|Taking Streetview-style panoramas with “Sock Cam” – a borrowed D90 insulated
against the -30F temps by being stuffed inside a sock filled with hand warmers.
Time to pack and go.
I’ve hinted at it, but I don’t think I’ve explicitly made it clear that I’m scheduled to be out of here tomorrow. Tonight night is “bag drag”, when I haul my luggage over to Altie Meadows to be packed and palletized by the swing shift cargo team (yeah that used to sort of be me for a bit). Then tomorrow morning I give my now-empty Jamesway a final dusting (heh) and trundle over to station to watch the galley scroll and wait for Tina to announce whether my flight’s boomeranged, delayed, or is actually going to make it. About 24 hours from now – if all goes well – she’ll announce that Skier 174 has reported “Pole Three” – 30 minutes out from landing. I’ll gather my bags and say those last goodbyes. Or more likely not; I’m not good at goodbyes. So I’ll probably make some excuse about checking up on some thing or another elsewhere, and make my way down the stairs at Destination Alpha. Off to the wishfully-named “pax terminal” of South Pole International Airport to watch a Herc taxi in for the last time. Kricket or Dan will probably be out there marshalling it, and we’ll exchange some sort of “See ya next time around!” high fives, then cross the centerline over to where the Herc’s loadmaster will usher us to our ever-so-comfy webbed seating slings to strap in. Then some waiting, and the sound of the engines spooling up. That gradually-building thump and roar that was so unnerving when we first arrived, breathless, scared and excited. We’ll crane our necks toward the portholes, looking for a last glance of the station, the Jamesways through the prop-washed snow as we build up speed bouncing down the skiway until….
…we’re gone. Airborne and away from this place that has been our home these past three months. Yeah, we say we’ll keep in touch. Some of us might.
Okay, enough melancholy – there’s way to much to do before tomorrow.
The winter crew started to arrive in force yesterday, and the change in Station vibe is very evident. They all look relaxed and seasoned, comfortable in their Carhartts, like they’re coming home and settling in. As Clint said “Yeah, we’re just biding our time for a bit while waiting for y’all summer folks to get the hell out of our way.” But he said it with a smile that said he appreciated how it was to be on the other side of that conversation.
Meantime, this latest storm is kicking the Station’s butt. Five flights scheduled for today have all canceled; there’s a crazy ice fog that the storm’s blown in – one moment you can see for miles, the next you can’t see a thing. First three flights made it to Pole, circled for half an hour, then turned around an made for home. Supposed to be better tomorrow, but we’ll see, I guess.
[Anyhow – sats are up and stable for the first time in a couple of days; lemme post this before TDRS flames out again (my main entertainment for the past couple of days has been composing increasingly cynical updates as to the status of our satlink connection, e.g.:
[after 6 consecutive failed passes:] “In a stunning turn of events… this morning’s TDRS satellite pass has failed. No, really.”
“It’s been pointed out that White Sands is not only the receiving end of our erstwhile satellite connection, but also serves as our nation’s premier missile test range. There is speculation that confusion between these two roles may have resulted in this morning’s outage, and our satcom guys are on the phone inquiring whether, perhaps, they have accidentally blown up one of their own satellites.”
“It now appears likely that we will *not* have internet connectivity restored today. But think of all the added time you can use to catch up on that Jane Austen novel you’ve been meaning to read.”