24/10/2013: After a day of settling in,
it's probably about time for a sign-off. At least coming back
from a second year didn't seem nearly as horrifying as the
first time two years ago. This time it's only taken a day or
so to come to grips with having more than three cars on the road
at a time, rain, seeing large groups of people, animals, insects,
grass and children. I fear it'll take somewhat longer to
acclimatise to the intense heat and humidity of the real world.
And having to pay for things again, what's up with that?!
"So what's next?" everyone has been asking. First up,
acclimatisation. It's +26C here in Christchurch at present.
Something about this heat just makes you want to put on bundles
of clothing, go inside a blast freezer and attempt to run PVC
insulated cabling which has the flexibility of reinforced
concrete at low temperatures. Just like old times. No, not
really. But the thought of drinking myself sober on the stunning
array of new craft beers that have popped up over the last 13
months has crossed my mind several times.
Then we'll see what crops up. No doubt a bit of contract work
here and there. More Amiga computer repairs are heading my way
already. A trip to Sydney in November. Fleetwood Mac in concert
in December. Christmas with the family in Bluff. Fun with
friends in the New Year.
And a third term at Scott Base in 2014? Well I wasn't really
intending to do it the first or second time, so who knows....
Thanks to all my family and friends who have kept in touch over
the frustrations of the summer season and the long darkness of
the winter season. The little treats and things so kindly sent
to me at Scott Base really do help keep the spirit alive. Special
thanks to Andi and Dave for the craft beer and pork crackle; to
Paula for the seemingly limitless generosity of goodies of every
type, Jim and Rett for the occasional phone call and goodies from
Australia, and all of the NZ craft breweries for making me so
I guess that's it then. Farewell and thanks to the many readers
Until next time perhaps?
The C17 aircraft landed right on 4PM on Tuesday with the perfect
precision of the US Air Force.
One last view of the Scott Base radio workshop, where I spent most
of my working days. Practically every day is a work day at Scott
Base, so since 2010 I've come to know everything quite well.
We waited patiently as the aircraft door opened and the new people
walked out. For many of them, this is their first ever sight of
Antarctica. The Americans from McMurdo Station have red coats; the
people with the New Zealand programme are wearing orange and black.
Here we are, waiting patiently in the departure lounge to get on
board the C17 and fly home. The departure lounge and the sea ice
runway just happen to be the same thing.
The Americans get ushered into the oversized Cress
people-mover-truck-thing. Actually, no-one really knows what
it's supposed to be. The Kiwis get packed into the back of a
Toyota Landcruiser like sardines, they'll arrive at Scott Base
in about 15 minutes.
Doesn't take long to get all of the passengers onto the
vehicles and haul them away. Probably not a good idea to leave
the new people out in the cold for a long time as we were.
Then all of the cargo gets unloaded from the C17. This included
multiple pallets of items for both McMurdo and Scott Base, plus
a tractor for the South Pole traverse which had returned from
having a transmission overhaul in Christchurch. We're still
Finally we got a wave from the US Air Force guy. All aboard!
There were fewer than 40 passengers in total - Kiwis and
Americans, and at least 60 seats available. Jump on in and sit
where you like.
During the five hour flight to Christchurch everyone becomes
a little restless. Most people wear earmuffs due to the noise
inside the aircraft. It's not usually easy to sleep unless you
make yourself a little nest of extreme weather clothing in
the middle of the floor.
So we landed in Christchurch at 11PM
Tuesday evening, and that was the completion of another 13
months of living and working in Antarctica.
23/10/2013: After a day of weather
delays, we took off yesterday at 6PM, landing in Christchurch
at 11PM, home a bit after midnight. Nice to be back home
again, though I am missing the Scott Base coffee machine
Will post a few photos and final comments in a few days once
I've settled back into the real world again.
20/10/2013: It's been a bit of an
unusual week as most of our winter crew were supposed to
have gradually departed from last Wednesday onwards. But
a lingering weather system has delivered a lot of snow,
strong winds and low visibility, resulting in flights over
the past five days being cancelled. As far as I know,
I'm still scheduled to fly out of here at 4PM tomorrow on
Monday afternoon and I suspect my fellow winter crew who
were due to depart over the week have also been migrated to
this flight. So it'll be particularly nice to all fly out
together. All going well, I'll be back in Christchurch
around 9PM Monday. At least we have a fairly nice looking
to look forward to tomorrow.
Fortunately for the Americans at McMurdo Station, the US
government have reached some kind of agreement to put the
country back in motion, which includes McMurdo Station.
The stormy week has been a blessing in disguise for some
of the McMurdo staff, they would have otherwise have been
flown out; then would have to be re-employed and flown back
down once the weather cleared. Due to this minimised
staff impact, there were plenty of happy Americans about
when I called over this morning.
So all going well, this will be my final post from Scott
Base for 2013. As good as our season has been, thirteen
months is a long time to spend in one place, so it'll be
nice to get back to the real world once more. Even if that
does mean I'll have to pay for food again and cook it
The McMurdo Coffee House has opened once more. It's one of
the oldest buildings on station. In the past they served
coffees, but for the time being it's just open as a lounge
A tracked trailer stored outside at McMurdo Station.
As most of us have now packed up our usual outside work
clothes, we're now left with only our ECW (extreme cold
weather) clothing which is supposed to be worn during
aircraft travel. The problem is that is it's
ridiculously hot to wear on days like today when it's
only -10C and little wind.
13/10/2013: As expected, things got very
busy very quickly this week. The action started when the summer
crew and the remainder of the winter crew arrived last Sunday
together with the NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
There was a major issue when the ice runway became shrouded in
dense ground fog just before landing; so the pilots could not
see to land the plane and there was not enough fuel to return
to NZ. They had enough fuel to circle for three hours, which
they did while waiting for the fog to clear. No such luck
however, so they were forced to make an emergency landing on
the runway using instruments only, which they pulled off
perfectly. Full credit to the NZ Air Force pilots. Then more
drama as the Minister's overnight trip turned into a two-day
trip due to flight cancellations the following day. Read the
press release here.
So since then the fire training people have been on station and
are running regular fire drills every few hours, which is good
for learning about the fire procedures, but bad for productivity.
I've not yet started my handover, so hope to get that done once
the fire trainers are finished this coming week. At present I
have a return to NZ date of the 21st of October, but that's
liable to extend depending on how everything else pans out.
Now that the new people have arrived and the calmness and
productivity of winter has transformed to boisterous chaos,
I feel about ready to go back home.
Meanwhile at McMurdo Station, the US Government shutdown is
causing all sorts of issues. Essentially the station has now
begun shutting down to 'caretaker mode' where the station will
essentially run with a skeleton crew, similar to winter
operations. I was talking some US scientists last night who
arrived during the week, then upon landing were told "Welcome
to Antarctica, don't unpack because you're out on the next
flight". So at this stage they've stopped all summer science
events and all non-essential science support. As Scott Base
is generally independent from McMurdo, we're not expecting it
to have a big impact on our science events for this year,
except for the few events that were to work in with the
Americans. So yep, it's all go here.
According to tradition, we held the winter to summer handover
ceremony during the week. This includes lowering the small
winter NZ flag and raising the larger summer one.
Just prior to the flag ceremony outside, we were summoned to
an all-hands meeting for an update on the situation with the
US programme and the government shutdown. They're only
smiling because I'm trying to take an impromptu and probably
inappropriate photo during the serious meeting.
On Wednesday evening, our winter crew of 12 took the opportunity
to have a short Hagglund trip out to the 'square frame' hut,
about 20 minutes away from Scott Base, to have a final catch up.
The first of our winter crew were due to begin departing a few
days ago, but typical flight delays have resulted in them staying
an extra three days to date.
Some nice sunsets at present, the last sunset is just over a week
away on the 23rd of October. Not sure if I'll still be here then
or not. Excuse the light reflections on the window of my workshop.
A nice day to get out and about this morning; this is the view
from the Scott Base road over the Williams Field road and pressure
Graeme (right) is especially proud to have his son Alec (left)
arrive as part of the new summer crew. He'll be running the
Scott Base bar and shop until February/March next year.
6/10/2013: Well the first half of the new
2013/2014 crew is here. 18 of them arrived on Thursday with
a sizable number of returnees among them. The last half of the
new people was due to arrive yesterday, but following bad weather
in the forecast, the flight had been moved to today. Typical
Antarctica weather meant that despite the forecast, yesterday was
one of the best days I've seen in many months with very warm
temperatures (-10C), clear skies and little wind. The forecasted
storm arrived at about 2AM this morning, so the flight for today
has been moved tomorrow, though the weather isn't looking so flash
for Monday either. They'll get here eventually. Not that I'm
worried about the delays, the more quiet time I get, the better.
All of the first timers did their outside training last night,
which involves setting up a field camp, cooking freeze-dry
food for dinner followed by a night out in a polar tent. I'm sure
they would have had a great night up until the overnight storm
hit. Welcome to Antarctica.
I also celebrated my 35th birthday on Tuesday, my fourth
consecutive birthday at Scott Base. Our water engineer, Graeme
celebrated his 50th birthday on the same day. Nothing like the
excuse of a double birthday celebration to have another party
before all of the new people arrived.
Since the weather was so nice yesterday, Graeme and I took the
opportunity to visit some of our American winter-over friends,
some of who are due to depart tomorrow if the flight ever gets
here. This is the view while taking a short-cut walk down the
hill into McMurdo Station.
The short-cut into McMurdo goes past the carpenter's workshop
which often has any number of interesting signs and decorations
fixed to the outside.
During the walk over the hill to McMurdo last night, Graeme
excitedly pointed out the wind turbines which had stopped
completely due to the lack of wind; a rare occasion.
Our chef, Damian made yet another spectacular effort for my
birthday dinner on Tuesday. Bacon Explosion, garlic potatoes,
some wild venison sausages from Graeme's son who is due down
on the next flight. He's running the Scott Base bar and shop
over summer. Damian even pulled out a few special treats he'd
been saving, such as a delicious salmon.
Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Damian
revealed the Chub cake. All you need to know about it is that
Graeme has an addiction to one of the American beers from
It was even nice enough on Thursday to do a few jobs up at our
Crater Hill radio site. Here's the view over towards
Observation Hill and the Americans working on the sea ice
runway, probably due to open in a week or so.