My First Antarctic Adventure – Part VII – Final

Sensory Overload – The Trip Home –  Copyright 1999 Jack W. Cummings

It is interesting that as your mind gets older some of the seemingly insignificant bits of life that are “saved” in memory. Yet possibly the excitement of certain experiences cause the brain to leave certain things unrecorded, to be lost forever. This was the case, as the shining new C-130 rushed me to the Naval Station McMurdo; I remember nothing about the flight or the trip in from Williams Field, the ice runway. At McMurdo we received copies of our travel orders, (my ultimate destination would be a two year assignment of the Staff of Commander Services Squadron One based at Naval Station San Diego) gorged fresh food, watched “new” movies and waited. In the Radio Shack old acquaintances were renewed, faces were connected to names, and final good byes were said. I recently received an email from one of the radiomen who wintered at McMurdo, Jesse Hopkins RM2. He remembers me telling someone I knew from Philadelphia to tell my Mom that I may bring home a “surprise”. I guess the surprise I was referring to was the extra facial hair, extra weight and that “just wintered over” look on my face. I don’t think I resembled the person she had said goodbye to the previous September. Continue reading “My First Antarctic Adventure – Part VII – Final”

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My Antarctic Adventure – Part VI

Into the Dark  –  Copyright 1999 Jack W. Cummings

Before we moved to the Northwest in 1974, I had not thought much about the length of days and nights as we moved through the seasons. Since I left the Antarctic, I had been stationed in latitudes closer to the equator where the difference between night and day are not too different. We moved here in the June and I thought, gee, how nice it is to have such long days, almost 16 hours long. But then it got closer to winter and wow! I was leaving home to go to work in the dark and getting home in the dark. It started to remind me of the Antarctic.

Although I do noSummer Dayt recall the exact day the sun left us, it was somewhere during the middle of May. Sure we would have twilight for a few minutes each “night” until August, it was not something we went outside and made a big deal about. Besides, who was going to get up at midnight to see it? Two events associated with the sun are to be celebrated next: the “mid-winters night” party, and the first appearance of the sun in August.

Why celebrate “mid-winter”? For those wintering over it marks the halfway point to our return home. We had a cook at Palmer Station in 1965 that had his own way of marking time; the first day of the month meant that that month was almost over and we could now look forward to the next.

Mid-winter’s celebrations, as far as I know, date back to much earlier expeditions. Small crews dictated long workdays and in some cases  7-day workweeks. So by the time mid-winter arrived, everyone was ready for a party. Dress was as kooky as one could come up with, and yes there was plenty of food, refreshments and dancing. Lacking any females on the crew, we reluctantly danced with each other. We must have been a sight! On some stations, this celebration usually meant it was time for some “harmless” fun. With three Kiwis on board, the pranks got very innovative. Continue reading “My Antarctic Adventure – Part VI”

My Antarctic Adventure – Part V

The Long Winter Nights Begin –  Copyright 1999 Jack W. Cummings

For those of us wintering at Hallett Station, the long winter’s night or our period of isolation began with the departure of the Icebreakers from the waters of the Antarctic. Until the bay ice froze over, we would have no way of preparing the ice runway for aircraft. Since the age of tourism had not yet begun in the Antarctic, there were no other ships in the area. We were truly isolated. If one of us were to be injured or get sick, we would have to be treated by whatever means available on the station. I had not thought about it much before now, but we were a lot like future space travelers. If there were problems, we worked them out on station. I can not recall when the day arrived that we were in total isolation. I guess my feeling was that once I arrived at Hallett, I did not expect to leave until a year had gone by. If you dwelled on it I guess it could have become a problem. So I busied myself with other things. Continue reading “My Antarctic Adventure – Part V”