Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MidWinter in Antarctica

June 21, 12:58pm.  We picked this time because it was solar noon for us in Antarctica.

The cross at the top of our hike with the southern cross constellation  in the night sky next to it.  In case you don't know the southern cross, it's the ver bright stars that look like a kite with five stars. 

To kick off the Solstice I got up and ran the MidWinter Mile race.  Just one mile but with windchill (and it was windy) it was -56 so that mile was a big accomplishment.  I have a blue ribbon but that's becuase she crossed out the 1st and wrote 4th on it for me. (fourth out of my age category...of which there were four of us). 
Out center pieces for midwinter.  We collected old Antarctica photos and old lookin things to decorated. Simple and nice. 
To make the galley look special, we set all the tables, hung flags, christmas tree lights, put up tents, had live music and an open bar.  Good times. 

This project came out really cool. Many of us got a "Tom Crean" re-creation photo.  Tom Crean was on three major Antarctica expeditions. We got our photos taken and then wrote up a little bio on how we ended up in Antarctica. 

The galley, as usual, made incredible food and desserts.  These were our appetizers.  Lavender tea cakes,  spinach and cheese bowls, candycane beets and cream cheese, duck pate, edamame puree with fried nori and wasabi, and two others i can't remember right now. 

That isn't even all of the desserts. It continues on. This is just the chocolate section and you can't even see the chocolate fountain. jeremy (our baker) made a dessert for each nation was wintering.  With all that and then including the choclates, we had 32 different dessert options. 

Here's some more in no particular order: Flan, blood orange jellies, apple cider jellies, pavlova, peanut butter fudge, panna cotta, peanut butter cups, candied pears covered in chocolate, almond joys, orange chocolate, midn chocolate, chocolate coverd cherries, bonbons of various flavors.  Some of my other favorites included the German cheesecake, russian tea cakes,  lemingtons and  Tres Leches cake. and that's not even everything. 

Working in the kitchen, jamie had to cook and then serve during the meal. here he is making fresh tossed cesear salad for everyone. 
On of the things I love about Antarctica is that we love a good photo booth. This one was made by my Co-worker Travis. It's a recreation of Scotts hut.  This is the Wastie Crew this winter.  Myself, Travis and Rob. 

There are LOTS of violent(ish) photos.  Debbie and Julie kind of ruin it with their smiles and laughter.
Just to keep the night going, Jamie and I then bartended the after party at the Gallaghers.  Rebranded and redecorated as an ice cave and called Club Krystal.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

McMurdo Winter C17 June Flight

          The first official "winter flight" came and left last week.  It was a big event.  It's remarkable for any plane to arrive on it's scheduled day so for a plane to be only 3 hours late on it's inaugural winter flight is pretty remarkable.
For the flight to land, we turn out all the lights on the runway because they use night vision to land the plane and the lighting will ruin their ability to see.  To help them use the night vision more effectively, we put out the incredibly reflective cones all up and down the runway. INCREDIBLY reflective. According to the pilot, they could see the cones 250 miles out.  I was lucky and got to go out to help with them.  It was kinda fun to be out there during all this prep for the plane and to see who all is involved.   The Fleet Operations guys had been out there daily for 6 days prior and then constantly for 30 hours prior to the flight. They groom the runway so that a plane can land on it and considering that the runway had been unused for 6 weeks, they had quite a task cut out for them. This was not made any easier by the bad weather and wind bringing in snow drifts and uneven ground.   They were all exhausted. Also, in the days leading up to the flight, there's around 4 mechanics that just hang out incase a vehicle breaks down.  To add to the excitement on the Pegasus Runway, a seal had made it's way onto the runway.  The firefighters had to use their expert skills at Wildlife Management to move it.  Unfortunately, they aren't allowed to touch the seal, so "expert skills"  amounted to them waving their arms and yelling "shoo" from about 3 feet away.  The seal could have cared less.   It was kind of hilarious and kind of sad because it's quite possible the seal was out there in the first place because it was sick and dying.  As a side note, I often think about how if the seals talk to each other, I imagine they experience us as a kind of "alien adduction". Especially if it's scientists that are coming upon them they get treated to spinal taps, anal probes, flying vehicles (aka helicopter or airplanes) all that craziness.   Not so far off from our "alien" stories.  OK back to the flight. 
For loading and unloading the plane, the supply crew gets brought out to become the "cargo" crew to help get all the pallets of food, equipment and luggage off the plane.   The fuelies are standing by in case the plane needs fuel (unlikely for a C17) and then people like me get brought out to do the little tasks and fill in where needed.  The plane lands, does not shutdown, unloads and reloads and then heads off again-all in less than an hour.  It's a pretty remarkable system. 

In other news, May is over and done!  June is here.  We are moving so quickly through this season.  May brought with it the end of "Civil Twilight" so we are in darkness all day long.   I've included a picture of May 1st and then May 31st (both taken at 1pm).    I'm surprised at how easily I've transitioned into living in constant darkness. I thought it would be much more difficult.  I took me quite some time to get comfortable with constant daylight so I expected a similar thing going in the other direction but it hasn't been so bad.  My guess is it's because I was here for the transition.  It's not like I stepped off the plane and it is was dark constantly and I had to adjust immediately. Experiencing the change has been very helpful.   It was a mildly difficult sleeping when I could still see lighter colors in the sky. I think my body was waiting for the sun to come up each day because the sky would be somewhat light in the morning but then when it never did it just meant I was tired all day long and then couldn't sleep at night.   When that was happening it felt like it took forever to wake up.  As it is, it still feels like I'm not fully awake until around 10am, but I can sense that this is slowly lifting and I'm settling in as there is less variety to the light.   I've also made some dedicated life choices and I think those have helped stabilize my mood and transition.  I do a "bootcamp" class twice a week and try to walk/run two other times.  I've also been drinking a lot less and trying to sleep 8 hours every night. Who knew doing healthy for your body would lead to healthy things for your mind!  Gosh!  Can't believe I'd never tried it before! 

Enjoy the pictures.  I started us off  with pictures from the Top Gun party to show off my awesome makeup and crimped hair.  

The supply department put on a Top Gun Themed party and as I didn't have flight suit, we just went for a general 80s look.  

Aren't we adorable? The party itself was incredibly fun. They decorated the cargo bay with Cargo netting and airplane props,  we had a beanbag toss (called Corn Hole in the Midwest-who knew!) and they had a Tom Cruise Scientology Center.  The Scientology center was great because the Scientologists had, earlier, in the season sent us a LOT of literature on Scientology, bizarre, but we finally found a use for it.  

On that C17 flight we got mountains of mail!  More mail for 142 people in June than we got for over 700 people in December for Christmas.  The flight came in on Wednesday. The mail lady and 12 volunteers started sorting Thursday Morning at 9am so that everyone could get their mail by Thursday afternoon. What service!  And thank heavens too as we had planned Christmas for the Saturday following the flight.   Santa comes in JUNE! 
Not only did we get mail on that flight but we got fresh vegetables! 3700 lbs of it!  Nothing better than fresh lettuce in Antarctica!  And Coconuts and Papaya!  And Feijoa!  What's a Feijoa you ask? It's a fruit that looks a bit like a kiwi but is bright green and has a sweet/tart flavor. As I was eating this Feijoa (in Antarctica),   I was marveling at how rare it is to try a truly new food.  I can't remember the last time I've had something that I had never had before.   It was a delight. 
And here's the plane! Landing in the dark.  Four people were scheduled to leave on that plane however by the time the plane left, it has 8 people on it.  It brought us 7 in so our winter population is down to 141. 
May 1st 13:00

May 31st 13:00.  Admittedly, it's not this ridiculously dark when I'm taking this photo.  My sad camera has begun to die and doesn't do a great job anymore.   we have gotten a new one.  HOWEVER,  my point is clear. the sky is black and at 1 pm it's nighttime outside.