First things first. I have actually made it to Pole! In fact, I got here last Friday. And I haven't told you.
This place is everything McMurdo is not. It's small (McMurdo was 1100 people when I left, Pole is currently 130), it's a very tight community, and the food is amazing. I do intend to go into significantly more detail on the various aspects of Pole at a later date, but right now I have limited photos and extremely limited time to upload posts here. So I'm going to tell you a story.
I was not expecting to leave McMurdo when I did. I had bag dragged on Thursday. Bag drag usually takes place the day before you fly, and is the exceptionally lovely process of hauling all your baggage and gear up to the cargo area, weighing it all, and leaving everything except your carry-on bag behind. I had been advised to keep an extra set of clothes in my bag, as there was a good chance we wouldn't actually fly for another day. This turned out to be excellent advice, and I was very happy to have my toiletries and extra clothes the next day when I saw my flight was cancelled. It was also cancelled the next day. And the day after that. With all the field camps stacking up, and some Australians waiting to go Casey Station, we got bumped from a primary flight to a backup, meaning if the primary flight for that day didn't go, we would. One day our primary didn't go, but the weather at Pole was too bad to fly. Another, the plane was broken. Living out of carry-on is kind of fun for a few days, but not a week. And so you can understand why I wasn't expecting anything to happen when I saw that my flight was scheduled as a backup flight for Casey Station on Friday. But at 6:00 AM, we all got calls that casey had cancelled. We might actually go to Pole.
Now at this point I was doing all I could not to get my hopes up. The plane might break. Or worse, it might fly all the way to Pole, find the weather to be unacceptable, and fly back. But it's hard not to get your hopes up when you've spent almost a month somewhere you aren't really supposed to be, and a week of that waiting for a flight. I met up with the rest of the passengers on my flight, and we all climbed aboard Ivan (the terra bus!) for the hour-long (but only 6 mile) drive to the airfield. Involuntary sigh of relief #1.
We got to the airfield and I watched the massive LC-130 taxi over to the fuel pits. A few fuelies hooked it up to fuel. Then they disconnected it, but it didn't move. We were informed that we were probably going to sit on Ivan for half an hour. We were not told why.
I hate delays. Especially to come this close! But it's important not to get anxious, or so I'm told.
We got on the plane half an hour later, as promised. Cue involuntary sigh of relief #2.
The LC-130 is a relic of a heavy lift aircraft, and it is not built for passenger comfort. That being said, when wrapped in a big red parka, the nylon seats were amazingly comfortable, if a bit crowded. It was a smooth, uneventful three hours in an airplane.
And then suddenly, thump. It's hard to describe what it feels like when wheel skis hit two miles of ice without using bold face text. But that thump carries a lot of feelings. Discomfort. Excitement. And a bit of confusion. Because I was just in a metal tube for three hours and now I must be at the south (freaking) pole, but nothing feels different except for the fact that I just went from sea level to 10,500 feet and I'm having a hard time breathing.
And then they open the door. It's hard to understand what it feels like when you walk out into the -50º thin, thin air. You blink and your eyes want to stay frozen shut. It hurts to breathe a little, even through a neck gaiter. It's so bright, and all there is around you is ice, a plane and the station. Oh, the station. Probably the closest thing to living in a space station on the planet, it's a big grey box on stilts surrounded by snow drifts the size of small houses.
And all you can think is wow.
And it's a bit nippy out, I think I'll head inside, ya know?
This place is going to be my home for the rest of the season. Time to settle in.