Monday, July 18, 2005

Chapter 20 - The Third and Last Austral Summer

23 October 90

Still trying to find out whether my checks have been coming to the condo or not. It has been hard to get the company to give me any answers let alone checks. The wave of changes from the change of contractors is still rippling thru the system. It's too bad that it is the employees that bare the brunt of those changes. Delay the paychecks for some our boneheaded “support people” in Colorado and see how long they would stick around!

24 October 90

The weather is still a bit wintry yet, but summer is just around the corner. Right now, Arthur Harbor is iced in with brash. Lots of algae in the ice. We have also had a couple of good windstorms with gusts up to 70 knots. Today we're supposed to have a picnic on the glacier at lunch-time. So most of us will have the afternoon off. Al and I will still have a few things to do since most of our work gets done in the afternoon.

Last night was beautiful. The low clouds invaded most of the sky with the summer daylight peaking through behind the mountains leaving a silhouette of the mountains glowing in the night sky. No colors, just black, white and grays.

If you are going to be in transit anytime from the end of November until mid-December, telex me a note and let me know where you will be when. I am not sure of my departure date, but it is always a possibility that we could cross paths on my trip north. When do you leave to board the Illiria? Let me know what is going on with you. I'm only hoping this reaches you over the next month or so. You are almost as hard to keep track of as me!!

Well, almost time to make my 6 a.m. watch. So I'll close for now.

26 October 90

No excuses, but I am finally catching up on my letters. Last night we had a colorful sunset with the clouds being pulled in from all directions toward the sun. Above our heads was a group of altocumulus clouds that resembled a large open weave basket catching a reflection off the pink and orange sunset. The pink and orange in turn glowed off of the water in between the floating brash ice in the harbor.

I made sure to pick up some new music before I left the states. Depeche Mode - Violator and the B52's among them. I am crazy about both of them too. Also picked up Taylor Daynes newest while in Punta Arenas for ten days. So I listen to them when I'm in the gym or when I stop by the bar.

In spite of what one may think, a remote place does not have to be a social abyss! We have a bar and have been known to have dancing and parties here. At present there are only about a half dozen women on station with the station population at about thirty. Our resupply ship the Polar Duke will be stopping in to take a few people out around the middle of November and will return around the beginning of December with freshies (fresh fruits and veggies) and more people.

From Dave Gallas, Palmer Station Antarctica/NNNONPA AT
To Eric Siefka, South Pole Antarctica

Hello Eric,
04 November 90

I heard you up on 11553 speaking with Al Oxton earlier and it sounds like things are pretty busy at Pole these days. Why I'm writing is to ask if you still need a comms operator for the summer season. I am presently scheduled to leave Palmer around mid-December, but the comms person I have been filling in for should be on station upon the arrival of the charter vessel on December 7th. I realize that December is already a good part into the season, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm interested if you have any openings. If you have any questions, just shout, or drop a line.

Kris and Donna pass their greetings! Kris also thanks you for the relay of her sisters letters. Take care and we'll be listening for you.

08 November 90

I'm on late watch tonight, so I watched Dead Poets Society tonight. I haven't seen it before and really enjoyed it. Kind of a sad ending, but Robin Williams does a dramatic role well. So here I sit at 3:30 a.m. typing on the computer.

17 November 90

I have been wanting to write you sooner, but you know how things get around here. Things are going along alright here. A few minor probs, but overall having a great time, getting a great tan and enjoying the atmosphere (or lack of, depending on the ozone levels). George our ozone scientist from Assowoman, VA (no kidding, there is really such a place!) just left on the Polar Dock today, so I guess what we don't know now won't hurt us, right? Armando aka Richie Skane says hola, senior.

I can't believe that I'm already short. I am supposed to leave on the 15 December "charter vessel" up to PA, but we will see. If Al doesn't take his break in the beginning of Dec, I may try to convince the management that I would like to leave sooner. Too early to tell at this point. Got a letter from Marcia a couple of weeks ago. She has just moved to Utah and dropped me a marsgram right as she was on her way. I don't have an address right now, so I imagine that she is having the post office forward things. She found a job working with the postal system, so she sounds happy. Have you heard from anyone else lately?

I think winter is holding on a little harder this year than the other two austral summers that I've been down, but spring is coming soon. Things were melting nicely up till Friday night when we had another snowstorm. Only dropped about four inches, but enough to whiten up the rocks again. The harbor is all filled in with brash again, so the penguin scientists are stranded at Palmer again. Two people spent the night at Torgerson early in the week. There is an 8 man tent set up to observe the penguins and track their movements etc. So Mark, the scientist, and one of the GFA's stayed out there but didn't take proper provisions. After spending the night, they ended up stranded out there for the day when the winds picked up to 40 knots. Finally around 8 p.m. the winds came down and a boat went out to get them.

They ended up digging into the survival caches to eat. Old Army C-rats from 1967 are hardly what I’d consider fine dining. So we got all of the graphic details of their gourmet meal selections! They tried to convince us that they would take survival cache gourmet selections any day over the slop we eat in the galley (ya, right!). Our cooks are right up there with Dick's cooking, so put any thoughts of starvation out of your head. I have successfully gained back any weight I lost when I returned home.

Take care and see ya again soon.

17 November 90

Just thought I would drop a line to ya and let you know what's going on in my little corner of the world. Can't say that things have been great, but I still enjoy the job and the location. The weather is getting warmer, but not fast enough. We have been having a few nice days. Had a nice little snowstorm on Friday that dropped about four inches, and winds with steady 40-50 knot winds. The bad part was that the ship was in and they were trying to offload cargo and scientists. Seems like the Polar Duke always brings in the bad weather with them!

I'm here for another four weeks and counting. It feels harder being away this time. The short contract has made me anxious for the days to pass.

Right now there are bergs off in the distance and the harbor is full of brash ice. The penguins have returned and have already started to lay their eggs. Maybe I'll be around long enough to see a few hatch, but the ship schedule is still up in the air. As it stands now, I should be home around the 21st of December.

21 November 90

Dear Hans,
It was great to receive your letter. Things here have been a little too serious lately and my mood has been down in the dumps. Your letter made my day.

The job here at Palmer is going great. The only problem the most of us are having is with little Napoleon our local dictator. He has been difficult to live with, great at micromanaging, bad at personal relations with the troops and is leader of the local moral minority in his attempts to "clean up" the smut on station. I am glad that I have a short contract. At least when you have a job in the States you can leave the a**h*l*s behind when you go home. You don't have to see or talk to them if you don't want to.

Too bad that you and I won't cross paths. It would be great to just sit down in a relaxed atmosphere and catch up on what is going on with one another. We have both done so much traveling and moving around in the past six months. I know your feelings exactly about not being able to stay put in one place too long. I am going to try this time to seriously settle down when I get back again.

Were you able to get all of your plant samples and souvenirs back to Holland without problems? Even though I left Punta Chimino with an almost empty suitcase, I picked up more than enough to fill it in Antigua. If you ever get out to visit me in the U.S., you will see the rug I bought in my dining room on the wall, and the wool bedspread on my bed. Those alone took up almost the whole suitcase!! It was almost a crime not to buy more for the price. I also bought and had framed two of the rubbings which were impressions from some of the stelea in Tikal. They are hanging in my living room and look great.

I really enjoyed my stay in Guatemala too, thanks to you. Your ability to speak Spanish gave me the opportunity to experience the backwoods part of the journey that I would have been apprehensive to try on my own.

I'm sorry that you had such a bad time with Aurora (John's girlfriend in Punta Chimino). She was always kind of two-faced about everything. At least you were able to see through her and still enjoy the overall experience. I did send a box of things that John had asked for, but they were never picked up in the post office in Mexico City and were returned to me about two months later. Oh well, I'll just send him a letter and explain that to him. It probably won't be anything new to him.

So when you get back on the Illiria, say hello to Darrel, and all the others for me. Your friend, Dave

27 November 90

Looks like Al is going to take a quick break before I leave. He will go up to King George Island on the ship M/V Erebus and come back down the next day or so after the SAAM flight with the dignitaries coming down. At least he is taking a couple of day break--he deserves it. So I'll be here to start training the new guy when he arrives.

The weather is cool and overcast today. The harbor is still socked in with ice. Temps have been staying around 25-34 degrees the past week or so. I read that your temps have been unseasonably warm. And here I thought that I would be all acclimated for the cold weather when I came back!

The ship sched is pretty precarious at this point. The office always plans for the SAAM flights to go without a hitch, but it is more realistic to expect them to be a little late. A lot depends on the weather in Punta as well as the weather on King George. Since I am scheduled to come home after the ships return from King George second SAAM, my return could slip a day. Like I said to you before, this is the Antarctic and nothing is ever to be expected to go as planned.

As it goes now, I should be in Chicago on the 21st of December. If that slips back a day, I'll be home on the 22nd. I'll give you a call from Punta Arenas so you will know when I'm arriving. With the Christmas holiday so near to my return, I will be coming directly home. It will probably be difficult to get flights anyway, but even more difficult due to the uncertainty of the return sched. Reservations will be made for return on the 21st and the rest will be left to fate.