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January 6, 2003

MacTown!

We made it to McMurdo! We packed up the last of our things yesterday morning, with a scheduled pickup of 11:15, and then were put on hold. It's okay, we're used to it. We took it pretty hard by settling back into playing cards and getting excited about a lunch of grilled cheese and tater tots. I was a bit bummed when we got the call saying the pilot was thinking of giving it a shot, and then another call saying that he'd taken off.

Three guys working for the environmental division had made it into Fang on Saturday, and were scheduled to come up to the mountain to do some clean-up, including digging up leftovers of old camps (the pre-hut Jamesway, hard-to-remove bamboo poles which had been left behind when tents were removed in years past). The 212 swung by Fang to pick up Geoff, Brian, and Sal and arrived at LEH at the tail end of our hurried lunch. The three guys unloaded, and we got on. Wait! Who are these people? And what are they doing up here without us? Am I allowed to feel possessive?

As we pulled away from the volcano, I thought of how excited the newcomers must be to see from up close. That's pretty cool, I thought. And, seeing it with new eyes, I was sad to leave. I realized I forgot to say goodbye to my trusty skidoo, Fang, and then I was even more sad.

I was sad and contempletive for most of the way down. Then, we pulled into McMurdo, and I was fine. Mission 1: Get dorm room. Mission 2: Get shower.

Shower. The first shower in over a month. Rich E. said he would get a quick shower and head back down to Crary, the science building, to intercept the next helo load. I had no intention of taking a quick shower. I took my time. Except, I was working hard. Because it's cold and we don't often sweat while working, I really didn't feel very stinky and grimy. Stinky and grimy, yes, but not one month's worth of stinky and grimy. I didn't, however, anticipate the month's worth of dead skin built up as a scum all over my body. Just add water, and -bing- instant grime.

Clean. Clean? Really? Yes.

After clean, and clean clothes (clean clothes! A t-shirt!), I was set into motion. There were things to see! It just happened to be the day of the LDB (something something Balloon) launch out at Willy Field (the late-summer runway). Seth, the science tech who has been helping us out, called R.K., a phone call which I intercepted, and I told Chuck Kurnik, a friend of mine from UNAVCO, and he told some folks from upstairs, and the lot of us crammed into the shuttle to head on out. (I was in a bit of a hurry, neglected to grab my digital camera, and almost missed the shuttle.) The crowd to watch the launch was surprisingly small. Some of us were skeptical. Is this worth the wait?

It was.

They were filling the balloon when we got there. We stood around, took pictures, chit-chatted, and then were shuffled around to watch the launch. First, some folks were corralled our way, being told the launch might be a bit wild. Then, we were all corralled back where the other folks had been corralled out. Then, the balloon launched. It was big. It went up.

I can't even begin to explain the science behind this event. To those involved, it is an instruement to measure the universe. To me, it is a very big balloon. To all of us, it was very cool.

We just missed the shuttle heading back to McMurdo. So, we hitched a ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Classic. We're in Antarctica, in the back of a pick-up, on a beautiful day, watching a huge balloon rising tranquilly in the blue sky. We decided it would have been a good day for a barbeque. I realized halfway through our ride that I had already met the guy sitting next to me, when I was first through McMurdo. Turns out he's most recently from Boulder, too. Joel, the guy sitting next to me, also had a revelation.

He just realized why the balloon is called "Boomerang." Someone asked why the balloon launch takes place in Antarctica, and someone explained that 1) the continuous daylight which keeps the balloon from contracting at night and also keeps charging the system through the solar panels; and 2) the wind patterns are such that the balloon lands in almost the same place it took off. "I just got it!" Joel exclaims.

We decided BOOMERANG must also be an acronym for something, because everything in science is. Joel started off with what it might mean, but had some spelling issues. Chuck and RK picked it up, coming up with clever options--RK's suggestion for the "RANG" was "Return Arrival Not Guaranteed."

We made it back. We went to dinner. We went to a party in a lounge. We drank gin and tonics. I was very tired. Eventually, we called it a night, and went to bed.

Not bad, for a first day back in town.

Posted by beth at January 6, 2003 3:00 PM

Comments

i've been wondering, now that your time on erebus is over, how would you compare that to your month in the costa rican wilderness where you lived with a family and slept next to the bat room and had rice and beans 3 meals a day and shared an outhouse with boas and fire ants and traveled to your research destinations on a little horse?

Posted by: wilma, mother of beth at January 10, 2003 5:39 PM

When you write your paper will you title it
"Rimes" from Erebus or Poems from Antartica?
Tampa has been delt a blow by El Nino, we are
experiencing a lingering cold spell. We're dying in the low 60's here. I bet you can't wait to use some of the New Zealand summer for your R and R.
Is there a specific time you need to get back to the Americas to do your publish or perish duties? Any new volcanos in your future? Can any of your scientific insturments be used to predict the
winning numbers to the next Florida LOTTO? Will the ice caps melt and put Florida under water?
Will your skidoo throttle thumb bother you every time it gets cold? Will you always preheat the toilet seat before having 'a moment'? Will all your Erebus experiences be with you always? Will you have some good stories for us that you couldn't post to your web page?

Posted by: Rick, uncle extraordinary at January 12, 2003 8:49 AM

Boomerang= Balloon 'overing over McMurdo, Expeditious Return Arrival Not Guaranteed?

Posted by: Kevin at January 21, 2003 8:12 AM