Station Close

Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001

Big relief here. Last week was a full week of goodbyes to good friends, weather delays, goodbyes again, last-minute panic calls to Helpdesk, people trying to get things completed... and then one last plane lumbering off the skiway Friday noon, one last pass over town and the traditional wing-waggle, and one last tiny jetfuel plume dissipating in the northern horizon. And then quiet. The handful of us who were watching from the top of the Comms building yelled a bit, hugged each other, and then turned our backs on the vanishing black dot and went to have lunch.

There are 222 of us here, and 50 people at Pole. We've been gorging on fresh fruit and vegetables here because the last two scheduled flights to Pole got cancelled by weather, so we have their last freshies and also some of their winter construction materials...oops. They may have to get creative.

Two treks made it across the continent before station close. Our young Norwegian friends, who both turned 26 between the South Pole and here, skiied in to Ross Island in fine shape but a few days too late to catch their scheduled boat pickup. This sort of thing gives government officials the freaking heebie jeebies so they were welcomed at Scott Base (NZ) but directed not to set foot in McMurdo. In the meantime rich tourists off the cruise ships get guided tours. Embarassing! Any case, I caught up with them in the Scott Base bar and had a good chat before they found another ride off the continent. Anne Bancroft and Liv Arnesen also went through, they ran out of time to do the whole traverse on foot but they did make it off the continent onto the Ross Ice Shelf so they are officially the first women to traverse Antarctica. I didn't see them: they were picked up by a private Twin Otter and transferred at the skiway to a helicopter from their pickup ship. They spent the night camping out at the skiway due to weather but as a private expedition (even though they were fully supported, unlike Rolf and Eirik, and weren't asking the NSF for anything) they weren't invited into town. They're all amazing people and I think they realize that the cold shoulder from the NSF doesn't represent the respect we all have for them.

That's all behind us now and everything off the continent drops to low mental priority. There's elbow room in the galley, a couple of light snowfalls have made the volcanic landscape a little bit more graceful, and ice has reclaimed the ship channel. We're at 9F and dropping. We're committed: only way out from here between now and late August is to develop some condition that's serious enough to be life-threatening, but moderate enough to allow you to linger at least two weeks while they recall planes from the Northern Hemisphere, reactivate infrastructure in Christchurch, and rebuild the skiway here. Or alien abduction, that might be easier! No mail, no freshies except for what comes out of the greenhouse. Some folks claim nostalgia for the days of no email or phones.

The sun's lower in the sky but you wouldn't know it through today's overcast. The wind's got a bite to it and it's starting to feel like winter. Feels good.

Best to all,


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