I did not fall of the end of the earth. I more or less fell into it. The workload that is. Off loading the vessel began in earnest after my last blog entry. Although my team’s first night was very easy, as I had mentioned, we had to wait till the cargo teams brought us any work to do, when we came back into work the following evening, things were well underway.
Temperatures were very cold and it snowed Sunday evening for nearly four hours of our shift. That was both beautiful and fun because it was early in the shift, and we were all a little giddy to finally be moving and doing the job at a brisk pace. The heavy cloud cover was a boon in this instance as it trapped the heat – what little there was – close to the ground. We found after lunch when the snow stopped and the clouds cleared away so did all of the heat. We were now working at 5′ temperature, with full bellies, and had lost all of the mornings momentum and desire. It was now a chore. And one that really took some fortitude. We kept our positive attitude, but we could see in each other’s faces a bit of reality had caught up to us. Even the two seasoned veterans on our crew looked a little shocked. They had had harder, colder, windier conditions. They had suffered longer delays and broken equipment. But this was today. And in this moment they were just as frosty as the rookies.
I hate to repeat myself and say the Government shut down caused us problems, but it is true to a point. Some of the people who had qualified to work this season where already on rout to McMurdo when the October situation in Washington changed everyone’s plans. Some people I am with were already in Christchurch, NZ. waiting for transport to the Ice when they were rebounded to the US. More were already at McMurdo when they found their funding cut and were sent home. Several of those simply chose not to come back. In truth, had that force reduction not happened, I would not have made it here at all this year. So while I have been grateful all season long, I really felt the loss of those people when we were emptying container after container of goods, doing double duty in some situations.
While we were short on personnel, slightly more than half of the size of some of the crews in the past, we made it work. The supply team was borrowing people from other departments who had teams that work at night. We owe a huge THANK YOU to both Cargo and Fleet Operations for their teams that stepped up to help us out when we were overwhelmed. These guys and Gals renewed our spirits just by showing up in some of the worst weather I have yet experienced. Every little bit helps. I would be completely rude not to mention the Air Force, Navy and New Zealand military personnel who all came to McM to assist in the moving of freight from the vessel to the pads…God Bless them all, and I hope that this is the worst possible conditions that these people face in the entirety of their service careers. I can’t imagine doing your job and getting shot at.
I suppose I should tell you about the temperatures. I could tell you the names of all of my crew. I would like to give you all of the poundage we moved to all of the various locations. But I can’t. It is all a bit of a blur right now. 12 on 12 off is not new to me. Neither is working in bitter cold. I have driven an uncovered forklift in -17′ temperatures with some ridiculously low Wind Chill – IN DENVER. But at least I was moving from one building directly to another, nothing like this. And my assignment was not always driving the Pickle. I spent far more time writing the names and item numbers of the products on the sides of the boxes as they came out of the mill vans. Rotation and seniority has it’s place in these conditions just like anywhere else.
It is over now. The mad rush to finish and clear the boat of incoming goods is complete. In less than six days. “We Happy Few” to quote the Bard, can take a minute to breath and be proud of a stellar accomplishment. If I can squeeze the details out of my Boss later in the week I’ll be happy to give a full report. For now, just enjoy the pictures of Vessel Evolution 2014.