It's a funny feeling hearing your radio beep. Or rather, the funny thing is what comes after that.
Attention south pole, attention south pole. Skier 81 is off deck, the crossing beacon is off, it is now safe to cross the skiway.
And really, that radio call wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary if it weren't for the fact that it's the last one I'll hear until sometime in early November. Sunday was the actual last flight out of Pole. All the winterovers stood on the flight deck and watched as the plane landed and was then unable to open the passenger door because it was frozen shut. It was -48.5ºC, 1.5º above the point at which LC-130s cannot land at pole.
All the passengers boarded through the rear cargo door. Now that's the way to board a cargo plane. It taxied, and took off down the skiway. The contrails were impressive in the cold.
I felt a tug on my shoulder, and looked over to see Robert Schwarz (who's on his 11th winter!!). "The plane is going to do a flyby. You'll get a good shot over there." I followed him, although the cold made it hard to zoom my lens. The plane flew by, waving its wings as it passed over the station. And then that was it. There were a few "happy winter!" exchanges, and then we all dissipated. I stood on the flight deck for a minute, stared at the contrails, and then hopped back into my skidsteer and went back to moving crates around the cargo yard.
The bustle of planes at all hours is done. A few Twin Otters and Baslers flew in on their way to Rothera, and I fueled them. Then we shut down NPX fuels for the season and that's all she wrote.
It's interesting here now that it's winter. Life goes on more or less the same, just smaller. I walk down the hallway on my way to breakfast and there's rarely anyone there. We put couches, coffee tables, and lamps in the galley. It's not uncommon for me to spend hours out in the cargo yard without seeing another soul. Honestly, it's refreshing after the constant bustle of summer. Everyone seems relaxed, and we're starting to settle into our respective grooves.
But although the rush of summer is over, there's another rush now. The end of February is rapidly approaching, and by this time next month the sun will be setting. There's massive amounts of work to be done outside far from station, and it's a race against the sunset to get it done. Food and materials have to be brought in close to station so we can retrieve them, and items have to be located and stored on our massive storage berms. Outbuildings have to be closed, flag lines set. But it feels good.
Let's do winter.