I hear voices in the static

Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001

Sometimes the voices tell me what to do...

I'm back on radios for the duration of our medevac flights. We only have one official radio operator over the winter so they nabbed me because of my Comms experience at Pole, and we're trading off shifts until the whole thing is over.

The two Canadian Twin Otters are at Rothera Station on the other side of the continent. When the wind and blowing snow calm down at Pole, one plane will fly in to pick up Doc Ron and the other will stay at Rothera on standby. Then they'll both fly out through South America. We won't see them - that's all on the other side - but we're backup comms and flight following. We also route communications between Denver and Pole.

There's a Kiwi Herc (big plane) on its way here from Christchurch to pick up our medevacs. We have one person who really needs off-continent treatment and a few people who might not have rated a medevac flight on their own but would have a lousy time without it. This flight affects the station in obvious and subtle ways: fleetops working Sundays and nights to keep the runway open, galley providing food at odd hours, weather people taking hourly observations at 2 locations, and the sudden feeling of uncertainty and change just when we were feeling set for the winter.

Don't believe everything you read in the media: even in my limited web browsing I've seen plenty of misinformation. Reporters tend to make the standard mistake of confusing Antarctica (large land mass) with the South Pole (geographic point). Pole is 800 miles from McMurdo and their conditions are both colder and darker. Both stations are usually completely isolated during the winter but medevacs have been carried out here before; nobody has been flown out from Pole this late in the season. If the visibility on the ground doesn't improve enough to allow a landing they may be able to do an airdrop, but that's my personal guess - not official information. Oy! As you can imagine this place is a nest of "unofficial information," ie rumors. Most of it with a sense of humor - for example we got some folks real spun up back when the ANG was going to come in, somebody got the rumor going that those of us in the ANG dorm would have to move out. Oddly enough most of the real developments have been unheralded on the gossip circuit. I suppose that's a good thing.

Right now the voices in the static aren't speaking to me but as the plane gets closer some of them will. I want our flight to go smoothly today and the Pole flight to go smoothly tomorrow. The Twin Otter crew are all experienced in Antarctic conditions and they won't take any unreasonable risks. In the meantime I'm listening to a dozen different varieties of Antarctic static and watching blinky lights on the wall of receivers. I'm surrounded by radios of different descriptions and capabilities on 3 sides and computers on the 4th. For all that, if everything goes well I won't even be very busy. By summer standards, one Herc and one Twin Otter in the air are nothing - but we're paying a lot of attention to both right now.

Best to all,


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