Royalty at McMurdo

27 Jan

Lately, I had been hearing talk of four emperior penguins sitting next to the road on the way out to the Runway, about 10 miles away. I figured that walking to see them was out of the question, so Linda and I hitched a ride with the Food Services vehicle going out to serve Midrats (the midnight meal for people working the night shift). We got to mile marker 10 and there they were; just chilling! It was an amazing sight.

These were the first views of McMurdo’s royalty.

We got out and while still following the Antarctic Treaty, approached at a safe distance and started taking photos. They looked so beautiful, but fake at the same time. They were just standing there, not moving. I did confirm they were alive be watching for their heart beat. Shortly after that, I saw what I thought was a yawn coming from one of them. If I hadn’t seen the heart beat or the yawn, I would have thought they were lawn ornaments put out there to make us all look really stupid!

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

A nice profile shot with a georgous background.

We continued snapping photos and watching in awe. I couldn’t believe I was so close to emperior penguins in their natural habitat. Since no experience this year would be complete without Barbie, I brought her out with us so she could share the experience.

Barbie, Linda and I with our newly made feathered friends.

After leaving our new feathered friends (which I named Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young-Young was the one stand separately), we got back in the vehicle to head to the Galley Runway. No more penguins or other wildlife, but the adventure continued!

Interesting props at the Runway!

When we arrived at the Runway Galley, we warmed up with some hot chocolate and made sure to hydrate. Shortly after, we headed out to the shuttle pick up to take the midnight shuttle back into town. After waiting until 12:15 and not one vehicle in sight, we realized we had a problem. I called the shuttle headquarters and heard a “I’m so sorry, but the next shuttle is not until 1:30pm.” Even though it was a friend, you could tell she felt bad. Since it was a Sunday night, the schedule of shuttles going back into town was much more limited. Just our luck!

To kill some time, we decided to dine with the rest of the midrat workers working at the Runway that night. I indulged in more water and a very juicy pear. Linda decided to try the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and some veggies. Little did she know that her choice to dine so late in the evening would come to haunt her within a few hours. She has a very sensitive stomach.

As we were eating, we came across an old friend, John. John is a Cargo worker that’s been coming down here for several years. I hadn’t seen him lately because he was working the night shift. He just happened to be heading back into town in the next 15 minutes and offered us a ride. I was exhausted and thrilled at the same time.

We walked around the runway area to kill more time and then met John at his vehicle: NEWT. Newt was a big delta carrying a full load of cargo. It was going to be a slow ride home (approximately 13 miles, going 20 miles per hour). Oy!

Say hello to Newt!

We all made small talk and I think both Linda and I dozed off often. Then, out of the blue, John asked us if we wanted to drive Newt? I sat up very quickly and was much more alert and said YAH! So, John moved over to the passenger seat next to Linda and I was now the driver. It was very intimidating to be behind the wheel of such a huge vehicle. It weighed thousands of pounds and I was concerned something would just fall off!

I am woman. Hear me ROAR!

(Remember that Big Red adds about ten pounds. I am somewhere under all of that!)

Jon gave great instructions and we were off. It took some getting used to, but it was FUN! Now maybe I can consider a career in bus driving! I like being in control with the big wheel! And the seat had great shocks! It was like a ride in an amusement park.

Then Linda got behind the wheel. I think she enjoyed it as well. John took over as we got closer to town and headed up a big hill. I think we were all grateful he drove up the big hill. I would have hated to see anything fall off under our control.

We got back to town around 2am and thanked John for the great experience. What a night!

My last moments bonding with Newt, he's not a small guy.


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