chilling feet

chilling feet

Monday, February 6, 2017

South Pole Achieved!


The South Pole!!  BOTH of us are at the South Pole preparing to work through the winter at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. So excited. 

Before I was able to join Sarah I worked at McMurdo for two weeks learning a little bit about my job and how things work down here in Antarctica. Not only is most everything quite different but the people themselves are a little bit out of the ordinary too. "Look who's talking" you might say to me and you would be right to suggest that both Sarah and I have made some not-so-ordinary decisions over the past few years. 
One common factor most Antarcticans (there are no native people from the continent so this is an affection term for those of us who are here now) share is enthusiasm for being here and overall a desire to explore. Just over the little time we have been here we've met people who have hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, climbed various mountains, are a part of groundbreaking science (a lot of that here), who have traveled to almost every country you can think up and so you did not even know existed, and more.

McMurdo has a nice mix of Kiwis who work there as well, not to mention they have an actual base just around a big hill. Having lived in New Zealand for a year it has been fun to spend a good amount of time around some Kiwis again. I actually met a few who know a friend of mine from seminary who is a chaplain in the New Zealand Airforce - how cool is that? 
So while Sarah was at the Pole working and waiting for me, I was doing my best to experience anything there was to do and see at McMurdo. See the last post for more of those fun times. The day before I flew up to the Pole I was given the day off for having worked my day off during the vessel offload the week before. I was hoping to find someone who was willing to do a specific hike with me called Castle Rock as you are not allowed to do it on your own. 

Leave to the Kiwis to help me out there too! With a little bit of inquiry it turned out their group was thinking of doing it too and so we decided to meet and go for it. I was hoping the guys I had been chatting with for the week would make it too but they maybe imbibed till the late hours of the morning, allegedly, and so it was me and two of the ladies I had been working with in supply. We signed out at the firehouse, took the required supplies and started our hike. Which if you have noticed all of the pics from this post so far are from that hike. The second is Castle Rock. 
We did a quick out and back instead of the nine mile loop and settled for a nice six mile hike, which also included climbing to the top of the rock when we got there. The third pic shows a part of that climb and the view of Mt. Erebus in the distant background letting off some volcanic steam. 

Great hike, wonderful group, a lunch in the emergency warm up shelter, and stunning views. Overall great weather and spectacular way to end the time at McMurdo.  

Then yes it was time to fly to the South Pole! And on this sweet LC 130! A quick three hour flight with a few other people and, you guessed it, with some fantastic views. The next two photos were taken from the cockpit over the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. I am glad I did not have to cut a way through those trying to find the South Pole as Amundsen and Scott would have had to in their race over 100 years ago.  


This shot was taken after we had landed and were still gliding down the ice runway. They started opening the cargo bay door to make sure everything was ready to go. The goal is to get the plane back up in the air as quickly as possible for various reasons. What an experience!
Then it was off the plane and walk to meet Sarah, who in the next picture can be seen waiting for me in the distance. I did not know it at the time but when I took this picture of the plane before heading up to the station, I snagged a pic of Brian as well. He is the man who I had to convince to hire me for this job and works here throughout the fast paced summer months to get a lot done. He will leave on the last plane out and then it will be up to the logistics people he has hired, like me, to keep the train going through the long Winter months. 

There's Sarah can you see her? Way up in the red coat! 


Should have put Sarah in this shot too but this was my first time here and she was taking the picture to mark the occasion by the welcome sign for the base.


Not the best focus but on the way in to the station I saw my first Antarctic sundog! Wow. I saw a few in the Arctic this past year but none that were quite this full forced. I took it as a personal welcome from the South Pole. 


Sarah toured me around the station, started making me drink tons of water (we are at just over 9,000 feet at the Pole but the pressure and other factors make it feel as though you are at different elevations, which has been over 10,000 feet since I got here), I met a bunch of people, and we settled into life here. The next day was fortunately Sunday, our one day off each week, and I was able to take a day to acclimate before heading to work.

Sarah and I were lucky enough to go out for a tour of one of our satellites here on station. This particular one looks at light emitted from the original big bang (or as I like to think of it as when God spoke the universe into life - boom) and is studying it for all sorts of reasons. Then there is another project that uses this satellite (we went to a lecture on it later that night) to try and study black holes, with the goal of getting the first real image of one. Cool stuff. 
On the way back we stopped at the ceremonial pole (the one with the flags) and the geographic pole (the one that our station which is on moving ice slowly moves away from each year) and took some pictures. 

First is the Pole marker. Every Winter the team puts their hearts and minds together and designs the next years marker, as it has to move anyway, and the tradition continues as the Summer crew puts it out. Sarah waited for me to see the new marker from this past year. I'll try to get a better pic of it later.

Then we had to show you we are on the bottom of the world - literally.


Then a regular pic. So happy to both be here.


Oh this pole marker pic is a little better.


Then work. Here are some images from the area I work in. I'll do one soon on the medical clinic!


And today I was trained to drive these machines!! I don't even know their real names yet but it was super fun and I can't wait to get moving stuff with these bad boys!


That little guy moves quick compared to the big guy, but it can't carry nearly as much weight. 


Does anyone else think we just took over Hoth base and made it into the South Pole station?


Well as always more to come in the future when we get time. Plenty of work needs to get done and the internet does not like us here too often. Keep checking back for further posts on life down at the South Pole this Winter. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Antarctica


Since Sarah went to Antarctica I have wrestled with the same notions many friends and family have dealt with as well. Why? What? Is this something I want to do? How do I feel about someone I care about doing something like this?

Books read, documentaries watched, contacts made via Sarah... none of it compared to her talking about Antarctica when she came back. Her excitement connected to the part of me that loves to travel and experience new places. The issue never rested in a 'do I want to go there' but more in the 'do I want to go there and work for months' sort of deal.

Well now I've been here for just over a week and Antarctica has not disappointed at all. Just stepping onto the continent feels as though you are stepping directly into an epic storyline and that is because when you come here that is exactly what you are doing! Just go read about all of the explorers.

(The first picture is of my flight in on the C130 Hercules. Just flying on this big boy was an experience worth having. I was pumped up)



So here I am in Antarctica and I'm in route to head to the South Pole where I will be a Logistics guy, a material person who moves things around and does a giant load of inventory on a regular basis. When I'm not doing that I'll be digging in the snow and ice looking for lost treasures, or just things that have been set aside and need to be recovered for obvious reasons.

I'm excited, nervous, bewildered, and ready to work...hard. It's going to be good hard work. This week I've been getting trained in McMurdo, our American base down on the coast, and am slotted to head down to Pole this Saturday. We will see as flights can sometimes get delayed for a week due to weather.

(Ivan the Terra Bus is our shuttle to get from the ice runway our C130 landed on to the base) 



The day after I got here a vessel came in with tons of goods that needed to be unloaded to the base. This meant a few things for my particular job. Not a good time to get trained but a good time to be there for extra manual labor. A few good long twelve hour days because they need to get the ship unloaded stat. It was a work, eat, work, and then try to get a run in sort of week. Definitely a great week but still tired and working on not spacing out and staring at the wall when no one is talking to me. I think we may have a day off coming soon that will replace the one we worked through and that will help for sure!



It's been a fantastic week of learning the small stuff while big things were happening all around me. The weather has been surprisingly pleasant, for the most part albeit a little cold, and I have been able to get a few runs in. There is a picture below of one of my new favorite trails around Observation Hill here just beside McMurdo. The trail is hilly and over loose volcanic rock and traverses to the other side of the hill from the base. There are some points on the trail when one can feel as if they are miles from anyone even though it's only just under a three mile loop. Pretty amazing runs with one down to Scott Base (the Kiwi base) and past down to the ice just for fun.

(My pic of satisfaction upon first arriving at McMurdo. There will be a similar pic at the South Pole that will mean so much more to me because that is my goal - 90 degrees South)



Then Sarah made it here! Yay, but we were only together for about fourteen hours before they whisked her away to the South Pole. We work for different companies and so it makes sense we are on different paths to the same place. I cannot wait to see her again and then spend ten months super close where she cannot escape! Bwa ha ha. It was a much long awaited feeling to be on this continent together and to share this place.

(Chapel of the Snows is the chapel here on base. Quaint and quite nice)



Well now that Sarah's gone I'm just a working man again, making sure goods get from one place to another or marking down where they were put so we can keep track of everything. More training is to be done before I head down and then we will be reunited.

The people here are great and super helpful. As the new kid on the block there is a feeling of being somewhat displaced at times but even then I'm not alone as there are tons of people coming and going for the random jobs that need done here at McMurdo. I will say I'm looking forward from going from this community of around 900 to the South Pole Winter over community of around fifty. I look forward to developing some lasting relationships and actually getting to know people. Here people know I'm moving on and so while it is wonderful to meet some folks, they and I both know it's only temporary.

Oh, side note. I met and have been working with some Kiwis who are in the military. I mentioned I am friends with a guy from seminary who is now a chaplain in their military and both of them knew him! Small world indeed and super cool.

(McMurdo and Observation hill in the background of this memorial on the other side of McMurdo)



More pictures so I'll leave a comment on each one. Having a blast so far and loving my Antarctica experience. Can't wait for the Pole!! Tonight if the weather holds out I'm going with a firefighter Sarah knows from the Pole to head on snowmobiles out to a unique site called A Room with a View. If we make it you'll most likely be seeing some photos of this experience too.

(Another shot of McMurdo in the background. This cross memorializes a man who drowned near this spot from the Discovery expedition)



Scott Hut. This was the home base for the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole. Read about it.



The top of Observation Hill, this cross is a memorial for the Scott Expedition. Really great views up there and Sarah has still never done it! Ha. I've done some stuff she hasn't done.



Big deal when the ships come in. This year they had to cut through sixty miles of sea ice to make it to McMurdo. Crazy right. Lots of food on that boat!!




Cool shot with the sign and the boat! They were unloading that thing fast!



A pic while working. I had to shave my beard for the fit test for my fireman's mask. So why not do a mustache on the way. I shaved it for Sarah so she almost didn't recognize my baby face.



Part of Observation Hill Loop, I love this pic because you can see the trail getting smaller and smaller as it loops up the hill. I had just run down this which is a fun and slippery experience with these rocks. There is nothing for scale except for the dwindling trail. Really like this loop.



Part of the loop comes down close to the ice where some seals hang out. There has been little movement the few times I've run by but they are still fun to look at while running by, though being careful not to trip or step on a sharp rock.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Japan: Tokyo, Snow Monkeys, and Kyoto

We have been back visiting family in Memphis and because of this we have not posted about one of our most exciting trips we took recently. JAPAN!! A short post with some photos at the end. That's me eating at one of the famous ramen places in ramen alley at Tokyo Station - so good!

We only had nine days and we knew roughly what we wanted to see. As with everything this meant we would miss so many amazing things Japan has to offer, but it's either become overwhelmed with trying to see everything or hone in on what you have time to see.

Tokyo. After all of my research there was no way we were not going to spend some time in the nation's capital. Delicious food, modern Japanese culture with a little bit of the traditional mixed in every now and again, museums, all of the fun people watching, cat cafes, and so much more. I told Sarah I was going to eat my way through Japan and this started off the right way in Tokyo with sushi rotaries, and anything else I could find. We even got in some late night karaoke to complete a full Tokyo experience. The pictures below will explain it all!

Shibu Onsen and the Snow Monkey Park. We had heard of this park while watching a silly show on Netflix called The 72 Cutest Animals (we did not agree with most choices the show made). One of the featured animals are the Japanese macaque that live high in the mountains and are adept at living in the cold offered by the extreme winters there. What caught our hearts is that nearby are some natural hot springs the monkeys choose to relax in when they get cold. It....is....ADORABLE. More pictures below but we stayed there for a few hours and very much enjoyed the town nearby called Shibu Onsen. The town uses the local hot springs for many local baths people come to for healing. And they too cook fabulous food!

On the way to Kyoto we stopped in Obuse to see a few of their sites (and eat) but mostly to see the Hokusai Museum. He is famous for the painting "Tsunami" and many other masterpieces. Click on the links for more information and good pictures. We were not allowed to take any pictures of his art so I have none to share with you. This pic of Sarah and me is taken at Shibu Onsen when we stayed in one of the traditional ryokans. Yes we are getting ready to eat a lot of food again!

In Kyoto we saw the ancient capital of Japan, visited a castle, a temple covered in real gold, saw temples and shrines galore, ate more food, stepped where Shoguns had ruled the empire and then eventually gave it back to the emperor, and then ate some more food.

I really want to show this trip in pictures even though some of the best photos were ones that are memories since we were not always allowed to take snaps. Enjoy and feel free to share comments. This last pic was taken at the samurai museum in Shinjuku in Tokyo. Such a great museum and tons of fun.





Shinjuku. It was a fun and bustling part of Tokyo. 


While in Shinjuku we walked to the Samurai museum. Well worth the visit. Our guide shared all sorts of information with us as we looked at armor over 400 years old! It ended with a demonstration by an actor who had learned to show how a samurai would use his sword. Really neat. 


A samurai shoots an arrow from horseback.


Not as impressive in a photograph as it was seeing him move. Wow.


One of the many temples we walked to while we were in Tokyo. I thought about naming them all but come on! 


The one night as we walked three miles from the museum we had stopped off at to downtown Tokyo, we saw a sign that said "hot beer." Yes please. What a fun place and good brew.


I read online somewhere that a person can pay a lot of money to have a hotel room looking directly out into Godzilla's face. I believer this would be life size if there was a body attached. 

Yes! Food. So much food!! And so good.


The national park in Shinjuku was beautiful. Fall was in full bloom with all of its amazing colors showing off their best. 


There was an indoor garden in the park with an orchid show going on while we were there. Quite nice. 




Ode to ramen! And in this case the vegetarian kind. 


Totoro. Long story but go ahead and watch the animated movie My Neighbor Totoro to get part of the long story. It's rated one of the top fifteen of all-time.


The giant gate in Asakusa. Again I am sure it has a name but seriously just go look it up if you want to know. Massive shopping street starts just behind this that leads up to a temple. 


This is that temple.


Near Asakusa is the infamous kitchen street. This is where you can go to buy awesome Japanese kitchen gear for a little less yen. Such as super sharp knives!


Then we found out they would engrave the knives with Japanese writing with our family names - here is what Tim got for his Christmas gift. How cool?


More food! We stopped at one of the izakayas, or street bars, and ate some more. This was probably our first dinner out of three that night. Keep it small and taste it all!



Then we stumbled upon an owl cafe. Sorry to all of our friends if we should not have gone but we could not help ourselves. It was so fun to touch and see owls up close and even touch some of them. Some of them were "NO TOUCHING" owls. Thirty in all we had quite an owly time.





A good friend Tim visited us while we were in Tokyo. He and his wife are stationed in Okinawa which is not too far away. He led us to delicious food and some fun karaoke. This included a super late night sushi dinner with a fantastic conversation with some random Japanese guys eating next to us around 2am.


The next day we visited the imperial palace, or what was left of it, and then had a tasty snack as Tim showed us how to open the rice balls correctly. 


So fun seeing a good friend while traveling. And he serves our country as a marine! Nice.


After getting to Shibu Onsen came in to this dinner. What!? So delicious. 


And these are the outfits our ryokan gave us to wear while in town and going to baths. This was also our room. 


This is the path up to the Snow Monkey park. It's about a forty minute walk from town and around twenty from the drop off spot. Kind of a nice way to get ready for seeing monkeys in the wild by walking up a beautifully wooded path. 


Monkeys!! Always grooming, always...almost.


They would get so close and we clearly did not bother them.


And there were so many monkeys carrying around babies! And cute!!


They would ride around underneath or on top.


Just chilling on some pipes with hot water running through them near a cool bridge over a small stream in the mountains - no biggie.


Some of the tiny guys were just unbelievable to sit and watch.


Hot tub!


The monkeys also enjoy the healing powers of the water. 


Our favorite of them all. This little guy would swim under water while no other monkey seemed to ever get their head wet. When he was done he jumped out and climbed the post within inches of us. At the top he shook his head to get the water out of his ears (or hers). 


One of the baths in our hotel. They are gender specific and one must go in as they were born - naked. Our second hotel had one you could reserve that was a couples bath, but even the public baths in town were gender specific and followed the same rules. 


Yes, more food. I have only showed a few pics of our food and I wish I had put them all on here. It was truly super good.


When we visited Hokusai's museum in Obuse but could not take any pictures. This one is a copy of his work in the town. Go online and look up some of his stuff.


There are a lot of apples grown in Japan. We stopped for fresh apple pie.


A shrine we visited on the way to another shrine.


I posed for a picture outside of the temple where one of Hokusai's major masterpieces exists. It's painted on a ceiling and is called the All Seeing Phoenix.


After getting to Kyoto I decided we needed food of course even though we did not really need any... well of course we did. 


Mmmmmm.


The most famous temple of Kyoto hosts over 10,000 of these gates. Just the sheer number of them is quite impressive. 


People bought these smaller versions of the gate to use in some form of worship. They would leave them at various shrines throughout the temple grounds. Lots of them!


We got pretty excited when we saw all of these kids on a field trip. One of us leaned into the other one and said, "Look, minions!" We saw a few groups of minions throughout our time in Japan and I think the tactic is smart. Hard to lose a kid with a yellow hat on right?


On the way back down the hill the temple was on we stopped for lunch. This was our view of Kyoto while we ate our food. 


My meal - no I did not know what it was but it was scrumptious. 


Sarah's lunch. Hers was good too. 


Posing with a stuffed Totoro.


Cat cafe in Asakusa.


Yes we paid to play with cats because it's a Japanese thing and I couldn't leave the country without doing it. 


Sarah luring in a cat to play.


Beer stop.


A ninja cooking us stone soup. Another long story and no he's not a real ninja, at least I don't think he is. Great food. 


No pictures allowed inside the castle but this is where the Shoguns lived when they were in power. It was magnificent with amazing paintings and architecture.


The outside was nice too.


It was not possible to get the shots we were trying to get but the building itself was just breathtaking. 


So we added ourselves to mix it up.


Castle behind us as we stand on one of the main defensive points.


Sarah saw a note for this temple covered in gold and we had to go. She does love her some gold. 


Double take.


Anyone want some seafood? 


Back on ramen alley in the Tokyo station. I arranged our trip to make sure we would have enough time our last night to stop off at the station for some more ramen. It did not disappoint, again. 


This is the line waiting for the one particular ramen place we went to on our last night. On the floor with the person who has read shoes you can see a sign saying you can expect to wait 30 minutes from that point. People waited longer. Much longer.