser". As late as it was, only three of us stuck around to watch it.

Monday, 29 October 2007
We finished watching "Eraser", then I grabbed a glass of water from the Galley and tried to get some work done in B2. I was put out enough by the state of the desks that I took a few pictures then went back to work in the corner. It was a bit warmer than before, -51.2F° (-46.2C°), with winds around 9 knots. Unless the visibility drops in the next few hours, they'll launch P-001, the first Herc flight of the season. I struggled with some ssh keys for a while, then after fighting a firewall between B2 and the computer in my room, I gave up and went to my room to sleep.

Somewhere in the fog of sleep, I heard an all call that the morning's PAX Out flight was cancelled. When I got up, I checked things from my room then headed down to B2. Still no place for me to set up. The Met folks are just on the other side of a partition from us, so I wandered "next door" to see why the flight was CNXed - turns out the forecast from Charleston was for worse weather than we really got. I chatted with Erin and refamiliarized myself with the network here to fill the time until it was time to eat.

Lunch was some sort of Moroccan Chicken, CousCous, and Pea and Mint salad. I ate with IT folks, then headed back to B2 to squeeze the last drops from the satellite. When there was no more connectivity to be had, it was time for my blood draws, etc., with the Mayo Clinic study. My oxygen saturation was about 90%, with a pulse in the 70s - not bad for a second day at altitude. Back over on my side of B2, I worked at my desk as Claire came in to do the weekly special runs, then she vanished again, almost without a word. Something apparently didn't go smoothly, because shortly thereafter, Sven called because the detector was in an odd state. I sat by in ignorance as Claire and Sven tangled with the problem remotely. By the time they got it straightened out, it was dinnertime.

Mexican Night - Beef Tamale Pie, Cheese Chili Rellanos, Jalapeno Poppers, and fresh chips (made from broken taco shells, I think). I sat with the IT folks. Everyone in the galley was obsessively checking the flight schedule on the overhead monitors. Over two dozen winter-overs are scheduled to leave tonight. We finally all got word that the PAX flight did finally off-deck around 19:00, and should be here in a few hours. There was more than a little bit of cheering when that appeared. After lingering with folks for a bit, I got up when the rest of my table cleared out, then went down to B2 to work out some e-mail client issues.

Just before 20:00, I remembered to head down to the large conference room to watch Robert's most recent time-lapse aurora movie. I found an empty seat to one side shortly before he pressed "play". Robert distilled about 6,000 individual still frames into a seventeen-minute movie. The opening sequence, sunset seven months ago, was spectacular, and I've seen the real thing a couple of times. For being at the Solar Minimum, there was still a lot of auroral activity to be captured. Hopefully things will pick up by this April, but realistically speaking, the projections are that this coming winter won't be as active as my first winter here. While time-lapse movies of the sky aren't known for their comedic content, the audience erupted into laughter during the credits when it was revealed that one of the instrumental numbers that Robert had chosen was "Antarctica" by, of all people, Yanni (numerous groups and individuals have named compositions after the continent, but none of us knew about that one).

After the show, back at my desk, Robert the Satcom Tech came by to say goodbye. He's apparently taking a few weeks R&R, then spending the rest of the summer at McMurdo. Robert left to go grab his bags, and I heard that the plane was coming in a bit early. I stopped off at my room to grab my ECW gear, then went straight out the back of A1 to the flight line.

The plane was pulling up as I approached the flight line. The PAX area was full of departing winter-overs and well-wishers. Will, the Fire Lt., was short-handed, so Robert S. was in his gear to help out in case of trouble. I cycled through the crowd saying goodbyes. The heartiest ones were from the winter-overs who will be returning to winter with me in February. It was -43.1F° (-41.7C°) and over 12 knots. I finished my farewells as my glasses were frosting over. Back up at the station, I watched the outbound PAX mill around for a long time. Even after they offloaded the new firefighting vehicle (the 'ARFF'), they weren't letting the PAX on. Finally, after more than an hour on-deck, the PAX started to board. I tried to take pictures of the plane passing the crossing beacon, but my batteries were still too cold from all that time outside. I managed to get in one shot as the plane passed, but it wasn't a very exciting one - the plane had all three skis on the ground as it went by. I was only wearing my glove liners, so by the time the plane went by, my hands were buzzing from the cold. I went back inside to clean off the left-most desk now that I knew Claire wouldn't be using it anymore.

After I got the desk scrubbed down and a workstation set up, I spent the rest of the evening tweaking my script to generate movie posters to extract the date from the input arguments, a feature that I have been meaning to do since last season.

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