Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Farewell to Antarctica

It's been a great fourteen months living on the frozen continent. I'm now sitting in a comfortable bed-and-breakfast in Sumner, New Zealand enjoying the humidity, the warmth, and a feeling of rejuvenation. Today, I've seen plants, animals, and children again for the first time in a long while. The flight last night was smooth and uneventful, and the manager of the South Pole Station, who'd had a stroke in August, was successfully evacuated. I've signed on for one more winter season, so I'll be back on the Ice next January. In the meantime, I'll be relaxing in New Zealand, Thailand, and Australia. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. :-)

Larry celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of his sweet sixteen three days before we left.

Larry's birthday cake was made up of six layers of multi-colored cake. Thanks Brian for making a fantastic cake!

The last big group of winter-overs boards the plane to leave Antarctica.

A final view of Mount Erebus and Ob Hill.

Yay! I'm leaving!

Loading the C-17 from the back. The plane was pretty empty, so there was lots of room to stretch out during the five-hour flight.

Mark, Brian (who made the birthday cake!), and Larry.

A view of the melting and cracking Antarctic sea ice from the plane.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Antarctic Highlights

Fourteen months ago today, I arrived on the Ice; tomorrow I leave. It's been a spectacular visit, and I thought I'd post some photos highlighting some of the more interesting moments.

Nacreous clouds were visible shortly after I arrived, just as Antarctica was awaking from its winter slumber.
As the days passed, Antarctica grew brighter, and I enjoyed sunsets that would last for several hours.

I took this photo as a newly arrived janitor last year. After spending fourteen months here, I completely understand the sentiment. :)

On a cold September afternoon, I got to dress up and hand out ice cream as an afternoon snack. 

I had my teeth cleaned last summer, and during the process got to be my own "dental assistant" and use the special sucky tube. :)
"Ivan" the Terra Bus brings another load of newcomers to McMurdo Station.

My reflection in Joanie's sunglasses during our trip to the ice cave.

The crystals in the ice cave were amazingly intricate!

Here's the video of the nursing baby seal that I saw on my first tour of the pressure ridges near Scott Base.

My first sighting of PENGUINS!

Pedro and Emily at the Halloween dance party.

Larry fell asleep during a game of "Munchkin" on Thanksgiving Day.

Marcie and her LOVE sculpture at Happy Camper. We had perfect weather and so much fun!

Roy, Eddie, me, and Deke hiking out to Castle Rock on a warm December day with Mt. Erebus in the background. 

Cheryl Parker took this video of me stumbling through the slushy section of the Castle Rock trail. While it's funny now, it was very frustrating getting my feet completely soaked with cold water then.

A panoramic view of Mt. Erebus and the Ross Ice Shelf from the top of Castle Rock.

The sun hangs low in the sky at about 11pm on the hike back from Castle Rock.

There were a few days I felt comfortable wearing shorts outside. As the ice around station melted, it created several small streams and rivers.

Larry and I dressing up for silly photos at the McMurdo Alternative Art Gallery on New Year's Day.

Hanging out with some penguins.

At the end of the summer, I got to drive people to the airfield in a passenger Delta.

The sun setting low over the open sea as the darkness of winter sets in.

Another beautiful sunset over a steamy ocean.

The windows in our room weren't quite as insulated as they could have been, hence a buildup of frost around the window frame.

Group photo of everyone wintering over in 2011.

The supply team for winter 2011.

Someone left this photo on the public network drive as a thank you for rescuing the bacon at the beginning of winter.

The moon overlooks station from its position between an inverted Scorpio and Sagittarius.

Auroras brighten the sky over McMurdo.

In June, we witnessed a total eclipse of the moon. 

The moon over the peak of Ob Hill.

Another photo of the moon glowing behind Ob Hill.

Brooks is so excited about freshies from the greenhouse at Midwinter Dinner!

And a couple weeks later, I'm excited about freshies that came in on the med-evac flight!

My first Condition One! It wasn't terribly cold, but it sure was windy and snow-blowy outside.

The best winter trivia team on station!

My first view of the sun in four months. What a sight!

A real cold snap! A wind chill of minus 81 degrees.

Sun dogs reappear as the sun climbs its way back into the sky.

After a good winter season, my work boots have run their course.

I found this picture of McMurdo Station in 1956 on the public network drive. It's interesting to see what McMurdo looked like when it was first founded; it has grown quite a bit since it's early days.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Working in Food Supply

This winter, I worked in the Supply department as a food materialsperson with my colleague Gareth. Together we managed four warehouses; building 164 is the freezer, building 176 is the dry goods warehouse (without any temperature control), building 120 is the heated warehouse for foods that can't be frozen, and building 341 holds the non-food kitchen supplies (also without any temperature control). Food materialspersons are known colloquially as "food monkeys", a moniker which comes from the fact that we do a whole lot of climbing on crates and pallets to dig out food items for the kitchen. Each Tuesday, the kitchen places a food order for the following week, and the food monkeys pull the food on Wednesday and deliver it on Thursday. At the end of August, Landon joined us for Winfly, the transitional season between winter and summer. Last summer, he served as the lead food monkey, and he has returned for another summer season. While Gareth and I will be leaving during the next week or so, Landon and three other new food monkeys will be working the food warehouses for the summer.

Landon climbs up between crate stacks to retrieve some items higher up. This is one of two tall, narrow aisles in 164 that we refer to as the "crevasses".

Crates can be climbed from the front as well. While it isn't without risk, there are lots of footholds and handholds to provide support.

At the top of the freezer, food is pulled through the top of the crates. Removing the lids can be painful on the knees and if a crate is full, pulling up a big box of food in a kneeling position can be stressful on the back. Once a crate gets half empty or so, we can climb into it and get the food out more easily.

A view of one of the food aisles from the top of the freezer. The boxes on the floor have been pulled by Gareth for the kitchen. After all food is pulled, it is stacked on pallets to be delivered.

For the most part, the crates are evenly stacked and stable to walk on, but every now and then we find a loose one. :)

Here is the hole created by the removal of the single crate of bacon at the beginning of winter. Gareth and I refer to this as "Shelob's Lair" and we've both fallen into it at least once. Fortunately neither of us has been hurt. :)

A pile of boxes pulled for the kitchen. Notice how close to the ceiling this food is. I've hit my head a few times on the various crossbeams in the freezer.

Food that's been pulled and is ready to be palletized. 

Landon checks the warehouse map for an item that isn't in the location that it's supposed to be. The ice ship on the left is from the mid-winter dinner party.

Taking a break on top of a pallet of flour.

Gareth was thoroughly entertained by the fact that the eraser end of a pencil would stick to his neck gaiter once it had become covered with frozen condensation.

Landon stacks a pallet of dry goods in boxes. In building 176, we usually create a pallet of bags (flour, sugar, etc., seen in the background) and a pallet of boxes.

In building 120, we use the forklift to get to food items that are buried under other pallets.

Oil, fry shortening, tomato sauce, and mayonnaise are some of the items kept in the heated food warehouse.

During the winter, Gareth found a gap between several pallets that made for a good rest spot during breaks. Plastic bubble shipping material is surprisingly comfortable!

Gareth uses the loader to take this crate from the freezer dock to the galley dock.

Sometimes the food monkeys provide support to other departments. During the winter Gareth and I audited both the station store warehouse and the beverage warehouse. It's possible that in the near future, we will become more involved with these other warehouses, but how much so remains to be seen.

Landon and Gareth working on an audit in the beverage warehouse.

I've had a great time working in food supply and I've already signed a contract to come back next winter. I can't wait! (But I do need a vacation first...) :)