Countdown! T minus just a few hours now before liftoff from the Birmingham Airport and the start of trip Number Fifteen to Palmer Station, Antarctica. Typical of previous trips, life for the last few weeks has revolved around departing for a long field season. Prioritized lists of things to do, items to purchase, people to visit ruled my existence. Within the next few hours, my lists will almost completely crossed through and I will be able to blast out of town unlisted.
One of the first things on my list to tackle was packing and shipping lab equipment. I love this kind of packing. I enjoy the challenge of puzzling items into a box so as to maximize space utilization. For example when packing buckets that stack, there is always a smidgeon dead space between them perfect for stashing small items. Of course stuff gets packed into the top bucket as well. In lieu of bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts (which are not allowed in Antarctica anyway) delicate items are wrapped in fabric intended for collecting bags or spare clothing. Detailed packing lists must be generated so as not to overlook cleverly stowed items when unpacking. This season, we sent just two boxes of cargo, mostly extra dive gear, ahead to meet us in Antarctica. The boxes were the sent to Port Hueneme, California where the Polar Programs logistic contractors, Raytheon Polar Services, forward the boxes onto Antarctica.
Other to-do’s on the lab front involved preparing for experiments we will conduct on station. This included chores like simply ordering chemicals, buying batteries, video tapes, film, even food coloring. There are no hardware or groceries stores just down the street, so like Boy Scouts we have to be prepared! My most recent lab effort could have earned a Boy Scout badge. I spliced together braided line for a new version of our substrate experiment. The design requires 84 ropes with loops spliced at either end. There were 39 left over from a similar experiment (search our site for previous substrate stories) so I got to measure and splice new ones.
Going home each night meant domestic and personal listed items to scratch off - even from the freezer. Instead of buying fresh ingredients for dinner, meals were prepared using those vegetables or meats in our freezer. Our refrigerator now nearly approximates a frigid barrens. The newspaper was cancelled, mail forwarded, bills pre-paid, even taxes are done. Four months of toiletries had to be purchased. Clothing to pack was carefully chosen and set aside, leisure reading paperbacks selected, and a needlework project picked out.
Well my countdown continues but at least I can now cross journal entry off my to-do list. Once that plane taxis down the runway, I will gleefully have reached the last item on what weeks ago seemed like an insurmountable litany of lists: relax and enjoy travels!
More soon from my favorite home away from home – Antarctica!