Or rather, Barry is back in MacTown.
Yesterday about noon I boarded this Hercules C-130 and spend three or four hours flying from Pole to McMurdo. I don’t know if it was me or all of us, but it seemed a lot more subdued than on the way out — It’s a noisy ride, but I remember a lot of chit-chat and anticipation. The flight out was people who had been together for months, going to a way-point and then home or travel. Like I said, maybe just me, but the last few months are already turning into wistful memories.
I don’t know many people here in MacTown, other than the polies I flew with, and a few people either coming back from R&R, polies working a few days or weeks at MCM, or folks met briefly on the way in. The previous stranding here let me work through a lot of things to do here, so I don’t have a lot of bucket-list items. There’s a walk to and around Castle Rock that some other polies were talking about doing, but it’s 9 hours hiking, and it’s a windy, cloudy day today. I pass. I don’t know that they are going either.
The winter is coming in here, too. The weather is cooling down — it’s 15F now — seasonal people are coming and going. The icebreaker is out breaking ice. There’s a ship due in a week or so that takes a bunch of crap off the continent for disposal. Literally. In the field camps, pee and poo goes into buckets that get brought back to McMurdo and shipped off frozen on the vessel. And that’s the course followed for all the trash generated here; it gets sorted in various ways and shipped off for recycling and disposal. At Pole it’s more expensive to get stuff out — it has to get to McMurdo and the ship, and pretty much all goes by the traverse, overland. It would be too expensive to fly trash out, and keeping Antarctica reasonably clean is a tough job.
[I doubt I’ll ever get around to writing up the McMurdo reverse-osmosis water plant or the sewer plant. I had a fun tour of each, and have photos and notes I might be able to put into a coherent sequence.] Rumor says there’s an Emperor Penguin out molting about an hour’s drive away, back to the runway we landed on. If I were a genuine bird-freak I’d go; that would be one heck of a life-list item. But I’m not going to take two more hours on Ivan the Terra Bus to see a bird.
There are gulls in the skies, a few snow-slugs a.k.a. seals. The air smells like dirt and diesel. But it doesn’t feel alien or anything — four months on the snow, and hills made of dirt still just look like hills made of dirt. Some polies are mostly satirically crying out “Look! Mud!” and such. It’s interesting that in some perspective, McMurdo is on an island off the coast of Antarctica, so I still haven’t been on Antarctic Soil, and neither have many others.
I don’t seem to be on tomorrow’s manifest for leaving, and there are no flights Sunday, so I’m probably here for a few more days. I think they are putting people on the planes in order of cost — people who have commercial flights scheduled that the USAP would have to pay a rebooking fee, for example, get to make their flights. People with higher salaries than mine — which means most everyone — get to go, since we’re all on the clock as long as we’re not to Christchurch yet.
The New York Times puzzle has been solved by a few people, and Gary Antonick was happy with the level of difficulty. It was fun getting that out under deadline, while also trying to work on some software at South Pole, also under deadline. I look forward to seeing how many people got the NPR puzzle right, or at least have good wrong answers — I doubt I’ll ever know that.
And I may have a trifecta, but it’s gone suddenly quiet. Someone from BBC’s The World radio program got in touch, but has now gone silent. I’m still kind of astounded about how many new blog readers I got via the puzzles. I’ve had three hits from Guernsey, yikes. It’s a lovely place to visit — I’ve got your back, Guernsey.