And in a Blink of an Eye Summer is Gone
SOUTH POLE, ANTARCTICA– It’s been some time since I’ve updated my blog, and there have been lots of changes around here. In the middle of January I was able to go on R&R for a week in New Zealand. This is a new perk that winter-overs get this year. In years past, R&R has been in McMurdo but rather than have a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing in front of the hard working McMurdo staff, it was decided that we get to go to Christchurch instead!
Spending a week in New Zealand was great. Christchurch really has a good variety of restaurants to choose from and it was nice to be able to take a shower every day instead of our 2 per week. You also tend to forget how nice humidity is! The South Pole is so cold and dry that it wreaks havoc on the sinuses and skin. Aside from enjoying some showers and food, I was able to meet up with a friend from high school and college in Queenstown. Queenstown is probably one of the most beautiful towns I’ve seen. It’s set right next to The Remarkables mountain range which provides a gorgeous backdrop. I was even able to get a round of golf in at the spectacular Jack’s Point golf course! The R&R definitely did its job and I came back to the Pole feeling refreshed and ready to endure the winter.
When I got back to the Pole, I’m sure my partner at ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) was happy. He did not arrive early enough in the summer to take advantage of R&R so he was left to take care of things on his own while I was soaking it up in New Zealand. He must have been busy while I was gone because things looked great when I got back!
About a week after I returned from R&R I was getting ready to head out to ARO when I sat down and my teeth kind of bumped together. It ended up knocking off a piece of tooth that was repaired last spring. Luckily I was able to grab a quick flight to McMurdo and see the dentist only days before she was leaving the ice! It really would have been annoying having to deal with a broken front tooth for 8 months through the winter. She did a great job on repairing it though and actually looks better than the previous repair job.
It turns out that this broken tooth was a blessing in disguise. On my flight back to McMurdo, I was able to capture some spectacular video of the Transantarctic Mountains. We also went over the Dry Valleys, out over the open water, and then ended with a great fly-by of McMurdo. Well worth the dental work!
Now as we approach mid-February, people are leaving by the bundles. A little less than 2 weeks ago we had about 250 people on station. Now we are down to about 125. There are 2 more major passenger flights out of here in which we will lose about 80 more people leaving us with about 48 people for the winter. It’s strange having all the open space in the galley during meal times. And it’s only going increase the next several days. Tomorrow is the last day for any outgoing mail, and Monday, February 15th, we have our last flights! The sun is very noticeably lower in the sky and temperatures the past week have been much colder. Today is the coldest day since I arrived here last October at -40F. Hard to believe it’s just about here but it is. Winter!