South Pole Diaries 2000/01



Wednesday 24th January 2001

From Andre Phillips, Crary Lab, McMurdo.....

Hi Guys,

You'll be interested to note that the Pole-bound passengers who arrived on my flight from Christchurch, are *still* here! In fact my ex room-mate returned *again* last evening, after spending another frustrating day waiting for a departure time which was continually being moved forward. At 6:55 this morning I woke him from a deep slumber to alert him that he was scheduled to depart for Willy Field at 7:00. The poor sod leapt out of bed like a Polaris Missile and flew out of the room in three minutes flat. Shortly afterwards he returned looking dejected and saying that the flight had been further delayed. And the same scenario repeated itself mid-afternoon when I noticed he was sleeping towards another scheduled departure time. He's not a happy chappy right now. I'm still scheduled to leave for Pole on Monday, if not before.

I on the other hand, had a very pleasant day catching up on a few McMurdo rites-of-passage which I've never had time for in the past... starting out with a tour of Scott's Hut at Hut Point. Poor ol' Scott, he made some extraordinarily bad decisions, and that hut appears to be another telling example. You may know that it's actually of Australian manufacture (allegedly all jarah construction, although I'm skeptical), and was purchased sight-unseen as a catalog kitset. Being designed for Aussie Outback applications it had no insulation, an elevated floor for good under-floor ventilation, and an ample loft to duct away more of that Aussie excessive heat. Needless to say, as soon as the thing was built here it was discovered that it was too damn cold for human habitation, although it was used by various expeditions, usually as an emergency shelter, usually due to some major cock-up.

Then I walked over to Scott Base, checked out its well stocked shop, and walked back. This was followed by a Skuaing raid on Skua Central. During the afternoon I read, napped, and made some amends for my sadly neglected email correspondence of late. Last evening I attended the outdoors education talk, mandatory for off-base travel. Besides a quick trip up Observation Hill (no permit required) the only other McMurdo rite-of-passage I would like to try is the walk around the Castle Hill Loop. Friday perhaps.

This evening I attended the weekly Science Lecture, concerning the installation of infrasound detecting arrays, which have been placed in Antarctica (and around the world) as part of global Comprehensive [nuclear] Test Ban Treaty monitoring. Essentially these instruments are super-sensitive capacitor microphones placed at the end of long plastic drainpipes, and which could detect a dingo's fart across a continental distance.

The Science Lecture was held in the all-new, and very pleasant, building 155 dining room. Older McMurdo visitors will recall how the dining area was segregated into 'E' and 'O'* dining rooms, the O being somewhat better furnished with some nice paintings on the walls (*E='Enlisted' & O='Officers'). Those days are history and now there is just one big well furnished dining room. Furthermore the grub just keeps on getting better and better as the years go by. The subject of McMurdo food has supplied generations of visitors with something to bitch about. Maybe my taste buds were burned out by earlier memorable examples of Navy cuisine, but these days it all strikes me as pretty damn good.

My last couple of days mooching about McMurdo have been very pleasant, and a good tonic for the last few hectic months. But I'm rapidly running out of things to do, and a suitcase load of AASTO-related goodies is nagging to be fiddled with... Manyana...



Coming Soon!