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Seals and Helicopters

Today is Monday, October 17th and it’s 8:47am. We’re in New Zealand time. I’m still waking up with my coffee. I thought I’d update with some of the things that have been different than I expected or wouldn’t have thought of, and I’ll also talk about the last couple days. Oh, and if anyone has tried to text me, my phone number is officially “parked” until further notice. If you want my google voice number, let me know – otherwise, email always works!
Okay, getting into my brain. First of all, standing up 9+ hours a day is not what I’m used to. I’m moving around, trying to help my team with tasks they’ve been tasked with, so on the one side, I’m getting well over my allotted 10,000 steps a day every day, but on the other side, I’m pretty pooped after work. My normal work schedule is 10am to 8pm with breaks. I take comfort in the fact that it seems like basically everyone on base has worked in either the galley (where I work – front of house / floor of the dining area) or the kitchen (back of house – where they prepare the food) in order to get their “foot in the door.” I’m not as sore this week as I was last week, so that’s moving in the right direction.
Unlike Idaho, the majority of my coworkers seems to be within my same decade of life or OLDER. That’s good for the most part. I think? At least in the way of potentially finding someone to spend some time with outside of work. The older people here, however, seem like they have been here forever, so maybe when I’m 65 or 75, I’ll be that grizzled old timer who talked about the “good old days” when we had to share a slow internet connection and we couldn’t facetime anywhere on base except for one shared computer.
One thing I wouldn’t have thought of was the fact that a lot of the doors to the buildings aren’t knobs. They’re seemingly non-locking handle-type bars that I’ll try to post a picture of. To try to explain it, there’s a bar that’s metal and about 6 inches long on the inside and outside and it looks to have some kind of epoxy coating at the end. When the door is “locked,” the bar is at about a 45 or 60 degree angle, vertical. To unlock the door, you have to rotate the handle / bar down which disengages the latch / guide on the inside. Damn, it’s hard to describe, but basically it’s a big version of a style of handle rather than knob and I’d imagine it’s used because if you’re in sub-zero temperatures with a thick glove on, you probably can’t turn a knob and if you took your glove off you’d probably freeze to the knob.
On that note, the other day (Friday) I had the day off. One of the electricians asked me if I wanted to get out of the galley (I live and work in the same building), and go with him on a ridealong while he does tasks. Yes please! So I went along with him, thinking I’d just be watching him change a bulb, or switch out a charging wire or something – which we did do – but we also pulled wires from one area of a building to another – over about a 100 foot wide span…Thick, difficult wires. There were 4 of us total working on this and it was work! Thankfully we were inside. Then, later, we went out to this field camp, where they launch long distance balloons for research, and his truck transmission line sprung a leak! He and I called the proper people (it’s a big deal if there’s a spill of any kind out here, obviously), and they came out to this remote camp, helped us get the truck up and running, and we spent a lot of time cleaning up this spill. But what surprised me was that I had my regular water skin to make sure I’m hydrated (it’s a desert here, literally), and the line froze just in the time I was outside – which was not long. Kind of trippy how quickly that happened, but they say if you’re not thinking about it and you’re working outside, if you hold a nail in your mouth while you’re hammering another nail, you could have it freeze to your lip almost instantaneously – like A Christmas Story!
It was really great going out of the galley though. I hadn’t seen much of the base yet, so it was a fun day even though I ended up working basically from 8:30 to 5 on my day off. Plus, I got to see Mount Erebus which was pretty beautiful. There’s so much white out here it’s a trip. Snow and ice forever. All over the place. And it’s gorgeous blue skies – from what I see out of the windows of the galley. Oh, and I forget if I mentioned, but my room is shared by 4 guys and we are an interior room, so we don’t have a window. Kinda weird, but also very dark at night so I’ve been sleeping like a baby. I want to go out and do that kind of day-excursion with basically all of the different departments if I can. For example, I met a guy the other night at THE bar and he’s a helicopter pilot. He said that I could go down to the helicopter building – definitely not called that, not sure what the real name is – sometime this week to see what he does. Yes please!
Then, a couple nights ago, I went for a walk with my friend Angel (this is my married friend whom I met in Christchurch) and we walked out to “Hut Point” which is kind of “around the corner” from the main part of the base. It takes about maybe 15 or 20 minutes to walk out there. We got to the top of the little hill that overlooks the sea ice and there were gigantic seals just chillin’ out on the ice about 100 feet below us. They were each about the size of a small car. It was such a trip. Either they were fat and happy or pregnant, but it seems that in the next several weeks, there are going to be babies which I want to see! The temperature doesn’t really play nice with my phone or regular camera for outside pictures, but I got a couple. They kind of look like poops, but I assure you, the photos I post will be of seals. Not poops. I repeat, not poops.
Now for random thoughts. Speaking of poops. The bathrooms are all shared in this building. In my wing, there are like 4 showers divided by curtains. 4 sinks. 4 toilets. Ish. I think that’s how many there are. It’s not terrible – just reminds me of college. There are other configurations throughout the building. My roommates are really respectful and quiet. It’s funny to be the oldest one of my roommates, and I stay out much later than they do. And that’s like even if I get back at 10 they’re sleeping. One of them works at 5, so that makes sense, but I feel like a young whippersnapper when I come home from the computer room or from the bar or from the dining room after playing cards. It’s pretty funny. I continue to not feel my age.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was that I was the only one in the galley on my flight at “my level” in the company – so the people who came in August are all kind of used to the ins and outs and the flow of work and what to do outside of work. Then the new people who were here yesterday/will be here today are all kind of familiar with each other. It’s taking a bit longer to get my feet under me than it did in Idaho over the summer. Supposedly in the next week or so, we’re going to be getting like 500 more people.
There does seem to be a lot of extracurricular activities presented but it’s not like a regular email goes out saying what is where at what time. There’s a white board in the dining hall that gets updated with information daily, but whenever I see things to do, I must end up getting distracted with work or something and then I forget it. Last night was cool though, there was a science lecture. It’s my understanding that they do that every Sunday on a different topic and these lectures are “regular people-friendly” and they’re not as much data-focused. This one was on the methane gas seeps in the ocean floor around Antarctica. It was really interesting! There’s a surprising amount of sea life that life off / around these seeps like there are a ton of sea stars down here. I got to hold one of the antarctic sea spiders too. If I haven’t already, I’ll post a picture of that too. They have a “touch tank” in the science building which was fun.
Other than that, I got another training under my belt – the outdoor safety one. That means I can now go on real hikes, which I’m thankful for. I want to get out and explore!
Let me know what kind of questions you all have in the comments, and I’ll address them!
Thanks for following along. Not the most exciting of posts, but I’m only now starting cup 2 of coffee, so give me a break!

6 thoughts on “Seals and Helicopters”

  1. Great questions! Where I am, the streets are kind of cleared paths on top of volcanic rock. Think dirt roads out in the country – but volcanic rock. On the various ice shelves, there are “streets” but they’re more cleared paths that have thick-enough ice to support vehicles. For those, think about cross country ski paths, only bigger. There are teams of people who lay out those paths on the ice to confirm that they’re safe. There are a few street signs, but only one “main road” between/among the buildings. Just regular stop signs. Regarding transportation, there are several F-150 kind of trucks, jacked up, with big snow tires. And several transportation vans the size of small delivery vans (not huge like UPS size), also with big snow tires. Then, there are people movers which look like huge busses and MASSIVE tires on those. But yes, there are also arctic cats and snowmobiles. The arctic cats (that’s my name for them, I don’t know what they’re actually called) look more like tanks than cars in my opinion. And I’ve seen a few snow mobiles, but my understanding is that those are more for recreation later in the summer, rather than for work – since they’re exposed. Nothing’s underground here, that I’ve found. Everything’s elevated! Right now it’s -41 degrees (including wind chill) and the snow is super light and dry (we’re in a desert!). But WHEW it’s cold when you walk outside.

  2. Great questions! Where I am, the streets are kind of cleared paths on top of volcanic rock. Think dirt roads out in the country – but volcanic rock. On the various ice shelves, there are “streets” but they’re more cleared paths that have thick-enough ice to support vehicles. For those, think about cross country ski paths, only bigger. There are teams of people who lay out those paths on the ice to confirm that they’re safe. There are a few street signs, but only one “main road” between/among the buildings. Just regular stop signs. Regarding transportation, there are several F-150 kind of trucks, jacked up, with big snow tires. And several transportation vans the size of small delivery vans (not huge like UPS size), also with big snow tires. Then, there are people movers which look like huge busses and MASSIVE tires on those. But yes, there are also arctic cats and snowmobiles. The arctic cats (that’s my name for them, I don’t know what they’re actually called) look more like tanks than cars in my opinion. And I’ve seen a few snow mobiles, but my understanding is that those are more for recreation later in the summer, rather than for work – since they’re exposed. Nothing’s underground here, that I’ve found. Most everything’s elevated! Right now it’s -41 degrees (including wind chill) and the snow is super light and dry (we’re in a desert!). But WHEW it’s cold when you walk outside.

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