4 November, 1999
Had gone to bed around 1930 hours trying get caught up on many hours of missed sleep. I set an alarm clock and my watch for 0700 hours, being concerned about missing the shuttle to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) that was to leave at 1030 hours, since I have literally had about 4 hours of sleep since Monday November 1 at 0430 hours.
I feel asleep, I think instantly, but woke up, somewhat startled, out of a sound deep in the middle of the night. I literally thought I was still at home and got up on the wrong side of the bed and proceeded to walk into the wall. Some what dazed, I finally realized where I was and why I got up and found my way to the bathroom (one of those ever increasing needs as I get older). Returning to my room I decided to check and see how much longer I could sleep. I looked at the alarm I had set the night before and it had not changed. I had forgotten to turn it on. No problem, to my back up, my watch; I looked at my watch and absolute panic set in. My watch said 1630 hours. Oh no, I was so tired that I not only sleep through the 1030 hour shuttle but the 1400 hour getting of ECW gear at the CDC. Oh boy, am I in big trouble. I ran out into the hall to see if I could find a person or a clock or something to reassure me that I'm just dreaming this mess or was in fact in so much trouble I might miss my flight to the ice. Of course no watch, no clock no person. What now? A brilliant idea, look outside. Thank God it is dark. Relief, then more paranoia. Did I sleep through an entire 24 hour day and maybe not only missed my ECW, but the flight to the ice. I put on a pair of sweats and went next door to the main hotel and found a clock that read 0430 hours. Thank God, I evidently reset my watch and not the alarm on my watch.. Forget getting any more sleep. I got up showered and read until 0700 hr breakfast call.
Ate and went window-shopping. Can't buy anything since most of us already have too much stuff to bring with us. Besides that I'm cheap.
Got to the CDC on time and had several hours to kill. Went immediately to the computer room where we had email accounts set up for us. I wanted to let all of you know exactly where and how I was. Since I took a laptop with me I had to see the tech supervisor to get it set up to receive and send email from my own account at home. OK with me. Well Peter, Mr. Bruce Holm the supervisor said, no problem. I'm thrilled, something actually going in a positive direction!! "What's the name of your in and out servers"? Oh my god, I was not sure what he was taking about; but since I did not even know what he meant, I knew I was in BIGGGG trouble. I asked him to explain; and I was right I was in BiGGGGG trouble. He needed the names of these servers and I did not have them.. He got onto Internet on another machine and I found a phone number for MassEd, the organization that I by access from. But what do I do with it from Christchurch, NZ? The last time I called MassEd I was on hold for almost an hour. I'm "rich", but not that "rich".
Bruce said if I could get that information he would help me set up my machine. There is no way I can see it happening. But such is life. Its 1400 hours and time to be at the CDC.
The getting of the ECW gear is most critical, for obvious reasons: like you'll freeze to death or at the very best only get frost bite. It must all be there and it must all fit. If you look in the photo you'll see a full wall of clothing. We get issued at least one of each of these. The gentleman in front of the clothing is the CDC supervisor, Michael. He is a real hot ticket and loves to joke so he and I hit it off very well. He kept coming over to see if I needed anything and if my pant lengths needed to be longer. He loves to pick on fellow "little people". This ECW gear weighs in about 37 pounds.
Trying on this clothing is something to truly behold. Those who have been through the CDC before have a big advantage over us as far as knowing what everything is (Anyone know what a gauntlet is? It is a piece of clothing.); which layer goes on first; and the most difficult to know, when is something too or not tight enough. Serious critical questions, literally a matter of life and death. Wow!!
The staff people are very helpful as well as the guys who have been to the ice within the last year. The scene in the CDC is something worth describing, from guys in their early twenties to guys 60 + years of age in every conceivable stage of dress and undress. The room is cool for street clothes, but not for the ECW gear. The key to this clothing is layering. The layers act as insulating barriers, much like the storm windows on a house; but it also allows for you to shed some of the gear as you do physical the work and begin to work up a sweat. Insulation and wicking capacity, ability to draw water away from the skin, are most important qualities of this gear.
There are guys in just their insulated underwear and guys with the underwear, polar fleece bibs and shirts, wind bibs, socks, bunny boots (vapor barrier boots), neck gaiter, balaclava, glove liners and outer gloves, and ASA Big Red parkas and goggles on and literally everything in between. It is really quite unique to see a guy standing in line in his BVDs on the lower part of his body, and then with all of his upper body protective clothing on while he waits to replace a medium set on insulated under draws for a large.
By the time you finish trying everything on you are a wash with sweat and a good hour and a half has flown by. You are given two large orange duffles. In one, your hand carry, you place inside a specified set of gear that MUST be worn on the aircraft. You include in this bag your toiletries, a change of underwear and anything you might need just in case the flight is delayed. Excess baggage is tagged and placed in a pile with your other duffle, which contains the rest of your ECW gear. You then sign a statement saying you will be responsible for the normal care of and return of all this equipment. Then you stand around until everyone is done. After that, we were given our time to be at CDC, 0245 hours. Great, that means we must be up by 0115 hours to pack and be at the shuttle by 0215 hours.
Left there and walked over to the Antarctic Visitors Center. It is a museum showing some of the life, life styles, and meteorology and geology of Antarctica. It was truly a spectacular show and it simply heightened my desire to return to the ice. God I can't wait.
I decided to try to get the information from MassEd that Bruce Holm requested. I called the number for technical support and after about 20 minutes on hold I was answered by a fellow named Brian. "Hello Brian. My name is Poeter Amati and I need some serious help and I need it NOW. I'm calling you from Christchurch NZ and it is costing me a fortune. I need to know the names of my servers" I guess he must have sense the urgency in my voice for he said "mail.massed.net for both in and out sir." I thanked him and asked him if this was his most distant support call, he sort of chuckled and said yes. I thanked him again and told him where I was going and why I needed that info. It was if he was in a little bit of shock. All he said was "wow" and "good luck".
Sent emails home to Darcy and all my children. Just letting them know all is OK.
Worked on this journal for a while, returned to my hotel, showered, went to the lounge and met Barb and an number of others who were headed out to dinner. I begged out and returned to my room to type. I worked until about 2000 hours then set two alarms for 0115 hours and went to bed.
I'm excited, nervous and full of apprehension for tomorrow we fly. We will be on the C-141 a huge jet transport which means we'll have only a 5/12 hour flight rather then and 8 hour flight.
Penguin Peter the Polar Man
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