Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Feelin Woozy

My apologies once again, but this post will not include any pictures either. That being said, I promise to devote my next post to photos only! Believe me, they are worth waiting for too.

To my great surprise, and due only to exceptional luck, I have arrived at the pole on schedule. What a flight! We departed at 8:30 in the morning aboard a USAF LC-130 “Hercules” (or hercybird as some call it) cargo plane. The LC-130 is a substantially smaller aircraft, but is equipped to land on skis, a very useful feature at the snow-covered pole. Seating on the LC-130 was much like that of the C-17, but less comfortable. As we boarded the flight, it was clear that it was going to be a full load. I was the last passenger to board and much to my surprise, there were no seats left for me! Immediately I imagined being stranded at McTown for another night, a prospect less than appealing. Instead, as if by the hand of fate itself, I was upgraded! “Upgraded, what kind of upgrade is available on a busted ass cargo plane?”, you may ask. How bout the flight deck?

That’s right boys and girls; yours truly was seated right besides the pilot, co-pilot, navigator and radio operator. They guys up in the deck were really cool and definitely made me, and the other guy who managed to squirm up with me, feel quite comfy. Naturally, our privileged accommodations afforded us the best of views as we crossed the Antarctic continent from 2000+ feet above ground. The sights were nothing short of spectacular! We passed over the Ross Ice Shelf and then the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. From the sky you could see how the ice completely blanketed the mountains, the scene was almost like looking at a bunch of landscaping stones after a good snowfall, ridiculous. Not only was the ice overwhelming, but glaciers formed at almost every pass between peaks. I managed to snap a photo of one particularly magnificent glacier.

The landing was nice and smooth and before we stepped out, the crew warned us we better gear up. Being a snot nose punk, I figured I’d throw on my parka and a hat and step off. Damn, I swear the second I stepped into the wind that was whipping across the runway every exposed piece of flesh became solid. Ice coated the inside of my nose almost instantly. I learned my exposure lesson quite quickly and zipped up, wrapped up, and covered every possible exposed surface as fast as I could. The temperatures I learned later were about -35 F but between -50 and -60 with wind chill. We started walking towards the main building when I realized that not only was I cold, but I was having trouble concentrating on my next step and felt very lightheaded.

The Pole is at an elevation of 9,300 feet above sea level, but because the atmosphere at the poles is thinner than usual, the effective elevation is closer to 10,575. As a point of interest, the pole is not on top of any mountains, most of this elevation is entirely ice. The joke around here is “Ski conditions at pole as follows … 2 inches of powder, 8,000 feet of base.” In fact, the average ice depth for most of the continent is about 8000 feet. The lack of oxygen is definitely having its effect on me. I feel continuously dizzy and very tired and confused. I guess I really should have been working out at the gym for a while before I came down here!

So, for those of you thought I might be dining on seal carcass and sleeping in barracks with no heating wrapped in the fur of some large dead animal, trekking miles in the snow from building to building, I’ve got some news for you. First, my room is awesome, it’s probably the size of a typical walk in closet, but it’s a single and has everything you could possibly need. Not only that but its basically brand new, this is the first year anyone will be staying in this room. Second, I just ate some of the best food of my life. I’m not talking the best burger or something. I’m talking Polynesian inspired fruit and nut cole slaw, or pineapple and fruit glazed roast pork, or walnut pie. Its crazy, and I hear its like this almost all the time. They have serious professional chefs down here … no cafeteria junk. Finally I have both Internet and outside phone line access in my room! That means you can call me, and it’s not even an international call, the calls get routed through Washington state. Of course there is the caveat that our outside communications access is provided through a satellite uplink and they are only available for 12 hours a day. From about 3am to 3pm here, or 8am to 8pm Chi-time. Ill have to check on how things work exactly, but I can probably email you my phone number if you are interested.

So that’s it for now. I’m gonna try and rest for the rest of today (Tuesday here, Monday were you are) and then get to work tomorrow. Hopefully this altitude shit passes by then. Come back here tomorrow and Ill try to have some AWESOME pictures for you!!!


Blogger Jane said...

hey bobby...it's me your sister! I just wanted to say that i am really enjoying keeping up with your travels through this blog. You really do have a way with words. Yesterday i sat down with mom and read her what you have posted so far and we both agreed that you write so eliquently and that this could someday be turned into a novel or something. I'm so happy for you and also so proud of you. I hope you are having the time of your life and i can't wait till you get home so that you can tell me all about it. Keep up the awesome blog and i can't wait to see some more amazing photos. P.S. this so out beats my europe trip!!!!

12:26 PM CST  

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