Airborne – Northbound

That whole “slipping away” thing didn’t quite pan out the way I’d thought. Tina called “Pole Three” while I was finishing lunch, and pretty much everyone at the table got up. “What – you’re on this flight, too?” Yeah – a bunch of us. I trundled back to the Helpdesk cave and grabbed my bag. Mumbled something to Ben and Daniel about putting on my ECW and how, like, thanks and bye and that sort of stuff.

“What do you mean ‘bye’? We’re coming out to the plane with you.”


“Well, like, a bunch of our friends are going. Um, like you, for example. We’re gonna see you off.”

I think half the station must’ve been out there on the flight line. Folks whose jobs really dictated that they be elsewhere had made time to come see us off. Elissa and Trudy, Robert, Martin and Ricky. There were congratulations and high fives for a completely rocking season. Lots of hugs. Lots of promises that if we were ever up in Anchorage, or Vancouver, or Kabul for that matter, we’d be sure to give a call. The air was filled with what the Japanese call “polite fiction” – we weren’t saying “goodbye”, or at least, we didn’t let ourselves say we were. We were just redeploying, relocating until next season, or next year, or until… well, we let that part go unspoken. L’shanah haba’ah.

Cap’n Don

Cap’n Don gave us the anticipated signal to go. We grabbed our bags and filed out across the flight line – three month ago so overwhelmingly alien and intimidating. Up in front of the Herc, the now-familiar thrum of 16 prop blades idly churning the air. Into the cavernous belly of the whale. Found a seat on the webbing, strapped in, and waited for the show to start.

The engines spooled up, and we started moving across the snow. It felt more like a sled ride than anything – comfortable and familiar, if only on a grander scale. How much has changed in three months. The bumps came closer and closer together as we picked up speed; I could feel us getting light on the skids then, imperceptibly, we were airborne. Northbound. As if there were anywhere else to go.

[much later: MacTown is surreal. It’s toasty out, something like 32F. There’s liquid water, penguins on the ice, birds in the sky. The air feels wet and as thick as warm cream. The dirt – holy cow, the dirt is squishy. Oh, and there’s dirt. Like, on the ground. Where you walk. It feels weird. Oh – and there’s internet. All the time. This is going to take some adjustment.]

McMurdo – crazy weird to be walking on dirt.

6 responses to “Airborne – Northbound

  1. Hello… I found your blog while looking for info about the station. A friend of mine is wintering over this season and haven't heard from her yet… but your blog has been a good source of maybe a sliver of what the experience might be like for her. :-) Welcome back north and hope your transition goes well. Best.


  2. Her name is Shannon Purcell and she's with Ratheon doing HR stuff over the winter. I heard that she got to McMurdo, but haven't heard if she made it out yet. I imagine she got to the pole and is settling in and learning her job and such. It is quite the adventure and I am super proud of her.


  3. @Sarah – yay! I met Shannon for the first time yesterday. She seemed great, and looked like she was fitting in really well; make sure she keeps writing back to you, because she's going to have a totally rocking season.


  4. Thank you SOOOO much!! I really appreciate the update and I will make sure she keeps in touch as she can. I tried to encourage her to start a blog, maybe she will. But thank you for the update!!


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