Other Pages of Interest

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Return From Antarctica

When we found out that we were moving in May 2009, we decided not to spread the news until we knew more details about the assignment, which turned out to be in mid-June. Little did I know that in the meantime my middle brother, Chris, would announce that he had accepted a job that was located in....wait for it.... Antarctica. This significantly decreased the shock value of our news, so I owe him a thank you for that. He said that he was planning to move to the McMurdo Airforce Base for six months to be a fireman. I think our friend Rick put it best when he said "If I think of one place on Earth that would have the least amount of fires, it would be Antarctica", which is the same thing that most of us were thinking. So since this weekend marks Chris's return to the US, I will dedicate this post to his reasons for going and why he wants to go back.

Many countries have built bases on Antarctica, the US, New Zealand, Argentina, Russia, India and Chile just to name a few. The United States owned McMurdo Station is located on Ross Island, south of New Zealand and with the ability to support over 1,200 residents, it is currently the largest community in Antarctica. It is a working Air Force base and requires the support of emergency fire and rescue crews to assist with the daily operations of the airfield and provide medical services support to the base and research facility. This is where Chris and his team come into play. They have done everything from "pave" the ice runways (with water to smooth out the cracks in the ice) to chasing penguins away so that planes could land. The latter is one of my favorite things that Chris has told us about. There were 4 Empire penguins on the runway that just stood there for multiple days. Eventually, a plane needed to land and they had to somehow get these 5 foot tall penguins off of the runway - I would not have wanted that job! Another great penguin story was when Chris and a couple other guys saw a huge herd (flock? gaggle? What is a group of penguins called?) of smaller penguins from a distance. They took a bunch of pictures of the herd, until they realized that 3 little guys were breaking away to come and check out the humans! They walked right up to Chris and the guys, they were only a few feet away - can you imagine?!

It wasn't all penguins and fun for him, they had emergencies where people were lost out in the cold, heart related health issues and yes, even a fire. The travel down to Antarctica was gruesome, he flew from DC to Denver (there he trained on the huge trucks and foam hoses for three weeks) to LA to Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand to Antarctica. The last leg was a military C-17 where you had to sit looking into the middle of the plane for 5 hours. When he first arrived, they had an unexpected cold front move in and the base underwent unseasonable cold temperatures, the coldest Chris reported was -115 F. That's freakin cold. They have TV, internet and they can call out from the base (they cannot receive any phone calls). Chris said that the base has a 24 hour bar, a pool and rec room and there are plenty of hikes and photo opportunities. My family sent him care packages and Christmas presents and he was kind enough to send Christmas packages back to each one of us. He seems to have done an amazing job there and is now celebrating his completion of the 6-month position with a glorious vacation in Sydney and then a week in Hawaii.

We all missed Chris like crazy while he was gone. I can't wait to hear all of the stories that he has to tell. The experience was overwhelmingly positive and he seems to have met some really great guys. If nothing else, he has a resume builder that very few others can compete with. It has gone from what we all thought was crazy to something that we are all very proud of. Welcome Home Chris!

No comments:

Post a Comment