Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beneath the Southern Cross

Yesterday I crossed the equator for the first time ever, and if it were not overcast in Christchurch NZ I would be able to see completely new stars!  The flights were long and tiring but not too bad.  After living in NYC for such a long time I got used to being able to fly direct to almost anywhere so the four leg trip to Christchurch was pretty grueling.  At least all my bags made it with me, which was not the case with some of my USAP traveling companions.

Every year the Antarctic Program hands out luggage tags to participants and here is a picture of this year's purple tag.  They aren't just gifts and we are required to put them on our bags so the airline can give those bags special consideration.  That's the theory anyway.  The handing out of the luggage tags is one of the minor high-points of the orientation in Denver every year.

We arrived in Christchurch at 2:30 pm yesterday and made it to our hotels around 4 pm.  We then had the rest of the day off.  (!)  I managed to stay awake until about 10 pm.  Later today we all go to the clothing distribution center to be issued all our ECW gear, then tomorrow we leave at a very, very early hour for Antarctica!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

South Pole Dome

After thirty-five years serving as the iconic image of the South Pole the aluminum geodesic dome will be gone just a week before I arrive.  With the dedication of the new station last year the dome was declared redundant and has been mostly dismantled this summer, and by the time I arrive in two weeks it will be completely gone.  Even the hole it had scooped for itself in the shifting snow will be filled in. The dome sheltered station operations and housing for decades and was the South Pole Station since 1975.  I'm sorry to miss the opportunity to walk under it.

From people currently at the pole I hear that scheduling meetings have begun for personnel returning to the US - the first sign that the summer season is drawing to a close.  The station will close for the winter in mid February when it becomes to cold to fly, and by then all 200 summer workers must be gone. Only the winterovers will remain.  A few people like me who are winter-only have yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, here in the warm part of the planet I have eight days before my own deployment but about a month of things left to do.

Linked dome photo: Ethan Goode
B&W dome photo: Forest Banks