Saying “see you later” never gets easy

5 October 2019

I know I signed up for this, I know it’s my job. I am used to leaving because of the military and because I had to deploy.  2014, I thought that was going to be my last deployment.  7 lucky number 7.  That was how many times I deployed when I was in the Air Force, 2 times to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Manas AB and 3 times to Afghanistan.  When I came home, I vowed to my family that I wouldn’t deploy again, that I was over deploying and leaving them and missing out on holidays, first days of school, birthdays, getting their drivers license.  Its hard.   At that time Noah was 16 and Katelyn was 12, now they are 21 and 17.  This is a vital time in their young lives, and they are so impressionable, and they need their mom for love, life lessons and nurturing, for rules and disciplining, to continue to treat them right from wrong.  We all know how hard puberty is one everyone, I didn’t want to miss out on any of that.

Now lets fast forward to 2018.  I’m retired, I’m going to college and life is going great.  And my friend Keith gets ahold of me and asks me what I’m doing in October, I told him I was going to college and he asked if I wanted to go down to Antarctica.  How do you say no to a once in a lifetime job?  I had no idea that it would turn into my career.  The job that helps to sustain my family and I and to give us opportunity to move out of the PNW and move to the beaches of South Carolina.  When I left Antarctica in February 2018, there was talk of getting hired on as a full-time employee, but I wasn’t sure if Katelyn would want to move or my dad.  Boy was I shocked, when I talked to Keith in May, that Raytheon and NIWC decided they wanted to bring me down to Charleston to work full time on the Polar Program, as the Logistics Manager.

Now lets fast forward to this week.  Lots of things to do at work, TONS of things to do at home.  But out of everything that I know that I needed to do, that was to spend every single moment with Katelyn and my dad, until Noah shows up and then its all family time.  Noah flew in on Thursday and it felt like life was exactly where it needed to be.  This is Noah’s first trip to Charleston.  We all hung out together and watched a movie on Thursday night.  Friday, Katelyn went to school and Noah and I had to take care of some errands, then we headed to Folly Beach for lunch.  Now I do have to say, I love going to Isle of Palms beach, its 15 minutes from the house and sand and water are amazing.  But Folly Beach, what a totally different vibe, so hippie and the pier is rad and full of humans fishing for that night’s dinner.  Then him and I headed to ol’ Isle of Palms and had some rose and hung out in the water and chit chatted about life and what superpower you would like to have.  I mean, what a great question, right?  Oh, and where does wind come from, we pondered that thought for a little while as well.

We go home and all 3 of us get ready to go to dinner at Halls Chophouse.  I asked my dad to go, but he didn’t want too.  He’s not one to go out for meals, he loves staying at home.  But it is one of my last meals and most importantly, its Katelyn’s birthday dinner.  See she loves steak, especially Prime Rib.  So, I knew that I wouldn’t go wrong with going here for dinner.  We park the car, walk up to the door, a gentleman opens it, even before I can put my hand on the door and says “Jones family I presume” we were shocked, like how did they know.  And I said “why yes” he looked at Katelyn and told her happy birthday and to follow him.   Side note:  I called Halls in the beginning of August for this reservation and told them we were going to be celebrating her birthday.  I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant.  It was THE BEST steak of my life, THE BEST service of my life, this restaurant will do and get you anything that you want.  The waiter knew our names, the wait all knew that it was her birthday and one by one, they came to the table and quietly told her happy birthday.  She wanted a slice of chocolate cake; it was on the house.  They explained every steak on the menu to use, how the family sides worked and even about the bottle of wine that Noah and I shared and how it would go with our steaks.  Katelyn ordered the bone in filet; Noah ordered the NY strip and I ordered the dry aged rib eye.  All our steaks were impeccable.  The flavor, the color and most importantly, they all melted in your mouth as you ate it.   We each tried a piece and they were all perfect.  For the sides, we had brussel sprouts, the best macaroni and cheese in the entire planet and the best tasting creamed corn.  Now this experience just keeps getting better.  We were there for 2 and a half hours, the staff waited on your every move.  I went to pour myself some champagne and our waiter came over and did it for me and told me to let them take care of us.  I mean WOW!!!   Now dessert, as I said Katelyn orders the chocolate cake and Noah follows suit and I order the Key Lime pie.  (side note: dessert at McMurdo is some of the best, they do a good job keeping our sweet tooth satisfied, but Key Lime pie, its my weakness)  The dessert shows up , and it says happy birthday to Katelyn and there is a candle in her cake and Daryl, probably the best waiter in the world, takes a photo for us and we  dig in.  Just like with the steaks, the table is silent, enjoying every single bit and smiling and looking at each other and complete ecstasy.

We head home and put on our jammies and it seems like its going to be a normal night at home, but now I must pack.  Everything is out, I just need to get it all in my bags.  The 3 of us hang out in my room, they are chatting, and I am there listening and just being in this moment.  I love these little things.  Katelyn and Noah are beyond thrilled that they are together, they are not only brother and sister, but best friends.  Katelyn looks up to him so much, you can see her love for him in her eyes as they talk and laugh. About an hour later its done, we are all happy and decided that now its funny movie time.  We all get on the couch and decide to watch “most extreme primate” a super cheesy B rated movie from back in the day when Noah was playing hockey.  It was a pretty nostalgic night and by the end of it, we knew that the next day was going to be “the day” that I leave. You could sense it in the house and the dogs knew something was going on.

We wake up in the morning, run some errands and we are just together, the 4 of us, just like old times.  Its beautiful that we don’t skip a beat.  Our family is our heartbeat, we cherish, and we love, no matter what happens, we have each other.

For about 2 hours, the 3 of us cuddle on the couch and watch tv together.  Not much is being said and that’s fine by me.  At 245, its time to get ready to go to the airport.  The bags are packed and now everyone is following me around, I love this, but I want to cry.  We get in the car and head to the airport.  Now in Spokane, we are used to my family going back with me to the gate.  We park, everyone helps to carry my stuff and we are trying to make jokes and not deal with what’s about to happen, they make dinner plans as I check in.

I ask about my family going back, since I am leaving, and they tell me that they can not do that.  I start getting watery eyed, I’m not ready for this yet.  We decide to hang out for 15 minutes, so I can go through security and get this journey started.  Emotions are starting to rise; hands are being held. We are all leaning on each other.  Its picture time. Katelyn and I are pretty snuggled up, then Noah and I, my dad and I take pictures.  The lady next to us says she will take our photo and that’s when I start to cry.  We walk towards TSA; Katelyn and I walk hugging each other and then Noah joins us.

I give Katelyn a hug and tell her that I’m sorry I am going to miss another birthday and her eyes fill with tears.  (this sucks so bad) she is trying to keep it together, but she can’t, she’s trying so hard to be tough and she can’t stop it.  I know at this point, she’s sad that I am leaving again, and my heart is breaking.  WHY THE HELL am I leaving again, after I said that I wouldn’t.  I hug my dad and Noah and give them my I love and will miss you and I go back to Katelyn.  My heart is breaking for her, she is looking at me to hug her, but telling me to leave.  I keep going back to her, I know she needs me and my hugs, even though she isn’t saying it, I can feel it.  At this moment, I hate my job and I don’t want to go back to the ice. One more round of hugs and kisses and I really need to go.

I walk away, I turn around ½ way and they aren’t looking at me, I wait a moment, I keep walking and turn around again and they just turned the corner.  What I wouldn’t of given to just see their faces one more time, in this moment, like that one movie moment.

The Ice…Chapter 2

I’m not sure how many of you know, but in August, I uprooted my dad, daughter, 2 dogs, cat and myself from our beautiful home in the Great Pacific North West and moved to the Palmetto State, South Carolina.  I know its only been 2 months, but we all absolutely love it here.  There are palm trees, the beach is 11 miles from our house, the weather is fabulous, the food and how chill and relaxed everyone is here…honestly, what is here not to love.

I accepted a job as the Logistics Manager for the Polar Program, with Raytheon, which means, I will be going down to Antarctica for the next several years.  Which, to be honest, still blows my mind that I get to live down there, for 4-5 months at a time.  WOW, its still so unreal to me.  I hope I do not lose that mind-blowing thought and take it for granted.

To answer a few questions, that some of you  may have.  Noah moved to NYC and is going to college and is still working for The North Face.  He is on the as a visual merchandising team, at the SoHo store.  As for Cody and I, we have split.  Some things are just bigger then can be handled.  Although this was a very difficult decision for us to make, it is what him and I have decided together as a couple.   We gave it all we could and in the end, we both just want 2 different things in life.  We are still friends and communicate from time to time and there are no bad feelings between us.  I wish him all of the best in his life.

Okay so packing…this year its super easy.  We are authorized to  bring 85 pounds down to the ice.  Last year I was over on weight, but they let me go.  I brought way too much and left a bunch because I knew I was going back.  I have my blankets, pillows, sheets, etc down there.  And clothing and toiletries, some jackets and shoes and I know there is more, I cant remember…It will be like Christmas when I get back down there and open up the boxes I left behind.  SO, technically we aren’t supposed to store our stuff down there, but people do. I have my own office, that is heated in the winter, so my stuff is pretty secure.

I have one large The North Face duffel (thank you Noah) packed with everything that I need for this trip and a carry on.  Not too shabby for going to Antarctica  LOL.  I only sent 2 large flat rate USPS boxes down already.  Hopefully I dont decide that I “need” more crap down there.  If I do, it will all go in a medium duffel.  I did order things from Amazon, so I dont have to carry it, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, hair things, you know, the stuff that you need, but weighs too much.  Oh and art supplies.  I sent down some canvases, paint and brushes.  There is an art show that McMurdo does at the end of the season, that I would like to participate in.

I leave on Saturday, head to Houston with 2 other co-workers from Raytheon/iBiz, then its a long 15 hour flight from there to Auckland, clear customs and then down to Christchurch.  We will spend 2 nights there, so we can get some training taken care of and pick up our ECG’s (extreme coldweather gear).  Last year we were “stuck” there for 15 days, because of wicked bad weather on the ice.  Hopefully we aren’t “stuck” there for that long this time.

Noah is flying down to Charleston today, so he can see me off and he is staying till Katelyns birthday on the 8th and then he will head back to NYC.  Tomorrow I will take Noah around Charleston and then hang out on the beach for a couple hours.  When Katelyn is done with school, we will we journey into downtown Charleston, enjoy steak at Halls steak house, (you need to look this place up, its going to be amazing.  Its one of the best steak houses in SC).  Saturday, the 3 of us will enjoy the sunrise on the beach at Isle of Palms, eat brunch on Follys beach and then enjoy being together, till we go to the airport, for the sad “I’ll see you later”

This trip will have me on the ice till the end of January.  Katelyn will go to NYC to see Noah for Thanksgiving and he will come down to Charleston to Christmas.

I am getting ready to finish up my last day of working in the office here at Charleston.

I’ll write more from CHristchurch or the ice on how things are going.  I will leave you with a few pictures of me leave Antarctica last year…and a quote.

“At a time when it’s possible for thirty people to stand on the top of Everest in one day, Antarctica still remains a remote, lonely and desolate continent. A place where it’s possible to see the splendors and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic and, what’s more, witness them almost exactly as they were, long, long before human beings ever arrived on the surface of this planet. Long may it remain so.” ― David Attenborough

Its time to go to Burning man…sorry about the super late post

23 August

Today is the day we fly to Reno. Tomorrow will begin the journey of my 3rd burn, this year is going to be so different but freeing. Noah will be back for his 2nd burn, so thats wicked sweet! The best part is Katelyn is going to her first burn!
Man time to chat…wow like seriously, how lucky is she?! She’s 16 and going to Burning freaking man!!! 🤩😎 How cool is she?? She’s going to see, feel and experience so many things that so many others have not yet! Dusty hugs, radial freedom, self discovery and expression. She will find a new Katelyn, a Katelyn that she has no idea even exists, but it’s inside of her and it’s wanting to come out. That’s the best part of burning man, you always discover something you had no idea about or even knew was real and it comes to surface, you can’t stop it! Break downs happen, you can not stop it, it’s human nature!
Enough about that, I’m sure I’ll write more about that soon. She goes to school, I go to work, ok cool (eye roll and a giggle) then it’s time for braids, you need them there, or the playa will dread and leave her mark in your hair. Our hairdresser doesn’t have enough time to do my hair and hers, so she goes first, I mean she has too, shes baby girl. She gets my dream corn rows, 7 braids and she looks like a Queen, a fierce queen, demanding attention of everyone whom she walks by. I opt of 2 French braids, they look rad. We go home, she’s moody and I’m hangry. I’ve been essentially starving myself for 3 days to look good for the burn (maybe I shouldn’t write this, but it’s true) we get dressed in our burner clothes and load the car up and head to the airport. 38 minutes we are no longer moody, we are hot, it’s 97 in Charleston SC and now we have to fly across the USA. We hug my dad and say our “see you laters.” We pull and wear our burner clothes like it’s a new type of jewelry. I’m sporting a military green duffel bag and Katelyn has my TNF duffle on as a backpack. We walk into the airport looking, in my opinion AMAZING! And in the eyes of the people near us, who knows and care. But Katelyns new friend says, maybe people think you are famous, I’m gonna go with that 😍❤️ We have our playa jackets on (giant fuzzy warm jackets) black boots, great make up and outfits that really look like the true us and not who society thinks we should act!
Ok back to ranting! Why? Why are we so scared to be the real us? Why do we let society dictate how we act, talk, dress and live, based off what others think of us???? No I’m serious, real serious, I’m talking to myself too. Why do we give so many shits about this??? Can I get an honest answer from anyone?
To me it’s judgement, no one wants to be judged especially among our fellow peers. Do our peers pay our bills, raise our kids or live in our closets or snuggle in bed with you? No, then why do you care?!! Oh my, this just hit home for me. Stop Stacy, stop, this isn’t healthy, you are the teaching your daughter this. Noah knows to not care, he learned this last year at the burn. He is wiser then I can understand and it’s one of many traits I love about him, I feel so lucky to be his mom and watch him grow into this man. He’s 21, I’m 43, I wish I was more like him! I idolize him so much, he’s one of 2 people I wish I was like.
Speaking of Noah, oh my gracious, I’m going to see him for the first time since I left nyc in June! Yes, the longest amount of time that we didn’t see each other was 9 months, I was deployed to Afghanistan. For some reason this seems different.
Katelyn and I get on our flight to Chicago, then connecting to Reno. In Chicago we will meet Noah. Katelyn sleeps, I order champagne and then I decide that I need to write on my blog, this is my diary, my autobiography. Itsbeen a while since I’ve blogged and Burning man is my life, my religion, my people, my beliefs, it’s dusty hugs, it’s love, it’s art and music…you get it!!
Baby girl takes a nap, I look at her, she’s majestic, she no longer looks like a baby girl, but more like a princess knocking on the door of Queen! Queen Bee, yes that’s her! I can not wait to fly back with her to charleston and listen to her stories, her growth and new outlook on life! She will not be the same person in a week, she will be stronger, smarter, wiser, happier.
We land in Chicago, currently we are in row 8. I want to hurry to see Noah, I think I’m going to cry, but who knows till that exact second. I check my phone, 2 minutes ago he said he was almost there, I mean I can’t miss him. We look alike and he’s 6’2 and will most likely have a hat on. I walk, get off the plane, I get to the gate, I look left, right… shit there he is… I walk as fast as possible HUG and oh my gracious, Noah’s here (my heart is so happy) I’m with both my babies, can a parents’ heart feel any happier. I mean sure, but this moment is surreal and as a mom, I needed this moment. We walk towards food and our next gate! I can’t stop hugging him; Katelyn and him keep talking.
OH MY GOSH BURNERS, Yes!!!! We (burners) are so easy to point out, I want to hug and talk to everyone. I get more excited. Katelyn is shy and doesn’t want to talk to many burners, Noah’s on her side, I get it. I want to talk to everyone.
Side note, at burning man, most of us are given a playa name. Mine is “the guardian”. Noah has a playa name, but he did not accept it. We are given a new name at burning man, one we accept as our playa name, others do not, and they wait for one that seems more fitting.
The burn is the life we want!!! It’s who we are. We refer to our lives outside of the burn as our default life, aka the life we have, but prefer over our lives outside Black Rock City.
We get on the plane, so many burners, my heart is starting to fill with so much love, I wish burning man could be everyday.

A helicopter flight on my American birthday, don’t mind if I do

My birthday, in Antarctica, was yesterday (Sunday, January 20th) and today is my American birthday 🙂  So yes, I got 2 birthdays.  It was nice because it fell on a Sunday and we didn’t have to work.   I don’t really like to celebrate my birthday, but I did get a pretty great cake and it was gluten free and chocolate and I sat around with my friends and co-workers and had some family time and watched movies and just relaxed.  To be honest though, it is pretty rad to be able to celebrate your birthday down here :o)

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Monday, January 21st on the Ice/Sunday, January 20th, in the USA.  Today I get to ride on my first helo down here.  We are going to held to Marble point to do a calibration on the AWS (weather station), check the barometers and change out the Windbird.  Its a 45 minute flight across the sound , down the continents edge, past the ice edge and get to see open water with massive icebergs.  I am finally get to put my feet on the continent.  For those of you who don’t know, McMurdo Station is on Ross Island, which is totally part of Antarctica, the Ross Island Ice shelf is just on the other side from Ob Hill and Scott’s Pass and attaches us to the continent.  Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in the entire world and even featured on the map of Antarctica.

Anyways, back to the story…we get into the helicopter and the pilot and helo tech do their flight checks, we do a comm check to ensure that we can all hear and speak to each other.  The forecast at the time, is slight overcast with a chance of snow and winds 3-5 mph, overall, not a bad day.  We take off and head out towards McMurdo Sound and flight above the sound for a couple miles, then make our way towards the continent, so we can fly closer to land.  The ice in the sound is starting to melt, its the end of January and its warm here, the average temperature, as of recently is probably in the high 20s, or low 30s.  The sun has been shining a lot lately, which is always very nice for the soul and keeps you warm, plus the sun is still up ALL DAY LONG.  The first sunset doesn’t happen till February 20th, I will be gone by that time, one year, I hope to be here to witness it, I’m sure its stunning.  As we are flying we fly past Ferrar Glacier, Taylor Valley, we spot the Commonwealth Glacier from New Harbor and the ice is really broken up here.  We start to spot Orca’s, seals and cute little Adelie penguins, then the helo tech says “oh my gosh, I’ve never seen a Minke whale till just now, about 20 yards from the shore line.  I wish I could see it but I cant from where I am sitting.

Once we land, we go inside of their cute and cozy little trailer and get a game plan, drink some coffee and enjoy a nice warm cookie before going outside to work.  Marble Point is a quaint little place, 3 people live there throughout the season.  They are a refueling stop for the helicopters that are flying around the region.  There is a chef, a fuels person and a Camp Manager (who takes care of all of the little/big things on station)  I flew to Marble Point with 2 technicians who work on communications and meteorological equipment.  They needed to replace a Windbird.  A Windbird collects wind speed and direction, which is needed for mission planning and local weather conditions.  The Barometers also needed to be calibrated.  Once the system checked good and we got the ok from McMurdo, then it was time to leave.  A new weather system was coming in and snow was excepted.  The cloud ceiling is already low but the skies were starting to get dark.  Its time to say our quick “see you later”

I am really excited about the flight back.  I get see the water the entire time and hopefully spot more penguins, seals and Orcas.

We take off and follow the coast of Bernacchi Bay and Explores Cove, all of this water is completely open giant sheets of ice of floating everywhere, there are even several giant icebergs just hanging out for us to see.  OH MY GOSH, I cant believe that I am here in Antarctica!!!  This adventure is EPIC and beyond GRAND.  Words can not describe all of the feelings that I am feeling, I can not wipe the smile off of my face.  We can not fly over the open water, because of safety, but it doesn’t matter.  What I am seeing is just blowing my mind.  We are spotting Orca’s for days, families of Orca’s, single Orcas’s, though we are sure that there are so many more that we can not see.  The helo pilot hovers for a few moments, so we can take a good look at the whales and take videos and pictures.  I can not believe this moment, I am in awe that I am spotting whales in Antarctica, I feel so lucky and my smile got even bigger.  What I wouldn’t give for my kids to see this right now, my mind is blown and I wish I could share this day with them.  As we continue to fly, we see seals just hanging out on the plates of ice and penguins waddling around like its another great day on the beaches of Antarctica.

The weather has been ok, no blue skies and not very windy, but its getting pretty dark and we know that a storm is following us.  We listen to the helo pilot and helo tech talk to the Station flight followers and flight center.  They are advising the other helicopters to return to McMurdo, because the cloud ceiling is dropping quickly, and snow flurries are starting to fall from the sky.

The Polar Star ice breaker has been in McMurdo Sound for several days, trying to break up some of the Sea Ice.  There is a Vessel that is coming in to drop off supplies for station wide improvements, frozen foods (for the people that winter over) and miscellaneous  large assets that take up too much space on the limited aircraft space or cost way too much to fly down here.  When the Vessel heads back to the USA, it will take all of the stations’ trash, recycling, electronic scrap, tons of assets that need to go to the USA to manufacturers for repair and return back here in August and large assets that we no longer have the use for or need to go back for repair.  Now at this point, we start looking for the Polar Star, aka the “Ghost Ship” because its foggy along the water, its snowing and slightly eery.  We know that once we see it, that McMurdo is right there.  Don’t worry, we do know were we are at, its just a fun game to help pass time.  I wish that we could see Mt. Erebus, but not today, its okay though, I can see her in my head.  I hope to get a few more glaces of her, before I leave here to head home.  There was some chatter among us  about the weather and how soupy the sound looks…then all of a sudden, there she is…The Polar Star.  We are back home now and this trip will be one that I will remember for a very very long time.

 

Yes, I run outside, in Antarctica

Not much going on here lately.  I am extremely busy at work, the end of season is bitter-sweetly, around the corner and then it will be time to come home and patiently wait to come back to Antarctica for another season.  Hopefully just 1/2 a season this time, or at least for a few weeks during the holidays, who knows, only time will tell.

Many of you may wonder what happens here, after work and during our 6 day work week.  Ever since the New Year, I can honestly say its like Groundhogs day.  I wake up, turn on channel 3 (Mcmurdo weather, with AFN Germany radio station playing in the background, I take a shower, get dressed, I wait for my room mate and suite mate and we all go to the galley to get our breakfast.  We always take our breakfast to go, as I walk up to the egg station, the one cook tells me that my 2 eggs over hard and side of spinach is being cooked up, I walk around to see if there are any other options for breakfast and lunch.  I am gluten free and vegetarian, so sometimes my options are minimal.  We leave and walk down the hill to our building, which is conveniently located on the McMurdo Sound and we have an unobstructed view of the continent, mountains and the cute lazy seals, that are relaxing on the ice.  I normally eat lunch in my building, with my friends.  We get off of work at 5pm and get in our van and drive up the hill.  We all disperse and go our separate ways, either to the galley for dinner, or to our room.  I go to my room, change into my winter running clothes and by 530pm, I am out the door and heading to my favorite Ross Island trail…Ob hill loop.

From my dorm to the trailhead, its .75 mile run, then around the “hill” is 2.7 miles.  It is absolutely stunning and never gets boring to run, the views are amazing and take your breathe away at every turn.  You get onto the trail and its a slight climb up, but Mount Discovery is in front of you and guiding you, then there is a slight turn to the left, and Scott Base (the New Zealand station) is located at the bottom of this hill and just past that is the gorgeous Mt. Erebus with her steam coming out of the top, then to the right of her is Mt. Terror.   Now comes the giant climb, climb climb climb, you can see the top of Ob Hill and if you look closely, you can see the cross/memorial.   At the top of the hill is a slight left and a straight away and a perfect view the seals beaching on the ice, you can also see the Ross Island Ice Shelf,  Minna Bluff, White Island and Black Island.  Now for the down hill, its a steep down hill, it makes you run fast, my trail ballet is really tested at this point, my feet are running faster that I almost feel like I can not keep up with them, left then right and faster, now a little jump over the baby stream, faster faster, quick sharp turn to the right….WOW, I love running here.  Now I am heading towards “town” I can not see it, but the sun is normally shining bright at this point and its so warm  The temperatures this month have ranged from 9F to 34F, yes that may sound cold to you, but 34 is wicked hot here and I only wear a 10F base layer and running outer layer on top and winter running tights, a buff around my neck, running gloves and a fleece hat.  now its time for a slight up hill climb and lots of snow patches to run though, around and to see.  This time of season, the snow patches are starting to melt and turn into tiny blue ponds.  To the right of me is the frozen McMurdo sound, I’ve been told that in some parts of the sound, the ice is 12 feet thick, Mt Discovery is also there and I can see the majestic Royal Society Mountain range and par t of the Koettlitz Glacier.  I always just take the scenery in here and just ran a tad slower, I dont want to forget this moment or what it looks like and how I am feeling, I feel so free and a live.  It still blows my mind that I am living and working in Antarctica.  Time for another climb, its not bad, but I just ran through some slushy snow and its slightly cold, its okay though, it was worth it and it will dry.  Now at the top of this climb I can see the ol’ town of McMurdo, truly it looks like a hippie mining community, its home and I love it.  Now a sharp right turn and up a wicked steep climb that was also an old road, will this climb ever end, I love it, its hard, my heart is pumping and I just keep going, I feel like Thomas the Tank Engine, I think I can, I think I can.  I finally make it and now its an ever so little run down the hill to continue the loop.  When I get back to the trailhead, I have to make the decision if I do that loop again, or turn around and go the opposite direction…or maybe I run over the Hut Point and Discovery Hut. So many decisions and choices, none of which I know I will be disappointed in taking.

Now matter the weather, wind or clouds, sun or  snow, you will always find me a couple others out there running or hiking.  I can not get enough of this place.  I love it here.

Its beginning to look a lot like christmas! and the adelie penguins are here

Its Christmas season here on McMurdo, holiday cheer is starting to run rampant, with cheers of Merry Christmas from all 800ish people that are here on station and Christmas music playing on the local radio station.

The sad part about being here, is not having your family and not being able to Skype or Facetime.   Also, we haven’t had any large packages delivered to us because of weather here on the ice, the cloud ceiling has been low and the winds have been crazy.  But, as always co-workers and new friends have started to make McMurdo home and makes being away from home during the holidays, just a tad easier.

The whole station has off on Christmas eve and Christmas day (with the exception of the Galley workers…aka the dining staff).  Sunday night is the station wide Christmas party at Vehicle Maintenance, then Monday night is the big Christmas dinner.  Tuesday is Christmas bruch, with prime rib and all kinds of pastries, cheeses and smoked salmon, followed by workcenter Christmas parties.

The adelie penguins showed up the other day in the bay where the wharf is at. They are so damn cute.  They are were scurrying, playing and sliding all over the ice.  Apparently they come into “town”.  We aren’t supposed to get very close to them, but the rumor on the street is they will follow you all over.  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/a/adelie-penguin/

 

 

 

Observation Tube, Scott’s Hut at Cape Evan and Pressure Ridge Tour

Sorry I haven’t written much, I was sick with the McMurdo Crud for 11 days and I’m feeling back to 100%.

So much has happened in the past week.  I have done 3 different trips around McMurdo Sound.  1st, the Observation Tube, 2nd, Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans and 3rd, the Pressure Ridges outside of Scott Base.

First adventure is the Observation Tube, aka Ob Tube.  It’s just located off the shore, from where i work.  It was myself and my 2 room/suite mates and our boss, my DigitialiBiz, John Markey.  There are a bunch of safety precautions that are taken around here, because weather can change so quickly, the snow the ice and certain distances, locations and activities around McMurdo Station.  One of the precautions is when we go out on the ice field; we need to check in and out of the fire department.  We write our names down, we give them a time that we will be back, that is needed because if we aren’t back by then…they give Search and Rescue a call, to prepare them to go find people and then if the group is not back within 5 minutes of that time, the helicopter and team is dispatched to find those individuals.  They also give us a radio to carry, for emergencies and to let them know if we are going to be late.   We walk out to the ice and my roommate Sarah goes down first and takes some pictures.  Then it’s my turn to go.  I’m so excited.  The ob tube, at this point, has been in the water for a few days.  It goes about 25 feet down, and there are metal rungs that you climb down and up on and then the rungs stop, then there is a rope ladder with wood for steps to take you down even farther.  The last 6 steps really caught me off guard; I had no idea that was going to be there.  I yelled up the tube and asked about it.  My eyes were slowly adjusting the darkness of the tube.  Once I got to the bottom of the tube, my mind was blown.  The different shades of blues were insane.  I sat down on a little wood bench and I was just in awe.  There were tiny little Bork fish; they are about a year old that looked as if they were just suspended by the water, like in shock.  But they are not. This is their natural habitat.  As I was looking all around, it dawned on me that I was 20 feet below the frozen ice.  My favorite color in the world is teal and to be able to see that all around me made me so happy.  The top of the ice, were I was standing before I came down the tube, had been cleared of snow, to make it brighter for us down there.  It’s so peaceful and beautiful. It’s another world under the ice.  The Antarctic Ocean has more oxygen then the rest of the world and because of that, gigantic-ism is a thing.  The starfish down here are HUGE, so are the Sea Spiders and the fish grow very fast.  Sitting there and taking it all in, it’s incredible.  The brinicles that are and have formed are beautiful, watching the ice anchors on the floor, break of and float up, carrying small lava rocks with it, it’s all mind blowing.  Oh my gosh, what was that noise…sounds like a seal…please come and say hi you fat little cutie.  The Weddell seal never showed up, but it was exciting to listen, it kind of sounded like old sci-fi movie music.  (The first 5 photos are of me and the Observation Tube)

Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans.  The recreation office here on station had a lottery for people to sign up and see if their names got drawn to go on this trip.  I do not know how many people signed up, I would guess a lot and MY NAME was picked.  I’m already lucky enough to live and work in Antarctica, but now I get to go to a place that even less people have been to and many wish they could go and see.  This year only 24 people will be able to go to Scott’s Hut, last year, no one went.  We load into the Hagglund (the red vehicle with a “trailer” attached to the back of it, in the pictures down below) and started at the Science Center and drove out to the ice shelf and down along the coast.  To the left of us is miles and miles of ice and the main land and mountains of Antarctica.  To the right of us is Ross Island (also where I live) we pass Castle Rock (which I am hoping to climb in January) and Mt Erebus and all of her majestic glory.  The skies are crystal clear and it’s about 8F degrees and absolutely amazing.  We drive past the of the Dell Bridge islands and it dawns on me that in January, there will be an ice breaker coming to McMurdo station in January and that somewhere close to where I am, this ship will be breaking up what we are currently driving on.  It takes us about 75 minutes to arrive at Scott’s Hut and 15 miles.  As we come around the cape, you can’t see the Hut.  The Kiwis have a fish camp set up there for their scientist.  Once we past them, you can see the Hut.  I can’t believe it, Capt. Scotts and Evans hut, its right there in front of me.  It’s a dream come true for me to be here.  We get out of the Hagglund and walk across the ice and 2 ice cracks to get to the hut.  (There is a picture below)  Only 7 of us plus the Recreation leader can go inside of the cabin, because of the size.  Before we walk in, we need to take our “Big Reds” off and leave them outside of the cabin and we need to clean the bottoms of our boots, so no rocks, mud or snow, make it inside.  You walk inside the door and there is a guest book.  I signed it “Stacy Jones 16 November 2018.  I can’t believe I am here.  Dreams can come true” There is a smell in the hut, not bad not good.  The kitchen is to my right, the enlisted beds to the left, walking a little farther in, is Capt. Scotts bunk and the medical area, to the left is the giant officers table and to the left a little more, just beyond that, is the officers beds.  All the of items; food, bedding, medicines, clothing, plates and cups, are still here.  This is unreal, its history, real untouched, recent history. The expedition left here in 1913, so just 105 years ago, that is not a long time ago, when you think about the span of history and life.  I just take my time and walk around and slowly take it all in, I don’t want to rush and miss anything.  Our leader points out something that Capt. Scott wrote on the inside of his bed, in pencil, it says “Loss is not everything” Good Gracious, how powerful is that; he yet again BLOWS my mind into a million pieces and leaves me.  (Below is a link to photos that Nat Geo took while there were here, and then a link to information on Cape Evan and Scotts Hut.  I walk outside and  walk over to the placard and read it and stare at the Hut.  I look down and there are several pieces of glass on the lava rock.  There is a bottom of a wine glass, it’s a purplish color, and there are other pieces of blue, pink and clear glass.  All items that are here, to include the glass, stay exactly where they are and cannot be picked up or removed.  I decide that it’s time to walk up to the ridge to look at the cross on Wind Vane Hill and take this entire place in.  Once I get to the top, I look out towards Mt. Erebus; the clouds are slowly coming in again.  I stand there, take a giant breathe in and let it all go.  With that came tears, HOLY CRAP, it hits me, I AM IN ANTARCTICA.  This is the 1st REAL TIME that it hits me.  I slowly do a 360 and stare and breathe and cry.  I wish my kids could see this place.  I wish I could share this moment with someone, again, I’m really happy that this moment is mine and mine and mine alone.  I stare at the cross for a few minutes and I say my thank you to this crew.  We get ready to leave and head back the McMurdo, we need to be there before midnight or the Search and Rescue team will come and find us.  As we are driving back, we spot Penguin tracks on the ice; we start to follow them in the Haggland.  The driver has given us a pair of binoculars so we can look for these cute little animals.  We drive for about an hour, we think we see them in the distance, but it’s just the Fata Morgana messing with is. (It’s like a mirage that you would see in the desert but more intense).  We think we see penguins because of this, but when we get there, they are just the fat cutie seals.  We stop for a moment again and get out of the Hagglund.  We are in the middle of the McMurdo Sound and standing and driving on ice.  I LOVE THIS PLACE. We get back to McMurdo around midnight and its bedtime; 6am comes quickly here, even though it looks like its Noon.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/01/photogalleries/100111-100-year-antarctic-hut-scott-pictures/

https://www.nzaht.org/pages/history-of-scotts-expedition-cape-evans

 

The 3rd Adventure of the week, Pressure Ridge Field Tour.  18 November 2018.  The Recreation Center tried to put on a lot of activities for people to do while we are here, to help us see as much as we can and to help the morale high.  Troy and I signed up to go out to Scott Base (the New Zealand base, right down the road from us) with the Rec Center, so we can see the Pressure Ridges.  So what exactly is a Pressure Ridge, it’s when the Ice Shelf collides with the Sea ice and since McMurdo is located on the Ross Ice Shelf, these Pressure Ridges form.  (Below is a link about the McMurdo Pressure Ridges) There was a group of 10 of us, to include the guides that got into the van and made the 15 minute, 10 mph, road trip to Scott Base.  We get out and start the tour immediately.  The blue from the water and ice is the bluest blue ever.  Pictures just cannot capture what you see with your eyes.  Again and for the 3rd time this week, my mind is blown.  We talk for about 90 minutes and stop and take pictures, and just take it all in.  There are about 10 Weddell Seals that are just lying out and loving the sun and 1 pup seal, hanging out with their mother.  One of them talked to us for a few minutes and then wiggled their way, away from us.  I wonder if it was telling us to move or if it felt threatened.  Either way, we all got to look at each other and smile.  I wish I could describe these ridges.  And since I can’t, I’ve attached the bottom 20 pictures, to do the talking for me.

http://glacierexplorer.com/tag/antarctic-pressure-ridges/

Seals, Frosty Boy, Freshies and Wind, oh my!

On Thursday, the Weddell Seals poked their heads and bodies up from McMurdo Sounds frozen water, for the first time this spring.  I was looking at the window at the end of my 3rd floor dorm hallway and noticed a bunch of black blobs out on the ice.  In my mind there was no way that they were seals.  I honestly don’t know what i thought they were, maybe some work equipment,  I got my room mate Sarah and she said it was the seals.  I tried to take a picture but you can barely see a dot.  I was so excited to see my first wild life down here.  (here’s a little info on the seals that are currently here) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/w/weddell-seal/

Frosty Boy.  okay for anyone who has watched any documentary about McMurdo Station you have definitely heard of Frosty Boy.  For those of you who have no idea what Frosty Boy is, its a soft served “ice cream” and I use the words “ice cream” very loosely.  Its a non dairy sugar fluffy goodness that is added to dry cake, to coffee as a “creamer” or it can be enjoyed on its on with chocolate, mint or butterscotch chips.  I’ve had it two times here.  Once on top of my apple crumble and once in my Sunday coffee.  All I will report is that its ok.  The first bite was like “OK what the hell did I just eat” it was just so sugary, it was like a frozen Cool Whip consistency and i felt as if i just messed up my really really good apple crumble.  During the weekly Sunday brunch amazingness, I decided to add it to my coffee, like “why not put ice cream in my coffee!” I filled about 1/2 my cup up with Frosty Boy and then added my average tasting coffee to it and stirred.  A froth formed, this is where I got really excited. I let it cool for a little and drank it…it was still just average coffee.  I think i may be over the Frosty Boy experience, but never say never, it is possible for me to try it again.

Freshies.  What exactly is freshies, its green salad, its cucumbers and tomatoes; its grapes, melons and berries.  Surprise surprise, all of our food has to be flown down here on an US Air Force C-17.  Not every flight from Christchurch to McMurdo has freshies on it.  And since I’ve arrived, I’ve only had apples, bananas and oranges.  Then on Saturday I walked into the Galley (the dining facility) and there was spinach, carrots and radish. Oh my gosh, I was so excited.  I had 3 bowls of this with a bad ranch dressing on my first bowl, then I just ate it plain for the next 2 bowls.  I didn’t care.  My mind was blown.  Talk about excited.  Once the C-17s stop coming here, the freshies will not make an appearance for a while, or so i’m told.  Then guess what we had on Sunday during brunch?????  CANTALOUPE AND HONEY DEW (I was in love)  I eat so much and I even brought a bunch back to my room to eat for and with dinner.  And surprise surprise, by the time that Monday showed up…no more freshies were available.

Wind.  Who doesn’t like a little wind.  I mean its not bad.  I’ve been through hurricanes in my life and lucky for me, I’ve never been through a tornado.  On Friday, we had one hell of a wind storm and it carried over into half of Saturday.  I need to say a few things before I get into the details.  My office wall is a wall to the outside and all of the buildings that we are here on the continent are the strongest most sturdiest buildings ever built, so there is not an ounce of me that is scared.  BUT, I can hear the wind just howling.  We were supposed to get up to 75 mph winds.  The airfield is shut down, the weather people that I work with are so busy. We are told that if we hit condition 1, we have to stay in the buildings because its not safe for us to leave.  I think we were in the condition for an hour or 2.  It sounded like a bunch of trains going by, during this time. I kept looking outside, the American flag on the Helicopter building is flapping so much that I think it could maybe blow away, the snow is just blowing across the sound, and you can barely see 200 yards in front of you.  It was so cool to see and experience this.  When it was time to go home, we were in condition 2 and we have to walk up the hill to go home.  I was going to take the van, but I decided that I wanted to work on my Antarctica toughness, so 4  of us braved it up the hill.  At first I was slightly nervous, and then put my head down and attacked that hill, once we hit the bend in the hill, the wind was finally at our backs and pushed us up that hill.  Once I got in my room, I was freezing,  I think the temp was -10F and with the windchill, i think it was -32F or so.  Sometimes you just have to grin and bare it.  I put myself here, I want to be here, I know its going to be cold, but mental toughness plays a huge part in living here.  This continent is not for everyone.

Karaoke.  Here is a heads up, I DO NOT SING karaoke.  I did it one time a very very long time ago and I told myself that I will not do it again.  I even warned my co-workers about this and told them that if I ever wanted to sing karaoke, that they needed to take me to my room.  On Friday night at Gallagher’s (one of 2 bars on station) has karaoke.  Most of us from SOPP went there and decided to take up the front two tables and witness what was going to go down.  No I am not singing, just in case anyone is wondering.  The Tito’s and Tonic started and keep coming our way.  Dr Dre came on and so did Violent Femmes and even a little Erykah Badu’s “Apple Tree” song.  The lady that sang Erykah Badu blew everyone’s mind, she amazing, she didnt need to look at the lyrics, she sang with so much passion, that it gave me goosebumps.  More great songs and then a bunch of us started to dance, this my friends is not a good sign…ha ha ha.  And then 2 of us decided that it was time to leave, the night was getting out of control.  Let me remind you that the bar closes at 11pm on Friday nights.  The jackets came on and then I heard Post Malone (he is my kids most favorite artist) and then I realized I loved that song, the jacket came off and I ran up to the stage to help my ATC co-workers with this song.  As soon as I got on stage, I looked out at the crowd, realized that I was standing up there in front of a lot of McMurdo and I froze. The song was White Iverson…the chorus came on and I helped sing.  WHY, WHY DID I DO THIS…AGAIN.  HA HA HA, I had some much fun up there that night.  I think a little Karaoke may happen again while I’m here.  I had so much fun.

Here’s something odd…it still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually in Antarctica.  I’m living it, working in it, freezing in it and eating here.  There have been a  few moments when I’m like, holy crap I am here.  But it hasn’t slapped me in the face yet.  I truly am looking forward to that moment.

Week 1 on the ice!!

I LOVE IT HERE!

At every turn, on McMurdo Station is a stunning view of the mountains across the frozen McMurdo sound. McMurdo Station is actually located Ross Island.  I can see Black Island and White Island from every where.  Its so hard to describe what Antarctica is like.  I will start with this…I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life, its perfectly natural and with the exception of the stations that are on this continent, its perfectly untouched.  The way that the sun shines through the clouds and shine down on the snow covered mountains, can only be described as a work of art, like a Tomas Kincaid painting.

I have been here for 8 days now and I’m already calling Antarctica home.  Speaking of home, I have a roommate named Sarah and she only lives 1 hour from where I live at, in the real world.  She arrived on Saturday and that night we had a room setting up party.  We drank ginger beer with Captain Morgan’s and listened to music as we transformed the boring 1980s dorm room into the Taj Mahal .  You walk in and there is a desk with our mini fridge on it and the drawers of the desk, is our “pantry.”  Our “living room is one step away and consists of 3 chairs and a tall cabinet that has our 24 inch TV in it and a door that when you open it, holds our tea and coffee collection. On the top of it is our “party disco lights” to make things fun in the room.  Then is Sarah’s closest and “dressing room” that we created with a tapestry.  To the right of that is our sink, mirror and make up/hair station.  The back of my closet is there and on it is a tapestry that has a view of the sky and stars through it, it reminds me of camping and every time I see it, I smile.  We hung 2 sheer curtains, one is a maroon color, the other is like a royal purple color to the entrance of our “bedroom” and across those curtains are a string of Buddhist prayer flags.  Sarah’s bed is to the left and my bed is on the right.  We both have sheets and blankets from home, just to feel a little more comfy and at home, this is our home.  we hung fairy lights all around our ceiling for a little more light and we do have a window, but its completely blacked out with a black out curtain, a gray wool blanket and a World map tapestry on top of it, to make it more girlie.  We share a bathroom and shower with a co-worker and their room is known as the Hilton.  Its a sweet set-up, but not as sweet as ours.

The food is not bad actually, at least not yet, but its only day 8 and I know that eventually I will be over it.  We don’t pay for food here, its all provided to us.  There is breakfast, lunch and dinner and all night pizza available.  And actually the pizza is not that bad, its no NJ or artisan pizza, but its good for the ice!  There is not a lot of “fresh food” here, like salads and stuff, unless a C17 can land with it and it actually makes it on the plane.  One would think that fresh fruits and veggies would make it on a plane, but that is not always the case, when it does, the station gets so excited, I’ve only had salad once since being here, but we do currently have oranges and bananas.

There are 2 bars here, Southern Exposure and Gallagher’s.  Its funny because they are literally right next to each other.  you just have to cross a little bridge to go from one to the other, because of piping that runs in that area.  Beers are cheap, I think 2$ or 3$.  But what I do know is that mixed drinks are 4$ for a single and 8$ for a double.  And lucky for me, they have Tito’s vodka and tonic, and my first sip always reminds me of my friend Mandy, I wish I could bring her here!  I’ve gone to the bar a few times and its a lot of fun.  The bars close at 11pm Sunday to Friday and close at midnight on Saturday night.  On Sunday from 10am-1pm they have a Bloody Mary bar, I have yet to go, I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.

So my job, a lot of people have asked me about this.  I work for Raytheon, a military contractor.  On the Ice, I work for SOPP (SPAWAR Office of Polar Programs) SOPP deals directly with weather forecasting, air traffic control, flight following, base operations, systems maintenance, systems engineering, and information security services.  I am the Logistics person for them here on the ice, which is exactly what I did when I was in the military.  I love my job here.  Our building is directly on “the beach.”  McMurdo Sound starts to break up later in the season and an IceBreaker will come here to deliver a lot of property to the station.  Right now, McMurdo Sound is a frozen road that snowmobiles and other lighter vehicles can use, to quickly get down to the airfield.

One thing that has and is still taking some getting used too…the SUN.  IT IS UP ALL DAY LONG.  Its crazy, its weird, its confusing but I kind of really like it.  It doesn’t bother me in my room, because my window is covered up, but leaving the bar at 11pm really messes with you.  Leaving the gym at 9pm and its as bright at it is at noon, its funky.  8 days ago, 17 October, at 11pm, it was kind of dusk like.  3 days ago, that all changed.  The sun will not fully set again until some time in March.

Another fun thing to remember is that in Northern Hemisphere, its the fall.  Down here its the Spring.  Two days ago it was -21F and today its 7F and oddly it feels hot.  You don’t need to wear a hood or gloves.  Tomorrow, our max temp is 23F.  The weather changes so quickly.  I’m sure we will drop below zero.  If anyone is curious, the hottest day EVER on Antarctica was in March 24, 2015 where it hit 63.5F at Argentina’s Esperanza Base.

 

 

Finally left New Zealand and made it to the Ice

16 October 2018–Its time to pack my room up, we have found out that its time to go!  We have a couple day window to get out of here before another storm could potentially hit Antarctica.  But first I need to FaceTime my son.  We chat for 30 minutes and laugh and talk about him trekking the USA this summer in his camper van that he will be purchasing soon.  I’m so proud of him.  He desires to travel and see the world before settling down and even then, he doesn’t want to stop, he wants to travel and have his children homeschooled. It takes bravery to not follow the “societal norms” that is practically forced fed to people.  At 20 he has found his authentic self, what parent wouldn’t be proud of that, thinking about it, makes my heart so happy.  Noah has always been my rock, he is just one of  a couple people that just can look me in the eyes and say “its going to be ok, this adventure you can share with your grandchildren and great grandchildren” and I believe him and a calm comes over me.  I’m going to miss talking to him and learning from him, for he is wise.

17 October 2018–4am, beep beep beep.  Well today is the day! Holy crap, I’m going to Antarctica!  I have a few things to do before we depart, but most importantly I NEED to FaceTime my husband.  We chat for 35 minutes, it was pretty emotional, I wont be able to see any of my families faces till I come home and that hurts. (there is no Wi-Fi and the speeds are slower then the old AOL days) This is Cody’s first time experiencing me leaving for a deployment and my children’s 8th.

Now to get dressed and pack my last few things, message my mom, relax and try not to let my anxiety get the best of me.  The shuttle arrives at 530am and I need to check out of the hotel room that I’ve called home for the last 15 days, because of the weather issues at McMurdo Station.

We arrive at the USAP CDC (United States Antarctica Program/Clothing Distribution Center), now its time to grab out orange arctic bag that is full of our ECWs (extreme cold weather gear) put it on and take our bags to check in for our flight.  I checked 2 bags in for our flight and my entire stay, and I kept my The North Face Ruck pack as a boomerang bag and another bag with just a few small items.

Now its time to say “I’ll see you later” to my daughter on FaceTime.  My poor baby girl has been sick for 2 days and hasn’t been at school for 2 days either, I’d give anything to be at home with her, to take care of her and make her feel better.  We chat for 20 minutes and talk about her and her boyfriend, what’s going on at school and our puppies.  I told her I’ll chat in a little, because we have a safety video to watch about our flight today.  After that video, we were released for an hour and the 3 other people that I work with, precede straight to the nearby coffee shop for our last “good coffee” for a while and snack.  As always, I order a white chocolate latte with almond milk and vanilla flavoring and a berry coconut chia pudding  with sliced almonds on top, knowing that I wont have something like this for a while.  Then we head to the local grocery store, the Countdown, and picked up some manuka creamed honey, crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam, and a bunch of amazing chocolate candy bars.  We picked this things up because we have very limited resources down there…anything to make life better, and it will keep you smiling when you’re away from family and friends.

Time to see my baby girls’ face just one more time, this time the tears flow and it hits me that its going to be a little while before I see her again.  My heart is breaking  and I want to go home, I feel conflicted but I have a job to go do but I  want to go to Antarctica, its such a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Katelyn is watery eyed, she tells me to stop crying and that she is proud of me getting this job and that I’m “going to have quite the adventure” and that she can’t wait to see me when I come home.  How is she become so brave and smart at the age of 16?  I love her!  She is a true little spirit.

2 hours into the flight, I decide to get out of the  jump seat of the C-17 from McChord AFB, there are about 100 seasonal personnel one the plane.  I want to look out of the window.  Some people are sleeping, while others are eating or reading.  Not much chatter on the plane, I’m curious what people are thinking, are they anxious, scared and excited like I am?   This is my first season on the ice and hopefully not my last. I already feel like I’m going to be drawn to the beauty and “harsh conditions” of Antarctica.  As I’m walking to the window to look out, I wonder what I’ll see.  I kind of hope to see a blue ocean.  People smile as I walk by and I curious of their own personal stories on why they are going and what is their job down there and if I’ll see them around “town”

I look out of the window and its white, like I can only look for 2 seconds white, its so blinding.  I sit back down in my seat and eat a pretty good sandwich that USAP personnel handed to us as we boarded the plane.  Its just white bread, thinly sliced carrots, arugula, ham and cheese and some sort of dilly mustard.  I drink my San Pellegrino and realized I wont be able to have another one till I come home…damn it, I should of picked up several more bottles to bring with me.

The C-17 crew now tells us that we are one hour from landing and its time to get rid of garbage and put our seat belts on, I was almost asleep.  After hearing that, my heart starts pumping with excitement, holy crap I’m almost there! I eat a piece of chocolate caramel goodie and I notice a line of people taking pictures out at the blinding white.  I could put the wrapper in my backpack but I decide to get up and toss it and take look at the window.  3 people, 2 people…I look and I’m speechless.  As far as the eye can see, there are mountains covered in snow or it is glaciers?  I have no idea but what I do know is that every minute we get closer to landing the more excited I get.  I already know that once I take in my first froze breathe, I will be in love and cry tears of joy!

The runway that we land on is like no other runway in the world.  Its on water, the ice is 1 mile thick and its the Phoenix airfield, there is hard packed snow on top of it from the past several years and it is as hard as asphalt.  Its on the ice shelf.  December through the end of January, no large aircrafts (C-17 or airbuses) can land on it, it softens up because it warms up here (20-28F).  If a plane landed during that time, the tires would put ruts in the snow that are 2-3 inches deep.  So C-130s land on our other run way, Williams field.

3pm when we finally get off the plane, its cold, -34C/-29.2F, but honestly it doesn’t feel that bad.  My first breathe truly took my breath way, the hairs in my nostrils froze almost immediately. The clouds have formed a low ceiling, snow is everywhere. I can’t see much but what I can see can only be described as perfectly untouched and extraordinary.

I’ve FINALLY made it to Antarctica.