Monster trucks, dive huts and extra appendages.

Yup.  It’s been a long time since my last entry.  Sorry.  And I’ve been a busy gal so there’s much to tell….where to start????   So last entry ended with my Bethday celebration.  I’m sad to say Beth-tober ended but we entered Joe-vember.  Joe is one of our doc’s in the clinic.   Poor Joe.  We tortured him a bit making him wear a tiara and a disturbing necklace made from supplies from medical.  Don’t worry, the supplies were all clean.  And we’ve just entered Joycember.  Oh, what will we have conjured up for her??

On occasion, we lowly contract workers get picked to go on a morale trip, called a Boondoggle.  If anyone remembers from last season, I went on one where I snowmobiled with a group out to an area called Room With a View.  It was a beautiful day and a great trip.  Sometimes these trips are working trips and definitely not a vacation, but it’s usually a nice change of pace and you get to get out of your usual routine.  I had the opportunity to do one in October where I helped some researchers that SCUBA dive.   Cool.  I dive a bit, so that sounded fun.  The dive tender o’ the day helps the divers with their tanks, haul some of their gear, etc.  It’s a working boondoggle, but a pretty easy gig in comparison to some.

I get the email that tells me I need to dress warmly and where to meet and when.  I leave early so I can find the building.  After about 15 minutes of walking around in all my cold weather gear, I finally find the building only to discover they left without me.  I arrived right on time.  Ugh.  I could see the vehicle out at one of the dive huts on the ice, but honestly, my core temperature had already raised about 20 degrees so I’m not willing to walk all the way out.  It would have taken too long anyway.   I page a friend who could drive me out there.  That took a few minutes.  So by the time I got there, the 2 divers are sitting at the dive hole ready to plunk in.  Doh!  They were very apologetic for leaving without me stating that they didn’t know they had 2 dive-tenders for the day.  So, fine.  They head in and I sit down and work on lowering my body temperature.  It felt like it was 70 degrees in that hut.  There’s a heater in there, particularly important for when the divers came out.  Realistically it was probably in the 50’s in there, but I was dressed for subzero.  Why did they tell us to dress in so much clothing??  So I chat it up with the other dive-tender.  Nice guy.  Work in Fuels.

The access point for scuba divers to enter through the ice.

The access point for scuba divers to enter through the ice.

Meanwhile no seals popped out of the hole.  Not a one.  Ok, they’re not supposed to, but sometimes it happens.  There are only so many openings in the ice right now so sometimes the divers could be in competition with a very large Weddell seal to get back out.   No, it’s not my job as dive tender to deal with that, but it would have been cool to watch.  I had my camera ready and everything.  But today nothing.  In fact the divers came up after about 20 minutes due to equipment problems and we loaded their stuff up and headed back.  All in all it was a pretty lame experience, but I got to get out of my windowless office for the afternoon.  That’s good.  And I cleansed my pores with that really good sweat I had going on.  And, AND, I got to look in to the icy waters of the Ross Sea through a hole cut in the ice.  Not everyone can say they’ve done that.  (It was still a bit of a disappointment.)

Halloween came and went in a flash.  There was a party at the “Big Gym”.  I think I had more fun getting ready than I did at the party.  I went as a black widow spider complete with extra appendages that I strung to my hands so that when I raised my arms the extra arms raised with them.  It was funny when I hugged someone.  There were an array of fun costumes out and about that evening.   It was generally a fun evening, even though I was head-butted by a drunk guy attempting to photobomb my picture.  He felt awful and apologized.  I took a photo with him in case I lost my memory and needed evidence.  For those not familiar, to photobomb is to dive in to someones picture unexpectedly right as they take the picture.  Generally without inflicting a head injury.So under the category of fun new things….I drove a Delta.  Hee, hee.  A Delta is a big vehicle made for Antarctica for the purpose of people transport.  Think Monster Truck, Antarctica style.  It is an awful piece of equipment.  I think we have 3 and only 1 runs.   It doesn’t go faster than about 25mph.  Getting parts are a problem because these vehicles are old and unique to this continent (I’m pretty sure.)  Me driving the DeltaLast year I treated at least 3 people who were hurt while either driving or riding in them.  Which was actually how I got to drive it that day.   The shuttle drivers were asking how they could make the driver’s seat safer and I insisted I needed to drive it to feel what they meant.  Long story, short….I don’t know how to fix it but I got to drive the big Delta.  Woo-hoo.

Another new thing I’ve been doing is writing for the Antarctic Sun, the online newspaper run through the National Science Foundation (NSF).  I write brief reports from the perspective of someone who is living on station.  I find it a bit of a challenge (and kind of boring) to write a summary of station events and activities, but it’s good for me.  I think it’d be interesting to write more in depth on a subject, but this is what was asked of me.  It is a volunteer position but I negotiated some payment in chocolate.   It works.   If you want to check it out, here’s the link that goes right the station reports:  http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/aroundTheContinent/contentHandler.cfm?id=1201

In regards to a summary on station….it’s still 24 hours of sun.  Temps are getting warmer….into the 20’s.  I go without much by way of coat, if I’m not going very far and it’s not very windy.  The station is busy….950 or so people the last I checked.  I’m not sure if I’ll be going to the South Pole this year.  They’ve limited housing and there may not be room for me at the Inn.  We’ll see.  Mail will begin to arrive more slowly because the C17 (our bigger cargo planes) will not by flying again until January 20th.  This means fewer freshies (fresh fruits and veggies) and less cargo including mail being delivered.  Even if it takes a few weeks, don’t hesitate to send me something:

Beth Jennings, ASC

McMurdo Station

PSC 469, Box 700

APO, AP 96599-1035

I’m not in need of anything in particular, but like getting mail.   And if any kids are reading and want to send me some artwork…maybe of something Antarctic, or something you think I do down here, send it along.  I would love to see it!  And if you want a postcard from here, send me your address.  That’s for adults and kids alike!

Next post…..Outdoor survival school in Antarctica and reenacting the first Thanksgiving in Antarctica.

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9 thoughts on “Monster trucks, dive huts and extra appendages.

  1. Glad to see you are still alive down there! I miss your posts, but I’m also at fault for never touching base with you either! Hope you are doing well Beth!

  2. I have been negligent of my blogging responsibilities! I saw the pictures of your building. It’s coming right along. I’m so happy for you. When do you open?

  3. Hi Beth! Did you get the news that Oleg is opening a restaurant in Falmouth? Going to feature healthy Mexican/ Mayan foods! ‘Bout time he did this. I love reading your blog and am happy that you are having this amazing experience! Merry Christmas, my friend!

  4. Hi Beth – Thanks for following my blog! Can’t wait to visit Antarctica next week. This trip has been on my dad’s bucket list for years and when my mom and dad, who are in their 80s, asked us to travel with them (smart move), we were thrilled! Going to be a blast!! Stay warm and Merry Christmas!

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