Boredom, then Astronauts

My first week and a half back at McMurdo was slow and quiet. We had just under 600 people on station when I arrived, and a delay kept fresh fruit, my hilarious and wonderful room mate, and my boss in Christchurch six days later than planned.

I’m hopeful (knock on wood) that this will be a quiet season. Same job, same season, and same people mean I can hopefully coast with projects, self-care, and doing new activities without burning myself out like I did last summer. So far I’ve been to one excellent yoga class, helped clear the Ob Hill Loop trail on a volunteer trail crew, climbed Ob Hill once (aiming for a climb at least once a week this season), joined a jazz band, and attended a video conference with two astronauts on the International Space Station. Both astronauts are former Antarcticans who just completed the first all-female, all-Antarctican spacewalk in history.

Just when I was worried this season would be more of the same, we all got to see the inside of the Space Station! Thank you again, Antarctica.


Baby’s First Off-Season

I couldn’t get excited about writing last season, since it was my second deployment and third season at McMurdo, so it was hard to find anything really novel to write about. I did “run” the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K, visit the penguin colony at Cape Royds, and go on my first snowmobile trip, but other than that I just worked a lot and tried to recreate some semblance of the amazing social life I had in the winter.

It was a hard season. There were some beautiful highlights, but I was working myself way too hard. Amazing how much stress and energy one expends when feeling like they have to prove themselves and “earn” their job.

I wish I could say I was coming in to my third year, fourth (!!!) season with the United States Antarctica Program feeling accomplished and energized, but I’m feeling worn out. Again. At least it’s not for the same reasons I was worn out in March. Back in January, I decided to keep my overachiever streak going by starting a 16-month online computer networking Associate’s degree program with Milwaukee Area Technical College. I wanted, and still want, to boost my skills enough to *maybe* someday get an IT job at South Pole or Palmer station. That’s assuming I don’t fry my brain before I graduate next spring.

I also managed to visit eight countries (including Turkey, my first Asian country), read a book almost every week, took some solar installer courses, visited Philadelphia and San Francisco for the first time, and watched every single episode of the original series of Star Trek, so at least I sometimes had fun whilst frying my brain and finding new ways to burn out.

Because I enjoy my job at McMurdo and the structure and stability that comes with it, I’m hoping going back to 60-hour work weeks will actually recharge me in some way. I don’t do well without structure. Getting away from McMurdo for 7.5 months, the longest I’ve been away from the Ice since I started working there two years ago, was a good reset too, if for no other reason than reminding me that McMurdo isn’t the center of the universe.

I was beginning to forget that.




Round Three

Pictures from my third season at McMurdo station!

Here Comes the Sun!

As I write this, I am scheduled to leave McMurdo in three days.

I don’t know when that will feel real. Maybe when I go through the hug line and say goodbye to friends who have become my world these last six months. Maybe when I get on the Delta and it slowly rumbles towards Phoenix airfield. Maybe when I get on the C-17. Maybe when I get off the C-17 and the humidity of New Zealand in late winter hits me.

I am flabbier and pastier than I have ever been in my life, and so, so ready to spend ten days walking, walking walking around the city and along the beach, eating salads, fresh fruit, and lamb kebabs. If I have time to go to the city of Dunedin and the town of Moeraki, on the southeast coast, I will hopefully see seals, more penguins, and the famous giant spherical boulders on Moeraki beach.

I am also desperate to see my family, and catch up with friends back in Madison. But I feel weird saying that I’m coming “home”.

Maybe Madison will feel like home again after a few days back, and my ten months in McMurdo will feel like a distant dream. That happened when I came back after seven months in Europe.

But this time, I don’t really want Madison to become my home. It will always be a home base, at least as long as my immediate family is there, but I don’t want to let myself settle down this time. When I got back from Europe, I got a job that I initially thought I would do for six months. Six months turned into three years, and while it was a good experience overall and I learned a LOT, I think I stuck with that job longer than I should have.

So I don’t know what I’ll do now. I’ll be back on Ross Island in late October, and then will hopefully go to southeast Asia for a few weeks early next year, then come home back to Madson for a month or two, and then live in Buenos Aires for a few months.

I’m getting my seven continents next year.

In other news, the sun rose for the first time in four months. My friends and I braved -50 wind chills to see it. Totally worth it.