McMurdo layover

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
Trip End Feb 17, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Ross Island
Monday, December 22, 2008

My layover in McMurdo lasted about 15 hours, but it was time well spent.  My best friend Alisa was a dispatcher at the McMurdo fire station, a gig she had landed fortuitously based on campus rape-elimination golf cart driving experience.  While my plane was in route to McMurdo, Alisa was checking flight lists and scamming her way to Pegasus airfield to try and meet me at the plane.  

First she went to Shuttle Services, and was told meeting people isn't allowed.  Next she went to Vehicle Operation, and was told basically the same thing.  After a few more stops, and being told "You just aren't accepting NO as an answer are you?" she convinced a poor shuttle bus driver that she should ride along, and got to the runway to see me disembark, but missed me as I was shuffled into alternate transportation.  

As my all-terrain vehicle roared off towards McMurdo, a parka-ed figure ran towards us waving it's hands wildly, and we waved watched it grow smaller as we lumbered off.  I had no idea it was my rather tenacious best friend.  

Alisa gave me the tour for the next fifteen hours, hitting all the main McMurdo sights.  First we climbed Observation Hill where you get an amazing panoramic view of Mt Erebus, McMurdo, the New Zealander Scott Base, and the Ross Sea.  Ob Hill, like most things at McMurdo, is named exactly for what it is.  Our next destination was Hut Point, which is, as the name would imply, a point with a hut on it (Scott's hut to be exact.)  The hut is complete with petrified seal, and was built by the Discovery Expedition at the turn of the century. 

Near 1pm, Alisa and I returned to the main dining hall building to catch Midrats (Midnight Rations meal.)  McMurdo has a larger dining hall than I would find at Pole, complete a custom order sandwich bar.  They complain about the food, but freshies come in regularly to McMurdo, and there choices are ripe.  

The sandwiches at McMurdo are huge and during lunchtime, workers form long lines to get their personalized deli meats in bread.  You can even get them wrapped to go, but it's best to stuff them inside a Big Red parka, because outside the dining hall crafty vicious skua birds await to swoop in and grab hoagies from unsuspecting victims

Skua are large, brown, obnoxious kleptoparasites who steal other bird's food, feast on their eggs, and who normally prey on smaller sea birds, steal and eat penguin eggs, and generally scavenge off of other Antarctic life.  Since human's arrival in Antarctica, skua have expanded their menu to human food, and are an all around nuisance.  Unfortunately (some might say) the Antarctic Treaty rules on conduct towards wildlife render them untouchable.  

Antarctica's free exchange system for stuff people no longer want is called Skua, after these hellish scavengers, but more on that later.

After an all-too-short tour, we head to Shuttle Services so I can check in for my flight to the Pole, and I say goodbye to Alisa until February.  I turn my attention to Pole, and what I might find there.  This is on case in which getting there really is half the fun.


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