Well the past two weeks have been a lot different than I’d expected. Things have changed tremendously in the 16 months since I was last here, mostly for the better. The biggest change of course is that people are now living and eating in the new station. This means that the social center is not nearly as well defined as it used to be. People don’t tend to hang out in any one place anymore. The rooms in the new station are so comfortable that there is a tendency for everyone to become hermits. I’m not a big fan of this development, but I’m optimistic that once we get used to the fact that we are a static community now people will stick their heads out of their burrows and start making the whole base a home.
One thing that has been nice is that the power systems here are a lot more stable than my last tour. We’ve only had one power failure since I’ve been here, and that was a pure accident. There is a master power cutoff button in the control room of the power plant…it’s like those buttons you see in gas stations that say “Emergency shutoff switch”. Well, ours isn’t protected by any kind of guard, so I suppose it was inevitable that eventually someone would get around to hitting it with their coat by mistake. When it happened it was surreal…you quickly get used to the constant white noise and humming of the machinery that keeps us alive. Once it’s missing though, it really jolts all your senses into a state of hyper-awareness. Luckily this was an easy fix…within 15 minutes or so we were back up to full power. Now, you’d think that a fix to make sure this doesn’t happen again would be a priority, but not here! Instead we’ve got a sign about two feet before the button labeled “Please do not take your coats off or on beyond this sign”. While I’m sure this is a temporary solution, its so absurd that it just cracked me up.
So the biggest news of course is that the station is closed. This time we haven’t gotten any BS from the NSF about how the station has “begun winter operations”, which is nice. They have a bad habit of trying to rename everything…the new galley is the “dining facility”, the greenhouse is the “Plant growth chamber” and the beer can (the tower connecting the old to the new station) is called “the vertical circulation tower”.
With station closing, I’m really getting into the spirit of things here. We’ve got 75 people, which is a record. It’s been over a week since the place shut down, and I’m still running into people I haven’t met yet. I’ve got a room in the new station with a window view..it’s amazing! I can’t imagine going back to the old prison cell like boxes of upper berthing under the dome. It was great for a while, but it’s so much brighter and home like upstairs. It’s also nice to be able to wander out to get a cup of coffee on Sunday morning without having to go out in the cold! I’m still working in the dome, so I get the best of both worlds. The dome feels familiar, even if it’s a lot quieter than it used to be. I have discovered that the best showers are still down here…for some reason they really have cut the pressure up in the new station, so it feels like you’re just getting dripped on.
Anyway, I’m off to dinner. The food here is amazing as always, and I’m already trying to be very aware of how much I’m eating. Tomorrow I’m volunteering to help roll up the fuel lines, so I’ll be burning plenty of calories. After that, I guess it’s time to hit the gym!