Sunday, December 25, 2011

On The Ice Again...

Unfortunate choice of post title-- now I have Willy Nelson playing in my head...

I didn't put as much effort into getting ready to deploy as I should have. Last year, I was "bumped" due to overpopulation at McMurdo. This year, the reports were that it was a similar season, so I really didn't think I'd make it down to the ice. The expected e-mail never came, and when it became clear that I was going-- I had to get ready in a hurry! Mimi is watching the house and cats, and Conan is staying with some friends in Boulder. When he saw me packing things up, he knew. He was so mopey for the last few days-- he rode all the way from my house to Boulder with his chin 0n my arm, looking up at me with those big, brown puppy eyes that dogs reserve to tear your heart out... I knew he would have a blast, but it was tough. Sure enough, when we got to my friend's house, he acted like he had been there a thousand times (though he'd never been). He couldn't wait to get inside. They have a new-to-them 5-month-old tricolor corgi, and it was a perfect arrangement. Conan would have a playmate, and the new pup would have a "big brother", at least for a month or so. Mimi says the cats are doing well-- as long as they get a certain amount of human contact, they'll be fine. Conan's keepers said that he's having a blast. (I just hope he's okay with leaving once I get back...)

The flight down is always brutal-- dropped off at the airport four hours before flight time, then a four-hour flight, a five hour layover, a twelve hour flight... and that's just to get to Aukland. Then we have to get our luggage, go through customs, and get on another flight to Christchurch. I didn't sleep well on the trans-pacific flight, and was completely exhausted by that point. We checked into our hotel in Christchurch, and I actually got a good night's sleep. Since the time difference is twenty hours now, the sleep cycle isn't too bad of an adjustment, provided you can sleep on planes. I did nowhere near enough of that. The shuttle picked us up at the hotel, and took us to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) at the airport. We picked up our cold weather gear, and had to endure another several hours of orientation videos and waiting before we could get on the US Air Force C-17 for McMurdo. We took off around 10PM. It would have been gravy, but the jump seats on the plane hit my tailbone just right, to where I never got more than 10 seconds or so of sleep before the pain would wake me up again. Sometimes there are ways to sleep on the floor, but there were just too many of us. I could get up and move around a little, but not much. The big, yellow hardware was the cargo pallet that I was staring at, strapped to my jumpseat for six hours or so.

Veteran Ice Folks will scold me for my whining-- a C-17 is like a soak in a bubblebath compared to some of the other transport to the ice. I just had a particularly hard time due to the lack of sleep. Very few things are as miserable (to me) as being completely drained, but unable to catch even a wink. A lot of folks like the jumpseats, but mine was not my tailbone's friend. It's still sore, a week later.

Enough whining about the trip-- I got here, and I'm in a nice groove of sleeping and working. I have run into a ton of old friends, and it feels a bit like home. I got a great roommate assignment, an OAE (Old Antarctic Explorer) who was a SeaBee in the Navy down here in the '70s. He has a lot of great stories to tell. The weather has been great, with only one day of snowstorms. The snowy, industrial picture is the view from my office window on last Thursday. I have plenty of photos of much nicer weather, which I will post soon.

1 comment:

Amy Gwin said...

Lee, thanks for the great pictures. We miss you but we don't have any frozen isolation to offer, no dorm rooms, paralyzingly long flights to get here.... really nothing that compares to where you are. Hope you'll still visit us someday.
We love you--
Merry Christmas and all that.