What if nothing happens

Antarctica Part 2 October 27th, 2003

This is the vacation part of the trip. This is the drinking beer and eating new food part. Christchurch is a civilized community. Possibly too civil for boorish slobs like us. Well, me. I'm not as nice as these people. I really don't know how to be.

We're scheduled out of here on the 29th, which even though I left home on Saturday and got here today, is the day after tomorrow. In a trans-pacific feat endured by travelers every day, an entire day evaporated off my calendar. On my way home, one will appear.

The day I'm missing is October 26th. If you see it, you won't find me in it anywhere, which is somewhat bizarre for a living person. No history book will say I did anything on that day, because I simply didn't have one. Well, maybe I had a few minutes worth. I went from October 27th to October 29th by passing the international date line from east to west close to midnight.

Similarly, I'll get an entire day back when I go from west to east.

But it won't be October 26th 2003. That one is gone forever.


I'm in CHCH now, and that's staging. Things go from normal to Antarctic here. Here's where we're officially inserted into "the program". We meet other newly minted ice people, some posing, feeling each other out—who's who in the power structure—who's someone I should get to know—who's someone I'd like to party with. Those are the thoughts.

This is earlier in the season than I've gone down prior years. That means it's going to be colder on the ice. That means there'll be a different crew. I'm used to hanging out with biologists and deep field people. But it's too cold for those folks. So, I don't know any of these. Have to make friends of the high-altitude balloon people.

Things are different this year. It feels different from the get go. This year everyone is telling me to be careful. In prior years I emphasized the safety of the whole thing. The program. But you know, you get older and you can tell, quantitatively, that you've used up a whole lot of your share of luck. Your shoulders are lighter when seven of your nine lives are gone and you're not sure it wasn't really eight. Like life is going to jump ship at any moment.

There's a really fine line between being careful and being paranoid when you're doing something that could be dangerous. If you can find it, let me know.

And by the way, most of the time, just about everything I do is about as dangerous as making snowmen on your front lawn in Waukeegan, Illinois in January. You can get frostbite there if you forget your gloves, too.

But people are saying, "Be careful, would ya?"

Ok. So. Haven't I been all these years?

Now it's getting to the point I'm worrying I'll disappoint people. If I don't have a near death experience, people will presume it's a total cakewalk, and with the exception of the unnecessarily uncomfortable military transport flight from CHCH to McM which may cause a fatal blood clot to form in one of my butt cheeks, the most dangerous thing I'm going to do is climb a glacier with a professional who'll probably make me walk the bunny slope.

So stop worrying, everybody. Because when I come home and I don' t even have Antarctic wind-burn, you're all going to think I was home counting leftover pistachios, shirking my nominal civil responsibilities.

Gotta run (again). They're shutting down the CDC. I'll have to node the CDC to tell you what it is, but it's where I am now, and it's going to close so they're making me leave bye.

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