Friday, February 29, 2008


I am home. Sorry I didn't update sooner, but it's been a busy week, what with trying to get stuff in line for starting back at work next week and trying to get myself back to an east coast time zone schedule and all.

I arrived at about 1am on Tuesday, as promised. No real flight delays. New Zealand was wonderful, and I really am going to retire there someday. I have been back to work to pick up my key fob and other such things, and have visited just about all my friends (and the rest of you I'll see this weekend).

All in all it's good to be home.

And that closes this blog. Probably.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Well, yesterday we didn’t fly either, though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there wasn’t much wind. No one is sure why we didn’t leave yesterday, but there are a lot of jokes going around at the Air Force and the weather forecaster’s expenses. There was also a nasty rumor going around that due to weather and maintenance issues, the next flight out wouldn’t be till Monday. Color me not amused.

Today dawned bright and cloudy, and as of 8am, there wasn’t any ETA, ETD, or transport time. I put in a wake-up call with the dispatcher on-duty, and went back to bed, fully expecting the flight to be cancelled yet again. At 11am she called to tell me that the transport time was 1230. I rushed around, taking a shower, packing the little things up, and took off for the galley to get lunch. I said my good-byes, and it was off to the MCC to get in line for transport.

All the remaining firefighters on duty came up to say goodbye to those of us leaving. It was sad to leave all the people I’ve been working with for the past 5 months. I feel bad that I only really got to start to get to know them in the last month, but those are the breaks I guess. Hopefully Capt RJ will be making it out to MD this summer to visit some relatives that live near me, so I might get to see him. And a few of the guys who know about the SCA were talking about going to Pennsic this year, so I might see them too.

So right now I am on a C-17, having said goodbye to the firefighters on the airfield before getting on the plane. Today is as overcast and almost as windy as when I arrived here on the Ice, so I guess I’ve come full circle, though it’s not quite as cold. I’ve been working on parsing though the 90 GB of music I pulled from my friend Scott yesterday. I’ve made it through the C’s.

And now we are 30 minutes from landing in NZ! I have to turn my computer off now.


It is now just past midnight, NZ time. We landed around 8pm, but by the time we got through customs and go finished at the CDC it was pushing 1030pm. There are a couple of us staying here at Base Backpacker (the same place I stayed on the way down), and I got a room in the 'Sanctuary' which is an all girls area. I went out with the guys, after changing into something other than jeans, and got a cider and some food, but it was late and I am tired. Tomorrow I have to get up early and get a shuttle to the CDC, where I have to mail out my one suitcase and a box of random stuff (mostly boots). Then it's back to city center, where I will do my shopping and exchange more money, and then it's off to get the shuttle to Nelson, where my friend will be picking me up. My flight home doesn't leave till 430pm Monday, (and doesn't get in until 1am Tuesday morning....something about two 3 hour layovers in LA and Dallas), so I may be able to stay later than planned Sunday....I have to talk to my friend about it, and check out the ferry and bus schedules.

When we landed, the load master welcomed us to "Not Antarctica.' Then he told us that we may see color, and to not be alarmed. It wasn't the trees that was the wierdest was all the smells....I never knew you could smell humidity, but you can. The humidity is incredible. I'm sure it's not much, but compared to where I've been, it's a lot. We all got off the plane and everyone was sweating. It's unreal.

Oh well....time to get to bed. I feel bad leaving everyone down at the bar, but there's no way I can stay up till 3am or later and be able to function tomorrow, even if I won't see any of them again, most likely. I feel so old.

But...I'm in New Zealand. And strangely enough.....I miss the Ice....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not So Fast.....

Or at least, that's what the weather is saying. After having wonderful weather for the whole month, Mother Nature has decided to play games with those of us remaining. We are currently in the middle of what looks to be a 3-day snowstorm. Current rumor has my flight leaving on the 21st, which then will push back everyone else's flight. At least, if we leave on the 21st, my travel plans will not be drastically changed.

Which leaves 130 of us with nothing to do for the next few days. No work, nothing to do but bum around and watch movies.

At least now I can get some of the pictures I've been trying to get. Music too.

Last night I climbed Ob Hill with Misty (from the ANG) and my roommate. It wasn't as nice as it had been all day (20F, sunny, no wind to 13F, cloudy, lots of wind), but the sun through the clouds on the mountains across the sound made for some nice pictures.

But yeah, now I have only the clothes on my back, and who knows how long we'll be here?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Last post from the Ice?

This will most likely be my last post from Antarctica. I leave on Tuesday, most probably around noon, local time. This is good, since it means I'll be in Christchurch by dinner time. Today is my last day of work. I bag drag tomorrow at 1430. This poses a slight problem since I have a lot of laundry to do before that, and I haven't started packing AT ALL. And while we are sitting fat with people at station 1 today (Station 2 closed this morning, so there are an extra 6 people here today), the probability of me going home tonight is slim, since I was sent home on Friday night.

Thankfully, I don't have a whole lot of stuff to pack, and most of it will be fairly easy. I just hope that the washing machines and dryers are free tomorrow.

I've been getting increasingly antsy to get home over the past few weeks, and yet, as the time to leave gets closer and closer, I'm sad. I was sitting at Pegasus the other day and realized that I wouldn't see the Royal Society Range or Mt Discovery any more. No more stunning views of ice fields, purple and white mountains, and the plume coming off of Mt Erebus. No more interesting clouds formations, or 24 hours of sunlight (when it's not cloudy, that is). Yes, I will definately miss it here.

But I'm also looking forward to laying on a beach for 2 days, not having to bundle up to go get dinner, and eating food that hasn't been frozen for 3 years.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Penguins and frozen toes

I can now leave here happy. I saw an Emperor Penguin today at Pegasus field. Granted, he wasn't the mos gorgeous of penguins, as he was molting...badly. It looked like he had 2 tails. My pictures didn't come out very well, since my good camera died (cold kills batteries), and the smaller one doesn't have as good a zoom. Still he seemed to settle down near the airfield, so I have hopes he'll be there the next time I go out (Wednesday perhaps?). Plus, now that I have seen one for myself, I can snag Lizzie's much better, much closer pictures without feeling like I'm somehow cheating.

He was all poofy from the molting up around his neck and around his legs and butt from molting. I guess it's harder to get those areas with a beak than directly down his front. He probably would come up to about my waist if I were closer to him.

The pictures are posted in my web album. I'll stick one here (none of them are very good...too much sun today).

Thursday there was a solar eclipse down here as well. We were busy picking up about 3000 feet of hose for most of it, but I snagged some pictures of it from the community server. At one point the cloud covered the sun just enough that you could look at the sun, and still see the eclipse with your naked eyes. It was really nifty.

My roommate comes back on Friday. I'll be glad to see her, but sad to give up my single room.

9 days left. It'll be good to be back where there is darkness and warmth. The department's Fire Protection Officer (FPO) left today. The next guy, Mitch, leaves Friday. This week has started the mass exodus of people, as the flights are now every other day. Today 150 people left, the max the plane can take. At that, a lot of people are going home on LC-130's, since there are so many people to leave. The closer the time gets, the more antsy I get to be home. Or at least off the Ice. Plans are solidifying, but I'm hoping I can leave here a day or 2 early.

It's getting much colder too. Today the high was about 7F, with a windchill of -22F. Let me tell you, out at Pegasus, I felt every loss of degree. My face froze walking across the 'town' from the pax terminal to the plug line to turn on one of the trucks. And the truck I was assigned to didn't have heat (unknown to just about everyone...we knew it was having trouble with the heat, and only one heater worked, but today that final heater gave up the ghost..only cold air came out). As a result, but toes froze quite significantly. They actually hurt quite a bit on the trip home. And it seemed like the plane took FOREVER to leave. Mitch and I kept yelling at them to leave (from inside the truck, of course). All told, we were out there for about 4 hours. When we got back, Mitch and I immediately went in the sauna and took our socks off to thaw out our feet. I haven't been that cold in a while, I have to say.

And now for bed. I was up till 230 this morning hanging out with the FPO, Mitch, and my captain. It was an enlightening night.

9 more days.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Boring, boring, boring

Sorry I haven't been writing much lately. Not much is going on. Lots of people are leaving, and the every other day flights start tomorrow, so there'll be a lot more people leaving. I'm scheduled for Pegasus tomorrow. Hopefully I'll see some penguins.

Word has it that the ANG is going to try to get all their planes off the ice by February 17th. That would mean that they don't need so many firefighters anymore, so I'm going to have a talk with my captain tomorrow and see if I can't get off the ice a little the 17th. I may not be able to leave New Zealand till the 25th, but it'll give me a few extra days to see the sights. I have to check on that though, and see if I did get out of here on the 17th, would I still leave the 25th, or would that be bumped up as well.

Actually, I have to email Air Services and make sure that the change in my plans (leaving from Wellington instead of Christchurch) is set. Maybe they'll even have a flight itinerary for me.

10 days to go, not counting the day I leave. As of tomorrow I'll be home in 2 weeks.

Hopefully my laundry soap will hold out till then. I'm running low and I still have a few loads to do before I leave.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Lots of changes going on around here lately. Not the least of which is the weather. It's been bloody COLD here the past week, and it looks like today won't even make it into the 20's. Currently the temp is about 12F, with a windchill of -4F. Pretty cold for February, even in Antarctica.

The layout of town has changed temporarily as well. With the off-loading of the vessel well underway as of yesterday, certain areas of town have been fenced off, to make it safer for all. One such area is the large bus stop area called Derelict Junction. Right now, the taxis and shuttles are picking people up on the medical side of the galley. Not a big deal. The issue comes from those of us who live on the other side of the galley, on the other side of Derelict Junction. This includes me. This means that instead of crossing Derelict Junction and then the street to get to the galley, I (and everyone else who lives in the uppercase dorms) have to walk down the row of dorms to the end, cross the street, and walk up to the galley through what feels like a cattle shoot. It's only for a week or so, but coupled with the extra cold weather, it's a big hassle.

I was at Station 2 last shift, and didn't have to go to Pegasus. On the way back from Pegasus, the crews saw a lone Emperor Penguin walking across the road. Pictures were taken, and I will snag them if I don't get to see an emperor for myself.

People are leaving at an alarming rate. I know several people who left last Friday, some who left Tuesday, and more who are leaving this Friday or Saturday. Once the vessel support people leave (NavChaps and the Kiwi cargo handlers), the station will be quite empty. The amusing thing will be to see how they work out the issue of over-booked flights north. Of the last 3 flights north (the 3 flights after the last of the Hercs leave), the 19th has about 20 spaces left, the 21st (my flight date) is maxed out, and the 23rd (the last flight date) is over-booked by about 70 people. It will be interesting to see who they bumped and how early they bump them to. There is also talk of an extra C-17 flight some time in there, but that hasn't been confirmed yet, as far as I know. There is also the mounting problem of the South Pole, as the temps there have fallen significantly, and the Hercs do have a minimum flying temp. If the temps at Pole stay as low as they have been, they might start shipping more people out of Pole faster, and sending the Hercs home earlier. Which would enable them to bump up more of the firefighter's flight dates.

My roommate comes back next Friday, supposedly. I think I might be at Pegasus that day. From what I hear, they fly all the Polies to Pegasus on the Hercs, and they get off the Hercs and get right on the C-17 for the flight north. I'm not sure how true that is, since there would be an issue of checked/palletized luggage and such. We'll see, since I'm likely to be at Pegasus at some point in time next week.

It's hard to believe that there is just under 2 weeks to go here. The 21st still seems so far away, but when I stop and think about it, I have 7 days of work left, not counting today, and 13 days left on the Ice, not counting the day I fly. Weird to think about.