Saturday, 17 December 2011

I salute you, people of Byrd

Antarctica is a beautiful continent, but what has made my time here special is the people I have shared it with. Here is a run down of the wonderful people at Byrd camp (photos to follow, am currently being a technical idiot):

Kaija is this year's camp manager, and calmly keeps everything under control. Still manages to look like a model from a shampoo advert in the middle of the ice sheet.

Tony is the deputy camp manager, a big guy with a big friendly smile, but we are more wary of him as he is rumoured to be a former CIA agent...

As far as I'm concerned the chefs are next on the list: Rob, ably supported by his elves, Nathalie and Betsy. They somehow managed to serve up restaurant-quality meals day after day, and provide a constant supply of baked treats and occasionally even salad! Despite an 'east coast' exterior, Rob has a heart of gold and will rustle up treats at all hours of the day if you've just come in from the cold.

Ruthanne is the nurse, often to be seen knitting away - I luckily didn't have cause to visit her, but perhaps she treats people by providing extra hats and scarves?

Chrissie is our weather watcher, and joint-midget of the camp (I am not the other one!!). She is getting married this spring having met her fiance whilst over-wintering at the South Pole a few years ago - good thing that relationship worked out or it could have been a tricky winter!

I think Monte may also have been a weather observer, but he seemed most at home rebuilding the toilets and pee-holes around the camp. Eternally cheerful, with possibly the deepest voice on the camp.

Keith and Paul are the important men who keep all the machines running. Paul kindly fixed our skidoo - the key snapped off - by hot-wiring the engine and pointing out we never needed the key in the first place. Keith is a gentle giant, seen driving enormous machines around camp and fighting a losing battle to keep all the snow from drifting. He spends the rest of his time looking after forests in Idaho - a peaceful soul.

The real people that keep everything running are the GAs, general assistants. A steady supply trickles in and out from McMurdo - Tricia, Julia, Dave - but Abby is there for the whole season and despite her gentle exterior, can be seen digging snow, driving skidoos, fixing machines, and digging more snow at all hours. On days when we didn't fly I reported to Abby with a shovel and a smile and we spent some fun hours out on the ice.

Aside from the camp staff a couple of other science teams passed through, there were the all-important pilots - to be kept happy at all times - and of course the Polenet team.

GPS kids are Dave (deputy beard-grower and possibly in charge), Jeremy (head beard-grower and launcher of elastic band missiles across the tent), and Eric (fastest beard-grower, with a wicked southern accent, we had to get him to repeat 'my mother's sweet potato pie' several times). Mark-the-mountaineer also hung out in the GPS tent, and after challenging him over the pointlessness of high altitude mountaineering, I had to back down after I googled him and realised he is probably tougher than me and knows what he is talking about...

Seismic kids are Doug (evil-looking beard, possibly in charge of seismic activities), Paul (odd beard is a different colour to head hair, new kid on the block but fast adapting to Antarctic humour, good at reversing on a skidoo...), Brian(hater of all things Texan, although his accent gives him away as a native of that state, highly entertaining when fuelled by alcohol), and Rachel (head midget of the camp at 4'10, but admirably fights back and keeps the boys in their place).

Thank you all of you for a lot of fun!

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