Settling in quite nicely

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    So I am finally settling in here at McMurdo. 

I think it helped to have a weekend.  It actually started out really crappy.  I was sick on Saturday morning.  Which really isn't hard to imagine here since this station is a microcosm.  When  a cold or flu hit's it usually sweeps the station and almost everyone gets hit sooner or later.  Well mine came sooner.  But the good news is that it left very quickly.  I woke up feeling like crap.  Headache and nausea.  So one of the seniors cargo people told me to take the day off.  I happily ablidged and found myself feeling amazingly better by noon. No, it wasn't a hangover.  Later that day I was 100% better and ready to party for the night.  It was an important party that our office held.  I was apprehensive to go because of taking the day off, but Paul, another supervisor, told me I should definitely go and he would be dissapointed if I didn't show up.  I felt it important to appear because I really wanted to get to know people and feel more comfortable at work and McMurdo. So low and behold, I am much more comfortable and really happy I went.  The people I work with are amazing.  Everyone 's a character, and a traveler.  It really seems like my kind of town.  I closed the party dancing my ass off with all the die hards and went to Southern Exposure to close that bar too.  It's very  weird when you walk out of a bar at 1am and it's just as light out as it would be back in Michigan at 8 or 9 pm on a mid summers night.  And NO, I didn't have a hangover on Sunday either.

Instead of a hangover I woke early and went to help clean up the work party before anyone else arrived.  True Burner fashion.  I imagined my friends Peachfuzz and Stanley were there with me and it went quick and easy.  They always makes cleanup a fun time.  Love you two!  So the rest of the day I had plans.  The calendar for Sunday was filled with lots of excitement that McMurdo has to offer.  By 2 pm my Roomate Bill and I were at the Crary Lab tour, which is offered every Sunday to the inhabitants of McMurdo. This is where most of the research is done here, maybe it's all of the research.  I don't know yet.  But it was really cool.  We got to talk to the Scientist about all the cool things they get to do.  Learned a bit about the Emperor Penguins.  Which I haven't seen yet, but yes, they are around.  Did you know that Mama penguins can stop their digestive fluids so they can store food for their young on their long journey home to meet their newly born chicks.  They literally starve themselves with full bellies, living off of their fat storage. somehow by choice and give all their food to their chicks.  Also We got to see video footage or Mt. Erebus erupting.  Oh, yeah, don't tell my mom, but there is an active vocano very nearby.  The scientist have mounted a camera on the edge of the crater and we saw about three of the archived "eruptions".  They were pretty tame, but it's really cool the see into the mouth of a volcano.  As luck would have it we also got to see core samples that were drilled from the bottom of the ocean here.  It was lucky timing because the samples just arrived earlier that day and then they are quickly whisked away to Florida for further study in an effort to learn more about global warming and what the history of Antarcticas climate was.  From there it was to the aquarium where we saw fish that live in freezing water.  The water is 28 degrees F.  It doesn't actually freeze all the way through because of the high saline content and the fish survive by secreting anti-freeze proteins  from their pancreas that bind to ice crystals in their bodies and allow them to survive.  There was also a touch tank where we could pick up sea creatures and feel the freezing cold water that these animals survive in.  The scientist who dive here were super stoked to share with us their stories and show us the underwater cameras and remote operated vehicles they use to cronicle their dives.  One even had footage on his laptop of a giant jelly fish he saw down there.  It's bell was about 3 or 4 feet in diameter.  The tour really brought things full circle for me.  It helped me realize that my job here isn't just cargo, but it's cargo that supports some important research going on in the world and that is special to me.  I feel better doing things that make a difference in the world and I feel that most of the work done here does make a difference.

Later after that I continued with my Itenerary by attending my 4:30 yoga class.  It was a good class but pretty challenging as the instructor was a no nosense type with and Italian accent.  I loved it, being the glutton for punishment that I truely am. 

After dinner it was off the the Coffee house for a glass of wine (or 2).  Then off to the science lecture in the Galley at 8:15 about the microbial life that lives within  the ice sheet that covers Antactica.  Very interesting but the technical jargin makes me sleepy.  The jist of it is that there are actually living beings within the ice sheet and the ice sheep has giant lakes underneath it.  Fresh water too. 90% of the worlds fresh water is frozen in the ice of Antarctica.  WOW!

The next day, Monday.  I was supposed to report to the Ice airfield for work.  My job down here is Air transortation Apprentice  (Cargo, loading and unloading Airplanes, working much in the same business as UPS).  But the weather put an end to that.  The road to the ice runway was closed because it's actually on the Sea, and as many of us know large flat areas areas allow wind to pick up much more than the mountainous areas.  McMurdo is right on the edge of the sea.  And the weather is measured in Conditions.  Weather condition 3, normal conditions, everyone works, Condition two is adverse weather, but not too dangerous, everyone still works.  But Condition 1  weather, we aren't even allowed to go outside or drive a vehicle if we are caught in it.  We had condition 1 on the airfield but in town , condition 2.  It was blowing like mad, and it actually snowed a little bit.  Which is a rare occurance really, being Antarctica is actually a desert.  It's the highest, dryest, coldest and windiest continent on Earth.  It was so cool.  The intense weather reminded me of a few things as I practiced my Fork loader driving skills.  I was laughing with myself playing like I was Han Solo on the ice planet Hoth.  Imagining my 950 caterpillar forkloader was actually a snowspeeder.   Looking over drifts half expecting a probot to pop up and take a shot at me.  Whoo hoo!

The other thing this place reminds me a lot of, and I was shocked to think this, was the playa where Burning Man is held. As you look over the frozen Ice of the Ross Sea there is an uncanny resemblance.  Flat white and large, with mountain ranges surrounding it in the distance.  Gigantic white foreboading clouds of snow seen coming from miles away, and blasting you as if in the middle of a dust storm.  Even snow devils cruising through town enveloping my 950 cat as if I wasn't even there and moving on through the rest of town.  There are many burners here and they all say the same.  It's amazing and I feel like I have found another home on this vicious planet. 

Yes, home, sweet home!  Well as the old saying goes, Home is where the heart is. And I certainly feel very much at home here.
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vwsunshinesurfe on

I'm glad you're no longer sitting on your arse!
Get out there and check it all out . . . I know you won't regret it . . . Wonderful that you got the opportunity . . . there's too much fun to be had . . . Not sure I envy the cold but I do envy the wide open space and the new perspective on the planet . . . L & P Neil

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