Week 17 Silly Season - And the Band Played On
6th February - 13th February 2000
The week started with a mix of panic and anticipation. With just over a week left in the season there was lots of work to do, little time to do it, and the winterers can't wait for it to finish.
There was a winterers All Hands in the summer camp lounge on Monday afternoon. The summer manager kicked the meeting off by letting us know what we couldn't do over the winter - "no visits to Old Pole". Now known as the "E B 2000 Old Pole Challenge". We then got a pep talk about great crew - go down in history - blah, blah, blah. More mundane topics such as station close activities, such as cane lines, and clean up, were also discussed. But the big news was that if we didn't get enough fuel in the summer camp gym would be closed. This would not have been an issue except numerous people (including me) had been led to believe it would be kept open. And do we have a fuel problem??
I've noticed that for about 3 weeks before a major transition at a station things get a bit - well silly. I'm not sure who first brought my attention to this, but I've noticed it quite a few times. I think of it this way. For X months I've put up with soandso doing this and that, which drives me up the wall. Wow, I only have to be around them for 2 weeks more - I'd better hurry up and get some pay back. Add to this the mixed feelings about starting a winter, or leaving the ice, and things can get nasty. This is a worst case scenario, but I see it all the time, even in me (shock horror - me get cranky!).
We got off lightly this silly season. I wasn't aware of any major disagreements or bizarre behavior (out of the norm). There was one thing that I put down to silly season. The local band, "Fanny Pack and the Nancy Boys", were to play one last gig before they split up. As it happened the bass player, Sonja, had scored a wintering position at the last moment, and had gone to CHC to get last minute things. But she was due back late in the week. The only member leaving is the drummer, B, and one of the female vocals. A gig was planned for Friday night. Now the silly season intervenes. The summer people are getting excited about leaving, the winterers about staying, and a few parties happen through the week. B, I'm told an extremely reliable hard worker (tradies work 6*9 7:30 - 5:30), was late for work one morning. His punishment is to be sent out a few days early - on Friday morning!! So no band. But then fate decides she wanted the band to play, there is bad weather at MCM, and flights are cancelled! Friday night was a big night. Final appearance of "Fanny Pack and the Nancy Boys" with B on drums.
The food in Antarctica always seems to be out of date. Not all the food is like this - just most of it. We couldn't send food home just because it's a bit old. Food would end up just going in circles. We need to have some fat in the system as we don't know exactly what we'll eat during the year, or how much we'll eat. And we REALLY don't want to come up short. The system for putting food onto the storage racks is fifo - first in first out. It's sort of a fact of life that is part of the experience, "great! this powdered milk is only 1 year out of date!!". But there are some things that make you think twice, like eggs. And then there is the stuff we buy, like booze. An "in the future story" is after the station closes nest week, Fat Tire beer goes on sale (just flown in), and it's already one day out of date the first day we can buy it. Earlier in the year MCM decided that they couldn't sell Fanta over 3 years out of date. So they sent it to pole and we've been able to drink it for free!! Fanta became an integral part of the SP diet. On Friday night one of the local song smiths, Dave Zimmerman, gave a guest appearance (B on helping vocals) with the song "Orange Fanta". It was great, but will probably never be used in a Fanta commercial.
The close of mail for the summer was Friday. Thursday was major card writing day. I hope I've written to most of you. I'm sorry I didn't have everyones addresses. I figure that a hand written card makes up for all the emails I haven't sent - maybe? Just don't compare, the subject matter is fairly uniform, and I don't want to be caught out.
This weeks Sunday science lecture was about the station resources, and their limitations. It should have been sub-titled "why the summer camp gym can't (won't?) be left open during the winter". I heard the that the gym would be closed, but no one had told me officially. So after the head engineer had shown us lots of graphs and spread sheets with Power Point (yeh, this was going to impress me!), I asked the question, "so the gym will be closed?". "I'll leave that for someone else to answer". So the winter manager tells us about how we are in a tricky position power wise. Still no answer to the question. But the case is that it won't be opened. I was quite annoyed by the whole thing. Mainly because this was a matter for the winter crew and I didn't want to make a fuss when hardly anyone was there, most of the people present were summer crew, and it was advertised as a science lecture. Plus the abuse of statistics, and the use of hi-tech presentations to hide reality, are tricks I'm very aware of. On the positive side, we have a gym in the Dome. It is cramped, but much better than nothing.
When I was at Casey one day towards the end of summer I realised that all the wildlife had gone. I remember thinking that this was probably a sign. Maybe there was something coming. It is starting to feel like that at SP with the hoards fleeing north. I don't have the same feeling of anticipation - just relief.
To be continued .......