Antarctica 2012--2013 Part 3


We recruited another CMB colleague and had dinner at The amazing Brewers Arms. For dinosaur eaters the options included wild ostrich, kangaroo, and venison. The beer and vegetarian pasta were good too. Dessert was a date cake a la mode. Rating of "tasty."

After dinner I went straight to bed since our pick-up was at 6 AM. I was awoken three times that morning (December 5): first an alarm set by the previous guest went off at midnight. Then my alarm went off at 5, but breakfast didn't open until 7. So I reset for 5:30. Everyone made it to the shuttle on time. Having practiced the previous day, we got our luggage ready for the flight with plenty of time to spare. The Antarctic Cafe was still closed so we walked to the (mundane part of the) airport for breakfast. At 7:10 we were briefed on the flight, only to learn it was delayed to 9. At 9 we boarded the bus that took us to the LC-130 ("Hercules"),

and waited. Our lunches were missing. We waited some more. Eventually a sky chef arrived. But we were still on the bus. One of the crew informed us that weather was bad in McMurdo and they would make a decision on the flight in 20 minutes. The bus took us back to the terminal. A few minutes later we learned the flight was canceled. Boomerang bags boomeranged back. While we waited for new hotel assignments, I went back to the airport to get a SIM card. Back at the hotel I hulk argued with cell phone companies (I won't bore you with the details of such mundane technical problems.) By the time I got that set up, it was almost dinner. We found a very good Thai restaurant next to the hotel.

The next morning (Dec. 6) flight check-in was at 7:30. By now I was a pro and breezed through. We got on the bus, drove to the airplane, and waited. We got safety briefed. Then, we walked off the bus, picked up lunch (much better than normal airline food), and carefully boarded the Herc!

It was packed inside, and loud. Everyone had to wear earplugs and conversation was impossible. After take-off we could spread out so we weren't completely in each others' laps. The flight lasted about 8 hours. Near the end, people started congregating at the few windows. At first I couldn't see what the fuss was about, it just looked like clouds. But then I started making out valleys and cracks. It was a continent of ice!

Even when I walked off the plane it was hard to believe. Ice in every direction. After a few minutes of shock and amazement, Ivan the Terra Bus took us to McMurdo. Somehow, McMurdo Station was a bit easier to believe. It's a small town of 1000 people. It's also mostly built on dirt, which adds to its believability. There's a mixture of shipping containers, old wood buildings, and new construction. Actually a lot of new construction. Everything is very busy here. The store is open for only 2 hours at a time before the clerks have to go to another job.

Our in-brief was brief because we had to rush to dinner and linen issue before they closed. I'm in a dorm for transients, 5 beds to a room. The dorm is under major renovation so half the corridors are filled with new beds, old beds, lamps, desks, pillows, paint, and everything else you might imagine. Right at the entrance to the dorm area you're hit with the emphasis on recycling here. All the trash has to be shipped off the continent so we really want to keep it down. We sort into plastic, paper, batteries, metal, baleable non-recyclables, reusable anything (there's a general donation system for anything that can be reused, clothes, electronics, books, etc. called "skua" named after the local scavenger), food waste, human waste, lab waste, medical waste, etc. Supposedly the system has world renown among recycling experts, but it takes a bit of getting used to.

At dinner I sampled the local dessert known as "frosty boy." Try it if you have the chance. Otherwise the meal was fairly typical cafeteria food with enough options to stave off starvation. The dish return area repeated the emphasis on recycling and sorting.

After dinner I got my linens and luggage and slept for a wonderful 7 hours.

In the next segment, (mis)adventures in McMurdo and getting to the South Pole...

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