Through last weekend, life at McMurdo was continuing to feel way too busy and crazy for me. I think we were down to about 700 in terms of station population, but Gallagher's, one of the bars on base, still looked like this. (A couple of friends and I walked in...and then walked right back out.)
Summer people were very much wanting to leave, but planes kept breaking. (One of the C-17s, hilariously, broke in a way that apparently made it unable to fly from New Zealand to Antarctica, but allowed it to fly to Hawai'i to get fixed. Sure, Plane. You're very "broken" and you need to go to _Hawai'i_ to get fixed!) People with onward vacation plans were very sad. This humorous commentary went up in a common area where the flight manifests are posted. (P.P.E. = Personal Protective Equipment (or something like that)--a daily part of most trade jobs down here.)
The delays also meant that as the South Pole summer folks were being flown out before the station closed for the winter (which has now officially happened, with a winter crew of 41 down there for the long haul), they could not fly straight through to Christchurch as planned, and I got to see SOOOO many Polies over the course of a week or so. It was a joy for me, less so for them. This is a group of them feeling dejected in the computer kiosk in the main hallway of the primary building on base, wondering when they'll ever get to leave Antarctica.
Okay, enough dejection. Everyone did get to leave eventually, of course, if for no other reason than the program doesn't want to pay the contract workers indefinitely.
A couple of random things to wrap up this post:
As you have figured out from the penguins in my last post, there are ANIMALS around McMurdo. (Thanks to this base being on the coast.) This skua was hanging out in the common pool vehicle parking area like it had a vendetta to settle with someone.
I'm gonna just say it: One of my least favorite things about McMurdo so far is the volcanic dust. The past week has been pretty windy, and every time I've opened the dock door at the back of the store or just walked outside to go somewhere else, I've gotten hit in the face with a cloud of brown, gritty dust. It goes straight to the eyes, and they're irritated the rest of the day. It's everywhere, and it's gross.
The good news is that since I'm here for winter, that means colder temps, which means snow, which covers the brown dust. We already got a little bit of snowfall this week, and though it wasn't enough to really stick and fix the issue, I saw how it was already helping, and that made me look forward to the days--coming soon!--when McMurdo is completely blanketed in snow and my eyes are safe from the awful grit.
There was also a partial eclipse earlier this week! Of course, my camera on my phone didn't capture it, but I saw it through some eclipse glasses right after this, and that was fun.
Finally, I think my weather screenshots during the winter at Pole were kind of a crowd favorite among my 2.7 readers, so I'll continue with that. And starting next week, I'll resume the tradition of taking a picture from the same spot at the same time every week and pair those with these weather snapshots, to give you an idea of how the weather and views change over the course of the winter. For now, let's just start with the weather report. As you can see, it's a mild day here temp-wise, and nice enough except for those gusting winds. Note the row of green "3"s on the right side of the snapshot. That's going to be the fun thing to watch. McMurdo has a weather "Condition" system--we're always Con-1, Con-2, or Con-3. Con-3, like today, means the weather's fine and personnel movement around the base is unrestricted. The other extreme is Con-1, which is severe storm conditions, like the kind where we're going to have to hang on to rope lines to get from the buildings we live in to the buildings we work and live in. Not sure what it says about me that I am sincerely hoping for and looking forward to experiencing at least one Con-1 episode during the coming 8 months....
That'll do it for now. As I type this, a C-17 carrying 100+ of the remaining summer people is hopefully taking off from Phoenix airfield to deliver them back to Christchurch. Once that plane is wheels-up, we're down to a station population of about 300. Tomorrow, the last C-17 of the summer is scheduled to take another 100+ people north for the winter. And then it really begins, with 200 of us left to hold down the fort here till October. Though, unlike at Pole, there are a handful of winter flights scheduled for McMurdo, with some personnel coming and going along the way. More on that when the time comes. For now, I'll just say that the next post should find us officially in wintertime!