I made my first and only ragchew ham radio contact yesterday as KC4AAA. W2NQ/7 is a well-known west coast talker. He's got a big signal and an attitude that's a combination of Jerry Lewis and Pat Robertson. His jokes are clean and 80% humorous. He uses his quick wit and glib ease to steer the conversation from rapid fire jokes into passages from the christian Bible.
I had been trying to have an SSB QSO with anyone who had a pulse for the past five days to no avail. What I didn't realize is that if I hung out till 3PM local time (6PM West Coast time) I could pick up some of my fellow 6's. They heard me, though none of them would talk to me. I think they thought I was a pirate. Either that or the south pole is actually passe' to people.
W2NQ gave me a nice signal report, but after 15 minutes I realized he was less interested in corresponding to anything I had to say than to use one or two words I uttered as a platform to launch a 2 minute soliliquy about whatever it was he wanted heard over the air. Then I would attempt to reply to his non sequitur, and he'd go off again.
He was very polite, and I managed to squeeze in information about the weather and conditions here at pole. About the history of the station. Yadda yadda. He wanted to proselytize. I was slightly embarrassed about that. We're a science station. We do objective science here. We park our beliefs, religious, moral, and or scientific, at the door. At this station we believe in only what we observe, and even then, we doubt our measurements and measure again. It is a community of doubt. By design. And nobody prostelitizes anything -- religion or science. Faith is not involved. We all discover together.
Yet the only way it can exist is to be a community of tremendous faith. People practice their various religions down here, in their own ways. People have tremendous faith in each other. They have faith the work they're doing -- mostly pure science - enriches human life by clarifying our interaction with the physics of the universe.
I have an emotional attachment to the concept of God the creator and to the idea that all of the science we conduct is part of a continuous revelation. Perhaps that's part of my upbringing. I prefer to think of it as a logical conclusion I've reached after years of investigation. I've said before that I believe in a theory -- MY THEORY (screw those bastards in Dover) -- of intelligent design. Something made me. Something hasn't left me. Our thing called "experience" is a co-construction, and that it is possible to use the talents we have been given to understand that construction. In fact, it may be our "job" to do that.
I believe in science as an objective way to bring ourselves closer to our origins, both spiritual and material, and that the best way for each of us to find God is to eschew all the tripe that's spewed in the media and in print, and strike out and figure out where the bastard is hiding.
I've made it around the northern hemisphere and now to the bottom of the earth. To one thing W2NQ/7 said -- while he recited bible passages to me and I squirmed for a polite way to terminate the conversation -- was that I was sure whatever God was up there with him in Salem, Oregon, was probably down here, too. At least my version, is.
No matter where I've gone it's never left me. Perhaps there's a more purified connection in places like this where it seems we've almost been forbidden to exist.
I QRT'ed with W2NQ/7 and he kept talking as if I hadn't. Eventually someone else started talking to him, which gave him the excuse to go on with his bible reading. He hadn't heard a single thing I'd said. I turned off my radio and went to the south pole marker with my camera. But I'd already taken pictures there.
With my new and improved, better tasting vitamin fortified God I have been taken directly into several dreams. You can argue I could have done it alone, and I'd let you have your argument in peace. There's no sense debating something like that. You can't know what has happened in my head and no words convey the what I experience in a way that doesn't sound like something straight out of an Issac Asimov novel.
When I was a kid I loved science fiction. I read the entire SF section of the Middletown,NJ public library. Eventually I wrote science fiction and got some stories published. I couldn't imagine anything more fantastic than living in an era of space travel and computers and picture phones. And if I couldn't get to the moon, I'd get to the poles. Those would be my new worlds.
It's as if one day while lying on my bed I looked up from a book on polar exploration and imagined everything from the axis of Earth's rotation. And then suddenly the biting wind burned my cheeks and I realized the sun was never going to set.
Then, here I am. This morning I woke up at the south pole. Nothing done or said for the rest of eternity will change that.
Today I take the skier plane to McMurdo. And then on Friday, the C17 back to New Zealand. And then the 747 to home. This reality will become a dream again.
I wish I could tell you how it happened. I wish I could tell you there was a button I pressed or a prayer I said or a wand I waved. Because I don't know how it happened except that I lived my life.
And if you were to tell me that if I closed my eyes and held my breath, I'd wake up, seventeen-years old, lying on my bedspread in my bedroom, open book on my chest, listening to my mother calling me for dinner --
I would believe you.
Here's the weather this morning at south pole, direct from the met station:
Weather for South Pole Station
The date is 11-09-2005 at 06:04 AM
-47.6 C -53.7 F
-60.4 C -76.7 F
5.6 kts Grid 89
672.5 mb (10912 ft)
UTC 11-08-2005 at 17:04 Z
Here's how I'm going to leave the station.
I will clean out my room. Vacuum the carpet. Stuff all the bed linens into the pillow case and fold the comforter on the mattress. I'll make sure the work surfaces are clean and take my trash to the sorting bins and dump it all.
The skier plane will land on the skiway and they'll begin refueling. They'll make an announcement on the station intercom the plane is here.
Then I'll don my 4 layers of clothing as I have every day for the past 5 days. It will take me 10 minutes to get dressed, even though I've done it lots of times now.
I'll make sure everything is securely packed in my orange bag. By then they'll announce on the intercom that I should go to the skiway.
I'll sling my bag over my shoulder, pull on my ski goggles, and go outside. I'll walk the 1/4 mile to the skiway, taking care not to over stress myself so I start sweating and lose my breath at altitude.
I'll stop walking at the fuel line which is running at the periphery of the skiway. The C130 will be on the skiway, all four engines running. When the flight crew signals I'll walk around the nose of the plane to the left side and get into the crew door, never once allowing myself to wonder why those four engines behind me don't simply suck me in and chop me to ribbons.
I'll take a seat in the webbing. The loadmaster will hand me my seatbelt and I'll buckle in.
Some time later, they'll close the door, turn on the internal heating system, and we'll take off.
And I will have been a polie.
South Pole Station -- November 9th, 2005