A few days ago we had the traditional winter-over ceremony. Since only a couple of Basler flights had made it in we were basically congratulating ourselves in one of the lamest ceremonies in Antarctic history.
After a few days of weather delays we received the first plane load of passengers. Most of them were seasoned veterans who, along with the FNGs, received the typical warm South Pole welcome right on the flight deck.
The crews of the Kenn Borek Basler and Twin Otter were nice enough to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables in Chile. It was great to shock the system with some vitamins after eight months. We had grilled pineapple for dinner, with tomato and avocado salad and fresh oranges and apples for desert, washed down by a Gin tonic with fresh lime.
A few minutes ago a Basler made the first landing of the 2008/2009 season, bringing our winter officially to a close. The flight had been delayed by bad weather at Rothera Station. When the weather cleared up enough around 1am they decided to go for it. It is a beautiful day down here and the temperature was just above the cutoff of -54°C. They touched down shortly after 8am and took off for McMurdo after a very brief fuel stop. We expect to see them again with 16 passengers tomorrow.
Last Sunday we had the traditional winter-over ceremony. Nice things were being said and we got our Antarctica Service Medals. They have been awarded in one form or another since 1945 and the first recipient was Admiral Richard E. Byrd. In 1960 its current form was introduced:
The ribbon of the Antarctica Service Medal is elaborate in its symbology. The outer bands of black and dark blue comprise five-twelfths of the ribbon’s width, representing five months of antarctic darkness; the center portion, by its size and colors – grading from medium blue through light blue and pale blue to white – symbolizes seven months of solar illumination, and also the aurora Australis.
Although the former rigors and dangers of antarctic exploration have largely been banished by technology, the words on the reverse of this medal are yet a wise injunction to those who go to the Antarctic:
(Antarctic Journal of the United States, November-December 1968, pages 241-244)
Yesterday, at 3:20pm, almost eight months after the last airplane left, the Kenn Borek operated Basler touched down at the South Pole, followed two hours later by a Twin Otter. They made the long trip from Canada, all the way down the Americas to Punta Arenas, at the Southern Tip of Chile. From there on to Rothera Station, on the Antarctic peninsula, before continuing to the South Pole.
The Twin Otter stayed over night, but the Basler was on the ground only long enough to refuel and to give us some fruit and vegetables the crew brought from Punta Arenas. These Canadians are always so nice.