Travels With Oso con Migo

Is There Life After Antarctica? Reprise

OAE On The Road Again, New Zealand

February 17, 1997, last letter December 25, 1996

Gentle Readers,

28th December, Trail riding in Hanmer's hills.

Onward. Today I am in Hanmer Springs, been here a couple of days, at the hot spring pools and riding the bike tracks in the forested hills. Was here last year too. Great place for people watching, and for sunbathing. Every now and again I get into a conversation with someone who wants to know if the folks in the northern hemisphere are at all aware of the mess they have made of the ozone and the damage it is causing in the southern hemisphere, with the hole in the ozone and all that. Sunscreen is big business here. A lot of kids wear full body swimsuits, like surfing togs, and many of the duckbill caps have a neck curtain, boys and girls. What's the difference I ask, at the rate things are going in this country, if your kid survives teenage suicide then they die of skin cancer. Actually the survival rate is probly better with skin cancer.

Some of the trails are steep and I have to walk sections. Some are steep and narrowly rutted--eroded--and that is doubly hazardous. But most are flat and fast, up or down. The best part is when I can combine sunbathing and bike riding. Then stop at the hot pool for a good soak before tea with Anna and Theo at the Glenalvon B&B.

January 1, 1997, Wednesday, Not Physically Qualified.

NPQ'd was the phone call last night. What a way to start the new year, eh. When I returned from all that fine riding weather in Hanmer to the grey chill of Christchurch and rode my bike out to the doctor to follow up on my physical of the week before the good news was that I'd passed all the tests but one. Two actually, but one was not essential. So we hastily scheduled another urine test and added an ultrasound examination of kidneys and bladder to see if there were any stones or polyps that might be the cause of 50 red cells per ml of urine. There's not suppose to be any blood in one's urine and while this was not enough to change the colour of the sample, barely a drop in the bucket as the doctor said, it was enough to fail the test.

The second test had the same results but the ultrasound scan show'd nothing out of the ordinary. No gravel present anywhere. The most likely cause may be that all the bike riding over the past few weeks has created some irritation in my urethra--it takes quite a pounding on wooded trails and gravel roads. So I'm not riding for a couple of days while I wait for another round of tests to be scheduled and so in the meantime its back to walking and reading.

Happy New Year. As I write this part in Christchurch the first day is more than half over while in London the time is just midnight and the east coast of CONUS still plods along thru New Year's Eve.

January 8, 1997, Wednesday, On The Beach.

Finally found a c-o beach close enough for commuting. It was a bit of an up-wind tack on this day to get there by bicycle so I took advantage of one of the local shuttle services to carry me and bike within striking distance. The beach is nearly four km long stretching north of Spencerville on a broad spit that incloses a tidal lagoon. Just near to Spencerville there is a large caravanserai but mostly the occupants tend not to stray too far from the lifeguard so the sansupants, only me today, have all the rest of the vast untrammeled space for beachcombing and sandcastle construction au naturale.

January 11, 1997, Saturday, Rain Rain Go Away...

The Avon River is over its banks in Victoria Square. Cyclone Drena has been dumping on the South Island for more than a day now.

The second round of tests led to the same conclusion as the first: more tests are required to resolve the mystery. So yesterday at the bladderologist I sat still for a cystoscopy. Little Jon wrote that 

its not unlike having a Roto-Rooter leading spelunkers on a caving expedition. Maybe you were not numb'd-up enough Jon. I found the experience was actually pretty fascinating. The fibre-optic tube looked to have been nearly a yard long and most of it went inside following the load from a fairly large syringe of combination lubricant and local anesthetic. By means of some contortions that might be worthy of a gymnast's Olympic silver medal the doctor is able to steer the spelunking end to look into all the nooks and crainies. Over here are two little dimples where connecting passageways lead to the kidneys. Then if you make the tube twist back on itself you can see the urethra where its coming in from. As the doctor identified each landmark he let me have a look. Fascinating. Nothing out of place. So now there needs to be another round.

The birds are singing in the rain. Puss does not like these soggy conditions for stalking the warblers as they feed on the toast scraps that Gloria throws out in the car-park after breakfast every morning. Holly on the other hand is a secret member of the Audubon Society and even on the warm sunny days, when Puss is tail-twitching and slithering across the tarmac, she is content to observe. Sometimes Holly will lay in the sun whilst the finches are feeding only a claw swipe away. Puss creeps to within pouncing distance... and Gloria yells from over by the clothesline where she is hanging the guest towels out to dry. But Puss must be successful at least occasionally cos you can see the feet and tail feathers sorted into little piles under the geraniums by the front door of the Devon.

January 12, 1997, Sunday, If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

...your gonna get wet. But the Teddy Bear's Picnic is still on. It is scheduled to be in North Hagley Park (parking three dollars for your bearmobile) this afternoon. At the moment there is rain from a mostly cloudy sky and there is a chill, wet air; the Avon River, which flows through the park, is still out of its banks due to all the rain from Cyclone Drena. The bears won't mind all this cold and wet but the rugrats and the krumcrushers will be exceedingly recalcitrant. Better than ice cream the organisers should be prepared with lots of hot gin and honey. I wonder if that would qualify as "clear soup"?

Today I am on a strict diet--no food--well actually I can have a bit of clear soup but no biscuits, no dairy, meat, vegetables... Got to have a clean empty bowel for a dyed blood xray on Monday. I am supposed to take three little evacuation tablets at bedtime. I think I'm gonna sleep in the tub. Better to have a persimmon cookie, eh?

Just reading back over the past weeks entries; this journal is beginning to look like some verbal soap in a check-out lane tabloid. Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment of Adventures in Bladderology (read that with a booming cavernous voice) when we will learn if everything comes out all-right.

January 13, 1997,

This morning I went to Saint George for an IVP. That's where you get pumped up with some sort of radio-opaque glow-in-the-dark dye and then a series of xrays are taken. Some are straight shots and others are wide-screen panoramic where the xray head rotates over the target area whilst the film plate slides along under you to catch the image. I won't have to worry about fathering any bastards for a while.

They had a real neat gown for me to wear, a style I've not seen before, a sort of bedsheet which had three arm-holes! Cool! No draughty backside with apron strings too short to reach.

January 16, 1997, Thursday, a southbound sack lunch

As a sequel to the essay on the brown bag lunch in my last on the road letter and to do justice and give a moiety of plaudits for their efforts to the other side of this programme: USAFNYANG, RNZAF, NZA(R)P, and which ever Kiwi caterer who puts this lunch together herewith is an inventory of the Southbound Lunch.

The plane is named "The Pride of Clifton Park" and is crewed by members of the New York Air National Guard. They're just here for the weekend... Inside, above my seat, is a library of titles like "TO LC- 130H-2-29JG-00-1-1 (HYD.SYS)" and "TO LC-130H-2-30JG-00-1-1 (ICE & RAIN PROTECTION)" and "TO LC-130H-2-61JG-00-1-1 (PROP ASSY)" and "TO LC-130H-2-24JG-00-20-1 (AC POWER)" and "TO LC-130H-2-24JG-00-30-1 (DC POWER)". Some of the AC only electricians I've met at McMurdo will be in trouble with this plane. The titles are not much to look at but the plots are very interesting. In one tome I learnt that this LC-130 is considerably newer than the one I wrote of with the funnel back by the cargo door. You can tell that cos The Pride of Clifton Park has its urinal at the front of the main cabin and it is a stainless steel container that looks like it might hold five gallons of bladderology specimens, held to the bulkhead with two traps labled (1) and (2) which according to the diagramme and instructions are to be secured after the container is in place against the bulkhead.

Across the cabin, opposite the library, near the red do-not-sit-here lines that encircle the cabin are two placards that describe the seating arrangements and options. This plane can handle up to 74 litters (of cats or dogs is not explained) or 92 PAX in twenty-inch seats or 64 PAX in twenty-four-inch seats. There are only about twenty of us on this flight so we have lots of room to stretch out and sleep. Its hard to be sure how many PAX are in fact on this flight--some of the lumps of red are Fire Fighter luggage carry-ons, some lumps of green were USAFNYANG duffel luggage, There were a few camelflag'd lumps that turned out to be Kiwis headed south for Scott Base's 40th anniversary party.

One other item of import before we get on to lunch. Back by the port paratroop door was a very proper straw broom poised for flight, as anyone familiar with the witches of Salem would testify, perhaps in the event you'd forgot your parachute.

Now lunch. First of all this lunch was heavy, and in a double sack. They were not handed to us as we moved across the tarmac from shuttle bus to plane, these were already on our seats, held in place by the seatbelts. An inventory accumulated the following: two sandwiches-- one ham, one that tasted like smoked turkey on dark bread; a sack of condiments including: mustard, mayo, ketchup, salad dressing, and a package each of pecan sandies (2 cookies) and a portion of mild cheddar cheese; a fruit cup; salad; milk (half pint or how ever that metricates); one real apple; two bricks of "Just Juice" (mostly apple with trace amounts of calamansi (what's that--anything like squid?), mango, lime, orange, passionfruit, guave, lemon, apricot--no sugar, no preservatives). Y U M !!

I started out with the turkey on wheat and added the cuke and tomato slices with mayo. Later I had the apple with the cheddar cheese and just before I took a nap I had the milk and pecan sandies cookies. The fruit cup went down well at some point along with half the ham and mustard. (You gotta take into account I burned a lot of calories doing the inventory and it was an eight hour flight although my watch was apparently running slow cos we landed after only about six and a half hours.) All in all this southbound lunch was far better than the northbound lunch of a few weeks ago.

January 21, 1997, Tuesday, Anyone For A Swim

Falling in the water is the thing to do this week at McMurdo. The tanker, Samuel Cobb, is in, escorted by the Coast Guard Icebreaker Number 11, Polar Sea, and upon arrival, a couple of days ago, one of 

the line handlers was knocked over the side when a mooring line snap'd after nearly pulling the bollard out of the pier. Today someone moving hose on the pier fell into the bay. Both guys were recovered and are ok but with the sea temperature the way it is at about 29 or 30f right now survival is only a matter of minutes.

There were 5 1/2 million gallons of fuel offloaded from the tanker. The fuel capacity of McMurdo station is 8 million gallons. Another 500,000 gallons were transferred to the Coast Guard icebreaker.

Check out the homepage of the official who has Wizard of New Zealand, been classified by art galleries and critics as a Living Work of Art, designer of the Post-Modern Cosmology, theorist of the Fun Revolution, founder of the Imperial British Conservative Party, role- model for Post-Feminist men, and Metaphysical Engineer.

Friday, January 31, 1997,

I've been reading _Man's Search For Meaning_ by Viktor Frankl. It has been very much of a help to me making up my mind not to winter again.

3rd February, Coincidental Power Failures A Mere Coincidence?

The McMurdo Power Plant suffered a major failure as the plant lost DC power. The DC system powers the controls and switchgear that run the engines that in turn bring on the AC power that runs the town. Nearly two hours without power all over town. The power plant lost the DC charger that keeps the batteries up in the plant that powers the switch gear and nobody noticed. Apparently this happened a while back and finally the batteries ran down and all the switch gear went off so the diesels were all off line and shut down. Then when power was restored there was some major snafu at the galley and they did a sloppy switch back from their emergency genset to the main feeders resulting in flames sparking along the lines between the poles outside and numerous small motors being toasted.


No sooner were the firetrucks back in their bays than an alarm rings in from Black Island. CO2 discharge in the diesel room out there just a day after the place has closed. Naturally closing was on the last day of helo-ops so there are no birds with wings available. After a spate of quick-time negotiations at the highest level two helos from the Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Sea responded from over two hundred 

miles away. Black Island sat-comms were still on the air all this time so there was no fatal problem yet. At worst the CO2 worked but we were fairly sure from the indications at the McMurdo Monitor & Control point that there had not really been a fire however the cooling system had shut down and some things must be manually reset.

So now there are two technicians out there for a week of sorting out logic errors in the latest snafu-hurry-up-and-get-it-done-before- closing upgrade. I could not be happier right now. It is not often I get to be right and have the opportunity to say I told you so to the engineers and managers who engineer and manage all these silly last minute reconfigurations.

In any case I've been NPQ'd again. This time its for my mental health. Even the merest mention of the possibility of my going to Black Island is likely to cause a nervous breakdown. So now there is no chance I will be wintering this year. That's good. Now they canna twist my arm.

February 9, 1997, Sunday, Cast Off The Bow Line...

The MV Greenwave departed McMurdo headed north with umpteen tons of 

garbage, junk, rubbish, and a few friends. Except for two guys falling in the water ship operations for the tanker and the cargo have been without serious accident so far. There are still a lot of millvans around to be moved and unloaded.

I received a really nice letter from Joy in Shageluk Alaska where she teaches Junior High at the: Innoko River School "I enjoy reading ... your letters. Your "colorful" writing is simple and soothing. Really, it is! ... anyway, the temp here is about 15 F. above, snowy and WINDY. We have had a fairly mild winter again. Not too much snow. It got cold for a little bit. Down to -50 (no sweat, you say) chickens were not thrilled about it, but they didn't bow out, they're still around.

"The crazy Iditarod Race starts soon and will be whizzing through Shageluk this year."

Thanks Joy! And thanks for the link.

February 10, 1997, Monday, Down To Counting The Days Again.

The usual race is on to get everything done before the plane flies. The outgoing folks are hoping to get away before anything else breaks, the winter-overs can't wait til we all leave so they can blame us for everything that *does* break.

February 16, 1997, Sunday, Another Week...

Somehow this week slip'd past almost unnoticed. The Nathanial B. Palmer has been tied up at the ice pier for a few days and the Russian tourist icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov came by with a boat load of sightlookers. They were ferry'd to McMurdo via a large helo and there were also a few Zodiacs plying the icy water between the McMurdo power plant and where the Khlebnikov sat just off shore.

I've been working furiously on the Black Island Power Conservation Database project. Lines of code flow like poetry,


lots of reason but little rhyme, graphs and charts spew from the printer and colour the monitors. But what does it all mean? Who knows.

In the mail this week...

my unthinking reaction was to bellow NOOOO! She turned to her friend and said: --Nooo! He said NOOOO! This is always a quandary for me. THEY say you shouldn't give money to people on the street because they are just panhandling instead of And it was a quandary for me too, especially in India where begging is a way of life for a large caste of the population. Too bad _we_ have such a cultural aversion to begging and giving. It would seem that our Christian roots would direct us otherwise. I think we absolve our selves by relying on organised giving and other particular gifting situations which sanitise the process and distance our Selfs from the needy. I suppose that organising the destitute is an entreprenurial activity that in and of itself legitimises begging but panhandling without a permit is a petty annoyance for which one can be put in the pen.

Thanks Jan.

And here's something that should get your dander up...

Just passing on the word:

Yesterday I got a notice from the Computer User's Group that most of the 
phone companies are petitioning the FCC to impose a per-minute charge for 
internet use.  Guesstimates range from 4-5 cents per minute for the large 
companies up to 40 cents for the smaller ones.  They contend that internet 
usage has/will hinder operation of the telephone network.  The FCC has set 
up an email box for comments -- all replies must be in by Feb. 13.  The 
address is  You'll notice the public hasn't been told about

Now we are all down to the wire. The first sunset here should be next week but I expect to be back on the beach at Christchurch by then. Ethan has made some neat suncharts that show the sunrise and sunset times for some diverse places. My plane is scheduled out yesterday, delay'd until tomorrow, so I have today, Sunday, to get this letter complete and posted and do a laundry and pack and clean and signout and write a bunch of letters and ... and ...

Mitch is making Oriental Stir-fried Strawberry Pancakes (secret recipe) in a wok. We have the last tablespoon of Trask Mountain Maple Syrup to sprinkle on them. My Special Thanks to Rick Pierce for all the ephotos and most especially for the one in the bladderology storey in this edition of On The Road Again.

Stay Gold, bcnu, Love, ajo

With the end of uncertainty there came the uncertainty of the end. --Viktor Frankl

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