A couple of days of work makes all the difference in the world and now things are better here folks. Thank you all for your concern, kind words and advice. Although I may not have replied, trust me, they were all heard and taken to heart and even agreed with. That last post was just at the end of one of those days that we all know so well. you know?
But it’s Tuesday now (for a bit more than an hour, it’s actually Tuesday here AND there) and thanks to some actual work and some good walks with friends, I’m a changed man. No, we’re not at Pole yet. More flights were cancelled yesterday and today and probably will be again tomorrow, but I finally got the opportunity to go and put in some time in the kitchen for more than an hour or so, and I took it. that was the first thing to clear my brain.
Yesterday I helped the guy who has my job here do food pull (which is when the cargo people bring the week’s orders over to the kitchen’s loading dock and it all gets put away). It was massively physical work carrying around 60 pound boxes of frozen beef, cases of giant cans of peeled tomates and 50 pound sacks of flour. At the end of the day, I was wiped, but it felt good. Today, I spent the morning in the salad room prepping, yes, you guessed it, salads! That was awesome! I cut six bannana boxes full of lettuces, two full of spinach, countless red and green peppers and then mixed a huge spinach, mandarin orange, cheese and walnut salad in this big silver bowl with my hands. I made a lot of salad. Again, at the end of the day, I was tired and hurting, but happy to have been useful.
But the walks really sealed the deal. No matter what goes on here or where my head may be, it really is totally gorgeous in Antarctica and any chance to get out and look at the view is not one to be squandered. So last night Nick and I left the galley/155 (which is the main dorm and gathering place in town) around 9:45 and took a walk out to Hut Point.
Hut Point is an easy 20-minute walk to the shack that Scott and his men built and lived in for a god-awful amount of time while they were stranded here in the early 1900s (I’m sorry, my Antarctic history is atrocious, so details are scant). The point is a small one, sticking out only slightly into the sea ice to the north and west of McMurdo with a high ridge directly to the north of it. The shack, at least from the outside which is all I could see since it is kept locked to perserve the items in it from scavengers, is not much to look at, but the view is great.
The view from the spot is basically the same as the one seen from town, but without most of the encumburances of buildings and other structures in the way. It’s a vast expanse of sea ice, mountains and windswept snow.
The walk was really nice and head clearing for both Nick and me. Nick was dealing with some issues at home with his girlfriend and his car and not really feeling all that stellar. He needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of 155, which keeps up even as most people are heading to bed and burrowing in for the night, because it kept distracting him from his real need to work out the fact that the problems at home really weren’t worth losing sleep over. I just needed some space from everything. Thankfully, we both got what we needed while we talked out Nick’s stuff, tried to figure out where the snow that had been there went (it hasn’t melted, trust me), and told stories about tinkering projects and first cars.
Today was a glorious day when I woke up. The flights had been cancelled early and the temperature here in MacTown was a balmy zero with no wind. So when I left work, I rounded up Nicole, Rose and Rose’s roommate Jessie and we took a hike around Cape Armitage.
This hike was glorious. Much of the walk was taken up by watching the ever-changing shapes and conturs on the ice as wispy clouds of snow raced across it creating minor ridges for the sun to paint. The sound of it all constantly buffeted my hood and whooshed through my ears as frost formed on the few centimeters of my beard that poked out from time to time from underneath my neck gaiter. Nothing untoward that may have been left in my head could survive for long in that.
Finally, after a long flat trudge into a strong headwind, Scott Base came into view (Scott base is the Kiwi base down the road from us). From there, it’s another two-mile walk along a road to MacTown. Or you can call town for a shuttle ride back. That’s what we did.
Yes, that’s me next to a parking meter. In Antarctica. It’s at Scott Base and is where the Americans park when they drive over to pick people up or go to the bar on American night at their base. Weird. Nicely though, the Kiwis make the electricity at the parking spot 110 volt to make it possible for American visitors to park their block heaters in while they’re there. Sweet Kiwis.