Sunday, February 25, 2007

We Few, We Happy Few...

We band of brothers (and sisters). Yesterday
the last plane left. The last plane until
August. I've been given the task of helping to
put together the final town roster and you would
think that would be easy...however. With last
minute changes of people coming and going I think,
yes think, the final population for this winter
will be ... 119. Yes, only 119 of us on this
barren little island. Less than half as many as
the 241 that wintered with us in 2005. It's going
to be very interesting watching the dynamics of the
town during the next 6 months. We ended the season
in the traditional way of toasting the last C-17
with champagne as it flew over town on it's way north.
It was wicked cold though as the windchill was hovering
around -40. Our friend Martin (pictured above) showed
us what it was like to drink the equivalent of a
champagne slurpie.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Fryer
Because I'm now working in the Chalet, it's my job to
organize all of the festivities surrounding the last
flight. That includes everything from raising all of the
flags on the deck (my favorite part) to organizing the
champagne toast and communicating with the airfield to
find out when the plane is taking off. Because the weather
was horrible, at the last minute we were told that the plane
wouldn't be buzzing town. This includes flying pretty near
Observation (Ob) Hill. Pretty understandable considering the
lousy conditions. Then the airfield manager told me that they
were going to make a try at it. I had only a minute before told
the crowd of 75 or so that it wasn't going to happen, and now
it looked like it was going to. Off in the distance we could
see the plane coming, getting larger by the second. Then it was
right in front of us, making a large arching move to go through
the pass toward Scott Base. The crowd of course loved it since
for many, this was their first winter and first fly by. But it
wasn't over yet. After flying over Scott Base and giving them
a winter's goodbye, it circled around to buzz us very low (at least
low for a C-17). I would say it was less than a thousand feet
straight up above us. With strong binoculars, we would have seen
the crew! They did a VERY pronounced wing dip and off to the
north they went. I've received an email from a friend who was on
the plane and everyone almost lost their lunch during that dip it
was so strong!

So another winter has started. I think it will be a good one, albeit
very different from our four previous winters. Never say never, but
I think this will be our least for a while. We are in the
process of becoming summer people at McMurdo. After this winter, I
will have 47 months on Ice and Lynn will have 50. We still love the
program but our careers are taking different paths from our winter
stays. The last of our summer friends left yesterday. Tony and Elise,
Barbie and Jeff, Andrea, Megan, and my friend and co-worker Susie, who
I will miss the most. It was a hard day for me yesterday, watching the
last of our summer friends leave...especially my ATO friends. Susie
told me something that helped me feel better though. If we were going
home also right now, Lynn and I wouldn't see most of them for at least
a couple months anyway (and that's those that live in Colorado) so what's
a few more months until next summer. That's true. So, thank you Susie,
Tony, Elise and everyone else from my made it special.
Now winter begins...


Jude said...

Besides, it was a windy day on the western slope of Colorado (and it snowed), which reminded me that we will have a windy March, a wet April, and a too short May before it gets way too hot. Might as well be in Antarctica.

Rhea said...

The changes in your seasons are so dramatic there, with the changing of the 'guard', so to speak.

andrea said...

Thanks for the heartfelt goodbye! I'm going in and out of "people withdrawal" myself, here in NZ. That takeoff on the 24th was pretty miserable inside the C-17! I'm glad you posted the picture of the plane, though (makes it a little more worthwhile)!