Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The past few days, McMurdo has been filled with
Polies. This isn't a strange insect or contamination
that needs a pesticide or a shot of penicillin, but
a nickname for all of the folks that spend any length
of time at the South Pole. The Polies that are at
McMurdo right now are the first batch of people to
go south for the summer season. 96 of them. In the
meantime, 61 remaining winterover Polies are at the
Pole, waiting to leave...including our friend Renee.
They're on their fifth day of being delayed and it
doesn't look promising for the next few days as a
high pressure ridge has settled over the Pole.
Usually a high pressure ridge means good weather.
It does. It also means that the temperatures are
very cold and it's too cold for planes to land there.
It has to be warmer than -50 Celsius and it's been
in the -56 to -60 range. That's as cold as -76F.
LC-130 Fuel freezes at that temperature. Not a good
thing when you're trying to stay in the air.

In the meantime, my job gets very crazy with all of
these flight cancellations. We keep track of all of
the flights for the day on a big white board and
make changes to the board as they occur. The
cargo planners, loaders, and shuttle drivers watch
this board carefully because even one change can
mess up their day. Because there is such a precedent
of Pole flights being cancelled, there are backups
for each of the flights and these go if the Pole
flights don't. Sometimes even these flights get
cancelled for various reasons...Ugh...you get the
idea. So on a perfect day, all the planes take off,
all the planes land, and everybody is happy.

In the meantime, the LC-130's sit out on the Ice
Runway and wait for passengers. The weather has
been great at McMurdo. It got all the way up to
16F here today. Really nice Spring weather.
Not so at the Pole.

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