Whodathunk

Tuesday.

I’m just back at the Winston for dinner ( Beer and burger) before hitting the cinemas again to see Black Panther – the late show.

They do brew a damn fine pint.

( oh and weapon of choice tonight again is the Winston burger REMIX: sheer genius for you burger connoisseurs out there. This is basically a bacon double cheeseburger served in a Cinnebon but add fries and a horseradish/wasabi sauce …. mmmmmm kill me now I die happy)

… skip to 9.30pm – Beer and burger buzz installed successfully. Just waiting for the film to start and I’m the only one here.

🙂 perfect.

Hey let’s chat!

So what’s new?

Im glad you asked!

…after a relatively breezy Monday of debriefs and goodbyes, I thought that all this talk of readjustment issues on return from Antarctica was a load of bunk.

It’s only been 4 months!

What could possibly change!

Well! Let me tell you …

I now have super powers ( at least temporarily)

Whodathunknit!

1. Super Hearing – In the 10 story apartment block I’m in, I can hear a constant hum of conversation all the time – like hundreds of voices gibbering in my head – except they are not in my head ( God at least I hope not – can you hear them, Frank?).

I had to leave a cafe today as there was a group of people talking extremely loudly and it was massively unsettling.

2. Super smell – the vehicle exhausts, petrochemicals and even cigarette smells are driving me crazy.

3. Super Chatty (shut up, you) – I can’t stop talking to strangers. My shopping rounds today took all day as I bloody well introduced myself to people in shops, randoms in cinemas, and many cafe people and had a damn good chat.

4. Super Confidence – I’m 10 foot high and bulletproof at the moment.

5. Super tired – not sleeping at all (See 1.)

6. Super restless – I can’t stop moving. 20km walking around town yesterday, 10km today so far. Crazy! (See 7.)

7. Super Caffeination – I can’t get enough good ☕️. Yum.

8. Super Preparedness – all packed and ready to go to Macquarie Island.

9. Super Luckiness – to have worked with so many awesome people.

10. Super gratefulness – to be handed these opportunities and have the life I have.

Not a bad top 10 of super powers, I reckon.

So I have powers now, and as with great power comes great responsibility, I promise to use them for good and not evil purposes.

(Unless it’s all because of the caffeine, in which case it’s every person for themselves)

Sorry World but I’m fairly certain it’s less Antarctica and more the caffeine… mwahahaaa

Now all I have to do is get on the ship Friday morning and not fuck it all up for the next few weeks.

Totally and honestly, I’m loving life at the moment.

*chatted to my lovely and intelligent daughter Isabel today ( she’s the coolest, smartest, most quick witted chick I know – giving me shit for an inaccurate Bitmoji )

**bought a syndicate entry in the 30 million $ lotto tonight – if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve won.

***there’s a new Jack Reacher novel out!!!!

****AND I saw The Shape Of Water finally – so beautifully moving moving, original and a wonderful film – I’ve fallen in love with cinema all over again – thank you Guillermo 🙏🏻

Happy days!!!!

🙂

‘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…

…landsharks

I just spent a brief half hour lunch, staring out the large second floor window here at a small black speck half a mile away – making its way slowly across the ice field.

Stopping every 20 paces or so, the tiny figure would slowly turn a 360 degree circle, checking for predators or possibly just studying on track, before setting off again across the ice, little feet flapping along, heading who knows where.

You can barely make him out but he’s way out there just past the central tine in the pitchfork -shaped shadows out on the ice. A teeny tiny black spot.

A little Adelie penguin all by his lonesome.

His meandering odyssey reminded me instantly of a forgotten dream I used to have quite regularly as a child ( and less regularly as an adult).

I would be about somewhere in the world, usually in the countryside, running and always moving, relentlessly pursued by massive grey sharks – landsharks. There was only every one or two but they were the size of jumbo jets – and deathly silent. These nightmares would burst up through the very crust of the earth looking for me ( and only me) and try to gobble me up. They could go anywhere and break through any surface : the only warning an uneasy feeling and a shadowy ripple underfoot microseconds before they attacked.

Luckily always with just enough time to escape – keep running.

They never got me – I’ve always been a fast runner and in these dreams I move like a parkour-savant ninja. Easy peasy.

I am an artful dodger at the best of times anyway.

It occurs to me just now that this scenario is an actual possibility here, watching this little penguin wanders the ice alone. How does he feel at the moment? Nervous? Lonely? Or just hungry and looking for a meal. He must be tired. And a little paranoid – constantly vigilant for killer whales or leopard seals that can pop up and grab him through the thinner sections of the sea ice. He’s still walking – stops every 20 steps or so – has a good look around. Keeps on.

I wonder would he see their shadow under the ice?

What would flash thought his little penguin consciousness as the crushing jaws closed around him and the razorlike teeth tore his skin.

“Squark…?”

…maybe, whatever the penguin equivalent for “O Shit!” is I guess.

Jeez. Could these things grab me once I start working out and about here on the thinning seaice, heading to the nearby penguin colonies or just walking around the shoreline.

Maybe.

There was a lady killed by a leopard seal not long ago, dragged down under the ice floe.

Drowned her real good it did.

My fantasy Landsharks are real here.

It’s not the first childhood nightmare that has rang eerily true since I’ve been here in Antarctica.

Dejavu galore.

Many many moments where I’ve felt that I’ve seen this moment in a dream when I was a kid. Even stupid things like a breakfast conversation this morning, the person sitting opposite me and what they were eating. It’s the details that stick.

I’ve seen it and other mundane moments this past week, in my dreams from many years ago.

Super odd.

*speaking of recurrent nightmares, remind me to tell you about the red glowing pig eyes at my window, the exploding TV room or the persistent (and annoying) werewolf calling himself “the British Umpire” who would stalk me along quiet country roads and launch himself ferociously at me from the darkness.

No wonder I write.

Hmmm.

Anyway…

The winter crew had their official station handover just now – informal speeches and the handing over of the station key to the new station leader for summer. What a great group- 18 or so dedicated personnel who roughed it over the toughest and most blizzard filled winter in history. I hope the 80 or so of us can hold up to the same standard set for us.

Later this after noon the old crew will wander out to the ship and then they’ll be heading home with a lifetime of stories to tell.

Hopefully no landsharks are about.

Today for me has been power outages, flaky UPS issues, annoying network issues but overall a much better day work wise. I’ve had a few wins today and they’re finally outweighing the losses.

Boopity boop clickety click…computers : meh.

Tonight the bar opens and we are having a night to celebrate finally – a day off tomorrow to nurse any hangovers and then our summer routine swings into gear.

Settling into a routine now and I have 4 months to whip things into shape.

Winter is over.

Let the summer begin!