Log Cabin Chronicles

[EDITOR'S NOTE: David Williams is our new Man From Way Down Below. While he's summering down there, he plans on filing reports from time to time. Here's his first letter...]

LETTER FROM ANTARCTICA

Posted 11/16/99
McMurdo Station, Antarctica

DAVID WILLIAMS

Sorry it's taken a while to get something together for the Log Cabin Chronicles. I got down here on October 15th after spending three days in Christchurch, New Zealand. So, from Hartford, Connnecticut to McMurdo Station, I figure I spent about 24 hours on different airplanes.

The final five and one-half hour flight was on a C-141 Starlifter, which can carry about 140 people plus cargo. The 141 will be phased out in 2004 to make way for the C-17, a new plane that can carry three times as much cargo (60 vs. 20 tons).

About 1000 people live here at McMurdo during the summer season (October to February). However, that number fluctuates quite a bit with the winter people who have yet to leave, people heading to the South Pole who are here waiting to leave, and scientists and support people waiting to deploy to the various field camps.

During the winter, the population drops to around 200 (that season runs from March to September). Winter means about three months of total darkness).

Now, the sun is out 24 hours a day now -- the last sunrise was three and one-half weeks ago.

The types of jobs vary quite a bit around here. There are those involved in all the scientific work, which is the reason we're all here in the first place.

Then there are those who work to support all the science -- basically everyone else.

We range from equipment operators who keep the runways clear and deliver cargo to and from the runway, to galley workers and weather people, janitors, mechanics, computer and e-mail techs, postal workers and so on.

It really is like a small town here.

But when work is through, no matter what you do or when you're done, there's almost always something to do that the recreation department has put together. A dance, bingo, some party here or there -- you name it.

There's a TV station that broadcasts feeds through a cable system; a radio station; trips out to see the early explorer's huts, and lots more. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, the galley puts out a really nice dinner for everyone, and it sort of brings everyone together.

On New Year's Day, we have what we call Icestock -- live music, chili, and lots to drink. Our neighbor, Scott Base (the New Zealand base, about a mile and one-half away) puts on American night (Thursdays), and usually throws the New Year's Eve party.

When the season comes to a close, people are usually ready to get out of here and back to nighttime, grass, trees, dogs, kids, and everything else they've been deprived of for four months. A trip around New Zealand is the way most people go, or the Cook Islands, Fiji, or Australia. Then it's twelve hours back to LA, and on to home.

Take care,

David.

Previous Antarctica Reports from Lee Ann Pipkin

Fifth Antarctica Report
Fourth Antarctica Report
Third Antarctica Report
Second Antarctica Report
First Antarctica Report


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Copyright © 1999 David Williams
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