Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bright Sunny Days...

Well, hello there. This will probably be my last installment, but if I
can get another in, I'll try and do so.

So much to tell!

It was about last Thursday when the vibe on station really changed.

Snowmobiles buzzed around with luggage, cargo and other strange things we
hadn't seen in many months. We had just huddled through the worst storm
of the season - for a week it blew, with winds that went within 1.5kts
of the all time record for the Pole. Early in the week though, the weather
cleared, to reveal an entirely new landscape.

Since the wind was blowing from the 'wrong'
direction, that is, the opposite to the direction it normally does, all
of the deep grooved sastrugi had been filled in. The landscape was flat,
entirely flat, all sharp edges smoothed away and the hard crust on top
was crisp and easy to navigate. It felt like a good omen. The drifts
from the storm were immense - in some cases doubling the height of the
drifts created in the entire rest of the season. A wall of snow two
storeys high sat in front of the station and I could walk to the roof of
the Viper building, from the outside, just on the snow.

It was touch and go as to whether the runway would be ready in time.
Night and day you could hear Rod and Jed in the D6 cats, trundling up
and down with the planer and the chains. By thursday, though, all was
go. We had all shifted rooms, quite a few people to summer camp and i
moved back upstairs. There was definitely a strange note to thursday, a
lot of energy and laughter in the halls - and finally I put my finger on
it. It felt like the last day of school before the summer holidays.
Anticipation. Excitement. Some strange unexplained nervousness.

I couldn't tell you why I wasn't looking forward to the planes arriving
on the Friday. Perhaps it was the fear of the new: new people, a change
in an existence i was happy with, invasion of a personal space which had
grown to envelop the whole station. But when the plane appeared in the
sky on the Friday, standing there with Vicky and my other friends, it
was impossible not to catch the nervous excitement. Watching the plane
land and pull up in front of us was one of the most vividly bizzarre
moments of my life. It seemed surreal, this monstrous grey noise-box,
spewing red-parka-ed strangers suddenly in our midst, after ten long
months of the pristine silence, the dark, the dawn and nothing but the

Suddenly it was busy. Nearly a hundred people arrived that day, and the
winterovers cared for nothing but the fact that the plane had Freshies!!
Fruit - avocados, oranges, apples, kiwi fruit, papaya, bananas, grapes,
melon...despite the misgivings of our stomach we stuffed ourselves
silly. Oranges are the best tasting things in the world. So we sat at
one end of the galley like a gaggle of monkeys, stuffing our faces,
juice running down our chins, oblivious to the huge change in our world
for all was good!

The Saturday night opening party was quite interesting. There were very
few summer people there, but the winterovers truly made it their own. A
lot of folks who had been mostly restrained all season decided to let
their hair down on this evening. There was merriment and more. In a
pleasant surprise, the drunken members of Al Dente managed to get
together for a last performance, though we hadn't planned it. The crowd
loved it, and once we had got through a dozen songs (the ones we could
remember the words and chords to) they demanded more. So we tried the
ones we didn't quite remember the words and chords to. All I know is we
played 'One Way or Another' in four separate keys, and I sang the first
verse to 'Play that Funky Music' four times over cause I couldn't
remember the other verses. No one noticed.

During the middle of the set,
Steffen, our drummer, looks over and sees that someone is asleep on the
couch and using his carhart overalls as a pillow. Unable to do anything
but play (and bless 'im, he didn't miss a beat) he had no choice but to
watch helplessly as the fella vomits all over his carharts and then goes
back to sleep on them! Poor Steffen was particularly distraught as he
had to put the overalls back on to get back to station. Watching his
mincing run back from summer camp, trying desperately not to let the
overalls touch his legs, was a highlight of the night.

We have had strangely clear, cold weather since the storm. For over a
week now, it has been clear, relatively still and has sat within a
degree of -50C without fail. There is a problem with this. This year the
Air Guard, who flies in the hercs, has set a hard limit of -50C as being
the lowest temp allowable for the planes to land. At opening, two planes
got in before it descended below this. The third plane circled and then
left. On Monday all flights were cancelled due to the cold. Tuesday was
the first flight when thirty winterovers were meant to leave. The plane
got to pole 3 - the marker indicating they are about fifteen minutes
from landing, and circled. The temperature was -50.7C. At -50.5C it is
rounded 'up' to -50 and they can land. The bastards circled for an hour
and a half and then left, all because of 0.2C!!! There were some
unhappy winterovers at Pole. Not to mention they thirty or so poor sods
on the plane who had now had *two* boomerangs from Mactown.

Finally on Wednesday the first of the winterovers flew out. It was a
shock. I had been happy here, not anxious to leave, quite content with
the status quo. It hadn't occurred to me that it wouldn't be anywhere
near as fun when my friends all left. It was quite horrifying. So by
thursday, we were diminished, huddling in the corner of the galley eager
to see familiar faces. Yesterday was truly hard. The second big crew of
winterovers left, taking with it all of my really close friends from the
winter. In truth it was a little horrible. I was miserable, properly
miserable, for the first time this year. Toastiness descended like a
hammer - I stared out the window, forgot things, didn't hear people when
they asked me questions. I guess it was the true realisation that things
were coming to the end. And tuesday the 1st of November, my flight,
seemed a month away.

Mostly I just felt tired. Bone tired. A tired exhaustion that seeps into
your soul and isn't quenched by sleep. My friends all leaving and this
descending on me was a good thing, however. Because finally, I felt
ready to leave. I was ready to go. Itching for it. And this is always a
better state to be in than not wanting to let go, and always longing for
it in some small unsatisfied piece of you.

Work still continues. We will observe until the day before i fly out. I
guess since my goal was to 'do my job and not piss too many people off'
i can at least be certain the first bit worked out!! I think my bosses
are pretty happy and ACBAR has worked like a little champion. In that
way it has been an extremely fulfilling year.

Question marks remain on my future - I am as yet jobless, though I have
an interview in Wales in a few weeks which will be interesting. I won't
rule out another year down here, if they'd have me, but we'll just have
to see how everything works out.

The sun beams down today and almost feels warm. I got my first sunburn a
few days ago, on my cheeks and nose, and now I'm peeling. The rest of me
is white as a ghost, but hopefully this will change soon. Right now all
I can smell is balsamic vinegar salad dressing cause Robert was in front
of me in the lunch line, shook the huge pourer of dressing and the
bottom fell off the container and dropped about two litres of dressing
on me and him. He is currently in the laundry washing my carharts. Bless
'im. I look forward to sleep, showers, smells and rain, in about that
order. Life is good.

thanks for reading,

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