My First Antarctic Winter/Over, McMurdo, AQ

1988-1989



     LETTERS FROM ANTARCTICA

Ross Island Dependency             October 1988

The Sojourn Home                         Page Twelve

It is appropriate, I hope, that my departure from this place will happen on the day set aside to celebrate the discovery of the New World by Columbus nearly 500 years ago. I will be looking to discover a new world and perhaps a new life but now I must fix the microwave before I can continue packing. The alarm came in at 11:30 this morning, right after brunch.

A minor adjustment this time except that it took me three tries to get it right; but now for the second time I have missed a trip to the Ice Caves. Ten days to go here and this one was pretty good. My usual Sunday fast was interrupted by several snacks and the best sunset I have seen all year. It lasted all night. I am come almost full circle, Midnight Sun to Midnight Sun.

Nine days. Today I finally got to visit the caves. These are not really caves but crevasses along the edge of the Erebus Ice Tongue where the side of the glacier calves away against the sea ice. Drifting snow and movement of the pack make tunnels and chambers festooned with crystal coloured a translucent blue. On top of the glacier one can poke about and break through the roof of other chambers, got to be careful, it's a long way to the bottom.

On the drive out there, some hour by slow tractor to the north and just this side of Cape Evans and the Greenpeace Base, we picked up a truck-load of cardboard boxes blown from the McMurdo dump on the far side of Arrival Heights. One of the great controversies here is the condition of the dump and the fact that our trash blows all over the island. The cardboard isn't the worst. Plastic bags and six-pack widgets kill marine wildlife, raw sewage is dumped into the bay; itís not all that romantic, being here between NSF and Greenpeace.

Five days but maybe nineteen... Dennis Tupik, my supervisor is here now; he arrived on the first plane and wants me to stay but the summer manager says no, he needs the bed for incoming crew. Meanwhile Greenpeace has made fools of themselves with a demonstration of bad manners by interrupting the welcoming speech of the NSF rep and I am getting caught up in the excitement of others and thinking of staying in New Zealand for a while. Maybe until I come back here or go on to another exotic job.

The sojourn to home might last years...

And now has taken on a new twist. I have been offered an extension to my contract and transfer to Palmer Station. My departure date is pushed back to the twenty-first and I should be at Palmer on Anvers Island in time for Thanksgiving after a few weeks R&R in NZ and a few days of travel including four days on the Polar Duke in the World's Worst Ocean.

The last few days at McMurdo are very busy with packing and learning new things for the job at Palmer plus tying up loose ends here and showing my summer replacement around the station. The weather here has been bad and few planes are coming. They are way behind schedule but already with those which have made it the station population has more than doubled and many winter/overs are suffering from colds and withdrawal of winter privileges. The helos are flying again and one is obliged to get up early and work as part of a team. Gone are the lazy quiet days of winter/over, the streets are crowded with pedestrians and twice as many trucks and every now and again the air warms enough to begin melting the snow.

ó30ó

This letter is COPYRIGHT by Alfred J. Oxton, 1988-2009, McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica.

No portion may be reproduced by any means without my express written permission.


 A.J.Oxton, OA, OO, OAE,  k1oIq

Evil Al The Network NARC

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