Antarctic Time Traveling

December 1st, 2017. McMurdo Station, Antarctica, 15:19 GMT+12:00.  22°F

I forgot my pager at the office.

Sitting here in my dorm room upon a comfy chair I took from another building. We carried it across the station, struggling with it on slushy volcanic dirt turning to mud. My colleague banged his shin when we carried it up the metal stairs to the dorms.

It’s becoming summer here in Antarctica, where McMurdo Station becomes what’s affectionately termed ‘MudMurdo’. There’s still snow on the ground, but it’s melting. Fleet-ops has cut 5 inch wide trenches into the mud to create channels for the melt-off. Times are a changing.

Time–I’m 21 hours ahead of San Francisco, the place I call home. I hear a lot of time traveler jokes from people back there, and it’s hard to resist a few hello from the future joke myself. But, we’re far from the future. Coming from San Francisco to here, I feel like I’ve traveled back to the late eighties, before I was even born.

Mount Erebus Antarctica McMurdo
Mt. Erebus, an active volcano just off station.

There’s no cell-phones here, just landlines from the eighties scattered in every possible location. They bought the phone system at a discount from a prison in the seventies–too obsolete for their needs. The closest semblance to connectedness is a home-grown pager system, set up at the top of ‘T Site’, a scattering of antennae on top of Crater Hill. I’ve got a pager, and so does half of the station.

I take over the phone of someone in Central Supply to send a few pages, pressing * and then 0 and inputting their pager number and then the call-back number–I scramble, finding it written sloppily in pen on an old piece of paper under gritty plastic atop the phone–8732. A satisfying three beeps lets me know my page has been sent, and I let the handset slam back into the receiver, a simple pleasure from a simpler time.

I stare at the handset eagerly, and thirty seconds later it rings–ringing an actual bell. “It’s Rex” I say as I pick up the handset, my pagee on the other end. Looks like I’ve got to call someone else now. I repeat the process a few more times and in short order I’ve got all the approvals I need. Organized chaos.

“Thanks….Jenny right?” I say to to the supply girl. I’d seen her around the station several times, maybe even had a few conversations. When you live, work, eat, breathe, and play with all 854 people currently on station you get to know everyone in short order. I’m trying to remember one name a day

I start to wonder if I really was joking about time travel.
I’ve clearly traveled back in time…

I just had to go to Antarctica to do it.

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