"LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA" F I E L D J O U R N A L S

PART 1: Terry Trimingham begins a long winter's stay


Terry's Field Journal (c) Terry Trimingham

February 26, 1995 I am trying to get my head on straight to write, it seems like a LONG time since I last did!

I last wrote after hiking around Castle Rock two weeks ago! That was on Sunday the 12th. The next couple of days I went to work for 1/2 days. We had "closed" the radio room on Saturday the 11th, but since the personnel were all still here it was decided we should keep business hours at the radios. After work I mostly ran around trying to skua stuff I would need for the winter, catch up on my email, get together a letter to let everyone back home know where I was going to be (ie, those that don't have email), and try to visit folks leaving McMurdo. I was hoping to get out on R&R for a few days to go to Christchurch (New Zealand). I felt a bit stressed because I had been told I had to be back by the 19th from R&R, yet I had little control over which plane I would be placed on. Meanwhile, I didn't even know who my new boss would be! Everyone I asked told me to wait until I got back to do my paperwork and find my new boss. So, I worried of course about getting out of here and that was not very fun. I was manifested for the 15th, but since the weather was bad, I didn't get out until the 16th. That 24 hour delay seemed VERY long! I finally got to Christchurch on Thursday the 16th around midnight! Then I found that I actually had until the 22nd (really midnight on the 21st), so that was great.

It was AMAZING to get off the plane in New Zealand and smell HUMIDITY!!!! The moisture in the air was striking! You could smell the "green" of plants in the air too - neat. Also, I hadn't seen NIGHT for months, and it was a full moon, so that was a big WOW too! It was very strange putting on just a t-shirt and shorts, and that was all I needed to wear! Friday I got up really early to a cloudy day and went to the nice 50 meter pool in Queen Elizabeth II Park (it was built for the '89 Commonwealth Games). I had a nice swim, and then came back to the city to do some SHOPPING! Friends in McMurdo had given me money and lists, so I had a lot to do. It was fun though, and by the time I finished around noon, the weather had cleared to a sunny and hot day! I think it was about 29C that day (~84F). I spent most of the afternoon at the Antarctic Center mailing all the goodies I had purchased to McMurdo, and also getting my winter issue of clothing. I was loaded up with a LOT of stuff, about 40 lbs of clothing! Extra jackets, mittens, boots, overalls, all kinds of stuff! After that I went walking in the Botanic Gardens, out to dinner, and to a movie at the Art Center ("Bhaji on the Beach", a British Film).

Saturday I decided to get up early and walk in the Botanic Gardens before breakfast. That was SO pleasant! It was mid- to late summer, and all the flowers were out in force! The roses were gorgeous, the herbs blooming, and the birds, fish ponds and river that flows on the outside of the gardens were a TREAT! The Botanic Gardens is one of my favorite spots in Christchurch. I know where the sweetest honeysuckle vine is, and I have other Garden haunts as well. I really enjoyed seeing the park in the early morning: there was dew on the flowers and I had the place to myself except for the birds twittering and singing. After that I had a nice latte and a french roll (like being in France!) and then I did more shopping. I next went to the pool again and swam (boy were my arms sore after 4 months of no practice!). Then I walked about one mile to the beach and strolled about 1.5 miles down the beach to the next town where I found a neat mall. It was really nice to wade in the water, hear the waves, see the seagulls and terns, feel the salt breeze and pick up sea shells! I got back in time to have dinner and go to another movie! ("The River Wild with Meryl Streep").

Sunday I took the gondola the top of the hill (Mt. Cavendish) and I had a great view of Christchurch, the airport, the coastline, and Lyttleton harbor. I noticed the "Greenwave" (McMurdo's supply ship - I know the Captain) in the harbor, and decided to hike down to Lyttleton and call in. It took about an hour to get down, and the wind was blowing VERY hard. Although It wasn't too cold, I only had on shorts, and I think I got a chill. The Captain wasn't there so I left him a note and I had coffee with the crew. In the afternoon I went to an early movie at the Art Center (a Gaelic film called "As an Eislean"). After that I walked in the Botanic Gardens, and went home to write letters and read.

Monday and Tuesday I got up, walked in the gardens, went to the pool, walked to the beach, along the beach to the mall, and then came back in to Christchurch. IT WAS SO NICE!!!!!!! Monday afternoon I went to the Antarctic Center to mail more stuff to McMurdo and the I went to the movies.

Tuesday afternoon I spent with friends from home that I had worked with all summer in McMurdo. We went to "Devonshire tea" at the Botanic Gardens...you get tea, milk, scones with whipped cream, butter, and jam - YUM! When we got back to the hotel I found out quite by chance that I had to report to the airport to go to McMurdo 2 hours earlier than I had thought. So, I had to miss dinner and a movie I had planned with my friends.

At the airport we suited up in our survival gear and got on the plane bound for McMurdo. I knew the flight crew, and that was fun (most of the squadron knows me from my radio job). The plane was going down empty and was supposed to pick up a helo to take to Christchurch, so it was BARREN in there! There were only 4 passengers, and the whole belly of the plane was EMPTY! My flight to Christchurch from McMurdo had 50 people crammed on it and cargo and luggage. This was WAY different!

I was feeling REALLY tired as I had been going and going nonstop the whole time I was in NZ. We took off about 1:30am. I tried to sleep on the plane, but with all the clothing they make you wear, it was too hot! I dozed off and on. After about 5 hours I found out we were turning around as the weather in McMurdo was crummy and we couldn't land there. We had gone to PSR (point of safe return) and if we didn't turn around then we would not have enough fuel to make it back to Christchurch. We were still about 1 hour from seeing the continent of Antarctica. *sigh* I got to spend some time in the cockpit with the crew though, and that was fun. We landed back in Christchurch about 10am. One of the passengers had slept the whole time and thought we were landing in McMurdo! He was zipping up his down coat and putting on his hat. I thought he was crazy until I talked to him! By then I knew I had a cold and wasn't feeling very good at all.

We had to check back in AGAIN at midnight, so had about 12 hours to kill. It was pouring rain outside and I decided to not go swimming again. After a shower, some coffee and a rest I went out on one last shopping trip. I went to lunch, and saw a showing of the movie I had missed the night before. Then I went to the Botanic Gardens for one last good walk about. It was still persistently raining, so I got pretty wet. I was feeling terrible, and had to buy cold medicine from the "chemist" (runny nose, headache, etc). I came back and tried to sleep until the taxi came. Our flight went smoothly, and we made it to McMurdo in record time that second try.

I was really wiped out and not feeling well when I got back. My new job is GA (general assistant) and I had to meet my boss and find out what was in store for me over the long winter. It turned out that while I was gone there had been some shuffling of personnel, and I was no longer working for the same department. Instead of being part of FMC (facility maintenance and construction) I was assigned to the Heavy Shop. As a part of FMC I would have had the chance to get out and about helping where ever needed with lots of shops (surveyors, electricians, plumbers, painter, carpenters, etc). Now I was only to be in the shop where all the vehicles are maintained, supporting the mechanics. I wasn't feeling well at all and have to admit that it was very disappointing to come back and find out the news of the switch. However, I really wanted to stay for winter, and decided to do whatever I needed to do to be able to stay.

I went to work on Saturday with a smile and enthusiasm. There is a lot of cool stuff I can learn at the shop, and it is a WARM shop! (Probably better than being outside with the surveyors any day!). I got into my coveralls, and was learning about crushing used oil filters. Then I got a call from Info Sys; they needed me to show them how to phone patch to the South Pole! I ran over to the radio room and hooked up NPR to interview the South Pole. After that I went back to the shop, and then got called again to go out and help close down Willy Field! It was great going back out there, I still know a lot of the folks (I worked there as a cook in '92/'93). Being a GA isn't all THAT bad. It was nice to know that I helped out too.

After work the Nathaniel B. Palmer (our research vessel) called in. Everyone was invited to come get a tour. I have a friend on board I know from Palmer '87 and he gave me the $2 special tour... it was great!

Now I am trying to move into my new room and get settled in. The last plane left this morning at 6am, so I am HERE for the duration! I am excited about being here. There is still a lot to be involved with, so I think it will be a good experience.

Copyright (c)1995 Terry Trimingham. This information may be redistributed online for education projects as long as this copyright notice is included. Permission to use this material in print or for commercial purposes must be obtained in writing prior to use from the author.