Jen on her "working boondoggle", digging out barrels from a fuel cache in
the Transantarctic Mountains. (Thats her in the back, pushing the 400-lb barrel
up a slippery snow ramp.)

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Measuring the thickness of the sea ice along a crack.  Eventually, yes, it got
too thin to drive the Hagglund, and we were forced to man-haul the equipment 2km
 to the ice edge, and several hundred pounds of samples back

In a relatively dark gym, the effect turned out great!

From inside the Observation Tube, as a giant jelly floats by.

Look at those fancy pants!

A whimsical moment at work, making our boss man-haul us!

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3 March 2012

Is it possible to be on top of the world, while physically residing on the bottom of it?  Sure it is.  After 6 months on the ice, my time here is now very short.  And yes, that is certainly part of why we are on top of the world – flowers, trees, smells, darkness and menus are all just around the corner!  But if I take the time to reflect on all that has gone on in those six months, I feel like I oughta pinch myself, just to make sure its all real. 

There are the reunions….

-          with old friends from seasons past, comparing stories of travels, whale shark swims, summer adventures and new loves..

-          with former galley staff, now working in disparate departments

-          with Friday Night Movie Clubbers, though some members were dearly missed

-          and, most exciting of all, with arriving sweethearts, at the base of the aircraft stairs, plastic flowers in hand.

There are the new friendships…

-          gained across the service bar at the coffeehouse

-          found during WinFly  - when every table, at every meal, presents a new opportunity (just beware the crusty winter-overs)

-          born at the “grown-ups table” at Christmas, and at weekly “Sunday Coffees”

-          cultivated while adding the seventh strap to a PIG-bound (yeah right) pallet or changing the load-plan to reflect the whims and desires of Raven Ops

There are the competitions…

-          spanning the globe, via Facebook-based Scrabble or coffeehouse-based Risk

-          ranging from big to small, i.e. pickleball & ping pong (same game, differing perspectives)

-          challenging the mind, with strip-Boggle and strip-trivia (not nearly as risque as it sounds - remember a fourth of my season is based at the air-strip) and this year's game-of-the-season, Bananagrams

-          challenging an old man’s body - basketball and the inevitable trips to medical the next morning

There are the parties…

-          The Big Lebowski, where the bowling alley was resurrected, complete with black lighting and movie screens rigged only as a bunch of BFC-ers know how.

-          The Carp Shop, where Erwin first belted those amazing pipes

-          Halloween, where skeptical stick figures turned out to be our most “brilliant” costume idea yet

-          New Year’s Eve, where everyone was in love with everyone, and the weather was finally perfect for Ice Stock (and the subsequent 2AM sunbathing on the deck of Hut 10).

-          The Waste Barn, before which the mere mention of “fancy pants” was the impetus for some serious dress-up, and at which the lovely ladies danced the night away.

-          MAAG, most memorable for its outside toys

-          Moustache Roulette, in which many a strange hairy man ended the night just strange.

-          The MEC party, taking advantage of the snowmobile warehouse while all the snowmobiles were out at field camps, with great music and dancing – and who were all those skirted men that arrived at the end?

There are the musical talents…

-          the acoustic stylings of a Zim Christmas, featuring an eclectic group of musicians who are rarely coaxed onto the stage, but kill it when they get there..

-          the amazing sound of Erwin’s voice, covering everything from Four Non-Blondes to Otis Redding to Meatloaf, with a stage presence to boot!  (When you can cover The Cure perfectly, four different ways in the same show, you’re doing something right.)

-          the familiar 80’s music of Flock of Skuas, our favorite opportunity to be band groupies

-          the now-familiar James/Kate/Kevin/Neal combination that always produces some great sounds and great times, though can’t seem to stay with a consistent band name.  We’ll just call them “Ooh Lah Lah…” for a couple different reasons. 

-          the only-in-McMurdo creativity of Condition Fun, that can somehow bring a nostalgic tear to your eye with original musings about McMurdo vehicles, buildings and curiosities. 

-          the best love song on the continent, “Piston Bulley 315”

There are the adventures away from town…

-          an hour-long Basler flight, into the heart of the Transantarctic Mountains, to dig 70, 400-lb barrels of jet fuel out of the drifting snow, basically so another group of adventurers can repeat the same task eight weeks later? 

-          an all-day hagglund ride to the newly re-forming ice edge near Cape Royds in order to collect “frost flower” samples from 2km past where the Hagglund could safely travel – can you say man-hauling?

There are the hikes…

-          loop #1 and loop #2, Jen’s escape from an unjust world - “they restoreth my soul..”

-          “I’ll meet you at the ice runway, and we’ll walk back together.”

-          big snowflakes, quiet air and the swoosh of skis on the Cape Armitage loop

-          an impromptu trip to the top of Ob Hill, with a new friend “fresh off the boat”

There are the challenges of work on a harsh continent…

-          PIG needs 30,000 lbs and 8 pallets of cargo tomorrow, but the one plane scheduled to fly has an ACL of 17,000.  Besides, PIGs don’t fly.

-          seventeen pallets need to be transported to Pegasus for morning flights, but two Deltas are broken and we need to save one for shift-change.

-          wait a minute… baja is pri-1?

-          Kiwis don’t fly any better than PIGs 

There is the planning for post-ice travel…

-          finding a map of the South Pacific, and researching every single island to find the very best snorkeling, surfing, beaches, etc.

-          combing through all of Rarotonga’s bungalow-style accommodation to find the very best place to take up residence for all of April!

-          Spending every last one of my frequent flyer miles to book tickets to Kathmandu – we’re going trekking my love!

-          Agonizing over what size sailboat on which to spend five days learning to sail and exploring New Zealand’s Bay of Islands

There are the little things that just never get old…

-          like C-17’s that cannot land at Pegasus because a penguin is walking along the runway

-          like the tiny little differences between the 87 shades of blue and white that can all exist in one snow-covered, mountainous landscape.

-          like hiking, skiing and watching planes land on frozen ocean – then watching as that frozen ocean cracks and opens up two months later to reveal orcas & minke whales

-          like crawling down a tube, through 15 feet of ice, to sit in a tiny glassed-in room and watch as giant jellyfish and tiny “walrus angels” drift by with the current – absolutely magical….

-          Adelie penguins.  Period.

If these guys ever stop bringing a smile to your face, its time for you to go.
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