On Milestones

Another week has flown by here at Pole and I am, once again, a couple of days late on my posting. This may become the new normal time for me to post as the satellite that we get our first bit of internet for the day from is coming up earlier and earlier (today was 8:32 AM) and I enjoy sleeping in a bit on the weekends. I’m continuing my workout plan which is really amazing for me because I think this is the longest I’ve kept with one when it wasn’t a requirement for something else.

One thing I think I forgot to mention that’s related to the whole working out and getting in better shape thing is a fitness challenge down here that we call the South Pole Triple Crown. In order to complete it you need to run (or walk, bike, row, etc.) the distance from Pole to McMurdo if you were to take the South Pole Traverse (the ice-highway between the two stations). If you choose to bike or row instead of walking or running there is a conversion factor, every three miles on bike (stationary, though there is a fat tire bike but I haven’t seen anyone use it) counts for one mile of running while rowing one mile counts for two running miles. The total distance is 835 miles and I’m currently 300 miles of the way there. Next up is the lifting, for that one you have to lift the equivalent of all the cargo and fuel that was delivered to Pole which weighs in at 1,355,973 lbs. I’m not as close to finishing this one as I am the distance, I’m only at 142,830 lbs lifted, but hopefully I’ll make more progress as I increase my muscle strength. The last piece is climbing the vertical tower (colloquially known as the beer can) that descends down into the ice and gives us access to the arches. For this one, we have to climb the beer can enough times to equate to climbing Mt. Everest. That’s a total of 557 (well 556.9) times. I’ve only done 33 that I’ve counted (definitely have a few that I forgot to mark down but oh well) so we’ll see if I make it on this one, I do still have a good bit of time though.

This week’s activities have been pretty typical. For Tech Rescue training we went down to the LO (Logistics) Arch and practiced using a rescue basket and hoisting it with a pulley system and webbing that we attached. For Fire Brigade training we played dodge ball, while in full gear, and on air. The point of the exercise being to get us used to exerting ourselves while fully geared up and breathing from our SCBAs. This training was on Friday which also happened to be my birthday, our team lead had a special rule that meant I couldn’t lose any of the dodgeball games. Unfortunately for me, the way this rule worked was by requiring me to switch sides every time I was hit instead of being able to go out and take a break. I definitely noticed that the cardio and stuff has helped a lot with how long a bottle of air lasts me. I was able to go the whole three games without having to swap out bottles.

Speaking of my birthday, this last week I turned 30! I normally don’t care a whole lot about my birthday and don’t like making a big deal about it, but I think it’s really cool that I got to turn 30 at the South Pole. Plenty of people get to have their birthdays here but not as many of them get to have milestone ones. To celebrate we kept up with our regularly scheduled DND game and afterwards I had asked that a few people gather to have a couple of drinks and hang out. Now, I had figured that a few people would show up, what actually happened was half the station coming to hang out. Not what I expected in the least and it was a blast. Not long after midnight we got a call on the radio from Danielle (she had to leave the party to go do weather observations) that there were auroras visible so we all rushed outside to take a look. Definitely an amazing birthday gift to be able to see the auroras for the first time on my birthday and to get to spend it with a group of such amazing people.

This weekend we also had some fun by playing a station-wide game of hide and seek. Okay, not entirely station wide, berthing wings, mechanical/fan rooms, outside, and pretty much anywhere else that could be considered not particularly safe were all off limits. It was quite a bit of fun getting a large portion of the station together and playing. We played one game of hide and seek and then one game of sardines (where one person hides and then people hide with them when the find that person) and it was an absolute blast. We might have been able to get a few more games in but some of us got distracted by the auroras going on. I’m sure we’ll be playing again in the future, especially since I think everyone enjoyed it.

As I wrap up this weeks post I’ll go ahead and mention a major milestone of our winter-over season down here. As of yesterday all of the outside windows have been covered up with cardboard to keep the light from the station from spilling out. One of the projects going on down here has some very, very sensitive equipment on the roof and any white light can severely damage that equipment and it’s time for it to be turned on. At this point, the only light we can use outside is red light unless it’s an emergency or there is an actual need that warrants turning the equipment off. I’ve actually been looking forward to covering the windows, I was getting tired of seeing nothing but the reflections of inside the station in the windows.

As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day and reading and feel free to use the email address on the contact page to ask questions if you have them.

— Matt “that’s a lot of cardboard” Butcher

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