ANTARCTICA! A Little Excitement

6 February 2007

Antarctica – An Exciting Day


Today things got a little “exciting” as we had a potentially serious injury.  I can’t share details but the member was medically evacuated to Christchurch NZ.  It was the first urgent evacuation I have participated in and it went fairly smoothly.  It is helpful that we had a plane available to fly the injured person out.  Imagine if this were mid-winter when there are no planes flying.


Once the temperature at the South Pole reaches -50° F the C130’s can’t reliably fly.  They do fly in temperatures at altitude that are even lower but starting engines at that temperature can be damaging to the engines.  The final “pull-out” date for the South Pole is not absolute but will come soon.  Since traveling to other parts of Antarctica is the primary mission for the Air National Guard here the planes leave McMurdo shortly after closing the South Pole.  “Closing” is a relative term.  There are still personnel who remain there through the winter.  They are hardy souls who have gone through a battery of psychological and medical tests to be sure they can tolerate the austere conditions.

At the South Pole temperatures in winter can be lower than -120° F with winds exceeding 60 mph.  Even now the temperature there is 40 – 50 degrees colder than here at McMurdo.  Until last week there was no physician selected to remain at the South Pole for the winter but at the last minute, the physician who is already at the Pole has agreed to remain through the winter as well.  In addition to the cold and wind, there is no sunlight at the South Pole for months.  The sun sets in March and does not rise again until September.  That would have serious consequences for someone with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

We are an isolated community here.  When one person here comes down with even a cold it can run through the population like fire.  While it is summer we can send people away but in winter they are stuck here and have to deal with any outbreaks.  Everyone is briefed repeatedly about hand-washing and hygiene and still, they can have bouts of “Antarctic Crud.”  So far I have felt great.

Freighter unloading operations are continuing and all the containers that were on the deck have been off-loaded.  They move them into the center of “town” near the dormitories (orange fencing denotes “off limits”) on flatbed trucks some of which date back to the Korean War.  They are systematically unloaded with forklifts and personnel from each shop or building take charge of their year’s worth of supplies.  Almost everyone gets involved.  If you are not you must stay away from the unloading areas to avoid injuries like the one recently mentioned.  This supply issue is one more example of how different things are here.  We have become accustomed to the Wal-mart mentality.  Anything you need is at the store so get it when you need it.  We don’t need to stockpile, therefore we don’t need to plan ahead.  While this is good for Wal-mart it is inefficient and costly for us.  There are some good lessons to be learned here even in something as basic as supply and storage.

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About smcpherson58

Aside from loving chocolate and coffee (not necessarily in that order) Scott McPherson has learned that he loves to write. He writes fiction and, so far, has published two novels. Scott has many varied interests, though he tries to focus on one at a time. He has worked for nearly thirty-five years as a family physician, a pass-time that gives him great pleasure and pays the bills. He has five daughters and dotes upon three grandchildren. Recently married, he really loves life. Scott writes from his life experiences and from travel. His career in the active Air Force was brief, but he has been a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard since just before 9/11 in 2001. The aftermath of that great disaster changed the face of the Guard and led to missions in far-away lands. He has spent time in Turkey, Iraq, Spain, Crete and Guam in missions related to support for Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has been to Iceland and Antarctica as well. Scott has no personal experience with violent death or murder, but has gained knowledge from experts. In his first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death,” his character, Jack Sharp MD, becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. First as suspect, then as amateur sleuth, Jack tries to make a difference. He finds himself right in the middle of an investigation well beyond the scope of a local murder. A man of faith, Scott traveled to Africa with his small family in the 1980s and served as a medical missionary in Zaire (known as Congo today) with a church organization. The vast difference in what it takes to exist in such an environment served as a basis for much of his second novel, a thriller, “Congo Mission.” His character, Jack, is twenty years younger than in the first novel. In “Congo Mission” Jack serves as a physician in a missionary hospital in the jungles of northwestern Zaire. There he is not only captivated by a young woman visiting the region, but falls victim to his nemesis Jacques Levant. His motivations and faith are tested and his resolve to do God’s work gets pushed to the limit. When he is not writing Scott enjoys walking, a practice that actually led to his first attempt at writing a novel. He began making notes and writing prose about the mundane things around him. He tried to make the details sound interesting, even though it was just for his own pleasure. Eventually he found that he could expand his prose to “what if?” “What if I just kept walking?” “What if I, or my character, found a dead body in the ditch along the side of the path?” That was the premise for the first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death.” Scott McPherson is an avid trombone player and has played since he was nine years old. He marched in the Cornhusker Marching Band at the University of Nebraska and now takes advantage of one free football game a year by playing in the half-time show with the UNL Alumni Marching Band. He plays in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and a community band from the nearby town of Waverly, Nebraska. Scott loves to sing as well, though his range seems to have diminished in recent years. He has sung in college and church choirs and remembers performing parts of Handel’s Messiah as a highlight of his singing experience. One little-known fact about Scott is that he once sang soprano in a boys choir. Scott plans to keep writing as long as the ideas flow and others show interest in his stories. He loves to interact with other writers or readers about what has become a passion in his life. Reviews are always welcome as are questions and comments.
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