Ed Stockard - June 16, 1994

    Hello All, My name is Ed and I am a mechanic in McMurdo.

Yesterday we had a cancellation of our drop so the plan was to try again today. This morning I woke at 6am to my alarm as usual. I grabbed my remote control for the TV; while laying in a semi-conscious state I read "The Scroll" (our local TV news of life and times in McMurdo) and sure enough the drop was on for this morning. I was to join the search and rescue (SAR) team at the drop site. The drop site or zone is Willy Field out on the Ross Iceshelf. It is a 3000 foot strip of a 10000 foot runway. About half of the town is at the drop itself and spectators are bussed out just to watch. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and snowmen always change, and the plane was an hour ahead of schedule. This forced people and vehicles to head to the field in a helter-skelter manner. It was the first rush hour I have seen since last September. I counted eight sets of headlights at one point. All in all there were probably 20 vehicles involved, including large Tundra-type cargo Deltas for hauling pallets and heated storage vans for our "freshies". These freshies are a priority in the retrieval process. The seven of us involved with the SAR team arrived at about 9am and several crews were already on sight. We had burn barrels marking the drop zone and the runway was lit up too. The scene became quite festive and people were milling around the apron where we waited for the Air Force C-141 to appear. It felt like a UFO from somewhere beyond was reminding us that we can have contact with the rest of the world.

A few minutes before 10:00 we could see lights in the sky to the north and we all got quite excited. Vehicles were in formation on the apron like an Indy 500 was about to begin. There is an elaborate plan about who is to do what. My job is to find the last bundle and make sure that crews do not wander past it and out into the oblivion of the ever so dark ice shelf.... not too tough. Soon the plane was over head and in one pass dumped out 40 bundles indicating fresh food...yahoo. Each bundle weighs between 400 and 700 lbs. Down they came at 80 m.p.h. with a parachute to keep them upright. Two bundles blew apart and one slammed in really hard without the open chute and buried itself significantly. Soon we got the OK and all charged out to retrieve the goodies which took about 2 hours.... not one bundle hit the drop zone!

The 40 bundles looked like a stonehenge of sorts in the darkness. It was quite humorous. One of the broken open bundles was freshies.... lettuce and tomatoes everywhere. I had my first fresh tomato in months on the spot. Back in town there is a lot of sorting going on and in a few hours I will be able to gather mail and goodies. A pretty bazaar affair all the way around. Hopefully my stuff doesn't end up at the South Pole by mistake. More from down under in a while. Take Care all and Merry Christmas in June :) Ed

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