Yes, its true, it’s true, it really is. And you had to hear about it from someone
elses web diary! Apologies. The winter is officially over; we’ve had our
first visitors. It’s true. Bizarre, odd, quite nice to see friendly faces and
wonderful to see mail… strangely normal, just right, and then they left.
Two Dornier planes arrived at 18:32 and 18:40 zulu last Saturday each carrying
two pilots and an engineer on their way to the German station, Neumayer. We
knew they were meant to be coming but didn’t really expect to see them as the
weather was pretty rotten here all day. Truth be told, I don’t think British
planes would have come in similar conditions, especially considering what great
weather we’ve been having lately.
Anyway, they flew from Punta Arenas to Rothera on Friday (6 hours?), Rothera
to Halley on Saturday (5 hours) and then left us an hour later to reach Neumayer
about three hours later. Suddenly made me feel very close to the rest of the
world, very accessible, not at all isolated. And I missed the comfort of isolation.
It is over. Have we been this accessible the whole time? Was the darkness just
on our imaginations? No, I reminded myself, no, we were inaccessible, it is
remote, in the winter Antarctica is twice the size it is now and the sea ice,
darkness and temperatures would make it nigh on impossible to visit. Phew. I
don’t know why I was glad to know that but it seems I’m not quite ready for
the reality of reality quite yet. Soon, but not yet.
Where was I? The Dorniers. Ah yes. Yes, it was exciting. We all bundled off
to the skiway, the skiway that has been created in the past few weeks. Drums
have been laid as a runway, a caboose fired up for the air mechs and poor old
Gareth has been lovingly grooming that patch of snow to make it nice and flat
for weeks it seems. And then someone pointed to the sky. There it was, just
like a toy plane. It was a toy plane! Low contrast and lots of whiteness around
us meant it really looked like you could reach out and pick it up. No perspective,
remember? Then we heard the buzz just before it dropped out of the sky and stopped.
At the second drum. Gareth was not amused! Plane number one tootled off to refuel
and plane number two eventually appeared. This one seemed to confuse which drumline
was the skiway to start with and we thought he might land on the Laws by mistake.
But no, around he came, lower and lower, a beautiful descent and long cruise
past 10 drums before turning off. Much better. My favourite part is when the
pilots or passengers wave to you while still in the air. It’s all so close!
After the whirring stopped they all climbed out, smiling and friendly. A box
of bits, a bag of post, stories of the other world (nothing has changed) and
then huddle off to phone Neumayer and discuss matters of import. We had flown
the flag, made the beds, prepared for a party.. but no, they were going to try
and continue on to Neumayer that night. Fair enough, it was great to see them
for the hour or two they were here and they’ll be popping by on their way back
By the time they left, I was cold. I hadn’t dressed right for standing outside
not doing much. I was cold, but I was also happy to be cold – it’s been
so warm lately I feared I would never be cold again! I wear the same clothes
as I did the last two summers but am literally dripping, melting. T-shirts under
overalls are now all you need outside. It’s funny to notice yourself change
– last year I didn’t understand these people who wore only two layers
at -10 or -20C, I thought they were showing off but must be cold really. Now
really, I am melting on my way back from the lab in the clothes I wore last
We came back, we warmed up and ate some dinner. And then to the post. I received
letters sent last January, letters sent a few weeks ago, birthday cards, christmas
cards, hello cards… lots of smiles, a few happy tears, everyone was a bit
nostalgic that night. And it’s true, when the planes come in, the summer starts,
you know it all will be coming to an end soon… it does change things. In some
ways for the better: there have been more social evenings, more time spent really
talking, more time spent actively enjoying our current peace. In some ways worse:
we all become that bit lazier, a few more home-truths come out, that extra effort
exerted early on is gone… but it’s ok, it’s comfortable, thankfully we have
a very solid team of winterers this year. Still, the time is coming, I feel
it and to my surprise, I’m ready for it. I’m ready to leave now.
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
PS Thanks for all the great cards from all around the world!