Man Camp

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but McMurdo is having an unprecedented housing shortage. We’re here to support the scientists, and the NSF has manifested a few more than the station is able to provision at the moment. Which is okay – the folks here are nothing if not flexible and resourceful. Lots of creative housing solutions, including the evocatively-named “Man Camp”, which is simply 24 bunkbeds delicately crammed into a single dorm room. It’s on the second floor of Hotel California, designed to accommodate transients headed either out to the Pole or field camps (in the Spring) or on their way back off the ice.

It’s a fine solution for a fixed, short-term overflow, but nature and the fates have not been cooperating. Because of the cold, they’ve only been able to get a few Baslers down to the Pole, so the backlog of folks has been building slowly in MacTown. When the first Herc went out yesterday, those beds in Man Camp were immediately reclaimed and allocated to us, the second wave coming down from CHCH.

But. Some time shortly after takeoff, the Herc developed trouble with one of its engines and boomeranged back here. Those beds we’d just been allocated? The folks who just left need them back again. I’m relieved that everyone here is gracious and very much in the spirit of well-we’re-all-in-this-together. I do find a bunk, up top, in the corner of the room. There’s no space on the floor for my bag, so I leave it out in the hall. The hall’s better for access, anyway, since we’ve got a mix of day- and night-sleepers. The room itself is a permanent “quiet zone”, so despite the constant ripsaw of snoring (you put 24 people in one room, and there’s *always* going to be snoring), you try to be as quiet as you can. While tripping over bags in the dark, climbing creaky ladders, and trying to figure out whether that crumpled fuzzy thing on the bed post is *your* fleece or someone else’s.

Wandering the halls, I meet Ron and John and Marco. They were supposed to be the vanguard to Pole, and have been trying to get out of here for weeks. Me? I was supposed to be flying Tuesday, but all bets are off. Now I understand why this place is called “Hotel California”.

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