Yes, I’m going back. In the tradition of blockbuster sequels like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Dark Knight, and Weekend at Bernie’s 2, I hope this second season will offer greater fun and adventure than the first. I’ll be doing the same job as physical therapist at the same place, McMurdo Station, but for a longer period of time. Last year I was there 3 1/2 months plus 2 weeks in New Zealand. This time I will be there for 6 months plus whatever travel time I choose afterwards.
University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is the new management organization for the medical team. They have decided to send the physical therapist to the Ice in August which is earlier than the previous years. August begins the Winfly season, which is short for “winter fly-in.” This is when flights begin again after having no air travel all winter long. About one week ago, there was a Medevac from McMurdo (medical evacuation by plane) which you may have seen on the news. That aside I am on the first scheduled flight to the Ice. Over one week’s time, flights will bring 300+ people to the ice and allow for an exit for winterovers. After that, no flights should occur until Main Body season in early October. At Main Body, the station will be filled with around 900 people.
During winter at McMurdo there is 24 hour darkness, frigid temperatures and beautiful auroras. There are about 140 people on station and no one can leave between March and August, except for under extreme cases as in the Medevac. So you hope to get along and that no one gets hurt or seriously ill. The medical team over winter consists of one physician, a nurse practitioner (NP) and a physical therapist (PT). There tend to be other people with medical training in the community including those in the Fire Station. But that’s it. When I arrive, I will be accompanied by the new Lead Physician, the Nurse Administrator, the Dentist and the Pharmacy Tech. The winter team will eventually return home.
So the Winfly season is technically the end of winter and brings the return of sunlight. For me, this means that I will get to see some beautiful sunrises and sunsets and hopefully the Southern Lights — Aurora Australius. It is supposed to be a beautiful time of year. This is the only things that’s distracting me from the below zero temperatures I’m expecting to experience.
This new medical team that I am with this week is a motley crew and if the past two days are any indication, it’s going to be a fun season at McMurdo. We are working well together so far and many laughs have been had. Including when we returned to our rental car today after a full day of orientation to finding it still running from this morning. Our guess is that the one who drove hit the remote starter thinking it was the lock button when walking away this morning. (No it was not me.) On the up side, the car was well air-conditioned. So air-conditioned that there was condensation running down the windows like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. And if you’re curious, that burned about 1/4 of a tank of gas. This group of highly trained and very skilled professionals have also discussed plans for a hot tub — crafted on station? purchased and flown in? The details are far from being worked out but I’m pretty sure it’ll happen. So stay tuned. So, don’t worry, residents of McMurdo, your health is in very capable hands with us.
Currently I am in Galveston, Texas sitting poolside at the Hotel Galvez http://www.galveston.com/galvez/ where the Winfly Team was put up for our 3 days of orientation. It couldn’t be more the opposite of where I’m going next. I’ve reassured those in the team that have not been to McMurdo before that the housing on the Ice is quite similar. Suckahs! The group has met some slight challenges so far including very last minute flight and car rental arrangements and one broken bag with lost items at the airport. All in all, still an improvement since last year. My luggage made it fine so far but with one casualty — a broken Neti pot. If I’m unable to pick one up before I leave, I will be hitting one of you up for one.
So there is one more day of orientation, then on Thursday we start making our way to the ice. We fly from Houston to LA, then take the overnight flight from LA to Sydney. We then go Sydney to Aukland, New Zealand then to Christchurch, New Zealand. We lose a day since we are crossing the international date line and it will be Saturday when we arrive. There will be orientation in Christchurch, then our Ice Flight is on Monday (which will be Sunday for you). It’s going to be a long ride. Sigh.