"Getting There"

Mark Barabe - October, 1994
Antarctic firefighter

    10 Oct:
Left Rhode Island for Denver to go to orientation. Arrived around 7:00pm and checked into my hotel.

11 Oct:
I overslept and missed my shuttle to my first day of orientation; luckily I caught another one. I met a few fire fighters and one of the dispatchers. We went out and got our uniforms and learned a little more about our jobs.

12 Oct:
Our first true day of orientation. We learned about the big picture, most of the science and how many people would be at the different stations. I turned in part of my expense account so hopefully I will be getting money back. At night Pam (dispatcher), Jeff and Tom Miller (two guys who are going out to a field camp called Byrd Camp), and Jamie Hunt (a guy from Mass, right next door to me, also a firefighter) went out for a last night on the town for six months.

13 Oct:
I turned in the rest of my expense report, received my plane tickets, received my hotel assignment for Christchurch. We flew out of Denver Airport, 15 in all, 7 fire fighters, 1 mechanic, a secretary, a cook, 2 scientists, and 3 general assistants. These are people who aren't assigned a specific job, but go out and do different jobs every day. It was 3 hours plane for New Zealand (12 hours on a 747). Myself and the other fire fighters were able to change seat assignments to "Exit Rows," emergency exits on the aircraft. Who better to sit there than us, people who deal with danger everyday. Also Exit Rows have more space and that is the real reason we moved. I slept for a little while, talked, walked around. Along the way we crossed the International Date Line, so we missed Friday, and Thurs. turned right into Sat. We landed in Auckland International Airport, went through customs and then boarded another plane to the flight to Christchurch.

15 Oct:
Our flight to Cheech (Christchurch) took about an hour. We all got off, again collected our bags and jumped on a shuttle bus to our various hotels, paid for by ASA. I stowed my gear, met up with Jamie Hunt, and Chris Jung and went out to dinner.

16 Oct:
We had to be at the Antarctic Center by 9:00am for our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, and another orientation. We got our longjohns, hats, gloves, coats, pants, and boots. In all about 35 pounds of gear. We all went back to our hotels, and then went out for another last night on the town.

17 Oct:
Up at 4:00am to be at the Antarctic Center for 5:00am. We went through our check in and then after six hours we boarded our plane, an Air Force C-141 Starlifter with 70 people aboard. It was to be a five hour flight the pilot told us that we had to turn back because McMurdo was in the middle of a blizzard. By 2:00pm we were back in our hotels.

18 Oct - 21 Oct:
Due to bad weather in McMurdo, our flights are delayed and then canceled. Everyday we're given $100 to pay for our hotels and meals. During this time, we saw the sights in Cheech. Also we went mountain biking down a mountain.

22 Oct:
Finally we took off for McMurdo. Six hours on a C-141 with 175 people aboard. Flying on a military transport is different than flying on an airliner. You're packed in like sardines, shoulder to shoulder. The only good seats are in the back, next to the cargo, and that is where I got to sit. We landed around 6:30pm. I ate dinner at the chow hall, got my "welcome to McMurdo" speech, and the camp manager told us to "do's and don'ts." Afterwards I picked up my bags and got my room assignment. I stowed all my stuff and met my two roommates: Jeff Akens, from San Diego, and Mark Wid. Both of them are fire fighters. They took me out to the club, and I met a bunch more fire fighters.

23 Oct:
I went over to the Fire House and picked up my Turnout Gear (boots, coat, pants, and helmet).

25 Oct:
My first day of work, I spent the day looking through our Fire Trucks. We have five, all of them have tracks like tanks. Our two primary vehicles carry 1200 gallons of water. Two more carry 3000 pounds of dry chemical and 200 gallons of water. Our last one carries 3000 pounds of dry chemical only.

29 Oct:
Tonight we have our Halloween party, I'm going as a Doctor. Yesterday we had an inbound emergency. While I was at the Crash Shack one of the Navy's C-131's came in with one engine out. Not too serious, these aircraft can fly with one engine.

30 Oct:
The party was incredible. There were some wild costumes. Most of them are indigenous to Antarctica. Too difficult to explain. Two guys and I hiked up Observation Hill and got a few pictures. The scenery is wild: looking south there are beautiful snow covered mountains. To the north, dark mountains- totally alien.

5 Nov:
Yesterday we finally got out of the Crash Shack. We went out there on the 3rd at the beginning of a snow storm, which, around 11:00am was classified as a "herbie." Antarctica's term for a blizzard. Winds up to 120 m.p.h. We were supposed to be relieved at 8:00am on the 4th. The relief crew got out there at 7:00pm. That was an experience. We couldn't get out anywhere so we ate some of our emergency rations, military MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat)...yum good.

10 Nov:
Today is the Birthday of the USMC. I called one of my friends at home who is in my Marine Reserve Unit. I wished him a "Happy Birthday" and he wished me the same. It was good to hear my friend's voice. He is the first person I've talked to since I arrived on the Ice (besides my mom). Semper Fi.

15 Nov:
My two packages finally came in. My mom mailed them out Oct. 15. Most of the stuff I need to survive is in these two boxes: dryer sheets, batteries, extra cassettes, books, etc.

16 Nov:
Crash 1 broke down today. The axle snapped. Now almost half of our water that we have for a crash we can't use. Well, we'll manage.

19 Nov:
Tonight I went to another jitterbug dance. It's the 2nd one I've been to. Even though the music is less than OK, there is a good ratio of women. At the club it is about 10 men to 1 women. At the dance it was about 50-50.

21 Nov:
Last night at the Sunday night science lecture they had a preview of the "Live From Antarctica" video. The footage was incredible. They got into all of the facts.

25 Nov:
I called home to wish my mom a Happy Thanksgiving. She was happy to hear from me. I usually call her on Sunday mornings and tell her what's new.

26 Nov:
Last night was our Beach Party. That was a wild time. Everyone in the gym was wearing beach T-shirts, sandals, and Bermuda shorts. For the first time since I've been down here I got into a Mosh Pit. I let a lot of my frustrations out. That was about the best time I've had. Also today we celebrated Thanksgiving. People here work Mon. - Sat. Today we were let off, so we got a 2 day weekend. The food was good. The chow hall was closed at 12:30pm. In an effort to keep it less crowded you scheduled your times ahead. 2pm, 3pm, 5pm and 6pm. I ate at 6pm. The food and the atmosphere were so nice I felt a little home sick.

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