Tuesday, 30 October 2007

3am and all's well on the night shift

The clock is just rolling over 3am here, and I am sitting in a dark air traffic control tower, listening to a radio frequency which is mainly static, with occasional strange music (maybe) and screeches mixed in. I'm waiting for some to start screaming "Mayday! Mayday!", from one of the other remote stations in British Antarctica.

I don't mind saying I'm a bit freaked out here.

I signed on for a night shift at Rothera, which means I'm the only one awake should something go wrong. This could be anything from the sewage system overflowing, to a fire at the docks, to a medical emergency at Sky-Blu, a station 800 km to the south. Thankfully, none of this has happened yet. And, except for the times that I'm sitting in the tower (or patrolling the hangar), it's quite comfortable.

But right now, this radio monitoring is very eerie. There's just enough structure to the static in the radio to be unsettling. It's a bit like Stephen King's The Langoliers.

Another five minutes, and I can go back to the bar, where I have set up camp for the night. But first, I must go to another building and check that our freezers are still working.

Man, I'm tired. About four more hours to go.


Becky said...

Do your Plodge shifts now seem like a breeze, in retrospect?

Ryan said...

It was -still- nothing as bad as the "Night of the Screaming Silver Store Alarm" on Plodge duty. But let's not talk about that.

Tricia said...

I know we allegedly speak the same language, though I'm sure many at Cambridge would laugh at that. What is a Plodge shift--a mathematical term or some huggermugger privy only to Cambridgeans? It strikes me odd that you have to check on the freezers in Antarctica or is that job task a result of global warming? Happy Halloween!

Becky said...

Tricia - fancy meeting you here! Happy to offer my translation services: Plodge = Porters' Lodge. Ryan often had bad experiences when he worked there overnight, whereas James nearly always got to sleep for 6 hours!

Fabien & Elin said...

Rothera... I was there! A nice place - although maybe less so at three o'clock in the morning... I had the greenest and best sallad of my life there... after almost ten weeks on Polarstern I'd had my share of German wursts and saurcraut... and fresh food was a real treat... Enjoy it while you can!

Ryan said...

Hi Tricia! Yes, good to see you here. And yes, the weather isn't quite reliable enough to provide refrigeration at the various temperatures for the different foods. Rothera actually goes above zero in the summer, unlike Halley, my current station.

And hi Elin! Yes, the food at Rothera was quite good. But the current cook, Cyril, wasn't a big fan of green salads - there isn't enough ways to add butter and cream. Cyril likes his dishes to fatten everyone up. Damn tasty, though.