Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It Begins Again

I received an offer from Raytheon Polar Services last week for another winter at the South Pole for the 2012 season. That is early next January to early November.  I accepted so here we go again!

It is true that I was very tired of being at the Pole last November and wanted to leave, but after a few months away I began to remember how good it was in many ways.  Or maybe I just forgot how annoying some things were! :)  It is a unique place: one long day and one long night, one sunrise and one sunset a year, temperatures that cannot be described, with atmospheric and celestial shows that can be seen nowhere else on the planet. The night sky at the South Pole is a view fewer than 1,400 people have ever seen in the history of mankind.  How could I not go back?

This upcoming year I will at least be able to see when I am outside.  Last winter my glasses frosted over after a minute or two outside and I couldn't see a thing. After the temperature dropped to below -50F this happened every time I went out, without fail.  This winter I will have contact lenses so I will be able to find the flags between buildings easier.  Because of my poor eyesight it was often quite dangerous for me to go outside, particularly on my own when the weather was bad.  I know some people scoffed at my characterization last year that being some places in bad weather were risky, but I don't know how anyone could say being outside in the dark at -85F with a 20 kt wind, blind, would not be a risky thing.  But the risk is part of the allure.  The South Pole in winter is not Disneyland.  The conditions are real and often dangerous.  No matter what happens the crew has to deal with it, and you certainly can't quit and go home.

So I start again with the physical qualifying medical tests called PQ'ing.  I took my first test today and there are many, many to go. There will also be more emergency trauma and fire-fighting training (this time in Salt Lake City I think), and of course another psych test.

It should be a good year.


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