Antarctica

Week 11 Happy New Years - Scripted Spontaneity

26th December 1999 - 2nd January 2000

One hundred years ago, in 1899, a group of ten men wintered at Cape Adare on the Antarctic coast. They were the first people to winter in Antarctica, and they saw in the year 1900, as this week we saw in the year 2000. The group was led by Carston Borchgrevink, and included an Aussie, Louis Bernacchi. They sailed to Antarctica in the ship "Southern Cross". I wonder if they were worried about Y1.9K bugs? Or more realisticly - I'm sure there were doomsdayers back then - did they wonder if society would still be around for their return - if they would ever be picked up? They had no communication to the outside world until they returned home. We went live to the world (well USA, same thing). I think they had it lucky in their solitude.

After deploying last Sunday evening one might have expected to take it a bit easier for a few days. But with Y2K looming I was busy trying to upgrade some computers that weren't guaranteed compliant. Also PICO was drilling at a furious rate and we had to get ready for the third deployment. My plan for New Years was to go to the party, go to the Pole for mid-night, open bubbly at 1am (the real time the world went into year 2000 here), and watch the geographic pole being moved. Well it didn't quite go that way. By Thursday night it was clear PICO would hand the hole over Friday around lunch time, and I would be working on New Years Eve.

I slept on Friday to make sure I was ready for the deployment. But I did get woken by some of the All Calls. I heard that the Singaporeans had arrived, a plane of tourists also arrived, and people were getting the party ready. Got up and had dinner - lots of strange faces - and headed off to the deployment early to see if I could help.

Chaos would not be a completely inappropriate description of the scene at the hole. I had expected almost twenty modules to be deployed, but it was well short of 10. The hole setup - heater location, tool locations, etc - were not at all like I wanted, and things had broken down. And on top of this there was a film crew stuffing around. They should have finished, but they had gone out to the winches and were filming an amanderite star doing a job they normally don't do. Come to think of it, what did they do during deployment but act the star and slow down the deployment and get everyone (ME!) really annoyed??

By the time the night shift took over things were going quite badly. There had been a slight chance we would finish before midnight, and a very good chance by 2am. This would have given us a chance to go to the party. But by 9 o'clock things were really bad and we only got two modules mounted in the next hour. We were in a really black mood now. But then out of the blue everything clicked and we had only 10 modules left by just before midnight!

As the year 2000 approached all of the amanda team came out to the hole to help us celebrate. We stopped work and champagne was opened. The last module mounted was christened the millennium module and everyone signed it and photos were taken. We then all went out into the open for another round of pictures. Considering how bad a mood we had been in only hours before, we suddenly were in great spirits. The last module was lowered at around 2am and the cable drop was started.

At this point I used the justification that I didn't eat mid-rats, and that I should check the computers to make sure they were still working, to sneak off to the dome for an hour. The computers were still working, so I thought I'd just check the party was still going. It was in the last stages of a party, but still fun. I will never forget Bruce's version of "Little Drummer Boy". I'm told earlier in the night it was like a Holiwood party with film crews running around with cameras. But I couldn't stay.

Back at the hole there was only a few hundred meters of cable to drop. We got the cable secured as quick as possible, and at a bit after 4am I ignored the cleaning up to be done to go see the Geographic Pole be moved. The others were going to hang around to do some cleaning up.

At the Geographic Pole, film crews had set up for the lighting conditions and some officious bloke who I assume had a grand title of producer or something was telling people where to stand. "To be in the shot you have to stand between here and here". Well that's fine I don't want to be in the shot, I want to watch the pole being moved - I'll stand over there. No, no, I'm out of the shot - I have to move. But I don't want to be in your \*\&\^\&\%\^ shot. I have to move or I'll confuse the camera man. Well I imagine that's not difficult - standing my ground. Two minutes are called, as Bert comes zig-zagging between the old pole markers on a snow mobile towing a sled of amanderites. He pulls up behind the group to be greeted by a very angry "producer". We can't have the world seeing that we have snow mobiles here. I'm sure if he knew he'd hate amanderites.

As the "producer" fails to count down correctly he explains what is going to happen and that at the end we should spontaneously rush in and touch the new GSP. Who's place is this? Who is this bloke telling me how to act spontaneously? Suddenly -sshhhhhh - no noise we're live. So some bloke talks to some other bloke for awhile. They walk over and place the new marker, and everyone spontaneously rushes in and acts like idiots. We didn't hear a word that was said. If it wasn't such a farce it might have been annoying.

A special marker was put in for the day. It marked the instantaneous point of rotation on the day. The marker that was moved was some sort of complex average with respect to a datum (which has a sort of systematic error due to us not wanting our maps to change all the time). Because this was considered to be sort of esoteric it got the nickname "nerd pole". It was lots of fun despite the media attention.

Well New Years was just beginning, but I was fairly tired. By the time I got to bed it was 11am. The next event in the day was the pool tournament at 2pm. So I almost got 3 hours sleep. Now I mostly consider myself a darts player. However, over the years I have played a fair bit of pool thanks to Andrew, Andrew, and Craig. Since I had played most of the blokes here I didn't rate myself a chance, and was mainly interested in the cool t-shirt. I got through the first round by a forfeit, and then the second was a nail biter. It was double elimination, so everyone got a fair go. On the second day I started with a solid win (beat the other Aussie Rodney - who would think, two Aussies good at pool). But then I was up against Larry. I had never beat Larry before, and he had beat me heaps. He was also expected to make the final. I sank the eight ball on the break!! By my rules I'd lost instantly - but by SP rules I'd won. Now I was up against the favorite who gave me a lesson in pool. Back to Larry. In a very tight game I won again!! But again got taught how to play pool by Dave. But I was second with $150 in my pocket. Not bad for a darts player.

So that was the beginning of the year 2000 for us. I think it will take me the rest of the year to recover.

To be continued .......

Schneider family web pages at kulgun.net
Antarctica | Family History | Science
Shop Photos | Atmospheric Optics | Plasma Physics

Copyright © Darryn Schneider for all content and images unless otherwise noted