Sunday: It was about 1130 or 1200 and I was sitting down at the corner round table we always sit at. A bunch of the guys were there eating, but everyone was nearly done when I got there. Before long It was just me sipping a cup of coffee and Ken to my right eating. I brought my journal down just in case no one was there, and now it had found a use. Ken–a felllow Canadian–and I were talking about what we had planned after we got off the Ice.
The conversation shifted to snowboarding and skiing after he mentioned he was going to go down to Banff after and do some skiing. He worked down at Sunshine for three winters, so I opened up my notebook and asked him for some advice. I got a few good tips. I told Ken my story about Sam Nassey last night.
I was at the Coffee House–now open only as a lounge during Vessel–playing Cards Against Humanity with the boys. At some point after we had abandoned the game and were just mingling around all drunk, I went to talk to a big tall bearded man that I mistook for Ben’s Kiwi twin power plant operator–yes his doppelganger at the Kiwi base is also their powerplant operator. They also were the opposing anchors during the USA vs. New Zealand tug-of-war–Turns out he was one the KBA Pilots. So while I had his ear, I told him how I knew a guy flying for Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions (A.L.E.) down at the Italian Base (Mario Zucchelli Base).
He pawned me off on another Canadian that was based out of that base, and I threw my hail-mary of a ‘do you know so and so’ story. I didn’t even know the guys name, but here’s the story of how I ended up connected to him.
I was in Zanzibar last year in Paje beach, and one of those lazy days I went to the shop to buy some more beers. I was wearing a black hat from Boathouse with the British Columbia crest on it. This tall blonde white dude was like “Hey bud, you Canadian?” He was alone, just sitting on the sandy picnic table in front of the store on this sunny day.
We get to chatting, and he is living in Winnipeg. No Way! It’s exceedingly rare to meet someone abroad from Winnipeg, and after I found he moved there voluntarily, it was perhaps my first and only time meeting someone abroad who had voluntarily migrated to The Peg. He tells me some funny stories and how he works at the Canadian Border in the Winnipeg airport. We become fast friends, and later on in my travels we share Canadian Thanksgiving with some ex-pats in Stone Town, Zanzibar
Anyways, we stayed in touch, and when I was visiting my family in Winnipeg, I hung out with him a few times. He was getting his pilots license, and the last time I saw him he was dating his flight instructor. “I wanna put a kid in her. I told her ‘hey babe, lemme put a kid in ya’ but she wasn’t down”. So when I announced to my friends that I was headed off the Antarctica for the austral summer, he messaged me and told me he knew a guy heading down there. He was working for Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions. He works at the Italian base, It’s pretty close to McMurdo, but you gotta fly. I’ll never have an opportunity to go there, thus I promptly forgot all about it.
Bringing it back to the Coffee House. I’m telling this whole big story to my new friend who works down at the Italian base, but is up in McMurdo for a few days. I realize quickly that everyone in the know calls the Italian base ‘Terra Nova’, this namesake derived from Terra Nova Bay, adjacent to the base. That has much more of a ring to it than Mario Zucchelli. Most of us only new Italians from when you see them transiting through McMurdo on their way to Terra Nova.
So I don’t even know this far flung connections name, having not thought about it in months. But after the whole story, my new friend says it could be this one guy he knows from Manitoba that he works with. “Sam Nassey, that’s the only guy that it could be”. The name rings a bell, I don’t know how, but somewhere in the deep part of my memory, I know it’s gotta be him. “I feel like that’s him!” I say excitedly. It was strange, I’ve never been so certain of an uncertain thing. I get my new friends email, and then go home. Before I go to bed, I check out if my hunch was true. Sam Nassey, that was the guy! Holy Hannah.
Back to lunch. So I’ve just told this whole story to Kenny, and I realize this one Alberta girl I met in the lounge a few weeks ago is sitting a few tables away from us, alone, at one of the “suicide tables”. So Ken and I get talking about how there’s a bunch of Canadians here, quite a few considering how you need US Citizenship to even work here. “Yeah, I think that chick is Canadian” and I point over to her. “Hey, are you Canadian?” I holler over to her. She doesn’t really notice, but Ken asks her and then she realizes we are trying to talk to her. “Oh yeah, I remember meeting you, you’ve got an X-Ring right?” she says. Yep, definitely the same girl.
She leaves that sad table and comes to join us. We all get talking about all the Canadians down in Antarctica. She’s got a light Canada Goose jacket on with that Canada Goose patch that looks exactly like the United States Antarctica Program logo. “So, who ripped off who? Did USAP come up with the logo first, or was it Canada Goose?” None of us know, but the conversation gets fully Canadian. James joins us, and gets pulled into our Canadian conversation.
Next thing you know, Ken sees another Canadian and gets her to join us. She’s a carpenter from Vancouver Island, and she starts telling us about Letterkenny Boys. As far as I knew it was just a YouTube series, but now it’s an actual show. We had a good spread of Canadian at the table. Vancouver Island, Rocky Mountain House (Alberta), Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), and Winnipeg (Manitoba). We just needed a Saskatchewanite to join us for the full Western spread.
Velcro Vinny joins the table as well, and so we’ve got two Americans and four Canadians. What’s funny is all six of us are American citizens as well, since this is a requirement to be a contractor down here. The Albertan was a beaker, here on a month long “NSF training” program. Some strange student grant thing where they’re out on the sea ice for a month, poking it with a stick. The ice melted a couple weeks ago, so not much going on for them.
It’s kind of strange. 750 people on station, yet still a decent amount of Canadians. All of the small fixed-wing aircraft pilots are Canadians working for Ken Borek Airlines (KBA)–they fly those small aircraft all the way down here!–and then a bunch of us contractors mixed in. Canada doesn’t even have a base in Antarctica! Belgium does, but not Canada? We’ve got some Arctic bases, but out of all the countries, we should really be down there.
So, until they figure that out, we’ll just be Canadians in an American world.
At the bottom of the world.