Monday 01 October, 2001

Left home with tears this morning. 

My wife, Ella and I, had but a few minutes to spend together before I boarded the shuttle 
bus to LaGuardia. And, it was tough. Probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. 
Even though we had over 3 months to mentally prepare for this day, I really don't think 
that one can ever truly prepare themselves for spending one year apart from their family 
and loved ones. Especially when they are deploying to the most remote area on Earth.

I can only hope that frequent phone calls and web cam time will offer some semblance of 
normality. But I'm more concerned about Ella's emotional well being than myself. I've 
did this sort of thing before. Being in the Navy and serving aboard submarines had really 
taught me to handle isolation and the lack of communication with the outside world. But 
she has nothing to go on. I'm hoping though, that leaving her with the house buying task 
will take up a lot of her time, at least initially as we are expected to close on the 16th of 
this month. She also has marching orders to visit her family in Poland once things are 
squared away and she's moved in. So, she'll have plenty of things to do for the first 
month or two to help keep her mind elsewhere.

Left for Chicago at 2:00 EST and arrived shortly after 4:00 CST. While on the flight to 
LA, I met the first bunch of RPS (Raytheon Polar Services) contractors. Decent folks. Left for New Zealand at 
about 10:45 PST.

Tuesday 02 October, 2001

The shortest day of my life. 

Traveling west across the International Date Line meant that I would suddenly be in 
"tomorrow." Had it not been for leaving Los Angeles so late, I probably wouldn't have 
experienced it at all.

Wednesday October 3, 2001

Survived a marathon of a flight from LA to Auckland…over 12 hours. But managed to 
get some sleep. Although Qantas provides excellent service and good food, they really 
should remove a few rows of seats to create more legroom. Both of my domestic flights 
had much more personal space than did the longer international flight.

Anyhoo, arrive in Auckland at around 5:00 AM local time. Met some more RPS people 
that I'd be working with and caught a plane to Christchurch about 90 minutes later.

I finally got to see everyone that I would flying down to Antarctica with after we got off 
the plane in Christchurch…about 35 people or so, which is good. I can imagine that the 
military flight down will be cramped so the fewer people the better. The Raytheon staff 
met us at the airport to give us our hotel room assignments and per diem, which was quite 
generous once you factored in the exchange rate of about $2.5 NZ dollars to one 
American dollar.

Surprisingly, I wasn't as tired as I expected to be and didn't need to rest after I checked 
into my hotel. So after I flushed the toilet a few times to see for myself the Coriolis 
Effect. As advertised, the water drained in a counterclockwise direction. I then headed 
for downtown Christchurch to take in the sites and grab a few pictures. But eventually 
the trip down caught up with me and I had to get some sleep at about 5:00 PM. I 
managed to give Ella a call (and wake her up past 11:00 EST…doh!) and called it a day.

Thursday October 4, 2001

Woke up at about 5:30 in the morning in order to catch a shuttle bus from the hotel to the 
Clothing and Distribution Center (CDC). Once there, I found that I was issued 3 bags of 
extreme cold weather gear (ECW) as opposed to the normal allotment of two. Since I'm 
wintering over, I was issued almost every piece of clothing that they hand out and lots of 
spares including about 5 pairs of leather work gloves, 6 or 7 pair of wool socks, and the 
normal ECW parka and bibbed overhaul as well as the work variant, the Carhaardt.

Once all the clothing was checked for fit, it was off to a few hours of orientation by HR 
about the does and don'ts of working with Raytheon Polar Services (RPS). Mercifully, they 
realized that it was dull subject matter and cut it short at about 2:00. 

Afterwards, it was back to the hotel for a few minutes and then to the city center once 
again to snap some more pictures and to stop by a the "official" Ice bar, Bailies. Bailies 
is a must see for those headed to Antarctica as it has a lot of memorabilia pertaining to 
the Ice. They also happen to serve a top notch pint of Guiness. Which, in my opinion, 
tastes fresher than Guiness sold in the States. I hear that it is brewed locally and will 
even rival that brewed in Dublin…

I had to call it an early night as I still hadn't got adjusted to the time change and not to 
mention that I was to be at the CDC at 5:45 AM to get ready for the flight south.

Friday October 5, 2001

Received a call at 1:30 AM from the hotel desk clerk informing me that my flight to 
Antarctica was cancelled until the following day. It didn't quite register with me so I 
went back to sleep until my alarm went off at 4:30. I walked to the lobby and asked what 
the call meant and they informed me that there was a mechanical problem with the Air 
Force C141 that we'd be flying in that we wouldn't leave until tomorrow. I wasn't 
expecting the hotel staff to be so informed and was not willing to accept their word so I 
called the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) flight info hotline to verify. I 
suppose that my mistrust was ill founded as I later come to learn that these good folks 
have lots of experience with the USAP and that the travel office there fills them in on the 
details well before we depart in order to see to it that everything runs smoothly.

So, it seemed that I had a full day to spend in Christchurch (known hereafter as Chch) 
and the surrounding area but was unsure what to do. The hotel had a brochure rack in the 
lobby and I spent about 15 minutes thumbing through them until I found one or two that 
looked interesting: the Gondola and a wildlife harbor cruise.

I dropped by the hotel's restaurant for breakfast and to plan my day when I met other 
contractors bound for McMurdo: Sherry, Doug, Chris, Phil, Dave, and Justin. Since we 
didn't know each other well, we introduced ourselves while we ate and discussed our 
plans for the day. Except for Justin, this was the first time down for everyone.

I happened to mention that I had read of a sky tram (the Gondola) in the Christchurch 
area that would take us to the tops of the local mountains so that we could get a good 
view of the city. It seems that everyone else had already made other plans, but Sherry 
thought that it would be a good idea to give it a try. So, after breakfast, we headed to the 
center of Chch to find out which bus we needed to take in order to get there. 

An hour later, we found the bus route that we needed and were on our way. Amazing 
people, the Kiwis, down to a person everyone that we asked went out of their way to help 
us get to the stop that we needed…although some of the information later turned out 
wrong, you had to appreciate the effort.

It took about a half hour to get to the Gondola on the bus and Sherry and I bought tickets 
and got into the tram for the ride up. We shared the tram with Powerplant Tom, a 
returnee who we had met on the bus over. Tom was at the Pole with Dr. Neilsen, the lady 
doctor with breast cancer who had to be evacuated several years ago and even had a 
cameo in her book, which I had happened to read once I been offered the job at 

Anyway, the ride up was short but scenic. Once we arrived at the top, we parted ways 
with Tom who informed us of a hiking trail leading down the other side of the mountain 
to the small port of Lyttleton. I was interested, but didn't know if Sherry was.  So we 
meandered around the visitors' center at the top of the mountain and took some pictures. 
Though the view of Chch wasn't glamorous, the panoramas of the Southern Alps and of 
Lyttleton Harbor were quit impressive. Once I was convinced that Sherry had seen all 
that she had wanted to, I mentioned that I'd like to walk down the mountain to Lyttleton 
and catch the bus back. Fortunately, she thought that it sounded like a good idea. 

The walk down took over an hour partly because I led us down the wrong trail, but also 
because we started talking about our backgrounds and just got caught up in the 
conversation, I think…or at least I did. Sherry is from Montana (a lot of people from the 
northern states working for RPSC as I'd later find out) and will work in the clinic as a 
laboratory technician. She is older, widowed, and has grown children who have moved 
away. Not having many responsibilities is something that I'd come to notice in many of 
the people that I'd be working with. Normally this would lead one to hypothesize that 
the USAP is filled with young people. But the opposite is true. Since younger people 
generally don't have the skills that Raytheon is looking for, most of the work force is 
composed of older people who have reached a point in life where they can afford, 
financially and otherwise, to leave for 6 months or a year to pursue a job in Antarctica. 
In my case, I was unemployed and didn't have much prospect in the now defunct dot com 
scene. And fortunately, my wife would rather see me being productive at anything other 
than sitting at home for months on end doing nothing.

Once we reached the bottom, we had a nice lunch in a small diner where I was introduced 
to a wonderful dessert known as plum pudding. Although I had heard of it, I had never 
seen or tasted it. It was basically a small cake with plums baked into it surrounded with 
some custard like crème and ice cream. It was rather light and didn't weight too heavily 
on my stomach as an American dessert would.

While we ate, I noticed that the harbor cruise that I had read about that morning was also 
in Lyttleton and that we had only a few minutes to find out where to get aboard. Unlike 
our problems finding the bus earlier in the day, not more than 50 yards out of the diner 
did we see the ticket office for the cruise and they hadn't left yet. So we were just in time 
to catch the tour. 

For $18 US we were taken on a 2 hour trip around the harbor and into the open ocean 
where we saw some breathtaking cliffs, reefs, and caves, as well as a few dolphins and 
some small, brown penguins.

After it was all said and done, we returned to the hotel and called it a day. I showered 
and checked in with Ella to make sure that she was OK and then hit the rack. The 15 
hour time change was really taking its toll.

Saturday October 6, 2001

Our first attempt to make it to Antarctica…

I was kind of sad to leave Christchurch because it really was a beautiful place and I 
wanted a chance to see more of it. But perhaps more importantly was the sense of 
apprehension that was starting to set in. After all, I was going to be on the ice for a full 
year in a hostile, isolated environment with people that I didn't know. 

The people who stayed in the hotel and I caught a shuttle and were at the CDC at 6:45. 
We were instructed to dress in our ECW and told to drag our baggage to the terminal to 
have them x-rayed and our passports examined. It seemed that the events of September 
11 had forced a change in military procedures as well and security was tightened. It was 
interesting to note that the New Zealand Air Force handled the security, customs, and 
baggage handling for the NY Air National Guard. I suppose that the reservists only had a 
minimal number of people on hand and were too preoccupied with flying and 
maintaining the fleet of transport planes to be dealing with such matters.

We were informed that there would be a slight weather delay and given a few minutes to 
grab some breakfast at a cafeteria in the nearby Antarctic museum. Afterwards, we came 
back to finish checking in and get briefed by Air Force load masters about how to board 
the plane and what to do in the event of an emergency. It was the same material that is 
covered by the civilian airlines but the demeanor was more cordial. We were also shown 
a 20 minute film about Antarctica and cold weather survival. It was really nothing that I 
hadn't heard before: keep your head covered, wear clothes in layers, and change out of 
wet clothes frequently.

At 11:00 we loaded onto buses and began boarding a nearby C141. This plane, like the 
C130, can land on virtually any flat surface but has jet engines that give it a faster top 
speed and an extended range. But given that there would be 130 of us on the plane, it 
would also be cramped. The women were told to board last as they could use the 
bathroom towards the front of the plane while the men were stuck towards the rear. It 
also meant that they would be last on and first off. Everyone was sandwiched between 
other folks and we sat facing the person across from us. Given that we had all our ECW 
donned and our carry on luggage on the seat beneath us or on our laps, there was no room 
to move your feet or even elbows. It was only a matter of 10-15 minutes before my feet 
began to get numb and my butt lost all sensation from the mesh webbing that had been 
configured as seats.

After the women boarded, the engines came to life and we were taxiing on the concourse 
in what seemed to be a matter of a few minutes. I'm left to guess that military planes 
operate under a different set of procedures than civilian ones and don't need to spend a 
lot of time double checking things. These planes are load though as there is not much in 
the way of sound insulation. So, everyone had to wear sponge ear plugs. The plane must 
have spent about 15 minutes taxiing towards the runway, however, and it really wasn't 
doing my feet any good. Even though I tried to reposition them several times, I keep 
getting my feet wedged in awkward positions because of the large size of my cold 
weather boots. There just wasn't enough room for 2 pairs of them to fit comfortably in 
that sort of close quarters. Also, the ear plugs were beginning to annoy my ears.

Shortly before noon, we lifted off much to my relief. Only 5 more hours and my feet 
would be free to get some circulation once again. However, not 10 minutes from takeoff 
did several of the load masters start gathering to the rear of the plane on the port (left) 
side. There were a lot of puzzled looks and head scratching. Soon thereafter, the pilot 
announced that there was a problem with landing gear and that it didn't want to lock in 
the up position and that we were turning around to return to Christchurch. He said not to 
worry and that everything would be fine, but it was just a precaution and that they wanted 
to get it fixed before we attempted the long flight. Not sure what to think, I looked at the 
people who had been down before. They were slapping each others backs and giving 
high fives. It didn't take long for me to realize that I'd have another night to spend in 

Sure enough, when we got back on the ground we were informed that we would be 
spending the night in Christchurch and that we were to collect our per diem prior to going 
back to our hotels. Also, since our luggage was already packed up in bins on the plane, it 
couldn't be returned to us. I had the foresight to pack away some underwear and clean 
socks in my laptop carrying case. I also had a change of clothes in my ECW bag, so I 
could at least get freshened up for my night out. 

Once back to the hotel, I called Ella to inform her of the news. Since it was past 3:00, 
about the only thing to do was to head to Bailies for some beer. Afterwards, I found an 
internet café to check my email. It was only $5 NZ/hour to use, but damn was it slow. 
For every minute that I was actually looking at web content, I spent 2 minutes waiting for 
it to download. After a half hour, I gave up in frustration and went back to the hotel and 
had dinner in the restaurant with Sherry.

The hotel where I was staying had a western theme. It was way over the top even by 
American standards, but you had to give them an A for effort. In addition to the 
costumes and décor, the staff would even lead the diners in country line dancing. I spent 
about 2 hours taking in the spectacle and enjoying something even remotely familiar. 
But I couldn't stay too long as I needed to be at the CDC early the next morning to try it 

Sunday October 7, 2001

Antarctica, take two.

Had breakfast with the same group as before. We were discussing the events in 
Afghanistan and found out about the United States' retaliatory strikes against he Taliban. 
To a person, we agreed that it was about time and the no quarter should be given. But 
already, the relevance of such events became less important. The World Trade Center 
disaster was already almost one month and over 12,000 miles away. It was just too 
removed from our daily lives.

Once at the CDC, we went through nearly the same routine as before, except that we 
didn't have to drag our bags through security. This is a good thing considering that I had 
over 150 pounds of stuff in 5 different bags. This is not including my laptop. 

Shortly before 10:00 we loaded onto the plane and went through the same ordeal as the 
day prior. This time, I was a bit wiser and arranged for a floor space "time share" with 
the person across from me. We agreed to split the floor space with his legs outside of 
mine and mine between his and my feet beneath his seat. When we got uncomfortable, 
we would switch. This arrangement worked out fairly well.

We were airborne for close to an hour before the pilot announced that we would have to 
turn around because the plane was experiencing the same problems that it had the 
previous day. Another night in Chch.

This night, though, the weather was cold and there was very little to do. Chch is pretty 
much dead on Sundays and I was wishing that we could have made it to the ice just so 
that I would have something different to do. But I managed to find a buffet style 
restaurant and had myself the best peppered steak of my life as well as ate another plumb 
pudding like I had a few days before. I also went to an internet café to try to send my 
sister an e-birthday card. But the page timed out before the confirmation screen, so I 
hope that she got it anyway.

Monday October 8, 2001

Third time's the charm, they say. Well, realistically this was the 4th attempt as the plane was 
bumped back one day prior to our first attempt to board it.

Anyway, this time a different C141 and crew were being used to get us south. I suppose 
that the landing gear problem on the other plane required some extensive work. They 
would get us there, they said during the briefing. And to myself, I jokingly responded, 
"yeah, but we haven't met a plane yet that we couldn't turn back."

I was right.

Twenty two minutes after take off, we turned around. They lost oil pressure to the #1 
engine and had to shut it down. The fire trucks were even scrambled as a precaution to 
prepare for our landing. They weren't needed, fortunately.

We were offloaded and huddled in a nearby hanger. About a half hour later, we were 
told to get back on the plane. I was a bit shocked. In the Navy, the procedures dictated 
that after a system failure that thorough retesting be performed. It may well have been 
the airplane equivalent of a loose oil filter, for all I know, but it didn't sit well with me. 
After all, if it had been a civilian plane that had to land because of a lost engine and the 
passengers told to re-board it, you would see a mutiny and demands of refunds, if not 
outright lawsuits.

We took off once again and were this time airborne about an hour before we experienced 
a landing gear problem. Like with the other plane, the landing gear didn't indicate that it 
was retracting properly. So back to Chch it was for another night on the town.

It was miserable, rainy weather but I caught up with a few folks at a place called Sergeant 
Peppers and had another delicious peppered steak. I also ate another wonderful dessert 
called a pavlova. A pavlova is considered to the national dessert of New Zealand. It is a 
bit hard to describe but consists of whipped crème, pudding, a sweet syrup, kiwi fruit, 
and confectionary sugar. It is really incredible and I can't wait to get back to Chch and 
try another one.

Four actual tries and no successes. I was beginning to think that it wasn't in the cards for 
me to get to Antarctica.

Tuesday October 9, 2001

We arrived at the Antarctic Center at the same time as the day before and went the drill 
once more.

Again we got airborne and had to turn back. The engine acted up just as it had the day 
prior. We were aloft for only 30 minutes before we were back on the ground and sent to 
a hangar to await repairs.

At this point, I was seriously upset with the situation. I was flying on a plane that did not 
appear to be safely capable of crossing 2200 miles of open water and Antarctic 
nothingness. So, I called Ella to let her know the story up to this point in the event that 
the unspeakable happened on our next attempt. After all, if we went down in the 
Antarctic Ocean it would be very unlikely that anyone would know exactly what 
happened. So, I brought her up to speed on all the details and promised that if the next 
attempt wasn't successful that I would give up on the idea of working on the Ice. My 
safety and commitment to her meant more than a chance to be there.

We re-boarded the plane about 45 minutes later and took off. My concerns were for 
naught as we finally managed to make it all the way to McMurdo Station without any 
problems (at least while we were airborne).

There was some excitement from people near the 2 viewing windows on either side of the 
plane. People were crowding around to see what I suppose were icebergs. I imagine that 
it was nothing different than what one would see when flying over the North Atlantic on 
the way to Europe, so I wasn't in any hurry to crawl over 30 people in an attempt to get 
there. About 45 minutes after the "iceberg sighting", we were instructed to buckle up and 
get ready for landing.

The plane banked a few times as well as climbed in altitude on more than one occasion. I 
mistakenly assumed that they aborted the landing a few times as in my limited flight sim 
experience, planes lifted their nose on landing at the last minute in a "flare" maneuver to 
slow down the plane just as the wheels were about to touch down. Anyway, the moment 
the wheels hit the ice runway was rather uneventful. As a matter of fact, it was as 
smooth, if not smoother than landing on an normal runway. 

It only took about 2-3 minutes for the plane to decelerate, stop, and taxi back to the 
offload point. And once the doors opened, it was an overload to unload event. There 
wasn't a person on board who wasn't anxious to get off the plane. The returnees just 
wanted to leave the cramped plane while us newbies (FNGs) were excited to see 

When my turn came to climb through the hatch and descend the steps, I was a little 
disappointed. There was a serious wind storm that was fiercely blowing snow to the 
extent that visibility was reduced to no more than 50 yards or so. I was surprised that the 
pilots had landed the plane in such weather (I later learned that the storm blew up just as 
the plane touched down. Thirty seconds too late and they would have had to abort.) The 
temperature wasn't as biting as I had mentally prepared myself for, but the wind was 
something else. When it blew it cut right through me. I was also disappointed that I was 
unable to see the volcano Mt. Erebus. The blowing snow hid everything that I had been 
told to look for. Nevertheless, I was able to take a few pictures of the ice runway, the 
plane, and the air traffic control towers before I dashed to the bus for a ride to McMurdo.

The people movers that were at the strip to pick us up were like something from a 
monster truck show. The largest. "Ivan the Tera Bus" has tires that are at least 5 feet in 
diameter. The others, although not quite as large, several feet of ground clearance. I'd 
learn that all of the vehicles here, sans tracked vehicles, have over sized tires and Rancho 

The ride to the station lasted about 5 minutes and we were deposited at the galley where 
we met the station manager and were forced to listen to a few orientation lectures. We 
listened for an hour and then were served a late dinner. While I was grabbing something 
to eat, my boss Jordan, came by my table and introduced himself. My first impression 
was quit positive, which was reassuring. We had only spoken on the phone for about 25 
minutes prior to me taking the job. But he told me to report to the power plant early the 
next day because the previous year's crew were anxious to get the new folks up to speed 
and leave the ice. It sounded fair to me, so I had no qualms with hitting the ground 
running, so to speak.

While we were eating and waiting for our baggage to arrive from the C141, we were 
informed that there was a problem on the air strip. The wind had picked up to the point 
that the plane was blown sideways and they were afraid to remove the several tons of 
bags as that was the only thing keep the plane from literally blowing away. Instead, they 
wanted to wait until refueling was complete and then offload the luggage. So, we were 
told that it would be late before our bags made it to the base and that it tomorrow would 
be better to pick them up.

With that, I picked up my room key and made my way from the galley to my dormitory 
several hundred yards away. Let me tell you, the wind was really strong and it was the 
coldest walk I'd ever undertaken. I've heard since that it was about –15 with –40 to –50 
F wind chills. Since I was walking into the wind, I was literally walking at a 30 degree 
angle to the wind in order to get leverage to make any progress. Had the wind stopped 
suddenly, I would have landed face first on the ground.

I was relieved when I made finally made it to my room, only to be disheartened when the 
key didn't fit the lock to my door. So after a phone call to the folks in housing, it was 
back out into the elements for another key. Fifteen minutes later I was finally able to 
brush my teeth and get in bed. No time for a shower this night, I just wanted to sleep. I 
was even too tired to speak with my roommate, Chris, a guy who I had met in Chch.

Wednesday October 10, 2001

I slept until about 7:00 and then headed out to the bathroom to brush my teeth and head 
out. I was a bit distracted when I opened my door and looked down at then end of the 
hallway. There was a pile of snow that had blown in through the cracks and accumulated 
on the walls and carpet. Once I became unmesmerized, I dressed in all of the ECW I 
could find and made my way to the galley for some breakfast. On the way to the galley, 
my glasses started to burn my face. I wasn't outdoors for more than a minute and they 
were freezing to my face. It seems that is a problem with metal glasses in the extreme 
cold. Thank goodness I had some plastic safety glasses made before I left. Now the just 
need to get here…

The glasses weren't my only problem. I was developing a sore throat. It looks like a 
case of the McMurdo Crud was about break out and I was ground zero. The crud is a bad 
flu that stems from being exposed to new germs that you haven't developed an immunity 
to. I had it once before when I was in boot camp, and I will probably get it again once I 
leave the Ice.

I was at the power plant by 8:30 and met the outgoing watchstander, Bill, and started 
getting up to speed on McMurdo's diesel generator sets. I had operated a nuclear reactor 
and steam plant while in the Navy, so a lot of the procedures and equipment was familiar. 
Perhaps more accurately, it was the same but different. On my submarine, the steam 
turbine went 'round and 'round to drive the generators. Here it was diesel engines. The 
rest: monitoring temperatures, paralleling across breakers when bringing generators 
online, and adjusting generator speed and voltage were so much alike that it was 

The rest of the day was uneventful. I picked up my luggage in the afternoon and 
unpacked, had lunch, attended a training seminar about driving company vehicles on the 
Ice, and stood an "under instruction" watch at the power plant.

Thursday October 11, 2001

Feeling worse today. Sinus congestion and coughing setting in. I didn't much sleep last 

More watchstanding, a call home, and some email checking. They are piling up as I can't 
get my laptop on the network. I'm having problems finding a connection. The only way 
to do it is to unplug a computer and plug mine in.

I examined the network settings of the computer in the power plant control room (where I 
would be spending 12 hours/day off and on for the next year) and got the name and 
workgroup. I copied them onto my computer, connected to the LAN, and rebooted. 
Success. It looks like I'll have some contact with the outside world.

And it's just in time, Ella will be closing on our first home next week and I need to make 
sure that all goes well.

Friday October 12, 2001

Stood watch with another person who will soon be leaving. He had a slightly different 
ways of going about things than did Bill, but not so far apart as to create serious 
stumbling blocks for me. However, these people have really gotten on each other's 
nerves. What I consider to be insignificant, these people would take personally and are 
not afraid to tear into the other guy about it. A fan switch in a different position, a drip 
bucket not emptied… trivial stuff. Jesus, a year here must really wind some people up. 
And I'm quite sure that's the reason for the dynamics that I'm seeing. 

I had seen such behavior before on the submarine. I even once saw best friends break out 
into a fistfight in the torpedo room. The isolation, boredom, loss of any sense of 
normalcy, and perhaps even the lack of color all play a part in affecting someone's state 
of mind. And after a while you can't take any more and have to vent somehow. 

A few months from now when they are off the Ice, though, they will be laughing it off 
ready to come back and do it again next year.

Saturday October 13, 2001

More of the same. Stood another 12 hour shift today. I have two days off and will then 
stand the watch by myself. My nose is dripping like crazy and I stopped by the small 
store here to get some cold medicine. It clears my sinuses a little bit and eases the sore 
throat, but other than that I feel miserable.

Sunday October 14, 2001

I woke up early to explore the town and thought that I would climb Observation Hill, a 
steep hill nearby that overlooks the town. I bundled up and tried to make the climb, but 
the ashy soil made the climb too slippery. It was also a bit on the cold and windy side so 
I thought that it would be wise to try some other day…like maybe in January when it's 
much warmer.

The weather really limits what I can do. The cold keeps me inside and squelches my 
desire to explore. It may sound strange to want to come to a place like this and then 
complain because it's too cold. But usually after 5 or 10 minutes outside, I'm ready to 
through in the towel. Mostly, I only dress in jeans or coveralls, tennis shoes, t shirt and 
parka with mittens. This works for the quick runs to the galley and then from there to the 
power plant. Maybe if I really bundled up I could do a lengthier stint outside. 

I finally found a free Ethernet connection. In the lounge of the dormitory, of all places. 
It seems that this place is called the "ghetto" because it is slummier than the other dorms 
on base. Mammoth Mountain Inn, or MMI as it is known, was intended for transient 
personnel who were on their way to the Pole or field camps and there was only to be one 
person to a room. There are now two to a room and the space is quite limited. However, 
the only caveat that it offers are the LAN connections. It is the only dorm on the base 
with them in the lounge. It turns out that the transient personnel were mostly scientists 
and the like who needed internet access. I don't know about most people, but this perk 
really makes up for the "accommodations."

A bunch of us gathered in the lounge to watch college football (it was Saturday in the 
States). I surfed around and found that my alma mater, Cornell lost big time to Harvard. 
I was never a big fan of Cornell sports (ok, maybe hockey), but it was a bit shameful to 
inform the others that they lost by 23 points or some such. Even though I had never 
really watched football in a community atmosphere before, it was great fun. All in all, it 
was probably the most relaxing day I'd had since I left Chch. 

After I got on the web and sent out a few emails, I made a call to Ella and my mom and 
sister to let them know that I was alive. After that, it was time for bed.

Feeling better today…

Monday October 15, 2001

Another day off. Aside from surfing the web from the dorm lounge and taking in 
American Forces Network (the military's broadcast TV station), there isn't much to do. 
Thankfully, as it was Sunday back home, I was able to take in a few pro football games. 
But since everyone else was at work, it wasn't as much fun as it had been the previous 

Although the rotation that I work at the power plant sounds inviting: 3 twelve hour work 
days followed by 3 days off then 2 twelve hour work days and 2 days off, there really 
isn't much to do when you're off. Sundays are the station wide day off. So if you are off 
during the weekday, you pretty much are by yourself. Most of the people who worked 
last year took second jobs. I think that I'll do the same once we determine our shifts and 
I get settled in.

When it comes time to pick a shift, I think that I'll opt for the night shift and work from 
6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. It really doesn't matter as the time is irrelevant. In the summer, 
the sun is up all the time and in the winter, it's dark 24/7. The only way to know the 
difference is by what meal you eat. If you're eating cereal before you go to work, then 
you work day shift. If it's after work, then it's night shift that you're on.

Crud almost gone.

Tuesday October 16, 2001

The crud has left and I feel like a million bucks. I'm hard pressed to think of a time when 
a flu had nearly put me out of commission as did this bug. Sadly, I notice others in the 
dorm coming down with it. I feel bad as I may have been the one to spread it.

Anyway, I went to the power plant at 6:00 AM to stand my first full watch unassisted. 
Although my boss, Jordan, and the diesel mechanic, Jimmy, were there, it was still my 
domain, so to speak.

What is my "domain", exactly? Well, it consists of 6 Caterpillar D399 diesel engines that 
each turn a generator ranging from 800 KW to 900 KW. Usually, 3 of them running at 
any given time are enough to power the town. There are occasions when 4 are needed, 
but 3 are usually enough to ensure that there are no "brown outs" or times when the lights 
go slightly dim.

I ensure that the aging diesels are operating in their normal temperature range and bring 
more on as needed. I also monitor the station's grid for grounds and in the event of a 
casualty, stand by to knock down certain parts of the grid by opening breakers.

The power plant uses about 3,600 gallons of JP5 fuel per day. This is essentially a jet 
fuel that the diesels can burn, although at a reduced efficiency. This eliminates the need 
for keeping different types of fuel on hand. And that is indeed a lot of fuel. But these 
engines are approaching 25 years of age and, if you assume that they operate at the 
equivalent of 45 miles/hour, then they have traveled around the world several times over. 
A new power plant is being planned and these engines are soon to be replaced by larger, 
more efficient ones.

Anyway, I made my rounds and monitored the engines. Since the loss of an engine will 
result in a blackout, I was ever so vigilant. Any new sound that an engine made I talked 
to the mechanic about it. Jimmy was patient and explained that these engines will make a 
different sound depending upon the amount of electrical load placed on the generator, 
which makes sense as it is under more strain. It will take some time before I develop 
some sort of baseline sound for these guys. But it's good to be paranoid about this stuff 
in the beginning, I suppose. 

My first day went without incident and I turned everything over to Greg, the night shift 
guy who will be leaving in a few days. Unlike the previous winter over crew, Greg was 
above the nit picking and was really a mellow guy. It's a shame that he's going away as 
he'd be the sort of guy I'd like to have as part of this crew.

Wednesday October 17, 2001

Second day of my three day work week. Again, no problems. 

Ella was closing on our condo today and I couldn't wait to hear from her. I sent out 
several emails waiting for her response with baited breath, but no luck. Eventually I was 
able to get her on the phone to find that they closing went well and that we even had 
money left in the bank. We has assumed that between the down payment and the closing 
costs that we would get pulling the lint out of our pockets to pay the bills for the next few 

With the home buying out of the way, Ella has to concentrate on moving. Even though I 
packed up all of my belongings, computers, stereo, and clothes, there was still a lot of her 
stuff to go through as well as coordinate things with the movers, provided that you find 
some that are affordable. Otherwise she'll have to get some friends to load stuff on a 
truck for her. I really hate that I'm not there to handle it for her, but she's a trooper and 
will manage just fine.

Thursday October 18, 2001

Last day on for a few days. No problems.

I happened to catch Sherry in the lounge at 5:00 this morning. She wasn't feeling well 
and had the crud in a serious way. She was sleeping there to avoid keeping her roommate 
awake. I took pity on her as she may well have gotten it from me. Hopefully she'll be 
over it in 3-4 days as I was.

I found out that I would be moving out of MMI the next day and would be relocating 
closer to the power plant. Although this would make for a shorter "commute" to both the 
plant and the galley, I would be giving up the Ethernet connection. So if I wasn't 
working, I would have to haul my laptop the entire way across McMurdo back to MMI 
and connect in the lounge. Small price to pay, I suppose, since the internet is my only 

After work and dinner, I caught a shuttle over to Scott base, about 2 miles away. Scott 
Base (fondly known as the Kiwi base) is the ice station for New Zealand. It is much 
smaller than McMurdo but the bar serves fresher beer and their store has more interesting 
souvenirs. They also have a clear view of Mt. Erebus, so I was finally able to get a clear 
picture of it. 

The bar was packed with Americans. There wasn't even any elbow room. Eventually, 
though, I was able to make my way to a corner of the bar beside Jimmy and order a 
Guiness. They only invite us over once a week (Thursdays) because we come in such 
numbers that it creates a problem for them. It's not the ugly American stereotype 
hindering us, it's just that we literally swamp Scott Base. It's such a change of pace that 
it's nice to get over there and soak in the Kiwi aura and imagine that we're back in Chch, 
I suppose.

Aside from spending over $100 in their store, I also wanted to buy a few packs of 
Guiness to take back with me. The beer at McMurdo is so old that it had expired in May 
of 2000 and tasted nasty. But the previous week's influx of Yanks had all but emptied 
their cache of the brew and they could no longer sell it in bulk without running out.

Friday October 19, 2001

Packed up my stuffed and started moving shortly after I woke up. I didn't get to see my 
roommate Chris before I left, so I hoped that he wouldn't take my leaving personally. 

There for a few minutes, I really hated the fact that I had packed 150 pounds of stuff. It 
took me 4 trips to haul everything to my new room. But to the new room did have more 
room, a TV (wohoo!!!), a wardrobe, and miracle of miracles, my own desk. My room in 
MMI only had a wardrobe for me. 

But once I was unpacked I went to our post office to sent the previous night's haul of 
souvenirs to Ella and my family in Virginia. I had also received the safety glasses that I 
had made before I came to Antarctica. And it only took 3 weeks to get here….wow! 
Now if I can only get the color printer that I mailed to myself….

Once back at my room, I met my new roommate, Ken. He had flown down in August to 
work on the equipment at the runway. We exchanged info about what we did and were 
we were from. But since I've gotten into the habit of being asleep before 10:00, I feel 
asleep before too long.

Saturday October 20, 2001

Woke up and realized that I need to update my web page. Now that I had pictures of Mt. 
Erebus and decent pictures of the Ross Sea, I actually had some material. So, I put 
together a quick page and uploaded it to my ftp server.

I also needed to send out a mass email to all of my friends to let them know that things 
were fine and that there was actually something for them to take a look at.

I bumped into Chis at the galley and belatedly told him of the move. I wanted to make 
sure that he understood that my boss was behind it and that I had no problems with him 
or anything. Usually, when people move, it's do to roommate problems. So, I just 
wanted everything to be clear. Anyway, he understood and actually had a need for me 
yesterday. It turns out that he locked himself out of the room and had to wait 45 minutes 
for someone else to show up and unlock it for him.

Anyway, I spent most of the day playing Max Payne. I should beat it soon and then 
maybe move on to another game.

Back to work tomorrow, so unlike my new roomie Ken, no partying for me.

Sunday October 21, 2001

Went to work with a mission this morning…

I had to get my web cam online so that Ella would be able to see me. So, I configured the 
software that came with the webcam to upload to my ftp site every minute or so and 
threw together a quick web page that would display it. Like with most "free" software, it 
was buggy and couldn't get passed my web host's password scheme. So it was off to 
download.com for something with more functionality. I found an application from coffee 
cup software that seems to do the trick, although the image quality leaves something to be 

Once that was done, I waited for some of my Microsoft Messenger contacts to come 
online so that I could chat. Soon my mom came online and then she called my wife and 
my sister and I was chatting with my family. It really made for a short shift at work. 
Even though I was trying my best to keep on top of things at the plant, it wasn't too 
difficult to immerse myself in the chatting and be a world away…a warmer world.

They liked the web cam. Ella feels better when I have it on as she can check in to see 
me. For this reason alone, I'll try to keep it up anytime I'm on the network. 

Note: according to the logs, Ella refreshed the web cam page over 200 times on this day 
alone. I need to get a script that updates the image automatically.

Monday October 22, 2001

Worked again today and will have a 3 day starting tomorrow.

Chatted again with Ella but couldn't make my weekly calls to my mom and sister 
because I didn't have the plant to myself. I don't want to create a bad impression by 
talking incessantly on the phone while I'm still new to the job. 

But later in the shift Ella and I tried to use Netmeeting for the first time but didn't have 
any luck. Our firewall seems to block the connection. I know that it is configured 
properly as I tested it on both her computer and my laptop before I left. I'll need to talk 
to IT to find out what the problem is and see if I can circumvent it.

Tuesday October 23, 2001

Sat in my room and played Max Payne most of the day, although I did lug my laptop over 
to MMI to check my email and MM Ella for a few minutes.

Around lunch time I went to the galley and happened to bump into a fellow submariner. 
He saw my command ball cap and asked me if I were on the James K. Polk. He has 
served aboard a Skipjack class fast attack and was on his way to the Pole. He will truly 
be bipolar as he, like me, did an IceX and surfaced at the North Pole. But since I haven't 
been to the South Pole, he's one up on me.

In the evening all four of the power plant operators met in the control room with Jordan 
to talk about expectations and goals. It was a good chat and is the first time that all of us 
had been together: Karen (new to the power plant although a returnee to the Ice), Patrick 
(worker here off and on for several years), and Diane (a perennial here at McMurdo). 
Patrick, who is currently working nights, wants to come to day shift at the end of 
November. So, I'll be working nights then and hope to have more time to talk to Ella and 
get more premium internet time as there'll be more bandwidth for me in the late night and 
early morning hours. What can I say? I'm selfish.

Went home afterwards to play some pool in the lounge and watched a movie on AFN 
with Ken. I'm really getting in the rut of only going to work, the galley, occasionally 
MMI, and then home. I need to change my habits and get out to see some things.

Wednesday October 24, 2001

Checked my email to find some helpful advice from people on a message board that I had 
haunted for the past year (you know who you are). It seems like I now have an audience 
for my web cam and will have to make a mental note not to scratch myself or anything 
while the camera's on…

Anyway, someone forwarded me a script to allow the web cam page to refresh 
automatically. After some brain straining, I got it uploaded to find that it didn't work. I 
suspect that I screwed something up and hope to get it functioning properly tomorrow.

In an attempt to see something new, I dropped by the snowmobile facility to see how one 
goes about borrowing one. I found out that you don't. Unless your job calls for you to 
have one, and mind doesn't, then you aren't assigned one. I did stay around for a short 
seminar on how to maintain one just in case things are relaxed come this winter. I also 
found a guy who's imported an engine for his truck from New Zealand. This may be 
relevant as I hope to convert my Land Cruiser to diesel. This costs about $6,000 to do in 
the States and I'm hoping that, with the exchange rate in our favor, I can do it cheaper by 
importing one from either Australia or New Zealand.

Anyway I walked back to the dorm to find the lights out and an alarm sounding on the 
fire panel. It took about a second to realize that there was a black out in this part of the 
base. Since it is my responsibility to assist when these kinds of events occur, I dropped 
my laptop off in my room and dashed to the power plant to help.

The situation was in hand when I arrived, but I was told to answer the phone and start 
logging down the events and actions that transpired. Black outs are a serious thing and 
things are documented for future reference. 

It turns out that they had just completed some maintenance on a diesel and it tripped 
offline. Since the plant was now running on 2 overloaded generators, Jordan opened the 
"feeder" breaker to my part of town. This prevented the two remaining generators from 
tripping offline and saved the entire town from a blackout. Things were straightened out 
after a half an hour and I returned to my dorm to play some pool and catch some Star 
Trek on AFN. 

I didn't bother going to dinner this evening as I wasn't hungry. I've lost 4 pounds since 
I've been here and had lost 30 pounds before that. If I don't develop an appetite soon, I 
think that I'll see a doctor. The weight that I lost prior to leaving was the result of a diet, 
so I'm not concerned about that. But since I haven't exercised in a month, I would think 
that my metabolism would shift back to "weight gain mode", especially in this climate. 
But just to make sure that nothing serious is wrong, I'll talk it over with a professional.

No matter how long I spend here, I can't get used to the fact that it's light 24 hours a day. 
There is almost something unnatural about updating my journal to sunlight at 10:00 in the 
evening. Like the landscape and that Coriolis Effect….weird.

Thursday October 25, 2001

What a day. 

I didn’t get to sleep until well after 1:00 AM, which was OK since I didn’t have to go to work this morning.  The people in the next room really need to limit their partying until the weekend…

Had some kind souls help me with the web site and the web cam page was fixed and running before noon.   I also got around to posting an FAQ and made a few other tweaks.  But I’m still not current with the pictures section.  This webmastering business is almost a full time job.

At 6:30 I went on what I thought would be a short outing to some local ice caves.  In reality, it turned out to be a major trip that lasted until near midnight.  These trips to local points of interest are offered several times weekly in order to boost morale among the troops.  In this case, they were doubling up on the destinations to make us twice as happy.  Not only did we make it to the Erebus ice tongue for the ice caves, but to Cape Evans to visit Robert Scott’s hut, an early Antarctic explorer, as well. 

We loaded up into what they call a Delta, or large bus similar to the buses that we were brought from the plane on except the tires were much larger and it made up of two compartments:  the driver and a passenger in front and a passenger compartment in the rear that was isolated and only accessible via a lengthy step ladder.  They don’t make for a comfortable ride as the tire pressure is so low to create a balloon effect.  And the ice isn’t perfectly smooth.  Quite the opposite it is rather bumpy.   The heater didn’t work well either and the inside of the windows kept icing over so we were constantly trying to scrape them off with whatever we had at our disposal.

The route had us going north over the Ross Sea along a flagged trail for about 45 minutes.  The conversation among the groups was light and cheerful, punctuated by moments of zero G after been thrown into the air each time the Delta ran over an ice hump.  Through the small patches of un-iced windows we managed to catch glimpses of the Royal Society Mountains, Mt. Erebus, and even Weddell seals who were “tanning” on the ice.

Near the caves, the Delta stopped and we got out to get a closer look at a heard of seals that were basking in warmth there was to be found on the ice.  They were docile creatures and didn’t seem to mind us getting to within 20 feet or so.  I had thought them to be rather small, no larger than a California sea lion.  Was I mistaken.  They seemed every bit the size of a walrus.  I would not want to ram one with a snow mobile.  It was a tad too windy for my taste, and I was concerned about my digital camera freezing, but I managed to take a few shots, return my camera to my inner parka pocket for minute or two of warmth, snap some more pictures, and repeat.  But unzipping my parka so frequently really started to take a toll on my core body temperature, so I thought it would be wise if I stopped taking pictures of the seals while I was exposed to the wind.  Eventually everyone had gotten their fill of seals and we progressed on to the caves.

The Erebus ice tongue is a glacier that flows from Mt. Erebus to the Ross Sea and is full of crevasses.  These crevasses thaw and freeze regularly to form caves where it meets the sea.  From time to time, they form openings large enough to enter and explore.   And much like limestone caves, they have chambers and even ice like stalactites.  The particular ones that we entered weren’t that large, being perhaps 10ft by 10ft at the largest point.  But the roof was fascinating as it had a “popcorn” appearance.  Aside from that, I was just glad to be out of the wind and didn’t really appreciate them as much as everyone else did. I suppose that my time as a coal miner had really jaded me about being underground, or in this case, under ice.  After a half-hour there, we piled back into the Delta and settled in for the hour long trip to Cape Evans on the east coast of Ross Island. 

The ride there was much as it had been to the ice tongue: noisy and bumpy.  We had given up on keeping the windows defrosted as it was a fool’s errand.  After wiping the windows clear of ice, they were only frozen over again in a matter of 30 seconds or so.  We were just emitting too much moisture with our breaths.  Mercifully, by 9:30 or so we came to a stop and the driver extended the ladder so that we could climb out. 

We had stopped near a Kiwi ice camp and beyond was a blue glacier.  I didn’t know which was more impressive, the fact that they New Zealanders had hauled so many large containers out this far or the aqua colored ice that extended several hundred feet into the air.  To the east though, was Hut Point and nestled between two hills was Scott’s hut with Mt. Erebus towering over everything.

It was a real “Kodak moment” for me as there was so much beauty that I didn’t know what to take in first.  So I just looked at everything for a few minutes and started taking pictures.  But it wasn’t too long before the cold started getting to me as I was still trying to give my camera frequent “heat breaks.”  So, I started walking to Scott’s hut to catch up with everyone else. 

The driver/guide had opened up the hut to allow us to go inside.  Not only was it a good place to stay out of the wind, but it was a trip through time as well.  There were supplies dating from early last century that were still in almost perfect condition.  There was cocoa, canned vegetables, tea, flour, and almost everything that you would find in the canned goods section of the any modern grocery store.  There were also blankets, bunks, cups, plates, and even a snow melter to provide water.  On some of the bunks was graffiti.  Bored men must have inscribed their names while being quartered here over the dark winters of  nearly 100 years ago.

At one point, this was the largest building on the continent.  It measured roughly 50 feet in length and 30 foot across.  It was built by Scott and crew on the Terra Nova expedition in 1911.  This was Scott’s last and fatal attempt to reach the Pole, having frozen to death on the return from the Pole in 1912. Scott had also established a quarters at the present day McMurdo station on an earlier expedition (which I need to take a look at sometime…) but was unable to make it this far south because of the ice and had to build a new one for the winter before he set out for the Pole.

In 1914, the Aurora contingent of Ernest Shackelton’s trans-Antarctic crossing attempt used both this hut and the Discovery hut in McMurdo as a base of operations.   It was not Shackleton who led this part of the expedition.  This crew was to reach the Pole and start laying caches of supplies so that he would not have to carry too much with him.  But since Shackleton ran into problems in the Waddell Sea, he never even set foot on the continent.  The crew, under a Captain Mackintosh, successfully laid the caches but 3 of them, including Mackintosh, perished on the way back to Cape Evans.

There is a cross near the hut that in honor of the men who perished on the Shackleton trip.  So, I headed to the top of the hill to get a better look.  No sooner than I crested the hill did the winds try to pick me up and blow me the several hundred feet below to the Ross Sea.   They must have been blowing at least 50 miles an hour. I only snapped a handful of pictures as did anyone else who ventured up there.  It just wasn’t safe to be there with and exposed hand. Even while wearing ECW it was inhospitable.

I was glad to climb down the mountain and start moseying toward the Delta.  Everyone else must have had the same idea as we started heading back at about the same time.  I took the opportunity to ask someone about the blue appearance of the nearby glacier and learned that it was due to the temperature.  It was so cold that its appearance was blue instead of the usual white.  I’m sure that it is more complicated than this explanation, but I left it at that.

We piled back into the Delta and started our 90 minute ride back to the base.  It was after 11:30 that we pulled back into McMurdo and I crawled out of my ECW and into my bed just before midnight.  I had to get to up and ready for work at 5 AM.  No sleep for two nights in a row.

Friday October 26, 2001

I did my 12 hours on and had dinner afterward.  Work was uneventful.

Talk around the base was centered on tomorrow night’s Halloween party.  I had heard about it and seen pictures on other’s web sites, so I understood that is was the highlight of the summer. 

As for myself, I was feeling a bit somber and reflected on how things were now that I had been gone for nearly a month. 

For the most part, I was maintaining an even strain.  I was neither happy nor sad, neither elated nor depressed.  I just take things as they come and treat with as much regard as I would for ordering a shake at McDonald’s.  It didn’t matter…it was a non-event.  As long as I keep myself occupied (which I have managed to do up to this point), I won’t have the time to get overly somber.  I’ll likewise not have any real reason to have an emotional high, either.   I think that this is the military side of me that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Although I was a bit immature at the time, I remember behaving much the same way while I was at sea on my submarine.  I stood my watch, caught a movie, and went to the rack for a few hours of sleep.  To break up the monotony I would eat and occasionally take a shower when there was enough water.  Kind of like this place.,,

And I think that Raytheon (and its predecessors) designed things this way.  They don’t want to give you enough free time to think about your situation.  Most of the base works 9-10 hours per day, 6 days a week.   They want to keep you working enough to make you tired and keep you from getting bored by offering a few activities to give you something to do when aren’t sleeping and have some time off.   To be honest, it’s probably for the best that the schedule is like this.  As a matter of fact, I want to take a second job just to avoid having too much time on my hands.

Saturday October 27, 2001

Moving day for Ella.  And I left my wallet and calling card in my room.  It will be too late to call when I get off work, so I’ll have to call tomorrow.  Oh well.

After work I showered and dressed in civies.  It felt good to be in normal clothes for change, albeit the coveralls that I wear to work had become comfortable and I like wearing them now.

Anyway, I went to a pre-Halloween Party party and had a few beers.  Jimmie and Jordan were there so we chatted over a beer.  After 15 minutes or so, we meandered to the gymnasium, where the party was held.

There were, indeed some interesting costumes that people had made.  There were a lot of traditional costumes such as witches, nuns, a few deaths, and even a few cross-dressed guys.   But it was the handful of people who really used their imaginations that had my interest.  One guy, who I remembered from MMI, fabricated a suit of armor, sword, and shield from metal.  He did a really good job of it.  Another was what I took to be a Maori tribesman.  He must have been from the Kiwi base.  There was also “Light Stick Man,” a guy who had somehow found a stash of fluorescent night lights that you break in an emergency so that people can find you.

There were probably more people who arrived late, but since I had to work in the morning, I couldn’t stay long.  So it was back home and in bed by 10:30.

Sunday October 28, 2001

Work and phone call to Ella to see how the move went.

Everything went fine, although it cost us $800 to have 3 movers haul our stuff 10 miles.  She also told me that the plumbers gave her an estimate of $250 to change a bathroom faucet…the cost of the faucet was not included.  Jesus, Connecticut is expensive.    She was extremely tired, but everything was now at our new home.  All that was left was to clean up the old apartment and get our security deposit back.

I also called my mom to see how things were in Virginia.  All was well there too. 

It seems like a lot of folks are checking out what I’m doing.  I check my ISPs log to find that some 6,300 images from my web cam have been downloaded since it went on line last week.  Wow.  Where possible, I’ll try to show more scenery.  But since I can’t connect my laptop to the internet near any window (no network connections) that will prove a tad difficult.

Met Dave and Doug (from Chch) at the galley and sat down with them for dinner.  We started discussing  RPS, work conditions, and the general lifestyle at the base.  It wasn’t long before we realized that we shared the same sentiments.

If it wasn’t for the fact that our jobs were in Antarctica, there wouldn’t be anyone working at McMurdo.  The pay isn’t on par with industry averages, the benefits are humble, the food is second rate (not due to any cook’s lack of skill, but the food itself is military grade…bought from the lowest bidder), and the isolation from the real world isn’t made worth the bonuses that are handed out.  We suspected that the reason that there were fewer returnees this year over previous years was due to the fact that the job market drew people away.  Why would you want to return here if you could make more money on the outside?  Clearly adventure (or the perception thereof) is the main reason that people come here.  The returnees come back because the like the lifestyle.  You save your money over the time you’re here and take a few months off and see the world.  If they come back after that, then they’re addicted.  But by and large, about 50% of the previous year’s employees make the trip down again. 

At the same time, we all understand that it was a unique opportunity.  It’s akin to being part of John Smith's Virginia Company more so than Australia’s Botany Bay.  It’s no penal colony regardless of how miserable the conditions may seem.

Monday October 29, 2001

Slept in this morning didn't do anything until 11:00 or so when I made my way to the MMI lounge to surf and put the web cam online.  It would be nice if there were ethernet connections closer to home, but c'est la vie.

I check my for my name on the package list when I went to the galley for lunch.  Surprise!  I actually had something today.  My printer, which I had mailed to myself before I left, finally arrived.  I was so excited to get back to my room and test it that I forgot all about a 2:00 safety lecture that I was required to attend.  An email to my boss, Jordan, begging forgiveness seems to have worked as he didn't seem overly concerned about it.

I printed out a picture for Ken for him to take have and had several problems off the bat.  There were streaks and the color was tinted red.  So after using the printer's cleaning software 3 or 4 times (and using a lot of ink in the process) I was able to see some marginal improvement.  I printed a photo for both him and myself but didn't feel too pleased with the results.  I suspect that the ink was somehow damaged, perhaps by freezing, on the trip down.  Being the smart guy that I am, though, I bought extra ink cartridges before I left and brought them with me in my carry on luggage to avoid such problems.  However, I'm reluctant to take the old cartridges out and replace them so early into the year.  Ink will be a precious commodity once the base shuts down and I never know when I might them.  I'll probably order some more once the weather gets above freezing.  After all, it would make no sense to get some now as it only freeze either in cargo holds or on the way from the runway to the base...

Other than that, not much happened today.  I played some pool and watched a movie or two on AFN.  Perhaps mundane by stateside standards, but as I mentioned before, I'm just trying to stay occupied.

Tuesday October 30, 2001

Didn't get but about four hours of sleep.  

I kept thinking of my wife and how much I was starting to miss her.  Another year...

Did the work thing and came home to play Max Payne as a distraction.  Almost beat it for the second time.

Wednesday October 31, 2001

Second day of my work rotation and still feeling melancholy.  Pillows make a poor substitute for Ella.

More Max Payne.




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