South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    

   

5th January:

From Jessica:

Hello everyone!

We checked-in for the flight to the Pole at 6:30am, and I must have looked so bleary-eyed that one guy wandered straight up to me and offered me some Sudafed. God bless his cotton socks! It certainly made the day more bearable. The woman who was to drive us to the Herc apologised and said that the flight wasn't actually leaving till 8:30 so we could cool our heels for a while. We finally got out there at around 7:30 - very bumpy ride out to Williams field - and we watched the plane do all sorts of interesting things, the propellers went on, then off, then some guys ran around the wings with brooms, yes BROOMS, you know the straw ones, and then jumped up and down on the wings for a little while. At the end of about three quarters of an hour watching this, I wasn't too sure if I wanted these strange men flying anything I was on! Finally we were told that there was ice on the wings and they were getting it off. Oh. Well that's all right then. 

We hopped on at about 8. The plane made all the right noises, things started getting bumpy, and I lay back and dozed as we taxied. After a little while, a thought intruded into my sleep. Gee, we've been taxying for an awfully long time. A little more awake, I decided that the pilot had decided flying was too hard, and was going to ski us all the way to the Pole. Must have been the sudafed. Then I turned and looked out the windows - we weren't going anywhere! Next thing several airforce guys hop out the door with shovels, then hop back in, and we try the whole thing again. Turns out, the skis were bogged in snow, and the guys with shovels were trying to dig us out. They tried this three times before finally telling us we were all too heavy, and would have to get out while they tried it again.

The short story is that we didn't get off the ground until 12:30pm, but the flight was OK once we finally got into the sky. I admit I was pretty nervous about landing at the Pole. I wasn't feeling the best, and didn't really want to keel over in the door of the Herc if it turned out that I couldn't breathe! As it was, I was worrying over nothing. We landed on the stillest, clearest day, and if I did stop in the doorway it was to take in the view. I've never seen anything like it in my life. The glowing white expanse seemed to go on forever. The air was icy, but bearable, on my skin ( a warm -32.5C), and I could feel the dryness straight away, but I didn't find the air too thin really. I was perhaps a little light headed for the first hour, but that may have been due to lugging 30kg of bags and one 30kg SODAR around to my sleeping quarters!

As we drove in to the Dome we went past the ceremonial South Pole - I had seen it in so many photos and now it was only metres away. It is just amazing to be here. There is also an incredible ice sculpture near the Pole, it's huge! I can't really describe it - an Aztec or indonesian style face. I'll take lots of photos of it! After a briefing I dragged all my stuff to my sleeping quarters, a Hypertat called Betty (there are four: Betty, Barney, Fred and Wilma).

Hypertats are these semi-cylindrical fibreglass tents - with a little more room than the Jamesways, and incredibly warm! Unfortunately, the bathroom is about ten metres from the building, so you *really* have to decide if you want to get out of bed and go to the bathroom or not! There is so much construction going on here! Half the time I don't know if I'm walking in restricted areas or not. I am being careful, and no one has yelled at me yet, so I guess I'm doing alright so far. I am not feeling any effects of the altitude, really. I am slightly more out of breath after walking somewhere , especially uphill, and I feel a bit "thicker" than normal, ( I am really having to fink about how to spell fings and the ketters on the leyboard geep metting upmixed), but no dizziness or nausea.

The SODAR seems to have arrived with me intact. It might have got a little cold waiting outside the Hypertat for me, but it is all rugged up in my room now, so hopefully that will turn out OK. Apparently Andre is due in in about an hour, so I can probably start being useful when he gets settled in. I have not run into Rodney as yet, I keep looking for beards and dreadlocks, but they seem to be pretty popular here, so it hasn't really narrowed it down.

I am still a little sick, but the doctor here, "Robo", is a really cool guy and he gave me some sudafedy-kinda things, so hopefully it'll clear up soon. I am keeping in the habit of having at least one glass of water every hour or so, sometimes more, and my skin feels like paper it is so dry. When I unpacked, all of my things were pretty frosty, and I didn't even think when I put some moisturiser on my face - Oil of Ulan at 2 degrees celsius an invigorating experience! But even this paled into insignificance in comparison to horror and the anguish of the absent-minded application of near frozen roll-on deodorant. Oh, the horror...

I am really still just sussing the place out, which is probably obvious to everyone here. The most common phrase directed at me, sympathetically seems to be "new here, huh?" But everyone is very friendly, and helpful, which is good. I'll chat more tomorrow, hopefully with the added excitement of an Eskimo wrapped Andre!

smiles,

Jess :)

 

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