Last Pole dispatch

Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2001

Getting ready to leave, cleaning up files and handing off all the work. Oboy.

It's mostly been a work stretch here but we have had a few events. Our last few expeditions showed up: a Danish pair who skiied here and spent several days waiting for their airplane pickup, and then another pair that plenty of us were waiting to see, Anne Bancroft and Liv Arnesen (pronounced "Leev," she's Norwegian). They've each been here separately in previous years. Liv was the first woman to ski here solo, and Anne was part of a women's expedition that was aiming to traverse to McMurdo but had to fly out from here due to time constraints and some medical issues. Several people here remember them from their previous visits and each of them has a great story, so we've been following their progress all the way along. They're counting on using some pretty nifty parasails to make speed but have been plagued with (of all things on this continent) days and days of calm, beautiful weather. They spent about a day here and moved on, they didn't have any extra time in their schedule but they did give a talk in the gym. They're both amazing women, they seem extremely happy and bursting with personal energy. I guess they're making a lifelong dream happen. I happened to be outside when they left: they had just enough wind for the sails but it was obvious how much power they were transferring (their bodies are the link between sail and sled). Anne Bancroft is maybe a smidge taller than me and not much heavier, and I won't forget them using "Mary Poppins" as a verb.

In actual station news, we're on the new power plant now. I guess this doesn't sound too exciting but it's a big deal for us and a major step in the construction of the new station. It's spooky walking past the old power plant - it's quiet! Funny what you get used to.

I got a tour of the new station construction ("Pod A"), most of it has floors now. Walls are done and they're predicting being able to heat it soon. Wow. Once stuff gets going here it goes up fast: it was nothing but a compacted snow pad three months ago. We were standing in what will be the new galley, big windows with a VIEW instead of a cramped box inside the dome. Maybe I'll come back again for a season when it's all done. This year's construction is 1/4 of the total building. Comms and IT will be the last departments to transition - that'll be a lonely season, they'll be knocking down the buildings under the dome as they go. Eventually they knock down the dome itself. I understand the decision but I'll miss the dome: I like the way it changes colors, reflecting the sky.

Oh hey, I almost forgot the most important thing: I'm normal! The professionals say so. Two psychologists came in to test all the winter folks who hadn't done it yet, and talk to people who passed their initial test but made people around them nervous. We did two standard tests, for a total of 752 questions. I disliked the true-false format, but for all my misgivings they actually came out with some results about me that I had to agree with. Emotionally stable, unconventional outlook, sociable, reserved about feelings, calm more than hyper, and the one I really liked: smack dab in the middle on the passive/aggressive scale. They said, "You'll have a great winter, have fun." I guess I wasn't really nervous but it was the last big qualification to winter. Makes it all more real.

We haven't seen freshies or package mail since Christmas, and there was a mini-scandal on station when a woman with McMurdo connections got herself sent several tomatoes and some real milk. I didn't see the fuss myself but certainly the few people she shared with should have had the tact NOT to eat their tomatoes in the galley. One of my friends was handed one and we felt like subversives as we sliced it up into really thin slices and handed them around to as many people as we could.

I should pack and get ready for the land of warmth, animals, and lots and lots of people - McMurdo is full up. That'll be different. Take care,


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