time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Off the ice bitchez!

January 1st, 2010 by liz

It’s hard to believe that yesterday I was at the South Pole. Right now, I’m sitting in my comfy bed at the Devon B&B in Christshurch. Our flight got in really late (this morning it was delayed 3 hours due to “weather enroute”), so as it’s almost 1 am I’m skipping the traditional “go out and get a beer,” at least for tonight. The guy I flew in with handed me a beer as soon as we got to the Devon though, with the message: “You will sleep better.”

So I’m sitting in my bed writing a blog post and drinking a beer. Why am I not passed out, you ask? Well, our C-17 flight in had 65 people and almost no cargo, so I spent most of the flight stretched out on the floor sleeping in my big red. It turns out with all of your ECW gear on, the hard metal floor of a cargo plane is quite comfy. The only problem was after a few hours the cold from the metal floor started to seep through even my thick clothes, and I woke up not being able to feel my feet. While not alsleep, I also finally managed to finish the socks I started knitting last year.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though, so I better back up some. My last night at pole (Dec. 30) was a blast. The “SPT team” (notably half non-SPTers) won pub trivia, so we ended up with a large quantity of beer that needed drinking, plus all the beer and wine that I hadn’t finished over the course of the season. So after pub trivia, many of us from BICEP, SPT, and ICECUBE ended up heading to the lounge for a full-on foosball battle. It was fun, but sadly I can’t say I won a single game that night. I blame the bottle of Pinot Noir I had at pub trivia.

The next morning I was woken up by a phone call from Jared informing me that my flight was coming an hour earlier than scheduled. After a fair bit of cursing, I got up, packed, and headed to lunch. I was just about done my cup of tea when I heard over the intercom: “Attention South Pole: Skier four-three is on deck. All outgoing passengers please proceed to the flight deck.” I looked down, realized in a panic that I wasn’t dressed for flying yet, and that I still hadn’t packed my computer, and jumped up to run to the science lab.

It turns out I needn’t have worried, as it always takes them about 20 minutes to unload cargo and offload fuel, so I had some time to stand around the “flight deck” (ie the snow next to the airplane) and say goodbye to my polie friends before boarding my plane. I gave everyone a hug goodbye, leaned down to grab my bags, and was prompty pushed over into the snow by Bill. What a fitting goodbye.

Three hours later, I stepped off the plane in McMurdo. It was 40F and sunny out, without a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky. I ditched my bags and decided to go on a hike up Obs Hill. On the way, I saw a drainage ditch with a small stream flowing in it. I stopped and stared at it, but mostly just listened to the sound of water running over the rocks. After a few minutes, a girl walked by and shouted, “Hey, you planning to do some fishing?” I looked up and mumbled something incoherent about not having seen running water in a few months and she just laughed at me and walked away. Right. I was going to have to remember to stop being such a freak.

Combat unload

When we landed at McMurdo the air guardsman did a “combat unload,” which basically means they opened the back of the plane and then accelerated so all the cargo rolled out of the plane onto the ice.

After my hike (which yielded a beautiful view of Mt. Erebus), I bag dragged and then grabbed my roommate and headed to the coffeehaus. It was new year’s eve! I ordered a mocha with bailey’s, which it turns out is delicious, despite not being a traditional new year’s eve drink. I had a fairly mellow night talking with my roommate, who is an artist working with the ice-coring project up at Wais Divide, and a totally hardcore guy who has done everything from south pole traverses to collecting meteorites at the allin hills, where the icesheets are turned up by the hills and scoured away by the winds, yielding clear-blue ice and a concentrated supply of meteorites. (Incidentally this is the same guy who handed me a beer 20 minutes ago. I just can’t remember his name for the life of me.) We barely were able to stay awake until midnight, but somehow we managed it, toasted to the new year, and then all headed to bed.

As I said my flight was delayed today, but something awesome happened on the way out to the airfield. The bus driver stopped halfway out to the field and pointed out an emporer penquin that was belly-sliding across the ice. As soon as we stopped, it stood up, looked at us for a bit, and then continued sliding on it’s way. I didn’t have my camera, so I don’t have a picture to prove it, but I saw a penguin! HA! Finally!

So yea, back to Christchurch. This year I had the same amazing experience of suddenly being able to smell everything when I stepped off the plane, and the shock of realizing it was dark out. It was also extremely windy when we got off the plane, but it was warm. It felt so good to have the breeze blow through my hair and across my face and not have it bite my cheeks. We happened to come in at the same time as a commercial flight, so the customs line was a stange mix of tanned girls in mini-skirts and sandals, and smelly dudes in carhartts and bunny-boots. Some of the girls from the commercial flight looked pretty horrified, and I don’t blame them.

I have a full day in Christchurch before I fly out, so I plan to take full advantage of this warm weather and go visit the botanical gardens, and perhaps the beach. Strangely enough, I hope it rains on me!

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