Wednesday, November 6, 2013

South Pole Mike is off the ice!

McMurdo's been almost a year since my last grape.

My Polie friends and I met with McMurdo friends last night in one of the dorm lounges. A view of Hut Point and the frozen Winter Quarter's Bay and McMurdo Sound from that lounge. The ice pier is covered in fines...crushed volcanic rock.

A view of the sea ice runway from my Hotel California dorm room. Royal Society Range in the background.

Another view from my room - helicopter airfield and Mt. Discovery.

My favorite hiking grounds - Observation Hill with the Scott South Pole Expedition memorial cross. 
A Weddell seal.

Another one.

Standing on the sea ice by Hut Point.

This looks like a decomposed penguin.


Looking up at Vince's memorial cross.

Across McMurdo Sound.

Pressure ridge.

Scott's Discovery Hut, Winter Quarters Bay, and McMurdo. Observation Hill on the right.

Vince's memorial cross.

A mummified seal near Discovery Hut.

The McMurdo Chalet deck with Admiral Bird and the Antarctic treaty flags.
It's easy to read the time on McMurdo's sundial.

My good friend Gracie from McMurdo winterover 2012. We had a lot of catching up to do.

The 4 Polie amigos. We South Pole wintered then partied in McMurdo for two days then partied in Christchurch for a final time. Good times. Picture at the Southern Exposure in McMurdo.

On the sea ice runway. Mt. Erebus, Observation Hill, and McMurdo.

My first ride on a C-17!

A fine Boeing built plane.

My chariot awaits.

Plenty of room.

Unlimited legroom.

Very limited viewing with only a few port holes. The black smudge is on the window.

Hours and hours of ice. Simply awesome!

Our luggage. There were about 25 of us.

Very comfortable but a little cool.

Fly by wire.

On the flight deck.

The four pilots are Air Force reserve and work for Delta, Southwest, and Alaskan Airlines. The displays remind me of the Space shuttle.

An oxygen tank in the head (lavatory).

A crew from New Zealand captured fish for a PhD project.

In Christchurch at the USAP Clothing Distribution Center where we dropped off our Extreme Weather Gear. Glad to be rid of that.

Almost a year - 10 months at the South Pole.
Back at Jimmy's Bar at the Pavilion's Hotel. A local fish - Butterfish. Tastes like Mahi. 

It's so nice to see life again.

Another Antarctic adventure has come to an end. I have now completed two winters in a row at McMurdo and at the South Pole. I would readily winter again at either station. It is a harsh but rewarding continent to live, work, and play on. I feel very fortunate and honored to have served here.  To live in Antarctica is to live in another world. Unmarred by civilization, the vast ice covered continent reveals nature’s grandeur in its most pristine state.

Between these two Antarctic deployments and two bicycle tours I have learned to let go of my previous living habits and have adapted quite well to changing living conditions. I would like to have a dollar for every bed I have slept in during the past 27 months. Also a dollar for every air mile traveled would be a real bonus. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my family and home since I have only been home two out of the last 27 months. But then it won’t be long until my daughter and I will be off on another bicycling adventure where my wife and son will visit us along the road.

When on the ice for winter you have lots of time to think. My book idea came up while in McMurdo and that was followed by my plans for a 6 week bicycle tour of New Zealand with my daughter.  While at the Pole I completed our book then came up with the world bicycle ride plan. I have another plan I have been considering.

I consider New Zealand almost like a second home now kind of like Antarctica. The country is absolutely beautiful, the people super friendly, along with the bonus of some of the best breweries and vineyards anywhere, and of course the mountain biking is superb.  When My wife Andee retires I would like to move or establish a second home in New Zealand. A friend of mine who just started her summer at the Pole and has many McMurdo winters spent the last year establishing residency in New Zealand. This is something I am going to investigate. I believe this could  be the perfect retirement country.

I have enjoyed blogging these last two winters and I hope you have enjoyed my stories and pictures. My life adventure will continue at: 

What a great feeling to have successfully served another Antarctic tour and now working my way home to Florida. Signing off once again from Christchurch...

1 comment:

  1. Well-written Mike! I can't imagine a more interesting place, and I know that I felt the same way about Washington on the west coast. The mountains are beautiful, the beach is cold and stormy, but sunshine trickles in almost every day. I think of retirement as a time to travel, and volunteer to help others. I would love to shelf books in that very cool library by the beach in New Zealand....Hope you have a sweet visit with our niece in Hawaii. We look forward to seeing you soon. RELAX! Your adventures will continue.... Love always, Andee