‘Straya…

Time for a cheery post!

Really!

It’s the day after Australia Day 2018 at Davis Station, and the sheer lack of people at 7am is unsurprising (considering how the evening was shaping up when I bailed at 11pm)

Australia Day for us is a bit like the 4th of July in the USA, and it can get just as bogan…interesting. It’s a day of celebration or mourning, depending on whether you came on a boat or walked here. (don’t even start)

So lets blog…catch up…shoot the shit…chew the fat…how are you? Whats new? I’m well…thanks for asking.

Deciding not to hide out, and having a rare 3 days in a row off, Australia Day 2018 began pretty damn well with a sleep in and a quiet breakfast overlooking the cranky penguin molting on the bottom steps of the LQ and Mess.

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This little fella was not happy and had solidly planted himself in THE single most inconvenient place in the entire station to start his summer molt. These guys will just pick a random spot and plonk themselves down for days, squarking the crap out of anyone that comes close, his little penguin body language saying it all – “just F*ck off and leave me alone”.

Most people here can relate as its getting to the pointy end of the season.

We cant just shoo them off, so being the environmentally aware crew that we are, he was quickly ‘hatted off’ and left to his own devices as the people here in station began to wander in for breakfast and prepare for the Australia Day festivities.

So…what would today bring?

Well apart from Terry the Plumber begin a massive media sensation back home and in the UK ( his Australian citizenship ceremony was performed here on Wednesday, which apparently was only the second time in history it’s happened down in Antarctica), we had the Olympic Games – Antarctic style.

A full program for the sporty types : the Davis Inaugural Olympic Games comprising of a dazzling array of team sporting events on the beach in sizzling sub zero weather and grey skies followed by cricket in the Green Store. It was a teams event and a veritible united nations of countries represented.

For the non-sporties or the generally disinterested, I ran up Crocodile Dundee and then Crackerjack in the theatrette for an afternoon of Aussie themed comedy – basically on autoplay.

Today it is bloody freezing outside, no sun with 20 knot winds and a wind chill down to -7.  Cold enough to cancel the traditional Australia Day swim (much to the relief of many).

Making a wise decision to actually watch the Olympics from the comfort of the leather lounges, heating and open bar of the upper living area I was quickly joined by a non-sportie crew to watch the fun and games through the large bay windows overlooking the beach.

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So began the 5 hours or so of merciless commentary from our impromptu peanut gallery: a veritable “This Sporting Life” with Roy and HG  – Antarctic style.

‘Best Public Urination’ was hotly contested, as was ‘Craziest Penguin Attack’, ‘Most Hypothermic Competitor’, and ‘Shittest Long Jump’.

As the afternoon ground on, the pace slowed even more but the fun continued :  ‘Worst Tunnelball Throw’ was a nailbiter; ‘Longest Lingering Butt Slap’, ‘Most Homoerotic Male Wrestling’, and “Most Unneccesary Touching”  drew big crowds; and finally ‘Best Team Desertion’ and ‘Most Imaginative Buggering Off Home’ brought the afternoon to an shivering anticlimax.

(Of course our proudest day wouldn’t be complete without that old familiar chestnut: muscular bearded men and women in tights sports skins running around wearing Australian flags as capes)

Needless to say I will NOT be posting the videos. They may have to be burned.

Hmmm on second thought…could be useful!

I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for a long time and actually had trouble filming the events (must remember to wipe the audio)  as I was constantly having to wipe tears from my eyes from laughing too much as we tore shreds of the unfortunate and mildly hypothermic competitors freezing to death on the frosty beach below.

Heheheh….Suckers <sips beer, eats microwaved Vegemite and Cheese scroll, puts feet up>

Much like the real Olympics though, the Davis version was overly long and unnecessarily cruel. Case in point  – the last event : The Marathon.

After 5 torturous competitive hours in the cold, team champions were subjected to a series of situps/pushup challenges and then a almost-2 Km marathon sprint with a 10KG weight to bring back from the half way turnaround point – WTF!! Might as well kicked them in the groin as well just for fun.

A few competitors are still running. One stopped to have a leak. Several sorta slinked away and hid behind shipping containers til the pack returned. Many were tackled by boozy overexcited teammates on the way back. I’m fairly certain at least one person cried.

You can imagine the scene I’m sure.

Fortunately everyone that survived the beach had a great time and proudly wore their Gold Silver and Bronze medals way into the evening.

Overall it was  a massive success and absolutely frickin’ hilarious to watch.

Around 5pm, after the hordes descended on the Mess for dinner and then hit the bar the party got started with a home-baked “Hottest 100” put together by Sammy S (her 30th birthday as well  – Happy Birthday Sam!) and favourites chosen by Expeditioners and beamed out over slushy Fm (one of our local FM transmitters) – an eclectic collection of music ranging from death metal to electronic pop with a shit ton of 90s alt rock and “classic hits” that got most of the crowd up and singing.

Then as per every Australia day ever, the booze flowed, people loosened up and the evening started to get sloppy as expected (myself included). People start tackling each other, the darts comp starts to throw from 10 metres through a crowd, the volume of the conversations increase to drown our the music which then increases to overcome the volume of the conversation…we’ve all been there.

But it was really so much fun to get involved and chat/talk shit and just relax.

The tempo of the evening started to ramp up, people were getting sillier and looser, the conversation getting less conversational, voices raised, music louder and louder…

At one point a Canadian kicked the blow up Boxing Kangaroo across the room. That drew some bristles immediately. Right about then I thought there may be blood and that possibly it was time to go.

Then, rather dramatically around 10pm, the main powerhouse went down and we suddenly were plunged in silence and darkness.

Kerchunk.

Uh oh.

No lights. No heating. No tunes. OH SHIT the beer fridges are out.

The on call sparkies rallied and swarmed out to see what had happened.

The emergency lights came on and the dim lights flickered into life.

Whey heyyyyy!…the party continued.

The IPA on tap ran out, then the cider, then the XPA, then the bottles. Out came the personal spirits stashes, the mixes got stronger and the party tempo increased yet again.

In the band room the local Davis musos grabbed guitars and drums and whatever else could make a sound and started jamming (awesome),  a lone stumpy figure dressed in a walrus onesie – lamenting the demise of the MP3 PC playing the music – started howling singing his own selection of indecipherable songs at the top of his lungs (and apparently didn’t stop til 3am).

We should have the power out more often!

Then the old ‘one beer too may’ syndrome kicked, in and moderately drunk Jamie arrived around 10.30pm.

I think someone asked me to fix a non-booting computer and, after just been jarred that all I do is turn computers off and on,  I told them (perhaps a little too earnestly) to fix it themselves (exact words were possibly “you have a brain, eyes and a finger – follow the instructions and fix it yourself then – I’m off duty”)

‘Nicely done” said my little monkey autopilot “now give them the finger”

yeaaaah…

Classy.

Time to go to bed, Jamie


Eqilogue

So bright and early today, 6.30am I’m proud to say, I arose bright and sparkly, no hangover, no ill effects , and a after having a great nights sleep wandered down for breakfast just in time to see the Aurora Australis sail/steam/chug into Prydz Bay to begin our emergency water supply transfer.

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I haven’t seen the ship since she left back in November, and the sight of her bright orange hull is such a startling contrast to the whites of the ice and the blue of the ocean.

Davis water supplies here, being in the largest ice-free area in the Antarctic, are adequate but relatively small – our Reverse Osmosis plant is broken and they cant fix it, so we cant produce our own water and supplies are low. The ship has been diverted from Mawson resupply operation to transfer her water to us and supplement our supply for winter.

So today is looking good : I’ve bailed out of the hiking trip out to Brooks Hut (for various reasons I wont go into but strangely still feel the need to mention – you know I’m DYING to say), and going to spend the day taking photos around station of the water transfer, and chillaxing.

My biggest problem today so far is that they’ve ran out of Vegemite AND Jatz crackers.

Devastating lack of post-hangover saltiness and looks of horror and disappointment abound as the news spreads around station.

Thank God it wasn’t yesterday.

That would have been absolutely unacceptably un-Australian.


*Still here?

Good News!

My funkiness has passed finally, after a solid week of “MEH”.

I think i just needed to blow off some steam and relax for a change. Last night did the trick.

It easy to forget how stressful this environment is 24/7 and its effects creep up on you slowly but surely. No-one is spared and everyone can get as taught as a piano wire at times.

Something to remember in the future : must make time to really let go of things and chill.

It’s ok to lock yourself away for a little while but overall being around your team and co-workers really is the best medicine to deal with the funky stuff.

…and always remember to breathe.

 

 

 

…next

Only a few weeks left now before getting on the big red boat and sailing back to Hobart.

I don’t know how I feel about that yet … seems a little unreal … to contemplate the relative normal of day to day again just when I’m just getting used to this new version of life.

Anyway…still time to explore and enjoy this world.

One thing that is surprising is that I can’t seem to write any more. There’s nothing bubbling up that’s neither interesting or constructive. Just a grey blandness that’s creeping in and I resort to cheap tricks to distract.

See! Sheer laziness.

Plenty of photo ops and hikes, movie nights and opportunity for getting involved – I just couldn’t really give a damn and more than a little funked up.

The 3 day hike with 2 new travel buddies was just the right amount of time and people for me…superb company and an exception to the daily rule of chit chat and polite nonsense but the daily inane and trivial conversation is just dulling and I can’t be bothered (even though I’m as guilty of it as the next person)

Still trying though…

Volunteered to fill in as a Hagg driver for Fire Team 1 for example, and spent last week looking after the hydroponics garden, and anything interesting that pops up. Didn’t make any difference.

Just not feeling it. Enthusiasm comes and goes in waves.

I know what it is and yes, I’m working on it. (You’d think 2 years and half a planet would be enough)

It’s time to move on…

So what’s next? I have absolutely no idea.

Applied for next season ( not wintering this year), put my hand up for the Comms Tech officer on the Macquarie Island resupply voyage – it sails out 3 days after we sail into Hobart – but that only staves off the inevitable for another 2 weeks or so.

Then I’m free-falling again.

Half baked plans to go here and there but nothing concrete I can plan around.

Impermanence is great and all that once you understand and embrace it but uncertainty can really fuck you up.

Meh…

Dinner time.

*it’s snowing!!!! That helps … a wander in the snow is just the ticket I think 🙂

**nup – let’s try a movie – The Dish!

***nup – let’s try bed and 30 Rock 🤘

****yup – better now

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…silent night

Sorry I haven’t been writing much – its hard to find the motivation lately and although I don’t have much to say, I do have a lot on my mind.

I’ll try little bits and pieces to restoke the creative fires.

So here goes…

It’s Sunday night and I’m settling in for the start of ‘Star Wars Sundays’ – a little something I’ve cooked up as a bit of a Star Wars celebrations now that ‘The Last Jedi’ is released and we’ve got SFA chance of seeing it in the cinemas.

Tonight I’m kicking off the season with Rogue One in our little Theatrette here at Davis Research Station.

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This is primarily to try to get past this feeling of isolation – an ‘aloneness’ that’s crept in over the past few days – despite being constantly surrounded by people its easy to get lost in the crowd here. I’ve been avoiding people a bit – the library and theatre have been a great place to hide out in the dark.

Hopefully being surrounded by fellow Star wars geeks will help.

Also its Christmas time – my least favourite time of the year at the best of times (for many reasons) driven home by being away from whats left of my family (which usually doesn’t bother me), and this creeping icy aloneness thing I mentioned.

It’s an old enemy but I know a few tricks.

I do miss my small circle of friends though. Facebook messenger doesn’t quite cut it but its all there is really.

We got the last pre-Christmas Mail in the other day – the station excitement levels were ramped up as gifts and cards and such arrived from friends, family and loved ones back home. It made me all too aware of the gaps in my life I guess and it really kicked my funk off.

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Christmas …meh.

Anyway..

Lets talk about the wind.

Its been blowing a technical blizzard here since Saturday evening – a howling, shrieking gale gusting up to 80 knots and strong enough to take you off your feet. There is no break in its fury, except for the occasional cyclonic gust that blasts your face with driven snow , dust and gravel. It drives you backwards and forwards and sideways with every step.

You don’t lean into this wind, you lean ON it. Hard.

You grab walls and handrails. People next to you. Vehicles. Signposts. Penguins.

You shuffle your feet, head bowed, less this bastard wind takes your leg away mid step and throws you to the stony ground.

Get the picture? It’s a bit windy.

I saw a guy taken by the wind yesterday, and if not for a quick jacket-grab from his colleague, he would have been blown down to the dock.

And then there’s the visceral unearthly sound of it.

It howls and rages around the stairwells and guy lines and radio masts, it shrieks and slams into the buildings with a relentless crash and smash, throwing anything not tied down into the air like a demented poltergeist: it’s endless assault setting up harmonic vibrations that make all of the manmade structures shiver and shake and rattle and groan. Its almost impossible to sleep.

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…and it’s effect on the landscape here is stunning and immediate.

There is barely any snow left here now, its been atomised and blown to the ends of the earth. Whats left is buried under a crusty brown layer of dirt.

The dust has been swept from the ground, blasted into our faces like a gritty horizontal hail, until theres nothing left to strip away. With its unsatiated appetite for destruction, the wind vents it’s frustration on the earth and starts to carve its way into the Antarctic bedrock.

A frightening force of nature and a reminder of how dangerous Mother Earth can be.

**MASSIVE fun though to jump INTO the wind and be carried along although I’ve almost come undone a few times now 🙂

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The most surprising effect for me is how quickly it erodes and rots the sea ice.

The islands we walked to last weekend, accessible by ice 1.8 meters thick, are now surrounded by open ocean again. Whitecaps 15 feet high pound the edges of the sea ice, dust and dirt cover the once blue-green ice, increasing the rate of melt.

It’ll be all gone in the next few days if this keeps up, but the positive thing to take away is that once the ice is gone, boat trips up to 3nm out to sea become a possibility. It’ll mark the return of the Elephant Seal colonies, and the penguins will leave their rookery and hunt in packs/swarms/huddles in the open ocean (whatever the Hell a group of Penguins is called)

Bring on the iceberg cruises!

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*Anchorage Island – the central memorial cross has been torn away by the wind

So what else is new?

Well I just came off 2 days of survival training that was great fun and an amazing learning opportunity.

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Choppered out to a remote Hut where a small team of us practiced our Sea Ice survival and rescue skills, drilling sea ice samples for depth and research…

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…and finally a 18Km death march with full pack and navigation exercises in some of the most rugged and remote country I’ve ever been in.

Well…apart from Australia I guess.

IMG_5633*heading down to Deep lake in the Vestfold Hills. Saltier than the Dead Sea.

Apparently much of it looks like remote areas in Canada, although Ive never been so will have to take our training officers word for it. What do you reckon?

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I’d think not.

IMG_5630 (1)*traversing some massive blizztails and snow drifts on the way home

But it sure is pretty though  🙂

We hiked and dug our evening ‘graves’, slept deep in the snow in our ‘chip packets” – basically a yellow ripstop plastic bag, a thin foam mat and a down sleeping bag, using our packs for pillows.

It was much warmer than you’d think.

Sleeping out under the open Antarctic sky, in the endless daylight and complete absence of sound was something that ill never forget. It was an eerie quiet, with barely a breath of wind, or whisper of sound from anywhere.

2am I awoke, but even this early hour brought only the occasional whistle of a hunting snow petrel or rustle of a chip packet as a team mate stirred but that was all.

A deathly silent night.

We could have easily been on the moon, or in the vaccuum of space, or deep deep deep underwater. This place was completely alien, completely silent and completely entrancing.

IMG_5623*Digging in for the night – its 9pm

IMG_5626*our cosy snow ‘graves’ for the night.

We hiked the long and arduous 18kms back through this incredibly alien landscape using a compass and map, through glacier carved valleys crisscrossed by black dykes of rock, around snow melt lakes so salty you could float in them, and deep powdery snowdrifts waiting to swallow you up.

I was completely out of my element…

IMG_5619*black rock dykes crisscross the landscape – different molten rock types flowed and cooled at different speeds to form this unusual landscape

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…and in absolute heaven.

Hey maybe I should write more often 🙂 i feel better already.

to be continued…

…blur

Its easy to lose track of time when there is no discernible difference between day and night – its all the same here. Just a small variation in the quality of the light. Bright midday sun all day long heightened by the constant blazing glare off the snowcover and the glistening ice, softening to a false dusk and then shortly after its sunrise again.

Good Morning means nothing here – it’s just Good Day. Every day.

I can’t sleep so I’m blogging. It is Sunday after all.

The biggest surprise of today is that the snow here is very very dry – the driest I’ve ever seen but that’s not saying much since I’ve seen so little – like when melting water from fresh snow apparently its take almost twice as much snow to make half the amount of water…or something like that…math was never my thing.

You can pick it up in your hand and your hand doesn’t even get wet – so weird. It feels…chalky.

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Black ice is everywhere (I know what that is now, as Ive never really seen it or understood what it was before) and several people have slipped and hurt themselves already – its treacherous and tricky to walk around outside especially as the rocky landscape is angular and unstable at the best of times. Add crusty honeycombed snow cover and black ice everywhere, its a real gamble just walking about. There’s a a chance that if you slip and break your arm/leg  before the ship leave that you have to go home, so people are walking on eggshells outdoors just in case.

The environment down here is magical and the record 22 winter blizzards have left their mark. Rapidly melting snowdrifts and crystal clear icicles form random art installations sculpted by the summer sun – this place is almost a natural modern art gallery now. In a month or two it’ll all be gone though – even the sea ice. The curiosity of a endless static snowfield replaced by the open ocean, returning penguin colonies and the local elephant seal population roaring away in a nearby wallow. Unless a summer blizzard comes 🙂 I kind hope it does.

How fortunate do I feel to have this unique opportunity? – very.

I’m starting to go out more and more to explore the station limits on my own (its been too busy otherwise). Tomorrow I’m going to walk out on the sea ice, head out to the ship before she sails on Tuesday. It’ll be odd to see the Aurora Australis sail away as this means I’m an definitely stuck here for the duration – its a very final feeling. But then the real expedition starts, and the specialist science and engineering teams will head out into the field and do their thing. The real work begins.

You can see everyone bonding already here – most people seem to know each other from previous expeditions – but its a place that really fosters mateship and everyone is very open and friendly, at least so far. I can see how people keep trying to come back time and time again. I’m trying to make friends but I’m a team of one and a feel a bit like the last one picked at soccer practice at the moment. It’s my school formal all over again. Being super friendly and uncomfortably sociable so hopefully that’s gonna help break in.

I sent some postcards today – the last post went at 7.30pm from the old Post Office here at Davis – a small round red and white building that used to be one of the original huts build on Heard Island in 1957. It was decommissioned and transported here back in the day, and rescued as the new Post Office – we also have a Postmaster – an official Government role with official stamps and everything. Very weird.

After that I wandered over to the Music Hut / Band Room that they have here to suss out the musical intruments – no left handed guitars as I’d hoped (knew I should have brought one with me) but loads of acoustic, electric, drums, and piano/keyboards. I was hanging in the band room last night doodling around on a guitar and a few of the other guys came in and we stated chatting. There quite a few musicians here this year and If i can restring a guitar lefty-style then I can join in and jam. Should be fun! 🙂

The accommodation here is really cosy and cute – small but comfortable single rooms – I lucked out and got a room with a second bunk so I have a little more storage than most. There’s not enough room to swing a cat but there is just enough for a quiet meditation in the morning and even a little yoga practice!

Where I live is a red two story building about 50 metres from where I work and about 50 metres from where the coffee is, so its pretty damn ideal apart from the massive GODDAMNED GENERATOR next door – lucky my ear plugs are holding up.

*Just now the guy next door is snoring his head off – his time on Earth is short.

The shutters automatically close and lock at 10pm and can’t open til 6am – it scared the crap out of me the first time. There’s a Lidar dome and light sensitive scientific experiments nearby to any ambient light in the evenings if a no-no. Hence the lockdown. It’s a bit like a horror movie when they come down though – feels a bit ‘trappy’.

This week has been a blur really. We are still balls deep into the Resupply operation and been working around the clock – 12 hour rotating shifts to get all of the cargo unloaded, the fuel and water transfer completed, and the Personnel handovers  finished. Ive been really lucky in that I didn’t have duty on resupply ( yay) it that I got flown over. It was so much fun and such a thrill to be flying over the endless ice. As the only IT dude I qualified as critical – I got flown off the ship by chopper days ahead of the bulk of personnel – tickled my ego immensely .

The reality though is that almost EVERYONE that has arrived has had IT issues and that’s been my constant role for the past 3 weeks almost – while cleaning my teeth, while I’m getting dressed, making a coffee, in my room, and even while I’m trying to put a fork full of pasta in my mouth – to sort everyone out immediately and get them operational. Or at least get their Facebook and email to work . Its always fun but as the Internet here is a bare trickle over a heavily oversubscribed satellite link, its now very frustrating – especially constantly explaining to people about procedures and rule while they complain about their Facebook isn’t loading like back home, or instant messaging and Snapchat doesn’t work ( its blocked) or the 200Meg video of a seal they are trying to send to their kids isn’t going through (but why can’t I send it?)

Because we’re in fucking Antarctica.

*i was going to delete this but that didn’t seem honest plus it’s a nice indicator of how tired I was yesterday… enjoy my vitriolic rant. Feel free to skip it though.

Grr <rant begins>

So I explain time and time again – over and over and over “But this is a government network with internet proxies and rules and shit”.

And we’re in fuckin Antarctica.

Meh noone cares and just wants their video to upload. Who cares where we are. Screw corporate data. Fuck meteorological and scientific data upload requirements, I just want my MTV. Where’s my Netflix?

“Why did you block my iphone from the wifi?”.

“Well because you downloaded 4.5 GIG of itunes crap/pirated movies/tv shows over our tax payer funded satellite link in 48 hours during which noone else could use the Internet, dumbass”

“Oh Really? I had no idea”

Yeah right.

Ahh in the good old days of 90’s IT I could get away with telling it like it is . HA!

Now it just becomes “hmmm really?” and then its now my problem to find out why your damn phone/laptop/tablet is doing it, quietly knobble it and not rock the boat.

That’s the public face of what I do here – Phone bitch and Internet wrangler.

That bugs me a little  – yes I know its just ego – but man it REALLY IRKS ME now I think about it.

In an environment full of tradies, Managers and scientists, most people here have two or 3 personal devices (tablet, phone, laptop) and rarely does anyone actually have a clue how to set them up.  Its just “my personal phone/laptop/PC doesn’t work – that’s now your problem Jamie – I don’t need to know how to use something or that I created this issue by ignorance – you just make it work how I want it to IMMEDIATELY).

Behind the scenes I’m looking after systems that everyone relies on but people rarely see or even think about; network administration, managing switches and routers and satellite links, server and systems maintenance, managing active directory, email groups and operations, system integrity, backups, printers, voip and telephone systems, data security, redundancy and disaster recovery – but none ever sees all that . Its the curse that comes with any IT role – you only become visible when something breaks and only important for the time it takes you to fix it, and then back into your little cupboard you go.

<rant ends>

Grrr. This is why I dislike IT work now – it also irks me and makes me curse a lot. I’ve tried to get out but it just keeps dragging me back in. Like the freakin mafia.

Maybe next year, eh?

ANYWAY the long voyage and then working 10 days straight is making me cranky and its a bit like groundhog day at the moment here. Work/sleep/work. The ship leaves on Tuesday and then (rumor has it) well get 3 days off and the bar will be open.

Well deserved beers for all AND hopefully none will ask me to fix their phone when the bar opens, cos after a few beers it’ll probably end up lodged in a penguins arse. Or theirs.

Tomorrow is another day…maybe a more positive post then, but remember this blog is also for my benefit as well.

But til then, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens … I’ll simply remember my favourite things and then I won’t feeeel so baaaaaad!

See i feel better already.

🙂

…Antarctic Riviera

I’m here.

After 14 days at sea, sailing though some of the most treacherous and stormy waters on the globe; Internet and Phone free, crammed into a small cabin with my 3 new best friends and challenged by living alongside 100 new coworkers; rattled and shaken and frozen and soaked, thrown about like a kite in a hurricane in 9-12 metre seas, rocked to sleep so hard, having to cling to the mattress to stop being launched out of bed, bored out of my brain at times, overstimulated and restless at others, plus many many MANY sleepless nights but OH MAN!!!! it’s totally been worth it.


“Welcome to the Antarctic Riviera!!!!” yelled the widely grinning bearded dude that greeted us as we alighted from the little red chopper that had ferried us all of 2km and 3 minutes airtime from the ship . Calling out over the scream of its whiny turbine as the blades whirred to a halt just over our heads, the outgoing expeditioner/groundcrew guys were totally stoked to see new faces after a long winter with only the same 18 people for company. 

Taking us single file away from the whistling rotor blades, they posed us for a station photo ( mug shot) and then led us into the converted container cum airport at Davis Station, Antarctica. 

The 6 seater Squirrel took off as soon as we were inside, making a beeline for the bright orange icebreaker resting on the fast ice a few kilometres away to the northeast. Time for the next load of personnel.

All four of us just stared out over the research station, clusters of industrial buildings, color coded administration buildings and workshops, accommodation and science blocks, radar domes, scattered radios antennae and satellite dishes amongst the jagged rocks, ice and snow piled high against every building and covering the ground as far as the eye could see.

Just taking a moment to let it sink in.

We’d just set foot on the Antarctic continent.

We’re in Antarctica.

Holy Shitballs!

We were shepherded over to the Mess building to dump our gear. Looking out over the Bay was just breathtaking. 
The Aurora Australis has found its parking spot a kilometre or so off the coast – in the fast ice off the Vestfold Hills – and I flew off on the fourth flight out (on a dandy little Squirrel chopper). Made the Critical Personnel list, dontcha know!!!  As of right now I’m at Davis Station settling in and getting acquainted – unpacking my two small bags that now are the bare essentials needed to survive – plus laptop of course 🙂 I’m not crazy !

Only 2 bags you say? My one big backpack has become 2 small bags.  Ditched the ukelele that JK gave me finally – a difficult letting go exercise and it was surprisingly hard to relinquish – but it was a pain in the arse much like her and best left behind. The emotional house cleaning is almost finished.

So still working on that minimisation thing and it’s going well I must say.

But anyhoo…I made it this far. 

Tomorrow I start actual work but today is a nice long familiarisation and induction day . Meets and greets . Find my way around. So much new information that my head is reeling . 

So… what’s it like I hear you ask. Here’s some first impressions. 

It’s not that cold (flannelette shirt weather). Minus 4 at the moment but the sun is hot ( UV here is dangerously high). The air is dry and bitey ( and dusty!). There is black ice everywhere. The snow glare is blinding. The people are wonderful,from all walks of life and largely kindred spirits – travellers and explorers.

This alien landscape is constantly surprising though  – at first glance intimidating in its vastness, apparent desolatation and endless horizons ( it all looks like a massive dead salt lake, I swear) but then it just shifts gears and shimmers to life as Adelie and Emporer penguins, crab eater seals and sperm whales begin to appear. A few at first, then more, and more, and more . The sheer amount of bird life here – snow petrels, albatrosses and penguins- thousands of miles from land and living their lives out to sea –  is staggering. 

Convoys of azure icebergs, dazzling like glittering diamonds,  parade past on both sides as we navigate deeper and deeper into Antarctic territory leaving the Southern Ocean behind and entering the Antarctic Circle. The ancient glaciers birthing them hundreds of miles away yet these giants line the horizon for days on end.

The various ice formations just Blow..My…Mind!
*boom-splat

*these last two images were taken just after midnight a few days ago.  

If you are going to travel to Antarctica, do it by ship. You won’t regret it. Crunching through sea ice for days on end is incredibly exciting and watching the very world freeze around you is fascinating.

But despite all this inspirational beauty, I’m really tired – it’s been a long 6 weeks since getting home from the USA and my actual job starts today.

Well, maybe tomorrow. It’s fairly casual here.

Exhausted both physically and emotionally, earlier today I woke up on another world and was struck by a desperate need to explore – instead I’ve been compelled to lock myself in my room for a bit – a few hours of privacy to reflect and escape the mindless chatter of humanity. 

Ponder this strange meandering course through life that I have unwittingly set. Deep shit like that.

More than once this month I have been moved to mutter “My God – how the fuck did I get here?”

More than once in the past few years I have also explored my aversion to stillness. This place somehow makes it easier to accept a peaceful contemplative silence. 3 years ago it would have driven me insane.

This Antarctica; frozen in time and quite literally in place is so utterly, completely, and wonderfully silent. Even the winds barely whisper at his time of the year.  This silence is more than a little unnerving. Such a cold beauty as this being completely outside my experience – something I’ve never ever experienced.  You’d love it, Oana 🙂 – (sorry no trees tho)

Despite some concerted efforts to screw it up, my life (perversely) seems to be slowly working out.

Still – How the Fuck, indeed.
*hitting the fast ice one day out of Davis *inside the largest polynya ( look it up) on the planet

I’ll be posting more regularly now that I’m settled in for the summer.

Stay tuned. My heads in a weird place but the internet is SLOOOOW!!!

*It’s 10pm and this is my view presently : and also why it’s hard to sleep .


Not exactly picturesque but hey – it’s a research station … 

The sun barely goes down about 1am and rises about 2am. In 3 weeks there will be no Night at all.

Still here ? 

As a reward here’s a blow by blow of the past 14 days or so as jotted down at the time – it’s poorly structured and largely unedited so be warned. I’m too tired to be bothered editing more today today. Maybe tomorrow.

Here goes – 

“Sunday 29th October . I’m on my way to Antarctica – FINALLY.

 We were held up by bad weather out of Hobart so we diverted to the lee of Burny Island for 24 hours to let the surge pass us by. Its 24 hours of people finding their sea leags and getting violently ill already, despite the seas begin relatively calm. God knows whatll happen when its gets rough!

 Monday 30th October  – spotty 3G internet service still available on my phone but the ships email is flaking out, and we can only receive, not send. Its time for some last minute updates, download a few last TV shows and use up the last of my phone data plan for the month. Find a few books in the lbray and try to meet my new voyage family. Theres a lot of people to try to meet!

 It’s 3 days into the trip now, with my last views of Tasmania long gone over the horizon.

 Everyone on the ship has been itching to get going – old hands and newchums alike – the false start to avoid bad weather was a bit of an anticlimax (but wholly necessary -19 metre waves on Day 1 ??? – no thank you Sir).

 After popping a Phanergan seasickness tablet Monday evening, I barely gained consciousness by 11am the next morning – luckily the first few days there has been no work scheduled – it’s purely a ‘getting used to it’ exercise.

Tuesday 31st was an odd day, with a sedative hangover Id slept the day away and then couldn’t get to sleep as the swell was huge (plus a bunkmate is a snorer which doesn’t help – thank Dog for earplugs). Again nothing scheduled training wise so the rest of the day was eat/sleep/chat/read and pretty much wasted.

 No more seasickness tabs for me – I don’t need them as it turns out plus they just wipe me out for the whole day after anyway. Tonight will be the bold experiment and hopefully it’ll work out.

 

Today is Wednesday 1st November as I write this – 9pm or thereabouts. Its been an interesting day, and the newcomer nerves are abating – meeting loads of new people using the tried-and-true “sit at new table each meal and introduce yourself to everyone” method. So much for feeling my way through – lets get this party started.

 A good percentage of the people aboard have succumbed to a measure of seasickness ranging from mild nausea through to being put on a drip (The Doc was called to the Bridge late last night and the assumption is someone needed fluids or an injection at least).

 The seas and weather have been superb – 5 to 6 metre swell (which I’m assured is AMAZING for this time of year) , a little squally but generally a sunny 9 degrees with a blistering wind blasting up from the South. Were out in the open ocean now and its simply wonderful

 People are finding their rhythms and not just sleeping and eating all day, although sometimes it seems you are just filling in time between meals. There are joggers jogging the small deck as best they can, a yoga group that meets at 6am (cmon yoga types seriously?), the gym junkies that haunt the small gym and talk about protein shakes and testicle shrinkage, and the library nerds that play cards and read in the small ships library. Where to go I wonder?

Library.

There’s a 8pm movie night each night in the little cinema/conference room, with a preceding presentation the science projects underway – tonight we heard from Dr Tessa on the Mount Brown Ice Core Project – the leader on a deep field team drilling some 400 km inland from Davis Station (the team is hoping for a 350 metre ice core to let them peer back into the regions weather and climate history for thousands of years).

 I’ve chatted to many science geeks going down to count penguins or seal populations, or seabird studies, climate change, ice obs, nuclear antiproliferationtreatystuff, electronicearslistening stuff:- endless science going on down here – all  super intelligent but fun typeset people – I think I like biologists much better than archaeologists.

I’m starting on Phytoplankton sampling tomorrow morning early, then the Field training starts in earnest whilst still aboard – first up for me at 9am is Ice Field Traversing 101 – should be fun J

 Bedtime for now.

 Thursday 2nd  – email is flowing again but its been limited to 50kb in size only – virtually a text message but its better than nothing,

 The weather out here changes in a heartbeat. Yesterday it was lovely, today its a shit storm. It’s been squally all day and the ship has ploughed on through 5 – 6 metre waves all day with some sun breaks in between.

 There were albatrosses trailing the ship again today and I got a few nice photos in between the howling winds and the rain showers. The decks are becoming a little more unpleasant and very soon well all have to wear survival gear to go out on them, once they begin to ice up.

 I spent some time up on the bridge today and it makes for quite the vantage point of choice, as the other areas higher than the bridge are off bounds due to extensive arrays of expensive equipment. The views from the bridge are breathtaking – enormous grey seas stretching far out into the distant stormy horizon, white caps lashed by the winds as far as the eye can see.

 The motion of the ship at this level is heightened and really feels like you are on a massive orange rollercoaster, the rain slicked deck pitching fore and aft as the ship powers through the swell. Watching the horizon dip out of sight and then heave into view way over your head is unnerving, as is the sight of the portholes submerging under the green water – awash from the swell and motion of the ship – not a bad effort considering they are 2 stories up.

 I had a dream last night that I was sitting alone in the Mess and was watching all the portholes submerge into the ocean as the ship rolled over, everything frozen, a complete silence. The hull vanished and all I could see was ever darkening depths. Hmmm…

 Sorta mirrors how I’m feeling at this point – not even 1/3 of the way there. A little tired I guess. I’m not sleeping very well and the swell throws you around in the little single cot so much its difficult to relax. I had to jam my arm between the wall and the bed last night to stop from being rolled out. There are no guardbars or anything like that to stop you bouncing around or rolling out – I was last into the cabin and got the last bunk, but thankfully its on the bottom so I only have to bounce half a metre or so.

 Friday 3rd November – Field training started today, and the first 90 minute session on Ice Field travel and survival techniques was fascinating. The science behind ice formations is much more complex than Id imagined, and the techniques we are going to be practicing in the field are life saving. Theres much more practical survival training once we get there and get working out on the pack ice. I get issued an Ice Axe! How cool is that!

 Kill Bill 1 was the movie of choice for the day – there’s a lot of Tradies on board so naturally the ultraviolent films and old standards (Die Hard, Magnum Force etc etc) are getting a good run as is the Wii and car racing games. I don’t think we are going to be seeing The Beguiled anytime soon unless I can organise a film club in 2 weeks.

 Spaghetti marinara for dinner this evening. Yum! J cant say that they don’t feed you well – if only there was space to go for a run.

IT challenge of the day – recovering data from a crashed HDD full of movies and TV for Sam.

 Saturday 4th November was another fun day with some crappy weather but at 9am we had out first real drill in full survival gear. Although we were given 90 seconds notice over the PA, it still set the heart racing to hear the alarms and muster call – getting into our survival gear in the small cramped cabin was challenging and we needed to coordinate our actions. Even so we seemed to take minutes to get into the 3 layers of protection and life jacket…in a life threatening situation we could be out in the sub zeo temperatures for hours I (for example) a fire was being fought or there was a gas leak etc etc… was an interesting experience but one I could do without. Training today was a short Environmental briefing in the cinemarette – basically wash our stuff, don’t go near the animals, don’t take anything as a souvenier  

Still eating way too much and I have to reduce my caloric intake significantly.

 Skip ahead til Sunday 5th November evening. – After leaving the roaring 40’s we are finally in the 50’s and almost officially in Antarctic waters.

 The sun is still shining, the seas are smoothing out but the air temperature is dropping noticeably – down to 3 degrees but the steel deck of the ship is still warm and I can sit out on the helo deck to get some sun and fresh air. Not feeling extremely social today – going from solo travel to a shipload of 100 people is a challenge and actually quite exhausting. After a day of being social I’m finding it more and more difficult to constantly engage with people. Peopling is hard. Not sleeping well also is a problem – the days are becoming just eating, short training sessions and a lot of doing nothing. It actually sucks. I don’t want to watch all my TV yet as I still have 5 months of this. Yikes.

 IT challenge of the day – recovering a SD card full of photos for Sam. Mission accomplished.

 

Monday 6th – More field training today – Maps and compass navigation – this was really fun and I haven’t had to do it for a long time – was extremely rusty – I hope that I NEVER have to navigate my way out of a life threatening situation because I suck at it.

 I’m staying up a bit later alter tonight, sitting in the mess having a milo and some bikkies, waiting til my 10pm water sampling slot.

The process is basically fill up a large measuring container, set up some filtering and a pump, start up the pump and let it filter for 45 minutes, then dry and pack to filters as samples into liquid nitrogen.

 Tuesday 7th  and its Melbourne Cup today. With no Internet and dodgy comms on the ship, it proved a challenge to be able to do something last minute (given that we had the job Dumped on us – “yeah the “IT people” can do it” – bitch please :/) We tried to get a VoIP hookup with the AAD at Kingston and stream/rebroadcast the event over the Ships PA but the quality was so bad we had to abort. SO Plan B Brendan and I ran the sweep, raising funds for Camp Quality, with the crew and Expeditioner’s chipping in around $300 (after prizes). Chocolates were given as prizes for Best Dressed and Best Hat, with the Penguin project ladies triumphing over the Mt Brown Ice Core team in the Best Dressed, with Ali from the Mt Brown Ice Core team winning the crowd favourite for her Canadian Lumberjack Glaciologist outfit.

 A few more HDDS to recover (no luck with one – it was fried). It’s been extremely quite work-wise.

 Wednesday 8th ? Losing track of days now  – another day of Field Training, food and more than a little boredom. I learnt “Knots, Bends and Ropes” skills today and sucked just as badly now as I did at it in the Boy Scouts! But eventually my tired brain relented and actually retained some information. Yay brain!

 The seas are huge today – up to 9 metres and the ship is rolling and corkscrewing 24/7, making sleep virtually impossible for any sustained period. The Captain puts the ship along the swell at meal time (so that we can actually eat safely) and then doggedly heads South again…its been a game of cat and mouse with a low pressure system that has been hunting the ship for the past few days, causing massive waves, high winds and a drop in speed. It’s cost us at least 2 days so far and we won’t be getting into Davis until about Sunday now.

 Ugh no sleep at all last night. The roll of the ship practically flips you out of bed, or at the least you are constantly sliding from one end of the cot to the other. Its something that I still haven’t got used to and generally it’s not that bad – this last 24 hour period has been a challenge. The gravity changes and the way the ship moves is generally great fun, but its getting a little old especially after no sleep.

 Jump ahead to Thursday 9th. I have a date with some interesting Phytoplankton. Yes its Water Sampling again today. This time at 8am, which is really 4am back home. Man I don’t do 4am well but luckily I’m getting used to it. Ahh science.

 Back to bed after for a 2 hour snooze – trying to catch up on my sleep as we all know that cranky Jamie comes out with little to no sleep.

 We are incrementing the clocks one more hour again tomorrow to bring us in line with Davis time.

 Getting close to 60 degrees south and the weather is a little chilly – just above 0 degrees and its snowing today over the Southern ocean. There are several seabirds following the boat – massive Albatrosses and smaller grey birds, even way out here about 800 nautical miles from shore – and the sight of them sweeping down through the snow, wingtips just barely scraping the surface of the grey freezing water its simply hypnotising. I’ve been watching them from the porthole in my tiny cabin and from up on the bridge.

 Friday 10th!!! Snow at sea!!! It’s the oddest thing I’ve ever seen – well it’s the first actual full on falling snow I’ve ever seen to be honest. Big wafty flakes of snow landing gently on the grey churning waves, settling on the bright orange superstructure of the ship, collecting on the rust coloured cranes, silver grey containers and the bright blue tarpaulins covering the loads on deck. Everyone is a little more excited now! It also means that our first iceberg isn’t far off, and we are only days away from getting to the sea ice.

 And as we are getting close to 60 degrees South, King Neptune is paying us newbies a visit on Saturday. This is a loooooong practiced maritime tradition, and so I feel compelled to participate (esp as its completely disgusting and hence absolutely voluntary) with a BBQ on the trawl deck, and the ritual humiliation (that involves lots of garbage and kissing many fish) shall ensure. It’s going to be bloody freezing out there so hopefully Ill survive – all of the new people are nervous/excited about it.

 

Saturday 11th brings a full restful nights sleep, a sleep in and a real breakfast on the newly calmed ocean – barely a ripple out there now and it appears we’ve finally hit the outer sea ice. After the first lonely iceberg appeared last night, the murky grey ocean is now filled with an increasing number of growlers, bergs and other assorted fragments of lazily drifting sea ice. Although the skies are still grey and dull, there are rare sunbreaks in the cloud – in those moments you can see the absolute blueness of these bergs as they surge along in the swell. The sea ice is getting thicker and thicker as we travel along, and now the ship plows through expansive but thin sheets of ice – smashing through with the ice fragments tumbling and crunching along the hull and then disappearing in our wake. There are monster bergs lurking in the mist at the edge of the horizon – dulled by distance they still appear formidable and forboding, their towering battlements dabbled in shadow and shrouded by fog.

 November 11 – Remembrance Day today and at 11am we stopped to observe a minutes silence to honor the Fallen. Crunching through expanses of fragmented sheet ice as the ship fell otherwise silent was an oddly moving moment.

 Saturday – 3pm A towering, loinclothed blue King Neptune  – roaring at us infidels for invading his realm and polluting the seas – and his snickering crusty blue seaweed clad entourage visited today – a welcoming party in the port mess saw us newbies initiated into King Neptune’s Court – we kissed the fish, drank the viscous fluids, and were thoroughly doused from head to toe in a heady mix of ground up kitchen waste, gruel, food coloring, fish oil and anchovies. The entire ship now reeks of this vomit inspiring odour and despite several showers I can still feel/smell/taste this vile smell in my head. Luckily I was one of the first to get initiated, so I took the opportunity to nick off and have a sneaky shower plus pop my gear in the laundry. I was missed so I’m hoping it doesn’t bite me in the arse. Oops.

Arse saved and a sneaky hot shower and a clothes wash saved my shirts. 

Tonight there is a BBQ and our 3 allocated standard drinks per person will be busted out of the grog locker – this is our party night tonight before we get into the fast sea ice, and head in for resupply. OOOO I fly into station on the first chopper off the ship apparently – helicopter flight over the ice should be pretty damn amazing.

3 beers brought in quite a buzz!!!! Great steel deck bbq in the trawl deck .

Sunday and Monday – we are pushing deeper and deeper into the sea ice now. The weather has cleared and the grey clouds have parted to revel a deep blue sky splashed with long white clouds – like a spring day except at -4.5 degrees. The massive bergs are closer now, and the ice is thickening – a few times now the ship has actually gotten hung up and unable to break through, so the Captain has seesawed the ship backwards and forwards several times (with both motors running) to try to bully its way through the deep blue and white barrier before us. The surface of the sea ice varies –from a winter millpond slush, to splats of pancake ice – like many overlapping scales on a snakeskin – stretching for miles and miles in any direction. Thin sheets that are curved and flexed by the hulls pressure wave, and finally shattered into panes of glass-like ice which ride the wash and are pushed up, over and into the other glistening layers like a crazy sparkling chinese puzzle.
Currently the ice is several feet thick, the massive blocks broken up by the ships hull tumbling past and tipping, revealing layers upon layers of ice put down over the winter – colors ranging from dirty algal green to electric blue to sparkling diamond white. There’s a constant thumping and grinding you can feel through the hull from the crumbling icefloes– it rattles your bones but like the constant engine noise and vibration its is comforting.

 We have been travelling past convoy lines of massive icebergs, towering over the ship and travelling in an almost perfect formation on both sides – spat out by multiple glaciers in the region.

 The animal life is getting more prevalent, and we are seeing crabeater seals basking in the sunlight, sitting on larger floes and checking us out. Larger groups of Adelie penguins are popping up now instead of the loner individuals that we first saw on the outer fringes of the icefields. A group today chaed the ship and were “porpoising” alongside – I’ve never seen anything like it and MAN these little fuckers can really move in the water. No more whales though at this time. Sad face.

 We officially entered the Antarctic Circle about 3pm Monday – now under 100 nautical miles from Davis Station and only a few hours from the fast ice that we have been searching for. Once there, the ship will smash slowly through til its around 2kns from the shoreline. Once we stop, helicopter transport begins, and amazingly I’m one of the 35 critical personel flying from the ship to the base. I get to fly in over the ice and will see it all from the air. I’m on the 4th flight out so God willing I’ll finally be on station round 12pm tomorrow. I cant believe its been a 2 week journey.

 Holiday’s over folks.

 Now the real work begins.

…downtime

So I’m in Hobart now.

Hobart Tasmania, the Island state of Australia located due south of Melbourne and thrown back about 25 years in time.

The whole state has less people living in it than Portland, Oregon.

What a weird place it is.

Almost not like Australia at all – at least until someone opens their mouth. An aussie boofhead sounds the same in Tasmania.

Shops close here at 5.30 pm every day and the city is deserted apart from a few hole-in-the-wall takeaway joints and some dodgy bars.  There is no late night shopping – it doesn’t exist here.

Luckily there are tons of boutique pubs and breweries, cafes and craft beer places. I even found a decent Nepalese eatery. But there just aren’t many people.


The waterfront is beautiful, quite expensive and as generally waterfronty as waterfronts tend to be. Lots of craft beer, trendy beards, tattoos and bottle blonde women. Which may not be a bad thing.

But I’m more interested in the other wildlife 🙂

**meet my new friend Alex, scrounging for scraps amongst the fish and chip punts.

​Also I think this is where the Sydney to Hobart yacht race finishes. That’s a sport so just guessing here.

Downtown does come alive on a sunny Sunday though. Crowds appear and flock to the markets. There’s a City organic market happening at the moment – it’s pretty damn good with loads of organic produce, food stalls and music galore.

I even saw Koshie from Sunrise wandering around with his wife. Yay.

This single sunny day aside, my initial impressions from flying in and living here over the past few weeks hold true: Hobart is generally sleepy and the people ruggedly outdoorsy with stunning wilderness areas and oceans to explore – not a lot of Subaru’s but despite that it reminds me of Washington a little. 

A cashed-up version though and no homeless people (or at least haven’t seen any yet).

I can’t really explore – no car –  so am at the mercy of the elements and the daylight. Its good to get out and walk my ass off though.

*these two were so good.

It’s Fall Weather here 6 days out of 7 and today is a rare but welcome sunny one.

There are a lot of beards, yoga pants and everyone else is in adventure wear – loads of bike riders out and about. The outdoor stores do well here for a reason I guess.

…anyway.

Day 1 at the Division was giddily exciting – the bus picked a group of us up outside an old sandstone building near the hotel, all of us strangers and nervously wondering who the others were. A few “first day of school” comments, some IT crowd in-jokes and the 3 IT people (my colleagues bound for the other 2 stations) gravitated towards each other – inherent geekiness drawing us together.

Walking into the Division HQ is cool cool cool – all “Get Smart” automatic doors and security – I’d find out why later.

The most thrilling thing is being part of Australia’s incredible history of exploration, and assisting science in the Antarctic region – following in the footsteps of the great Explorers as it were.

Ross, Amundsen, Shackleton, Scott, Hillary, Mawson –  in no particular order. Their faces look down from the walls of the Antarctic Division headquarters, their exploits and adventures inspire.

Relics and photographs of their expeditions pepper the offices and buildings in silent memorial to their achievements and give us newbies hints at what is to come.

Its just mind blowing how much history is here.

But this is Government – some things never change.

I expected a well oiled machine of IDs, induction, paperwork, maybe a briefing…after all they do this every 6 months.

Hmmm. Nothing of the sort. IDs sorted and then we just kinda… wandered. Had a few short welcomes and then left to our own devices. Clock watched til 5pm when our bus arrived. We were all exhausted from doing nothing, said little and just stared at Mt Wellington on the way home.

Being in a human petrie dish / office environment again I immediately picked up a flu bug on Day 1 and have been sick and out of sorts since.

Day 2 was kitting but started the same way :  early morning bus, wait til the workers wander in around 9.00am, then more hurry up and wait. Kitting was really exciting and fun – getting all of my allocated polar survival gear and PPE: masses of gear, protective equipment, parkas, ice chains, crampons, gloves, hats, sunnies, boots, more gear than I’d ever expected.

Then the pace slowed to a yawning crawl. The training program stalled and we would spend hours trying to fill in time productively. Once again IT was on the absolute bottom of the priority order and we were largely forgotten.

With no access, and little documentation, there was little we could do despite asking constantly for work or training.

My colleagues were struggling as well – it wasn’t just me. Struggling to stay busy, struggling to stay awake. With all of us coming from extremely busy private sector technology backgrounds, this change of pace – moving from 100 miles and hour to virtually zero was jarring to say the least.

This would change when we were deployed but now it all seems to be just wasting time til we go. Id rather be outside.

Despite the boredom, my start at the Antarctic Divisions headquarters in Kingston was a shock to the system for another unexpected reason. Not only was getting back into the rhythms of a 9-5 working life again hard, but being indoors is much much tougher than I thought it would be. Feeling a little trapped at the desk. The lack of movement and momentum is excruciating.

I really don’t like it at all. Downtime sucks.

So anyway as of Friday, 2 weeks in and we’re only just getting access to the systems we need to manage and the scope of my role seems to diminish the more I dig into it.

GOD government process takes forever.

***UGH – IT…

Look my coworkers are nice, the IT side of things interesting at times, but there’s an element of uncertainty in this role that troubles me.

It’s all far too casual.

Don’t get me wrong, its still going to be an incredible experience and I’m extremely grateful for the chance, but now my year in Antarctica has been shortened to a summer only (November til April) but “SORTA KINDA MAYBE PERHAPS a winter but nothings certain and only if they get funding but don’t worry you can just get extra gear sent out on the resupply voyage at the end of March – we’ll let you know”…

I’m mindful I tossed a job for this but the attitude here to my predicament is “meh you’ll be fine”

Grrr.  I gotta roll with it.

We toured should the ship a few days back which was fascinating and will be my home for a few weeks from the end of October.

I love being at sea almost more than anything ( except my mountains and rainforests of course) . It’s been almost 15 years since my last stint on a ship,  but it felt very familiar stepping aboard – the smells, sounds and constant vibration under the feet was comforting – I wondered aloud “ how the fuck did I end up on a ship again” … a few people glanced at me with odd expressions but I didn’t feel the need to explain myself.

But I always need a Plan B.

Ive been applying for other jobs next year, dusting off the crystal ball and looking into the future – getting my famous Plan B up and running in case I’m back 6 months earlier than planned.

So today, Sunday, I’ve finally found a nice cafe with good coffee and thought I’d plug this update in just to keep the record up to date.

Coffee first. Gotta get my priorities in order.

Anyway I’m shortly off to find a bookshop if there are any open and maybe wander down to the wharf.
Still 2 weeks to go before I head off!

All will be well, I’m sure.
*the “Get Smart” doors are there because so much kit is carried around between the buildings – everyone has their hands full all the times. It’s super cool though 🙂

…FREEEEEEEEEE!

Monday morning I fly to Hobart for the next part of my journey

So far I have packed 4 times (not unusual), stopped myself from buying shit I don’t need (highly unusual), and caught up with friends (lucky as its a long weekend and everyone’s away). Totally running out of time but still procrastinating massively today. The jetlag and alcohol means sleep escapes me, and when it does come my dreams are a confusing mess of self doubt and worst case scenarios.

I am Jamie’s rampaging insecurity.

Of course I’m going to write about it…but for today there’s this.

Getting back into the country on Tuesday was much smoother than I’d expected, even when I lost the usual day with the time zones weirdness. It was 5am Sunday morning – my farewell-induced hangover was barely in check, the flight from Seattle to Honolulu was on time, and traffic on the i5 was light. Shay dropped me off at Seatac dead on 6am after the 55 minute drive up from Olympia.

See you in Nepal next year, Shayster 😉

Check in was a breeze and even the TSA lines weren’t unbearable. On time all the way,  the 5 hour flight to Honolulu passed in a blink – even the 35 minute transfer in Hawaii went perfectly, giving me 4 entire minutes to buy a Hawaiian shirt on the way to the Gate. The only worry was luggage transfer, but I’d convinced myself it would be ok and as usual had packed all the essentials in the carry on.

God I love Hawaiian Airlines.

Arriving in Sydney 11 hours later, the luggage met me at the carousel and passing Customs and Immigration was ultra fast. Ooops  – totally forgot the beef jerky in my bag!

Now only one thing was left.

Survive Sydney Airport.

Once the decision to keep my money in my pocket was made, Sydney Airport transit became a challenge more than a financial crisis. Usually the vampiric cash drain starts from the moment you set foot there and a cash sacrifice to the Goddess of the City of Sydney is needed to survive at every step.

The City of Sydney (at least in my minds eye) is a vampiric old barslut in Victorian lace that sidles up, quietly slips her grimy hands into your pants and while dazzling you with technique, steals your stash, shivs you in the kidney and then leaves you bleeding out in an alley.

I wage a constant war to stem the flow of cash from my wallet into her voluminous coffers. Look the harbor is nice but this hoary bitch sucks the State of NSW dry revenue wise. And Sydney people – jeez don’t get me started.

Anyway…we’ve been over this.

Due to the odd flight schedules and curfew, I got in at 7.30pm, but couldn’t fly out til 7.30am the next day. Sydney International Airport (pssh) closes at 11pm and if you have en early flight, you are fucked only have a few options : these include book a $300+ hotel room at the Airport hotels nearby, catch a $20 taxi and book a $200+ hotel room 1.5 kms away (if there are any), book a city Hostel at $45 a night and then take a $16 train ride (each way) and then HOPE the return train arrives on time or the flights aren’t cancelled.

You get the idea. Sydney is expensive and Sydney Airport doubly so and there are little services offered to the budget traveler.

BUT – I found out that they do put aside a small waiting area inside the main terminal near the train and taxi entries for “transit passengers’. You can sleep there for free, on a chair or on the carpeted floor. There’s free internet and an internet terminal (till 11pm when they turn it off), a phone recharge station, there are toilets available but no shower, and you have to sleep with your bags tucked under your arms etc as there is no real security. There were about 5 transit passengers sleeping there when I arrived, and after an hour or so that grew to 40 so get there early.

But its FREEEEEEEEEEEE!

So I thought, why the Hell not! I found a spare leather chair (mmmm worn sweaty pleather) and flopped down, wearily hatching a duffel bag and nursing a backache/headache from the 15 hour flight from Seattle/Honolulu.

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Its cold, the security guards will harass you at odd hours and demand to see your ongoing ticket or at worst kick you out if you don’t have one. I arrived at 8pm, and flew out at 7.30am (well within the acceptable 12 hour window) so was ok to stay.

*They don’t like doing letting people do it apparently, but it’s definitely available.

After a less than optimal but FREEEEEEEE! night in Sydney, I began the new day by fudging my carry on and baggage weights as best I could.

Coming from an International carrier (Hawaiian Airlines) that allows 2 x 16KG bags and 2 carry on bags I’d loaded up on gear in the US.

REX on the other hand allows only 1 x 16/20KG check in and 1 x 7kg carry on.

Their excess baggage fees completely freaked me out so I spent the morning putting on multiple t-shirts, 2 beanies and several pairs of heavy pants plus 3 jumpers. Strapped every heavy Item available to my body, and finally slung the Beats headphones around my neck. Walking like John Wayne, looking like the Michelin Man and sweating like a Muslim at a Patriot rally.

Waddling over to the T-Bus stop, I boarded for the Domestic Terminal, which is minimalist but efficient and at 7.30 am sharp was ready to roll (after a minor panic about timezones and missed flights) .

Convincing Airport Security that the massive metal Slackline winch in my bag was a delicate instrument that couldnt be checked was a challenge ( I can actually act a bit, it would seem) but I eventually boarded the world’s prettiest, narrowest and most insecure aircraft and headed West.

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Before long, this narrow aluminum bullet was winging its way out to the dry dusty plains of Dubbo, and as the landscape below shifted from green to dirt, my spirits drooped as expected.

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Back again. FFKS.

Luckily it’s only for 6 day…its only for 6 days…