Antarctica

Week 5 Nick and Bai Leave - On my own, except the other 10 Amandoids

14th November - 21st November 1999

There are two people wintering for AMANDA each year (in 1998 there were three). For the coming year there is myself and and a Canadian, Mike, who will arrive in mid December. Last year the winterers were Bai and Nick. The reason I came in on first flight was so that I could work with Bai and Nick on an undisturbed experiment and work routine.

Nick and Bai left for their homes in the real world on Monday. They were extremely excited about the prospects of seeing their families. There excitement was infectious and I was very happy for them. But at the same time it was very sad to see them leave. We had been working very closely together and I enjoyed their company. Also I could always rely on them to fix any problems I encountered, or created, , and suddenly I was going to have to deal with this by myself.

Of course there are lots of AMANDA people here now. But they have set projects that have to be done in a set period of time. And it's nearly always a short period of time, for the amount of work they would like to do. So these people are in a huge rush to get things done, and foregoing some relaxation time for a short time seems a small price to pay to get the job done. And it's very easy to get caught up in this rush. But there is a difference between these summer people and wintering. I'm in it for the long haul and burning out in the first two months would be a mistake. Bai and Nick were allies against this summer mayhem, reminding me there is more to life than T0 calibrations. So life is not the same down south without them.

My favorite place to hang out here is Sky Lab. Inside the dome, behind the upper berthing, is an entrance to a tunnel. This tunnel is about 20m long, 2m high and wide. Walking through it without the lights on is like something from the creepiest movie you can think of with aliens in it. At the end of the tunnel is a tower like building which contains a number of scientific laboratories. The tunnel is buried by snow accumulation. The bottom lab is the Cusp Lab, which looks at upper atmospheric - ionospheric phenomena associated with the cusp region of the magnetosphere. Above this is the Cosmic Ray Lab. At the very top is the auroral cameras. But bellow this is a lounge type area called Sky Lab.

Because people are inherently lazy, and getting there requires a short walk and a climb of 5 flights of stairs, very few people ever go to Sky Lab. This is one of its best points. Also it has picture windows looking out over the plateau in three directions. Being elevated one can see for many miles out over the polar plateau at nothing for as far as the eye can see - the horizon. There is the small mater of the sprawling station, summer camp, Mapo, SPASE, ARO, and the runway markers, but other than that - nothing for 1000km or more.

It's not very big and so Sky Lab is a very cluttered room. It's the music center of the station with many guitars, keyboard, drums, amps, speakers, and other miscellaneous stringed instruments. My favorite part is the old lounge which I find much easier to sleep on than my bed. I find it strange that I sleep so well there because it's very light and the Sun never goes down - just around. There is a door to the outside world, which I like to call the fridge. Of course you have to be careful when you put your tinnies in the fridge as they quickly turn to slushies and then soon become rock solid.

I probably go up there at least once a day and hang out for at least half an hour. There is nearly always someone playing the guitar, which is nice unless it's the electric and they have the amp turned up to 11. On Sundays it's a wonderfully mellow place to be. Last Sunday I went there to write post-cards and a number of people came in for awhile and played very relaxing music on acoustic guitars. Just before lunch someone realising I am an Aussie started playing Waltzing Matilda. I just happened to have a book of Banjo Paterson up there, with the popular worlds to it (which I mostly couldn't remember!). So he spent some time working out the chords and I sang.

On the subject of music, Thursday was the first open mic for the talented people on station. It was so popular I couldn't actually get in. The eating area has two levels, upper and lower galleys. The open mic was held in the upper galley. So I was able to listen to some of the acts from the stairs. Since I knew what they looked like it seemed a reasonable compromise. There were acts including guitar and vocals, a play, poetry, and banjo. They were very good and thus the popularity of the event.

To be continued .......

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