Stinky, Smelly, Sweet Pea, and Snowmobiles
Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
10Trip End Feb 16, 2009
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The National Science Foundation realized years ago that despite the ridiculous polar conditions and virtually unmapped territory of interior Antarctica, it is much cheaper to send supply vehicles overland than to fly. Thus the South Pole Traverse was born. Several large tractors of various design trek across the continent from the large station at McMurdo on Ross Island, each dragging thousands of pounds of supplies, mostly fuel for us and a few of the more remote field camps. The convoy is led by a Pisten Bully with a special sonar attachment jutting from the front to ensure that the entire operation doesn't collapse into an unseen crevasse
The Traverse arrived recently, and this sudden influx of fuel bladders necessitates one more temporary member on the Fuelie crew--Austin. I'll tell you a little bit about Fuelie life.
They're all fun people, always joking around. I hear them on the radios constantly, jabbering about relevant things in a ridiculous manner. "Cricket to Buttercup. Buttercup, do you copy? What's the fill on tank H3?" That's the forewoman talking to the big, burly, bearded one. "I'm not in the pumphouse, Cricket. Ask Tiger. Is he done training the slave on the snowmobile yet?" That's me. I'm not Tiger.
First thing in the morning, it was my job to ride to the end of the skiway (our landing strip for huge cargo planes on skis) to check for any little obstructions or clutter. Snowmobiles, for liability purposes, must adhere to a 10 mph speed limit. Officially.
Now, the bad part of being a temporary Fuelie. They stink. The three snowmobile helmets they use are labeled in big white letters "Stinky," "Smelly," and "Sweet Pea." I don't get the last one
Diesel is the lifeblood of our settlement. Virtually everything runs on AN8, a slightly modified aircraft-grade diesel fuel. The power plant, whose smokestacks belch their thick exhaust right into Summer Camp (my home), drinks diesel. The innumerable machines pushing snow around to keep the buildings afloat drink diesel. The hot water drills at Ice Cube drink diesel. I've walked in on some of the mechanics drinking it, too. It's a harsh continent, as they say.
This is all to convey that I'm very used to the smell of diesel exhaust, and will likely always feel something is amiss when I don't detect its sweet aroma. Fuel itself, however, still makes me gag, and I'm basically swimming in it now. Keep in mind that Fuelies are allowed THREE showers a week, rather than the usual two.
Well, Christmas is coming up, or so they tell me. Don't think that I've forgotten about any of you. Mail just takes forever from here, needless to say. If anyone expects to get something for Christmas from me, I'll have to hurry up and send it about... six weeks ago. So just be patient, it's coming.