A day in the life (At work)

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wow, time is flying.  The days are long, filled with 24 hours of sunshine, and 12 hours of work.  But keeping busy and happy make the time go by like a hot knife through butter.

I've already spent my first three weeks at the airfield working on the Ice runway.  It was a great experience that I probably won't get again this season.  We rotate shifts and I am in town now for the next 6 weeks.  By the time I get to go to the airfield again it will have moved to Williams field, a few miles closer to the mainland, onto the pemanant Ice shelf to avoid the thawing, and breaking up of the Sea Ice.  That will be cool too, but the ice airfield there is white and not blue (being made up of packed snow, rather than just on ice), which is a unique thing to say the least. 

But it was great while it lasted.  Imagine a C-17 Airforce plane landing on a stark white surface with sharply peak mountains in the background, covered in white snow and blue glacial ice.  The plane then taxies to the fuel pits behind the "Follow me" truck.  Literally a truck with a sign on it saying "Follow Me".  

Myself and the rest of my team are already poised in our trucks and loaders waiting for the MC1 to give us the OK to approach the bird.  We get the word, and all systematically fall into our positions for unloading the plane.  Me and JonO, and Karl driving our Cat950's and 936's, with giant 5 ft snow tires that resemble french cruller donuts, in a line behind the plane, waiting for the cargo door to lower.  One of other two the teams from MacTown (McMurdo) in a 5 ton or maybe a flatbed Delta, approximately 20-30 feet off the right side wing, parking staggered for easy access to the bed of the truck.   The Cargo personell quickly jump out of the flatbed trucks and attatch the cargo straps waiting to receive the precious cargo that the C-17 brought.

As the cargo door lowers the few people on the plane start filing out of the passenger door and loading onto the Pax (passenger) shuttles as I did just a month ago.  Inside the cargo door, the Loadmaster starts giving me hand signals to come and pick up the cargo we have to off load.  It's a giant pallet of Freshies (fresh fruits and vegetables from New Zealand)  Mmmm! I think it's been weeks since we had fruits and veggies that weren't frozen or canned.  Tonight we'll get lettuce. Tomorrow bananas and apples in the morning.Through a series of hand signals I pick up the load carefully, as to not even come  close to bumping or denting the multi million dollar aircraft and possibly losing my job.  I take the bundle of freshies over to the 5 ton, and the team Marshalls me in with more hand signals.  After I successfully set down the load, and back the loader out of the way, the cargo ground crew efficiently and safely straps the load down, so there is no chance in losing it on the way back to MacTown.

The process continues,  JonO is next with a load of "Special" mud for the Andrill science team that they need for drilling core samples.  Then Karl with a load of mail for all the inhabitants of McMurdo.  Oh, yeah!  The towns gonna be happy tonight.  Mail and Freshies makes McMurdo a happy place.  The process continues with at least two or three trips back to the plane if not more, and sometimes handling very fragile science cargo that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When the cargo get's back to McMurdo the two cargo teams in town go to work receiving and delivering the cargo.  Much the same that UPS would do.  Confirming TCN numbers, and final destinations.  Calling people who need to be notified and getting on their loaders, driving around, like busy bees pollenating flowers and returning to the hive, we are dropping off cargo all over town. 

This is my job, down here.  This is how we do it.  It might seem like it could get repeditive and mundane, and it would if I was anywhere else in the world. But the reality is, I'm in Antarctica.  All I have to do is look around and my mind is blown, if I can even truely fathom it.  Half of the time it doesn't seem real.  And if that isn't enough I think about the support I am here to lend.  It is extremely gratifying to know that the work I am doing is supporting the National Science Foundation and, in my opinion, doing something good for the world.  The scientist here are researching things like Global warming, which can help us understand the direction we are going on this Earth, and Microbial life that lives in glaciers. Glaciers that are miles thick. and drilling toward fresh water lakes at the bottom.  Which will lead to the possibility of finding life on other planets and moons in our solar system and beyond.
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