Yesterday was my first day off since arriving back at McMurdo. I spent much of the morning going through the pile of stuff my friend Natalie (one of my roommates from my summer season) left me–more than eight boxes of clothing, fabric scraps, random foodstuffs and more health and beauty aids than an aisle at Walgreens.
In the afternoon, with the sun shining, as soon as I got out of a mandatory meeting, I set off for Hut Point.
And the Antarctic Welcoming Committee was ready for me.
I’ve never seen so many skua in one place, more than a dozen of the birds, which are usually solitary. There were four to six of them divebombing me at any given moment for most of my walk.
Given that I had no food on me–skua are smart birds, and recognize not only food but our food containers–I can only assume that they’re getting ready to fly north for the winter and were a bit desperate for any scraps to tide them over on the long journey.
Or maybe they just missed me.
It’s too late in the season for penguins, by the way, though I’m told this was a lousy year to spot them. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was an excellent year to spot Orcas in the Sound. I got to see a couple last night from quite a long way off–nothing worth even attempting a photo, but still exciting to see animals in the wild.
While being harassed by skua was the highlight of my day, just getting back out to Hut Point was a close second. I wish I could share with you the stillness, the enormity of the landscape, the clarity of the air. There are no words to do it justice, and photos convey only a fraction of the visceral power of this place.
Of course, there are plenty of words to describe my current living arrangements. Wordsmith that I fancy myself to be, I think “poopy” sums it up.
It could be worse, of course. I could have a roommate (I don’t), this could be my room for the rest of the season (it’s not), and so on. But with the summer season extended by a couple weeks due to delays in the annual vessel offload, there are too many people on station still, including people living in the room I requested for winter.
So, until they leave (just a few more days), I’m stuck on the third floor of 209 with all the stuff I brought, all the stuff I left in storage and all the stuff Natalie skua’ed for me.
I expect the next couple weeks will be a busy time getting rid of the summer people–finally–and transitioning to winter. The first sunset since October was last week and already it’s a bit dim when I get up to go to work at 3:30 in the morning. We’re losing light at a rate of about 20 minutes a day.
Winter is coming. Can’t wait.