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Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 24 November 2005

November 24, 2005

McMurdo was gray and overcast last night. This morning the station was covered in a dusting of about three-quarters of an inch of powdery snow. It was beautiful.

There is a scheduled flight tonight at midnight. Sounds late, but remember the sun doesnít set. I think it is a long flight tonight or later 2AM. All trips in the plane require that one takes their ECW and complete snow or happy camper school. Even though you didnít ask, there is no bathroom on the plane. The polite word for the device used is chamber pot, but everyone here says pee bottle. It is plastic and has a screw on top, so it seals in an often bumpy flight. Enough said.

I strolled about town after working on the snow-sniffer (works fine!). The first stop was the firehouse. Firemen and Firewomen are responsible for a great number of things. At first, it might strike you as odd that there is a firehouse. However, remember that Antarctica is a desert, windy, and the station has all kinds of things to burn. If there is a fire, water has to be drawn from the total supply purified for the town, and if the power station burns, then the station or water plant needs to be evacuated in one or two days. There is little margin for error in Antarctica. In addition, to their fire fighting responsibilities, firemen let people into their rooms when they lose keys, clean oil and other spills, attend aircraft arrivals and departures in case of a disaster, and the list goes on.

I continued my set of errands and went to the post office. It was there I met LaVonne H. Weber. I asked her about mail service in Antarctica. The shipping point in the States to and from Antarctica is San Francisco. Mail takes about three weeks to travel in either direction.. It costs the same to mail things here as it does back home. Mail arrives irregularly, with emergency transport and National Science Foundation (NSF) receiving priority. Four hundred pounds of mail arrived from the States last week.

Injuries happen, and people do get sick in Antarctica. If one needs medical care, there is the McMurdo Community Hospital. It is a small facility, but for more intense care, one is flown to New Zealand. Sometimes, it is not physical tending that people need, but spiritual time. The McMurdo Chapel is open to one and all. It overlooks McMurdo Sound. From it, over the transition (ice/ground area), one can see over the airport to the Transantarctic Mountains. The highest one tops 13,000 feet. It does make one contemplate the bigger picture.

Off to get a 12 foot bamboo pole with a red flag on it. Everything is flagged for safety. If there isnít a marked trail, or a flag trail (red or green), one should not go there. Casual walks in unmarked areas can be catastrophic. Search teams will look for you, but a foolish decision about not following rules and doing your own thing, can result in injury or death to you or rescuers. To say the least, this is frowned upon. By the way, two other flag colors are important to know. Black flags indicate danger, do not go there. An example of proper black flag use is to warn of crevasses. They are a constant source of danger. The other color flag is yellow. It is typically used as the indication for an outdoor field station pee site. There was someone on my happy camper school who seemed to be working on losing a popularity contest. He dug a stench for a shelter, and did a nice job at it. It took everything I knew to prevent myself (I wasnít alone in this.) from moving the pee flag to the edge of his trench once he fell asleep. For the record, I didnít do itÖ

A minor thing struck me as I came back into the building today. All exterior building doors are very sturdy here. About half resemble industrial-size freezer door handles. In tropical and temperate climates, refrigerators are used to cool things, thick doors and sturdy handles prevent the inflow of heat. Here, in Antarctica, the cold surrounds us everywhere and the door keeps the heat in and the cold out!

I talked with my wife (Barbara) and daughter (Carsen Lee) on the phone today. It is great to talk with them. It is hard to hang up. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the States. We will celebrate on Saturday night. Saturday morning I am going to participate in the Turkey Trot run/walk, eat, and I signed up to scrub pots and pans in the evening. I would like to think that a cafeteria worker could get the time off. Staff works hard here. Tonight, I plan to go over to the Kiwi Station (New Zealand) station named after Scott. I plan doing a bit of shopping, and having a bit of adult time.

Take care of one another! mp