Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 22 November 2005November 22, 2005
As I remember, today was the date in 1963 that President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. It was a sad day, to be followed by the death of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.
I toured the kitchen at McMurdo Station. McMurdo personnel are fueled by the food prepared by folks in the kitchen. Nearly four thousand meals are served daily. Meals are planned over a year in advance, and eight to ten thousand pounds of fruits and vegetables are flown in weekly from New Zealand. Everything has to be flown in or shipped in. As always, the individuals working in the kitchen come from diverse backgrounds. I met a chemistry/physics teacher (unbelievable isnít it?) preparing cut fruit, a chef who lived in Atlanta for ten years and worked at the Hyatt downtown (He was also a chief in Yellowstone National Park!), and a baker from Schenectady, NY (not far from where I went to college). The kitchen, even at the height of the breakfast crowd is spotlessly clean and organized. In addition to restocking breakfast, preparation for lunch, dinner, and the upcoming Thanksgiving feast (which occurs on Saturday to give most personnel on base a two day vacation) was occurring. Heck, I even got a kitchen hat to take home.
Today I introduced myself to Sandra Southerland an air traffic controller at McMurdo. Sandra is African-American. We shared breakfast time together. Quiet, and reserved, but as the conversation proceeded she proved to have a quick wit and a wry sense of humor.
Sandra is a former Navy air traffic controller whose first assignment was in the Indian Ocean at Diego Garcia helping to land military jets and transports. She hails from West Palm Beach, Florida. She has a husband and an eighteen month old daughter. She views this experience (which she has tried for three years to get) as a great opportunity, and a stepping stone to bigger things. She misses her family dearly, and emails or calls daily. Concerns she didnít have in Diego, but has in McMurdo, include the periodic penguin walking across the runway, or the leopard sea sticking its nose through its entry hole.
I asked her straight-up about opportunities for minorities and women. She said there are great openings for both, but education and hard work are the keys. To be an air traffic controller, one must complete a five to six year program in college, or gain entry to the profession through the armed services. It was breakfast, and she didnít want her picture taken, but she invited me down to the tower today for a tour and said she would then. Iíll be there!
I got to the air traffic control tower about 3:00 pm just in time to see a C-130 landing on its trip from the pole. Sandra directed the plane in. It was quite a sight to see this big plane land. Next up was our Twin Otter for take-off. I got lucky, and it was Sandraís turn again. The plane looked so little compared to the C-130. Peopleís lives depend on the quality of work done by the controllers. After a brief tour of the inside of the facility, we said good-bye and parted. The pilots, crews, and planes seemed to be in good hands.
On the way out Building 155, I stopped by the radio station fm 104.5. McMurdo is a microcosm of everything we have in the states. People like to carry their culture with them. Building 155 epitomizes this and is the social hub of the station. It holds the cafeteria, a dormitory, recreation facilities, base store, library, computers, etc. It is so busy that the central hallway is called Highway One. There is always something to do or explore in Building 155 or leading from it.