Dave Down Under - Dispatch 1 - Disconcerting Daylight


The latest from Dave...

You can hear it a thousand times, but it is impossible to comprehend how disorienting it is to have the the same sunlight 24 hours a day. You live by being religious to your clock. What time will you go to bed? After dark? Nope. When you will get up? As the sun comes up? Nope. I have now been on Ross Island of the Antarctic Continent for 24 hours... and the daylight has been exactly the same hue and intensity. The only modulations are the cloud cover and direction from which it's beaming. It feels like late evening all day. It's pretty surreal.

I was pretty wrecked by the time I got to bed last night. To quote John (my advisor), I looked "positively shattered." But with full sunlight leaking through the blinds, it was really hard to get to sleep, especially with chatty roommates and being keyed up from a pretty interesting flight. But I managed to get enough sleep to function pretty well today. John worked me pretty hard today. We were packing and schlepping gear all day. We are almost completely packed for our work out in the Dry Valleys, so the hard work is done. I have the day almost completely to myself tomorrow, and most of Monday as well. On Tuesday, I will begin my Happy Camper Training, an extreme weather survival course. We will dig snow trenches and sleep there overnight. This should make for some interesting material to write about.

People here are really quite nice. There's definitely severe clique-ishness to the staff, but they are all here to do a job, and 85% of that job description is to be effective at helping the scientific community. The other 15% is not to go mental. The clique factor is a natural result of working in close quarters with a limited group of people. A few of those people, the staffers, are around for five to twelve months. But most of the people who come through are transients. The scientists. We are referred to as beakers, like the glass beaker, and the term was probably lifted from one of my favorite muppets. As far as name calling goes, I think I like this one quite a bit!

I am about to head out this evening to join the one staffer who has been extremely outgoing and sweet to me. She held a wet rag on the back of my neck as I pinched my nose to stop the leak I sprung on the C-130 flight. She is a semi-retired grandmother. She and her husband have come down for the last five years to work 5 months of the year (the busy part). Sampling the legendary (or infamous) McMurdo nightlife should also be good fodder for writing material.

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