So here it is: My successor is right now on the Astrolabe, travelling towards DDU and the ship will put in on around the 12th or 13th. That’s about a week late, due largely to her sojourn trapped in the ice earlier in the season.
So he’ll get up here on a plane that’s scheduled for the 14th or 15th.
The Astrolabe is due to depart again on the 23rd, and can only stay one day later maximum. There is the possibility to get people on board a few hours after her departure if she leaves the helicopter behind on the quay to ferry them straight out. So, probably midday on the 24th is the last time to get to DDU in time to catch her.
After getting back from the Seismo cave I found out that due to the web of commitments that stations and programmes make to each other in the spirit of co-operativity, our Twin Otter is only able to make two flights from Concordia to DDU before the Astrolabe leaves. One on the 14th to go and get the people due to come up to Dome C, and another flight down on the 21st. Two days before the ship departs.
Last year, that would have been no cause for concern at all. But the weather is playing havoc, much more than usual, this year. We’ve had more cancelled flights than successful ones. For example, Patrice Godon, one of IPEVs long serving seniors, came up to the base from DDU for a three day visit and was stuck here -I don’t exaggerate - for 24 days. One of our crew went to MZS as he needs to see the dentist in McMurdo, and he’s been waiting there four or five days for a break in the weather just to fly 30 minutes round the coast.
So a margin of two to three days really is very little. And the clouds do not show any sign of getting better.
So do I ask to go on the 14th, to be sure of getting the boat, or do I wait until the 21st, make the handover as it should be done, and risk misisng the Astrolabe’s departure?
I’ve already stayed out here about a month longer than originally intended waiting forhim to get here, because it is good to get a personal handover for many aspects of the job. Of course I like to do and to complete a job properly, and half of me want s to stay up here and wait. But the other half –a bit more than half admittedly - just really wants to go home too. It’s been such a challenging year, I need a rest. The rumour is that all the flights off Antarctica are already booked. So if I missed the Astrolabe’s departure, potentially I might have to wait here until her next rotation departing Feb the 12th. . It might not sound like much, but right now to me it looks to be the longest three weeks I could ever imagine. It could as well be months away.
Or, to looking at it another way – IPEV has been paying for me to stay out here, specifically to teach Alex the job, and if I leave now then they paid a month’s salary for nothing. Or on the other hand, I have already stayed as long as they asked me to, and I really don’t want to say longer.
I just don’t know.