First godd*mn week of winter – MacReady

On February 15, the last LC-130 (the big military planes that are the primary cargo and personnel carriers to the South Pole) left with the last 30ish summer personnel (technically 2 people hung around for 4 more days helping offload fuel but eh, who’s counting?) thereby isolating us 41 winterovers (technically we were 39 at that point, 2 more people came 4 days later when the aforementioned 2 people left (the fact that it was 2 in and 2 out is oddly enough coincidental)). Some people consider this to be when the station is ‘closed’. But it didn’t really feel like we had closed as the South Pole Overland Traverse was still here offloading fuel and we had 6 planes and their crews scheduled to fly through to get fuel on their way to the Western Peninsula and the North. Nevertheless, we started transitioning into ‘winter-mode’ (no more brunch on Sundays, very sad).

One of the first bits of business once our full crew of 41 was assembled was to gather together in the gym for team building activities. While I recognize that these types of things are important, I don’t really like making paper (or cardboard, in this case) airplanes. It was, however, nice for all of us to be in a room together and get to know each other a little bit more. And while, in some ways, all of these team building activities are designed to simulate how we’d work together in real difficult/trying times, none of them are really as telling, in my opinion, as the real thing. Which is why it was somewhat ironic that, at the very end of our team building day, the elevator that is used to transport food and supplies from our under-snow storage warehouse broke. Without this elevator we would have to carry, by hand, roughly 1,000 pounds of food up about 7 flights of stairs every week, for the rest of the winter. That sounded awful. So. We took advantage of it still being relatively warm and light outside (mostly because this means we can still use heavy equipment to do most of the heavy lifting) and over 3 days with all 41 crew members helping move over 34,000 pounds of food and supplies to the station where it will be easily accessible over the winter. It was really wonderful seeing everyone come together to accomplish such a big thing (much better than building paper airplanes).

The second bit of ‘business’ to complete was the South Pole tradition of having a movie marathon where we watch all three iterations of ‘The Thing’ (from 1951, 1982, and 2011) when the station closes. Often this means before the last planes finish demobilizing but we decided as a crew that we wanted to wait until we were really alone and no one was coming or going (this was due, in part, to the number of us who would have to be involved in flight operations and we really wanted everyone to get to enjoy the movies together). As a special treat this year, our preventative maintenance foreman had reached out and was able to coordinate an interview with John Carpenter (director of the 1982 ‘The Thing’)! He had evidently never heard of our tradition of watching his movie and he was probably just as excited to talk to us as we were to talk to him.

And now the sun is getting really low! This is one of my favorite times of the year because it is always so pretty outside. But soon enough we will have stars and auroras, and I am so excited!