February 23, 2009 An Update from the ICE!
Special Guest, Melanie Miller
I know it's been a long time since any of you have heard from me... I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, just ventured back south for another season at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I got a new job this season, which has been a great change! I'm a Load Planner, which basically means that I figure out what cargo goes on flights to field camps (including South Pole) and north to Christchurch, New Zealand, and then plan out the best way to fit it on the plane so that it balances properly to fly. Luckily, as part of this job, I went to an Air Force-taught training class in Christchurch for 2 weeks before hitting the ice... and then, due to bad weather in McMurdo, got another free week in Christchurch due to 6 days of flight delays (and 1 boomerang)! Not a bad way to ease back into the working life after an off-season of traveling and mooching off my parents!
My new job also involves a new schedule - instead of working the usual town schedule (Mon-Sat 7:30-5:30), I'm now in a 24/7 department, which means working five 12-hour shifts and spending half the season on night shift (which I'm on now). The extra day off each week has been much appreciated, although I usually spend a good chunk of it catching up on sleep! It has been interesting to see the quiet side of McMurdo, though, since most people are asleep while us night shifters are up and about.
For lack of anything else I can think of, here are a few things about this season on the ice that I think are at least mildly interesting:
For the first time in several years, we were able to visit an ice cave! It was at the end of the Erebus Ice Tongue (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_tongue for a definition & picture of this particular ice tongue), about 15 miles north of McMurdo Station by sea ice road.
The people who made "Planet Earth" were here for a few weeks earlier in the season working on a new series - not sure when it'll be done, but I think it's about the Arctic & Antarctic.
The US once again lost the annual International Rugby match against the New Zealand team. Legend has it that the US hasn't scored since at least the mid-80's (although some claim the US has never scored) and we actually came close this year - we got to try a penalty kick, which would have been worth 3 points, but sadly it bounced off the goal post and back onto the pitch. The fans on the US sideline were heartbroken that we weren't able to stop the 20+ year scoreless drought.
Prince Albert of Monaco is coming for a visit. Turns out he's touring around Antarctica for a month to investigate climate change.
We've had a stretch of about 21 days that the temperature has gotten above freezing. Take that Northern Hemisphere!!!!
Pegasus White Ice Runway has truly become an international airport this season. We've had planes from 4 different countries providing our transport/cargo services to/from Christchurch, New Zealand - as usual, the USAF C-17, an Australian Airbus (a normal commercial plane with 30 business class seats and flight attendants!), a South African C-130 (they still allow smoking on their plane), and the Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130.
There are a few webcams down here... Scott Base's can be viewed at http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/webcams. Finally, South Pole's is at http://www.usap.gov/videoClipsAndMaps/spwebcam.cfm.
It only took me 3 years, but I finally discovered a way to tolerate drinking powdered milk... add soft serve ice cream and chocolate or butterscotch sauce, stir, and enjoy in shake form!!
Alright, that's just about enough rambling from me... I hope all is well with all of you!