Sunday, October 14, 2007


Homeless Heidi recently posted about her unexpected guests. However, this isn't just a normal neighbors dropping by sort of thing. This is the first new faces the folks at South Pole have seen for 8 months. A Besler airplane and crew showed up a few days early from Rothera, a British base at the base of the Antarctica Peninsula bringing fresh fruits and vegetables and pisco from Chile. She comments on how weird it is to see an airplane after so long without having one around and how they will need to learn how to behave in public again when the new summer people start arriving shortly.

I remember how strange it was to see other people unexpectedly in a remote area too. It happened to me one afternoon at Copa field station on King George Island. We had finished up our penguin work (counts, weights, nest status, etc) for the morning and were working on station maintenance work when I glanced down the rock beach and noticed two figures heading towards the station. If they had been coming from the direction of the nearby Polish base Arctowski, it probably wouldn't have been such a shock, but they were coming from the sea.

The three of us actually ducked behind the hut and peered around the corner, checking to see what sort of people would be coming from that direction. As they got closer, Laina, who had worked at the station the year before suddenly recognized one of them. This is where it got even more strange. She said "remember the "boat" I showed you down the beach that direction?" The "boat" she was referring to was a welded metal box that looked more like a garbage dumpster abandoned down the beach. She said they owners left it there when the outboard quit.
Andre and I nodded affirmatively. "One of those guys is the one who abandoned it on the beach. He left the broken Evinrude from the "boat" at the hut and said he would come back for it later. I guess it's later"
Once we figured out who they were it wasn't quit as weird, but it still definitely strange. Turns out this guy had a non-governmental base on one of the nearby islands. He had apparently lost a couple of associates trying to canoe across the Bransfield Straight at one point and conducted hypothermia experiments on the people he could convince to join him at his base. On this trip he had a Czech boy scout with him who was going to remain over the winter by himself. They had taken two inflatable kayaks to King George Island and then walked the edge of Admiralty Bay to reclaim the outboard to get it repaired since the warranty was ending soon! We fed them, visited a while, and then the boy scout strapped the outboard to his back and the two of them disappeared down the beach from where they had come.
I never heard any more about them and I wonder if the boy scout wound up spending that winter alone or if he came to his senses and found his way home before winter set in.

I also remember the joy at getting fresh fruits and vegetables after ours had eaten or reduced to moldy mush, the challenge of adjusting to new people, both when they arrived at the station or when I got home where I had to deal many more people than I had seen in a long time, and, something that doesn't happen any more with email and internet, receiving mail (I suspect it is still a pleasure to get packages though).

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