chilling feet

chilling feet

Friday, February 24, 2017

Antarctica: The Last LC130 Has Departed...We Are Here to STAY!

(Learning to drive the forklift was fun)
We are finally settling in a little bit to our Antarctic home at the Amundsen-Scott base here at the South Pole. With the close of our station for Winter we have finally moved into our permanent room together, which has been a huge part of this place feeling more like a home we can live in for the next ten months. We have settled into our jobs and community here on base.

(These dang cylinders are heavy! Thanks Kim for the pic)
The most exciting part of base closing was watching all of the summer staff pack up and go. There is a big to do with the last plane and most of us gathered in various spots to watch it take off. I was fortunate to be on a three man team of our ERT Fire team who got to learn a few new bits so we could be a response team in case anything happened on the last take off. There are fire fighters here for all LC130 flights except for of course the one they leave on at the end of summer. So we learned how to use the gatling gun pods and what to do/not to do when trying to enter a LC130 in an emergency. Really cool stuff and way more to learn if we were the "real" guys.

(compliments of John Dinovo, the twin otter scoots by the ceremonial pole)
So we all celebrated as the last passengers, and our last chance for escape, jetted down the ice runway and off into the sky. They promised a flyby and did not disappoint us when the pilot brought the massive LC130 back around and tipped its wings to us. People shouted, hooted, and hollered various phrases as we all celebrated the point of no return for the Winter-over crew. The photo above is of a Twin Otter. Our last one flies in tonight and out tomorrow as I write this on Feb 24th. They are on various missions or routes that are not a part of our station and are granted access to the base for fuel and such. These are the planes that perform rescue missions and such when no other planes can still make there way here in the cold Winter months, but only if absolutely necessary. 

(we got to tour the inside of the twin otter!)
The tradition that follows the last departing plane is the marathon viewing of all The Thing movies. These are horror movies, the first in 1951, all about an alien in Arctic or Antarctic scenarios. I was most familiar with the 1984 Kurt Russell version that takes place at a make believe American Antarctic base. The movies are enjoyable and it gives one a notion at the sort of people who venture down to the South Pole. Now that you're stuck here and you cannot leave let's watch movies about other people in a similar situation who had to fight for their lives against an alien who can transform into any form whether animal or human. Who can you trust? Welcome to the Winter-over crew.
(posing for a shot, Sarah is in her ECW disguise)
So when one of the Twin Otter flights was in Sarah and I decided to go for a walk for some exercise and so she could show me around parts of the camp I had not seen yet. We bundled up in all of our gear and headed out to find with a surprise a tour of the plane happening at that exact moment. Sweet! We took advantage of the situation and took the pictures, as you can see, to prove it. Just amazing machines. I believe the pilot said this one was made in 1941 and this is a plane they are flying with confidence to the South Pole! Wow. Do some reading on these planes and you will not be disappointed.
(the middle of nowhere)
On our walk we took some pics. While much of the base and the outlying area around it, mostly storage and buildings used in the Summer months only, has a military feel to it, there is still something else about the looks to everything so foreign and unusual. There is a part of me that deliberated as we walked, trying to find the right words to describe the mixture of emotion and thought evoked from the make up of the buildings and their purposes. The Amundsen-Scott base is truly a unique place and we feel beyond grateful for the time we have been given to spend here.

(once upon a time maybe people stayed here, storage now)
Understanding how special it is for us to be here, Sarah and I both spend a good amount of time trying to make sure our work and personal time is spent as wisely as possible. This means doing the job right and working hard to make sure we do the best we can. It also means trying to engage in as many of the community events as possible. For instance, even though we were tired and had seen some of the Thing movies, we stayed for all three. We both joined the greenhouse team and are working in there to help raise some fresh food for our group while we are here. I'll discuss this in its own post later as a hydroponic greenhouse is pretty dang worthy of a whole post in itself. We've been playing volleyball, floor hockey, doing yoga, playing board games and the lot during our time so far. And our Winter schedule of events is just now getting started. There will be more on the fun activities we are going to get to do and learn while here. Pretty excited about it.

(who stole our wheels? I believe these have been winterized)
For now these pictures will show a good part of the story. We will try to make some regular posts about life down here but oddly enough I've been working hard to get this post in and have just been too busy living here. There is always something to join in on from work to fun to science talks and more. Mostly I'll be posting pictures of events and various goings on while we are here.
(two LC130s on the ice runway at the same time! This is unusual and I was excited to see it)

(last few flights in and out)

(ERT training and also on standby - so glad I got to do this)

(waiting in the warm van with the guys)

(compliments of John Dinovo, the gatling fire hydrant! Glad we didn't have to use these) 

(last flight moves to take off - see you in 9 months or so)

(I think we are happy to be stuck here for nine more months)

(photo of the flyby compliments of NSF/James Casey)

I had to add some movie posters from the Thing movies. I added two from the 1984 version.