Photo by Vince. I’m next to Discovery Hut at Hut Point, with Mt. Discovery in the background and some Weddell seals in the midground.
It’s been awhile. Internet is even rougher here than I thought, but that’s not all there is to it. A couple of nights ago at an event in Gallagher’s. one of McMurdo’s three taverns, Vince remarked that nobody there seemed to be talking about the Outside World. True. Very quickly, and even though there are many reminders of it daily, one seems to fall into the culture of McMurdo. There’s not enough bandwidth here for social media. The social media here is non-electronic stuff I am old enough to remember, and expending too much digital effort seems to take one away from this place. I’d rather poke around Crary Lab and see what people are doing, or, like yesterday, practice setting up a shot in the dining room in 155 and have all kinds of people come by to ask what we were doing. THAT is social media.
Our flight here FINALLY happened on . . . I have to go look; one consequence of 24-hour daylight is that time seems so arbitrary unless it has a specific function attached to it, like we have a meeting or a meal. OK, here it is, we flew in on Wednesday Jan 13 NZ time, which is largely the day before back home. So we’ve been here 4 “nights.”
The flight was easier than I thought it would be. We got a shuttle at 5:45 from our hotel, and then it all seemed to be fast. Get into your ECW, push your luggage out to a check in line, get your boarding pass (a dog tag kinda thing) and then take your carry-on through security. The one huge difference: you all look like giant red sta-puff marshmallow men, and you get weighed with all your gear on (and your pockets stuffed full of things you want on the flight, like your water bottle and your book or your ipad or whatever). Somewhere between those there was a video we had to watch about flying on this kind of aircraft. When it came on we both laughed because it looked a little retro. No time for coffee that day, but one of the National Guard who fly these missions gave me a bit of the crew’s coffee.
We were on a LC-130 Hercules, a big lumbering loud plane, seated bench style along the sides. It wasn’t too full, so we didn’t have to use the middle and sit like a human zipper. I tried to read but the cumulative sleeplessness of the last week caught up with me and mainly I just kept nodding off, waking up, nodding off, waking up. All in all it was a pretty smooth ride, albeit loud and rumbling, the nature of the plane. A very smooth landing, on skis.
And then you’re out in …. another world. Mt. Erebus seemed so close, everything so white and crisp and sunny out there on the airfield. We staggered onto Ivan the TerraBus–or at least the red sta-puff and bunny-boot combo made me feel like it was a stagger. We had to drop off a couple of people at Scott Base, the neighboring NZ base first, so we got a nice driving tour of our little corner of Ross Island. Lots of Weddell seals basking on the sea ice. Katy our ASP (and we are SO LUCKY to have her guidance and support–she’s amazing) told me the seals had recently had their pups, also pointed out the Royal Society Range and other landmarks. She took the photo of me staggering off the plane (if I can get it to load).
Eventually we got to the NSF Chalet at McMurdo for the first of many “trainings” and welcome. Somewhere in there we got our dorm and lab keys and pager(s). We actually only got one pager but because I was so tired I thought I had been given one too, and when I couldn’t find it I turned my room over looking. There are quirks like the pagers (hello, 1980?) that turn out to be the best way to let you know you are needed somewhere. Technology and furniture and durable goods seem to last much longer down here–kind of like in public universities. Money isn’t the only thing that limits resources; distance and difficulty in getting things here means that things get used more, repurposed. There is a certain charm to aspects of this. Our lab in Crary is the darkroom, and it would have been a great darkroom for film processing with its two long sink tables. There is still a safelight in one of the rooms.
I’ll write more soon. Settling in, finally getting through most of our “trainings” which took lots of our time thus far. Finally getting some shots made. We’ve met a ton of people, and everyone has been supportive and helpful. It is a strange place, but I’m enjoying even the hard parts. The Discovery Hut is right there to remind me of what “hard” really means. I think of Cherry holed up in there alone, unable to get to Cape Evans while the sea ice was out, kind of losing his mind. Or of the Aurora half of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition-gone-wrong.
Off to 155 for supper.