Dec 8th – Day 342 on Ice

Weather: Warm, variable skies. Temps got up to -5F yesterday! That’s damn warm! But windy, with winds around 20knts. Skies cleared up today.

Well. Later today I am expected to do my ‘Bag Drag’ – where anyone leaving on a flight has to bring their bags to be weighed before the flight. This makes the prospect of going home all the more real. After bags are weighed, any checked bags are stored for loading on the plane. I actually checked a bag for yesterday’s flight because our flight is full and may be nearing it’s weight capacity. So most of my stuff is sitting in McMurdo already!

After bag drag at 9am, I have a weekly update telecon and then lots of telescope greasing to do before my flight arrives (hopefully) tomorrow Dec 9th to take me North to McMurdo. I’m not sure what the weather forecasts are, but there is only going to be one more northbound C-130 going from McM to CHC before mid-late January. I believe it’s supposed to arrive in McM on Dec 14th, so I’d be heading North on the 15th… but we’ll see – seems to be an extra-ordinarily “play-it-by-ear” sort of year.

Last weekend we got to celebrate Thanksgiving (we pushed it back so we could be in level green; i.e. no social distancing necessary) and the Galley crew once again knocked it out of the park… One of my favorite things about the South Pole!

Getting ready to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving with 2020 winterovers Geoff (right, of Australia) and myself (center left), and 2021 winterovers Matt (left, of Australia and most recently Canada) and Sasha (middle right)…. I’m looking like a degenerate and drinking a Coors because the pre-dinner cocktail contained apple cider, which I’m allergic to unfortunately.

As exciting as the prospect of being home is, I’m also a little sad to be leaving South Pole. It’s been my home for the last 11 months (almost to the day — I arrived on Jan 4th), and it’s been a trying and difficult winter at times. I made some new friends, shared lots of laughter, and lots of tears. Went through some dark times (both literally and mentally/emotionally) but also have a lot more fond memories. I don’t know what survival mechanism it is that allows you to forget the bad and remember the good memories, but I’m definitely going to miss our winter here. It’s very different from any summer at Pole. Much calmer, much more intimate and much more relaxed in many ways. You build habits and do the same thing every day; one might say you become institutionalized… But it’s an experience not many people get to experience (though with COVID I’d bet a lot of people felt pretty isolated this year). I think I’m somewhere around the 1600th person to ever have wintered over at Pole… It’s a pretty small club formed here at the end of the Earth.

As much as I would love to stay, there is someone I’ve left behind and I can’t bear to be without any longer! I can’t wait to reconnect with my fiance and hear what life was like during a worldwide pandemic, unfortunately being at home alone… though I expect I will learn very quickly since the US is in the midst of the worst outbreak yet. It was hard to be here, away from everything and knowing I had left her for this year which turned out to be very isolating to people at home who had not signed up for a year-long isolation, as I did.

Anyway, I can’t wait to be back in warmer weather (any temperature above zero will suffice!), and to be back with Polly in our house and to describe our year apart and to regain some normalcy. I think I’ve grown a lot as a person and I’m ready to tackle life’s challenges… or maybe just start writing a thesis… who knows. Maybe I’ll just take some time and go running or biking around. Even the short time I’ll get in NZ before the flight back to the US will be well spent exploring the outdoors, probably getting really sunburnt. The world is my oyster :). Whatever that means.

All for now. Let’s hope a plane comes on Wednesday!

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