Antarctica

Week 12 and 13 January 23 "The Ups and Downs"

Work has got quite hectic. Along with being extremely tired I am a week behind in my email. It feel as though a lot has happened in these last 2 weeks. One of the causes is being short a Winter Over person, who I have been trying to cover for a little. It is tradition for all WOs to go to McMurdo for a weeks R&R. To some going to McMurdo is not considered the most relaxing holiday. But it does give them a break from Pole before the winter.

I guess I should say right away that we have not yet deployed a string, as expected by now. Having already mentioned this it is hard to back into chronological order for the last couple of weeks.

Early on Sunday morning, about 3am, there was a fire alarm followed by an announcement for the trauma team to assemble to go out to an accident at the IceCube Drill Camp. I immediate hit the phone to Comms (communications) to get confirmation this was not a drill. It was not, and I got down to Comms quick smart. It was quickly clear that someone was seriously hurt at the Drill Camp. As is always in situations like this, communications is the worst enemy. With the doctors busy with the patient it was difficult to get a status on the person. To cut a long morning short, one of the drillers was hit by a cable coming very suddenly taut, causing injuries serious enough to be immediately medivaced all the way back to Christchurch.

The drill site was immediately put on a safety stand down. The National Science Foundation has been watching our project extremely closely. This accident attracted far more attention than if it had happened to the support contractor (who has an accident of similar magnitude every so often). This has meant a lot of hoops to jump through before normal operations could resume. This is nearing an end and it looks like we will deploy at least one string this season.

This rather shaking experience came right on the heels of one of the nicest events I've attend at the South Pole. On Sunday evening a couple were married at the South Pole. This had been planned some time in advance and announced at Christmas. Cookie Jon officiated the ceremony finishing with the words, "by the power invested in me by the $10 I sent in to Rolling Stones magazine, I pronounce you husband and wife". Before coming down Cookie had made sure everything was legal and above board. The ceremony was new age traditional - except for the guest participation of "oh yeh" every so often - and was very nice.

The couple are very popular members of the community. Erica being a fantastic pastry chef. She made her own cake which was amazing - huge - very tasty. Something about a secret frosting. The ceremony was out at the South Pole, and there was a reception in the galley afterwards with a very amusing toast by the best man. I don't remember seeing so many people smiling at the Pole at the same time - especially at this time of year.

A very rare event at the South Pole is the arrival of a helicopter. It has only happened a few times and I've never seen it. So the morning that PS mentioned there was an NGA (Non Government Activity) helicopter at the Pole I was extremely anxious to go have a look. I called Comms who told me they were about to depart. I moved fairly quick out to the Pole, just in time to see them re-enact their arrival, and almost mow down the ceremonial Pole! It was a pair of Brits that over the last few years have flown from the North Pole - a first - and something they were eager to share with us. Their excitement was infectious, and I was happy for their achievement.

Another popular event was the South Pole International Film festival. This is the second year for this event, and you may remember me writing about the re-showing of last years entries. It was announced early in the season and meetings held to give the guidelines for the event. I had a small germ of an idea but did nothing about it. I was asked to participate in a couple of films, only one of which worked out. I'm not sure what turned the tide. There was something about last Tuesday when C was leaving and I was talking of taking the arvo off to maybe work on my idea. C encouraged me to take the arvo off, and I started to seriously consider it - even though I worked that arvo. That night I started playing with the idea, and 2 hours later I had too much invested to go back.

As it turned out making the film was easy enough. Getting it onto a microsoft computer, and then turned into a video DVD was the hardest part. Since most of you will get the chance to see my contribution (I'll put it on the web at some point), I don't want to ruin it for you. But it was very different from all the other contributions. When I had the idea early in the season I was inspired by a Peter Greenaway movie, and a coca cola add which ran during the 1990 soccer world cup. I had my heart set on using music by Michael Nyman. But I didn't have what I wanted with me. Then recently in a quiet time in the bar I was listening to some Stereolab. I realised it was the perfect music. Stereolab was a favorite band of Rodney Marks. Then when I was putting it together I realised there was some really good footage of the telescope that Rodney worked on. I decided to dedicate it to Rodney, and this gave me an ending.

Having never done anything much creative, and then certainly never put it in the public eye I was nervous it was going to be the flop of the night. It certainly stood out as different. But for the last couple of days I have had an embarrassing number of people tell me how much they liked my film. Except for the technical difficulties of using the cheapest editing software, and microsoft not using the ISO mpeg4 format, it was a fun experience.

The other movies were extremely varied. My appearance as a "world famous theologian", or something, got some chuckles. Attila's piece about what people do off the ice made you think about what this was all about. And Forrest's interview with a member of the first South Pole crew, in which he describes the affects of life here on his family, cut to the bone. There was an a 50s style documentary, an action thriller, and everything in between. There were 17 films in all. Someone commented that more people attended than an All Hands. But then there was a bar:)

This is absolutely the worst time of year at Pole. While it has been made a little fun by the events of the last couple of week. Everyone is very tired and down right cranky. The Winter Overs are anxious for us to leave, and there seems an unending number of tasks to complete in no time. The station closes in about 3 weeks, but it is my last week. No matter how much sleep I get I'm still tired, and new arrivals that are fresh and full of energy bug the hell out of me. The station is above maximum population with people sleeping in temporary accommodation. Everyone - well everyone that has been here the season - is like me. This tends to cause us to stick together. I can't imagine what it is like for a beaker coming in for a week. But that is pole - suck it up - it will be done soon and then we will miss it.

To be continued....

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