The (austral) winter season at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station ended around noon on Saturday, 27 October, with the landing of the first New York Air National Guard LC-130 in almost 10 months. In some ways it seems as though the last flight we saw in February just left; in other ways it seems an eternity. The profound darkness, extreme cold, and relative isolation of a South Pole winter often felt as though it would go on forever…a form of suspended animation…with every day very similar to the one before and the one that would follow.
The aircraft not only brought 28 new faces to the station, but also 200 pounds of “freshies” which are reserved for fruit deprived wintering personnel…at least for the first few days. In addition to the first bananas, apples, oranges, and melons we have seen in many months, the shipment also included such wonderful and marvelous things as fresh eggs.
For the past few days, the skies have been bluer and the temperatures warmer (minus mid-50s Fahrenheit) than we have experienced a very long time. Perhaps things just seem better when departure is only days away. I am sure there are many things I will miss about the South Pole when I leave, but for the moment, my focus is getting the new doctor oriented to this unique environment and then boarding the LC-130 that will take me home.
As part of the switch from the winter to summer season at the South Pole, the tattered winter flags of the United States and the National Science Foundation, having endured super-cold abrasive snow and ice, are replaced with crisp new flags that will proudly fly throughout the summer.
It is somewhat strange having new faces around the station and getting used to interacting with new people again. The daily routine is much less monotonous as we prepare to receive even more personnel over the coming days and wrap up winter long projects in preparation for our own departures. The new doctor and nurse practitioner have yet to arrive. I am obviously looking forward to shifting the mantel of responsibility over to new shoulders and returning to the “normal” world.
This blog will continue with stories of polar exploration and adventure long after I have left the ice. Hopefully, my impressions of this centennial South Pole winter will become more refined as I am able to place my experiences in perspective.