Saturday, November 11, 2017

South Pole Mike is off the Ice!

I am off the ice and spending four days in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand before flying home. I will spend a few days visiting my sister Tish and brother-in-law Jim in San Diego before continuing home to Florida. 

It has been four days of walking the parks and seeing green stuff, watching dogs and hearing birds sing. It's the simple things in life that winter polies enjoy. I have also enjoyed a few lunches and dinners with my polie friends before we all go our own way. When you spend nine months in close quarters with 45 other people you develop relationships that only winter-overs understand. All of a sudden we are like grains of seeds tossed in the wind to rebuild our lives.

My third successful Antarctic winter has come to an end. I'm somewhere around number 1,200 - the number of people who have wintered at the South Pole since the first winter-over crew in 1957. That number increases about 45 each year. That's only a few of the world's population. I look at it as a great honor to live and work this adventure.

I would like to thank you all for reading and sending comments. It can be a difficult time made easier with comments/emails. I would also like to thank my wife Andrea for once again letting me live my dreams. With an around the world bicycle ride with my daughter Jocelyn and three Antarctic winters I haven't been home much in the last six years since I 'retired'.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, "I'll be back."

The Winterover Antarctic service medal that is authorized to be worn on all military service uniforms. For each year served there is a bronze, silver, and gold "Wintered Over" ribbon given. I now have the full selection. 

McMurdo Chapel with Mt. Discovery to the left. McMurdo is technically not part of the continent. Mt. Discovery is on the continent about 20 miles away separated by the Ross Ice Shelf.

A fine group of winter polies at Gallagher's Bar in McMurdo Station. 

Hut Point to the right and looking across the sea-ice shelf. During the summer this ice shelf is cleared and open to sea life of all kinds. Pods of whales and orcas cruise the sound and many more seals and penguins are present. 

Observation Hill and two of the transient barracks - Mammoth Mountain Inn and Hotel California. 

McMurdo Station heliport.

McMurdo Ground Station with a 30 foot weather satellite communications antenna inside the dome. During my first ice winter in 2012 I worked here under a a NASA contract. 

A fine ride to the C-17 airfield. 

Mt. Erebus (left) and Mt. Terror, two of Ross Island's four volcanoes. Both are named after James Clark Ross' Antarctic expeditions ships between 1839-1843. 

Mt. Erebus is the southern hemisphere's most active volcano and stands at 12, 500 feet. It last erupted in 1979 and is 25 miles from McMurdo Station.

Walking to our off the ice transportation.

My chariot awaits.

It was a comfortable but loud 5 hour flight to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Turning in our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear at the USAP Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) next door to the airport.. We were glad to get rid of all that. Back to regular clothes. What a treat!

While waiting for a ride to our hotels we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. 

USAP paid for one night at a hotel then I moved to this fine much cheaper hostel (called backpackers in New Zealand) across from the immense Hagley Park near the downtown area. This house is over 150 years old with 27 rooms. It was converted to a hostel 13 years ago. 
Christchurch Cathedral was heavily damaged in the 2011 earthquake. Built in 1864 it has been deconsecrated due to heavy structural damage. I have been in Christchurch three times since the earthquake as the city is a stepping stone to McMurdo and the South Pole. Christchurch recovery is slow but steady. 
Before the 2011 earthquake.
On my way home to Cape Canaveral, Florida!

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to the north side of the world. I hope you are able to transition to the colors and sounds of the busy world. We had a fire in the house tonight, under 70 F with all windows open! Enjoy sunny San Diego and be ready for the "honey do" list. I'll be happy to give up my duties and retire like you. Our goals may change as we find time to compare notes. See you soon, love always, andee