When we stepped off the plane at Pegasus Field (the local landing strip on the Ross Ice Shelf), we were greeted by clear skies and a -35F windchill. Some workers nearby excitedly explained how much they had to rush to clear off the runway after this morning’s Condition 1 storm. A line of people stood outside the plane, hugging and shaking hands as they recognized people in the big red cluster of new-comers.
One by one, we piled onto the Kress (think: giant industrial super-bus) and we began our 45 minute journey to town. The FNG next to me leaned over to see out the window and I explained that, in about 5 minutes, a thick coat of frost would cover the window and nobody would be able to see where we were going. We introduced ourselves to one another and talked about our past lives (life before the ice) as the Kress rolled slowly across the Ross Ice Shelf and towards Ross Island.
We were dropped outside of building 155, the hub of McMurdo, and we gathered in the Galley for yet another safety briefing. There were more hugs in the hallway, winter-overs peeking around the corner and waving to their friends from last summer, and winfly employees enthusiastically running up to familiar faces. After a speech about potential work hazards and a quick rundown from the lodging office, we were handed our room keys and released to pick up our linens, grab our luggage from building 140 (up the hill from 155) and settle into our new home.
It was 11:00pm by the time the shuttle dropped me off in front of my dorm, still clad in my 52 pounds of ECW (Extreme Cold Weather gear) and with my 85 pounds of luggage plus a laundry bag full of ice-cold linens. I momentarily considered walking back to the galley and grabbing a piece of pizza before my fatigue set in. I was instructed to arrive at work tomorrow at 7:30am. My luggage barely made it into my door. My eyes barely open. I quickly made my bed and fell asleep.