Greetings from the land of the longest night!
I hope this finds everyone getting ready to enjoy a great 4th of July back home. We’ve got several plans of our own cooked up down here. We’re throwing a huge party in the garage, with as much stuff to remind us of home as possible. I know that there will be a steak and lobster bbq, a horseshoe pit, and a few other things for sure. We’re actually working on the 4th, but the 5th is a half day, and then we have the entire weekend off. Woohoo!
Life has been pretty good down here for the most part. When I last wrote you guys, we’d just past the six month mark of our time down here. The last two months have just flown by, and it’s hard to believe that there are just 15 more weeks until the next plane! The winter that seemed so long just a few months ago is rapidly starting to see so short. I’ve got several projects that I want to get done that I’ve been procrastinating just because it seemed like we’d have all the time in the world; now with the realization that this will actually end, I guess its time to get started with them. Most of these involve stuff like documentation and inventory, but I’m finding out that the inventory especially might not be as bad as I’d first feared. I’ve found some tools and computer parts that are positively ancient. Its amazing how reluctant past people have been to throw anything away down here. Of course that’s a natural tendency, seeing as if you need a spare part there’s no way to hop down to the corner Radio Shack and pick one up. However, with the upcoming move to the new station in a year or two, this is the perfect time to do a good housecleaning. I’ve already thrown out several hundred pounds of crap, and that’s not even really a dent in the pile! All this stuff has to be flown out of here, so its a tough call sometimes on whether it should be kept or not, but in the end, I think we’ll have a much more organized supply room, and I think the people who eventually have to carry everything to the new station will thank us.
Of course our midwinter celebration was a couple of weeks ago. We received greetings from all the other stations on the continent, and even got to speak personally to some of them. We heard from the Russians at Vostok station over the radio, and that was quite the interesting conversation! They are just 13 men living in a tiny station, with probably even less in the way of entertainment than we’ve got. They seemed really happy to speak to someone outside their base though. I’ll put up copies of the other station’s greetings on my web site this weekend. As far as our celebration, we had a party in the galley on Friday night, with our local band JP-X. These guys are getting better and better with each show. They’ve got a hell of a set list going now, and really make the party fun. Saturday night we had a formal dinner in the galley which was also a great time. The cooks went out of their way to prepare an amazing feast, including menus and an amazing appetizer tray. The greenhouse supplied an amazing floral bouquet that was the centerpiece of the appetizer station, and we even had fresh salad.
Life otherwise has been fairly routine. The weather has been just crazy though. We haven’t hit the magical -100 mark yet, but we’ve gotten down to -96 which was actually early this week. Since then, a storm has blown in raising the temps back to about -46, but with winds up to 30 knots! Going outside is something you really don’t do unless you have to. I was walking back from our RF building about a half mile from the main station, and the visibility was the worst that I’ve ever seen. It was an amazing experience, and it really made me feel like this was what I’d come to experience. Right now the winds are still pretty strong, and if you stand in the dome, it sounds like its a thunderstorm outside. The wind on the dome makes it boom like thunder, and the snow hitting against it sounds just like rain. Once the new station is complete, it’ll be amazing to sit in the Galley during storms like this and just watch nature’s fury outside. I walked up to the Skylab lounge yesterday and stepped outside on the balcony just to see what it felt like in normal clothes. I’ve never felt a cold quite so intense in my life; the wind just cuts right thru you, chilling you down to your core. It makes you really respect this continent, and feel a greater kinship with some of the early explorers.
We did have a really unique experience the other week. One of our staff slipped on the ice and tore a tendon in his knee. We had to do surgery in order to fix it; using a tele-medicine setup. I was the tech guy that was taking part in the OR, so I got to watch and assist with the procedure. Luckily it went perfectly and the patient is up and walking around like nothing ever happened.