The big runway move happened the day after Christmas as planned. Our dining car is made up of three double-wide trailers modified for the ice. They are all on skis and are double insulated with walk-in refrigerator doors. They are connected by an insulated interface. To move them, we just take out the interfaces, disconnect water and electrical systems, hitch them to a bulldozer and away we go.
Our new home out at Willy Field is on the thick permanent Ross Ice Shelf. It is a snow runway so only ski equipped aircraft can land there. We now have a new perspective on Mt Erebus and the surrounding islands but inside the dining facility nothing has changed. The drive out is more than twice as long and much crazier. The transition from land to snow is incredibly variable. It has been relatively warm lately and the snow has been getting mushier than it was even a few weeks ago. I managed to get the truck stuck on the first day out there. Well, it wasn?t entirely my fault. I had help from my counterpart, Debbie. We picked up a skier who was hitchhiking back to town from skiing out to the runway just before crossing the transition. Debbie was sitting in the middle and when the road started to get bumpy she tensed up and pushed down to the floor with her feet to steady herself, I guess. Only she wasn?t pushing on the floor, she was pushing on the accelerator! W went roaring into the worst part of the transition in our modified V8 4.5l Ford and stopped dead in a hole. We had to get pulled out by a Challenger and discovered that we threw out the alignment. The truck went into the shop, I took the rap like a gentleman, and we got to drive a Mattracks vehicle for a couple of days. A Mattracks is a regular truck fitted with tracks instead of wheels, like the Mt. Washington Summit Coach. Drives like hell.
Christmas was great fun. One of the DAs has a friend who is a costume designer and sent the whole kitchen crew Santa suits that we wore for the Christmas eve dinner. We had Christmas day off and opened our presents at brunch. When we arrived at brunch we found out that a Herc had arrived, like Santa?s Sleigh, loaded with package mail. Our name was on the list and we had a surprise box of presents from my parents on Christmas morning.
All the signs of the season being half over are evident. The runway has moved, the holidays are over, the beakers are starting to wind up their projects, and, most exciting of all, you can see the Coast Guard Icebreaker on the horizon. It has started to cut the channel for the arrival of ?Vessel? which is scheduled to happen at the beginning of February.
Archive for December, 2003
Jon, the pilot, made it back to NZ thanks to the generosity of a fellow adventurer. A British pilot who was planning on flying over the pole had shipped a fuel cache to the NZ Scott Base. For one reason or another, she was forced to cancel her flight and sold the fuel to Jon. He flew out a few days ago and arrived safely in NZ and has since made it back to Australia.
As the wildlife on the runway becomes more abundant and the land to ice transition becomes softer and full of holes, the days of the Ice Runway become numbered. The big move to Williams Field is scheduled for the 26th. On that day, all the buildings are towed across the ice to a runway built on the more stable ice shelf. There it will stay for the rest of the season.
Christmas is coming up. We have our big Christmas celebration on the 24th. Since most kitchen workers will be working on the two days that everyone else gets off, we get two days off at some other time. I took mine off yesterday and went to Fuels to volunteer. I went out to the runway and got to help fuel the Hercs and used a snow machine to check the fuel line from town to the tanks at the runway fuel pits. It was nice to get a different perspective on runway operations.
The Emperor has become a bit of a fixture on the Ice Road. He is still hanging around and has been getting kind of grumpy. He flaps and squawks when we drive by. What I heard second-hand from a scientist is that they go through a 3 week molting cycle in which they can?t swim and therefore can?t eat either.
Luci was selected to go to Happy Camper School last week. It is a training program primarily for people working in the field but they try to get Galley Folk into it as a way to get out of the kitchen and see some more of the area.
We finally made it to Scott?s hut which is walking distance from town. We have been many times but we never had the key to get in. Due to the cold weather and dry climate the hut and its contents are preserved almost exactly how they were left by Scott?s south pole expedition.
The runway has been the a-buzz with activity these days. First there was the big Penguin (who is still wandering about I might add) and then, a few days ago a very, ... [Continue reading this entry]
First of all I want to congratulate my brother Asa and his girlfriend Erin on the birth of their daughter Abigail. Best of luck to all three of them. We ... [Continue reading this entry]