My normal Saturday at the office?
As with almost all of my days here in Antarctica, yesterday was an interesting day. In most of the science camps around Ross Island and the Dry Vallys we use UHF 2-way radios with a telephone interface to connect with the McMurdo telephone network. The telephone suddenly stopped working out at the penguin rookery at Cape Royds a day or so ago. So we left the shop at about 8:00 AM to take an A-star to get it working again. We landed in 30 knot winds at Cape Royds. In a case like this the pilot not only keeps the engine running he keeps the throttle up as we get out so he has somewhere to go (up and away) if it gusts. Well anyway, we got the telephone working again after about an hour or two after getting both ends of the link spruced up. It is a tricky (but good) path using knife edge defraction off Tent Island to get the signal back to town. The winds on the ridge where we have the antenna were about 60 knots. I was again reminded about Antarctica being the windiest continent. There are about 25,000 penguins at this rookery. It is one of the smaller ones of the rookeries on Ross Island. The chicks ae hatching now. The seals are waiting in the water and the skuas are flying around looking to feed their chicks with the chicks of penguins. The penguins are fun to watch. Their body shape and mannerisms form a whimsical and comical experience just aching for a soundtrack. Goofy and "an unintention design" that works are descriptions that fit.
Our pick up flight was delayed because of high winds as the winds picked up over 40 knots at the LZ. You never know how long you will be stranded. It may be for a couple of days. We passed the time and eventually in the afternoon they sent a Bell 212 to pick us up. The winds had diminished to under 30 knots at this point. So we loaded up into the 212 and took off only to run into a fog bank/snow storm. Although the ride was bumpy it was the lack of visibility that forced the pilot to set the ship down (very nicely) at Cape Evans near Scott Hut. We spent an hour or so on the ground. Using weather reports from around the area we found a hole and took off only to have to set down off the tip of Big Razorback island on the sea ice for about 10 minutes. We arrived back at McMurdo just ahead of a significant snow squall and quiting time. Folks listening in on all the radio traffic during our day join you vicariously in the experience. The truck was waiting for us back at the helo pad. That was nice.
The archetypical Antarctican is a 38 year old male. He has a beard. He has a cross of personalities you are familiar with in American culture. He can remind you of a cast member in a Mad Max movie ready for more adventure in a harsh dusty environment and may appear to adhere to the social norms and rule-of-land although you can't be sure. He wears his sunglass-googles on his hat. His skin makes him look older and tired. You really can't determine if his skin is sunburned, ice nipped, or just dried out and cracking. You determine that if this person just gets a good night sleep he will be ok. This individual is also a little like McGiver. He can fix stuff that desperately needs to be thrown away. He will fix it the right way if he can. If he can't, he will fix it anyway perhaps using advice from another trade after extended discussion over coffee and a blue tray. He wears the same clothes day after day. Except on his day off when he does laundry. He wears a factory aged "Mt. Erebus Ross Island" T-shirt and blue jeans. Othertimes it is the uniform of issued special black carhart bib overalls with a gray polar fleece shirt with a tan neck gaitor around the neck looking like a fashion accessory. He walks heavy. This garb is of course inside buildings, shelters or tents. Big red obliterates any other identifiable clothing otherwise. He showers a couple times a week. Although for some reason he really never comes clean.