Saturday, October 25, 2008

From Pegasus to the dorm in 155

We landed on Pegasus Airfield just after 5.00PM last night, 

boarded Ivan the Terra Bus

and drove the flagged route to the village... 

After an immediate post-landing 'Welcome to Antarctica' lecture, we were handed the keys to our dorm rooms, directed to the Linen facility to pick up our bedding, then on up the hill to the luggage handling depot to collect all our bags. By the time all this was done, I was completely knackered - had barely made up my bed before I fell into it.
Next thing I knew, it was 7.20AM. The dorm I'm in is windowless, and completely blacked out, so there's no way of guessing whether it's daytime or night, let alone what time it is. The only reason I knew it was 7.20 was because one of my roommates has a digital alarm clock and I could just make it out in the dark from my position on the top bunk. 

My NZ phone is mightily confused - every time I open its lid, its quaint little receiving dish icon gets into a tizz because it can't determine where in the world it is, and even though we're on local NZ time down here, do you think I can convince the bewildered instrument that all it has to do is stick with the old-and-proven? No - absolutely not. It won't have a bar of it. So, for the time being I'm without a clock, not this will matter too much now that I've been 'refreshed'* for our coming season's work.

Kronos and Kairos cohabit contentedly down here, it seems.  

McMurdo has been a blustery, blurry place today, with landscape shuddering and buildings coming in and out of focus since about mid-morning. (Condition 2 at times - bracing, invigorating stuff). The frustrating thing, however, has been the fact that helicopters have been grounded for another day. Sam was hoping to get back to McM from Explorers Cove yesterday, but all flights (aside from ours from Chch - and then, only just) have been put on hold till the weather improves. : ( Next opportunity, Monday... 
Most of today was taken up with various *refresher courses one has to do before being allowed out into the field - things like survival/safety training, ice reading, helicopter protocol, environmental codes specific to both here and the Dry Valleys, etc... We pitched tents, demonstrated our 'knot and hitch' tying skills, revisited procedures like ice drilling, ice wall construction and radio communications, etc...  

Over dinner in the big communal galley, I enjoyed a stimulating conversation with a geologist named Allan. He's working with a team of four in the deep field - about a hundred kilometers North of Explorers Cove, atop a mountain in the Dry Valleys. Tomorrow evening, a film will be shown documenting the work these men have been doing over the past number of years. Titled 'Ice Men,' the movie apparently gives as much insight into the social dynamics of their field group as it does into their paleontological research. They recently discovered plant fossils that confirm that Antarctica was once fertile tundra area. I'll wait till I've seen the movie before I comment any further, though - wouldn't want to make inaccurate statements that I'll have to retract or apologize for later! We also talked about notions of silence and what 'the space between' might actually mean in a place such as this one. He's agreed to do a recorded interview with me sometime over the coming few days, before we all head off to our far-flung places.

To finish, a pic of moi wearing my new favourite hat. Hats are essential here, not only for warmth but as a form of alternative hair! Tania R, as you know, I looked covetously at the Knitty Wigs you introduced us to at Book Club, but then, in my search for funky, warm head-coverings, I came across this cheerful, dreadlocked substitute. (Anyone interested in knitting a flash hat should visit

One more look at the not-quite-light-not-quite-dark sky before heading back to the dorm to sleeeeep...  

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