The End of My Year On Ice

So much has happened since my year in Antarctica has ended. I’ve traveled an exorbitant amount of miles through this world once the C-17 Globemaster plane whisked me back to society. For now, I’ll stick with my time leading up to all of the winter-over’s departures and my travels back to the states. 

During the eventual end of the winter, many winter-overs were solemn in sharing the station with more than twice the current population. Many hid away as the first flights of Win-Fly, the shoulder season in between winter and summer at McMurdo, eventually trickled in. Station population went from 150 to 350 within a couple weeks. Needless to say, the kitchen was incredibly busy. 

We gained 4 cooks, a chef, and our Food Service Supervisor. It quickly became apparent of a shift in mentality. Most of the winter-overs were in the depths of T3 Syndrome and slowly using up our reserves of energy to get through the year. Action stations, 24 hour Pizza, 24 hour cookies, an entire new shift running into the middle of the night, and, as usual, full meal services were implemented to give more flexibility to the workers preparing the station for an incredibly busy summer season. 

Along with all the extra work, the weather turned into a nightmare for the NSF’s plane schedule. We had one plane delayed for nearly a week. The station eventually found a small window of opportunity to make an attempt at bringing our precious supplies and fellow coworkers in. Most of the time, coworkers around the station would host friendly, non-monetary bets according to how long they expected a plane to be delayed. 

I worked extremely hard in the kitchen during win-fly. I was deemed a swing shift cook that could help in many different areas of the kitchen. I felt like every shift depended on me in many different ways. It gave me clarity that as long as I stay positive and work hard, things would usually work out. This philosophy has been my go-to, problem-solving thought process for many years. Those last 6 weeks really put that statement to the test.

As the hectic summer season was about to gear up again, it was finally my turn to migrate north for the season. When you leave Antarctica after calling it home for an entire year, it’s extremely sombering. Many friends that I made while enduring the long winter months would soon be parting ways. Some of them I’ll likely never see again and that, in itself, is heart-wrenching to me. 

When you’re leaving Antarctica, they drill into your head that you’ll likely get delayed up to a week. I was the lucky one that only got delayed 2 days, though it still put a damper on the small window of travel I had planned. Once landing in Christchurch, New Zealand, I did an obligatory trip to the grocery store to revel in all the fresh food. After that, I explored the city for a few days, met up with old friends from the previous summer in passing, and finally ended up in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Going from -40 F in the driest, windiest places on earth to 85 F with an astounding amount of humidity was a huge shock to my body. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life. That being said, I loved every second I was there. I did most of the usual things people do there. Including, but not limited to, getting a thai massage, wandering around markets getting yelled at by shop owners, eating delicious local food from shady stalls and food courts, and buying unbelievably cheap products that would be absurdly overpriced back in the states. Oh yeah, and I ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant that was 10X cheaper than the states.

After a very long, drawn out flight I ended up in San Francisco for 36 hours. I think I probably walked about 35 miles within a 30 hour period. I absorbed as much of that city as humanly possibly in such a short time. I ate at Tartine Bakery, a bakery I’ve admired for years. I also walked the entire length of Sausalito, the entire eastern half of the city, and the full length of the Golden Gate Bridge. I ended my day with taking two unnerving bus rides down tiny streets, two subway rides across the city, two scenic trolley rides gliding through downtown, and one ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay.

After all of that, I ended up back home for a few days of well earned rest before I had to fly off to Denver for training. Oh, incase any of you wanted to know, I was officially offered and fully PQ’d for a winter at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. So that’s pretty cool, I guess 😉 

Also, I’m traveling right now and don’t have access to many of my pictures. You’ll all have to settle with this picture of this llama and I. More to come soon! 


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