A New Year on Ice
Happy New Year from Antarctica! Life at McMurdo this season has been similar to the last three, but as the familiarity keeps growing it feels more settled and less like an adventure. Not necessarily a bad thing, but having spent 235 days here in 2018 and 51% of the last 3 years here has inarguably made McMurdo my new norm.
I left last April and spent 3 weeks seeing friends in San Francisco, Portland and Las Vegas and friends and family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Then I spent mid-May to mid-June working for USAP in Denver and the balance of my time off in the States. It wasn't enough time to feel like I'd been away from work much because I headed back to Denver in mid-August for training and then flew Christchurch to prep for deployment. My time off in 2018 was limited to about 3 months all told. That's a lot of time off in the real world, but it wasn't enough for to reconnect with life in the States very well. Something to do better next time.
Mainbody is peak season around here and goes from early October to mid-February. Since I got down here in the preseason (dubbed Winfly) and weather delayed the start of Mainbody by 2 weeks, we had a whole two months of 250ish station population and beautiful dusks and dawns before 700 or so people started arriving in mid-October. I've been in two bands and played a handful of shows, passed on bartending, and ridden the waves of work dictated by how many grantees are getting in and need help gathering supplies for their research.
I'm staying in McMurdo until mid-April again this season, so it's just past the halfway point of my 8 month season. Yesterday was the annual Icestock music festival and I didn't play for the first time since I started coming down. I missed not performing, but I did not miss the weeks of practice ahead of time. It's been a very calm season for me.
The most notable event so far this season was the deaths of two fire technicians who'd been doing an inspection at a field station. It was a stressful day for the community, but particularly so for the people directly involved in the response effort. I knew Jeff and Bobby a bit, exchanging hellos when we crossed paths, but their direct co-workers and friends were obviously struck hard. And I can't imagine what their families and friends back home are going through; no doubt they wished their loved ones a safe journey and expected to see them again after the season. There have been broad organizational responses and a lot of community support, but tragedy is tragedy. Jeff and Bobby are missed.
So now that 2019 has arrived we have three weeks until the annual Vessel offload and a month after that until station starts winding down. Then the population will go back to about 250 and the sun will start setting again. Once mid-April comes I'm planning to do a little travel, have a shorter work stint in Denver and then try again with my 2 month US reconnection tour.
Life is good. I'm always thinking about what's next and trying to remember to think about what's now. I'm sad that so many friendships have faded with distance, but heartened to know that distance is a solvable problem. It may not be for 6 months, but I'm deeply looking forward to seeing as many of you dearly beloved as possible come June.