Station Population: 175 (Summer People)
Station Population: 5 (Winter Overs)
Time until New Zealand: 123 hours
Days on the ice: 282
Hits to this blog: 23,538
On Wednesday about 25 winterover polies left the South Pole. This left about 10 on station. Over the next couple days about 5 more left. Now there are only 5 of us. Me and 4 scientists. I’m the last of the Raytheon winterover crew.
My departure date is November 12th. The extra time here is a drag but the hardest part is seeing your friends leave and knowing that you will not share that part of the experience with them. The best analogy is can give is it is like failing Seinor Englsh and having to watch your friends walk across the podium and graduate while you have to go to summer school and get your diploma from the mailman. It has also been hard to watch all the Facebook posts of those who are now in Christchurch. As long as my flights go on time, I’ll be ok. Otherwise, I will be a very unhappy camper. One can only withstand so much disappointment with good spirits.
Last week I also had to change rooms. I had to give up my room to a summer person with more seniority. Again, the move itself is a drag and my new room is smaller. However, the part that’s hard to accept is that if I had departed with the other winterovers, it would not have had the hassle of the move. Just another drawback of not getting to leave on time.
So Hurc flight are now daily occurrences. The weather has been nearly perfect. Sometime we get 2-3 a day. This has brought the station population to 175 people. I now have to wait in line in the galley. The lounges are always busy. The Internet is slower. People stand in doorways and block entrances. For 9 months I saw the same faces everyday with never an exception. Now it is a rarity to see a familiar person. I’ve gotten to know a few of the summer folks and they typically nice people, but we are on different trajectories.
The temperatures are much warmer too. Ambient temps are running in the -40′s and windchills are in the -60 to -80 range. I have to be careful with the temptation of going out under dressed in windchills in the -80′s. Compared to the winter where the windchill rarely got above the triple digits, windchills in the -80′s are downright balmy. However, without good coverage it will still bite you. However, even with modest head gear, it’s easy to be comfortable in a -80 windchill where as at -130 or -140F even when wearing everything possible it still gets you. The range from -60 to -80 is tricky because you can be out for a while in big red, jeans, hiking boots, a hat and gloves, but if you’re out too long your hurting. I’ve found that a -60 windchills is quite manageable without a face mask.
I’ve got most of my stuff in boxes now. My plan is to ship most everything home and walk out of here with only a modest bag or two. In a couple days I’ll do my “bag-drag”. That’s where my “checked” luggage will become th property of the cargo department. They will weigh it and load it onto a airforce type pallet. This usually happens the day before the flight, but if the flight is delayed you could be days without your luggage. Another part of life in Antarctica that warrants careful planning and patience.
One interesting thing that is occurring is the removing of the winter drifts. These huge drifts that are around every building on station are excavated and pushed into even larger piles where they will eventually be drug off station.
I’m not sure what the future of this blog will be from this point on. I usually do my blogging on Sundays (my day off). Hopefully this will be my last Sunday on the ice and I really don’t think I want to spend my time in Christchurch sitting in the hotel writing about the Antarctica (or anything for that matter). So, I might try to make a few small posts during the week, both from here, McMurdo and Christchurch. Just updates, nothing philosophical. I may start other blogs in the future, but I doubt that I will ever have an experience that is of interest to such a broad audience as living at the South Pole for nearly a year..
I will eventually do a re-cap and postmortem on the experience, but that might be months out when I’m back in Seattle. Either way, I’d like to thank all those that read my blog and and a special thanks to those who left comments or questions. At the time of this posting I’ve had almost 24,000 hits to this site.
PS: My Wife has been bicycle touring through New Zealand for the past month and has started her own count down…