I’m coming to the end of week two on the ice. I’m still settling in, figuring out where things are. Often, as soon as I decipher the time or location of something either it gets moved or I do. I’m slowly meeting some of the winter crew. Projects are developing.
But I’m also meeting a lot of the summer crew. The summer crew have so far all been perfectly lovely and friendly. But they’re all waiting to get home. They are at the end of their deployments and ready to get out. It makes for an interesting social situation. In an event like this, it’s natural for cliques to form. It’s human nature to want to find your tribe. Some are easier to break into than others. It’s like high school all over again. Except that the cliques are especially clamped down right now. I’ve been witness to multiple “last night” on the ice get-togethers. In the bars, the galley, all over. These folks have just been through an intense experience together and this is the least opportune time to try to break in. These folks are on their way out the door and not looking for new team members. So a lot of us winter folks, especially those who have never been down before and don’t know many people, are in a state of suspended social animation. Just kind of waiting for the summer people to leave so we can get on with our own clique forming. Even the folks I’ve met who have multiple winters under their belts (and there are a fair few) and know some of the other winter crew are in the same boat.
It’s like we are all on the outskirts of the social circle waiting for the cool kids on the inside to leave so that we can replace them. Will I be any different at the end of my stint? Highly unlikely. If anything, I expect it will be worse. Previous winter folks have told me of the feeling of invasion when the new folks start arriving towards the end of winter. The annoyance of someone interrupting a well worn routine. I hear stories of winter crews retreating to their rooms to eat, rather than eat in the galley, because the influx of new faces is so rattling. Also all those new fuckers will bring in their outside world colds and get us all sick.
The summer crew that I have made friends with have all been met through work/medical or climbing. And they are quite interesting. Having spent the last decade in the climbing community, I’m quite accustomed to what we call “dirt baggers.” These are folks who work seasonal jobs so they can dedicate more time to the pursuit of fun. Living out of a vehicle is a very common way to cut costs and remain mobile to follow the snow, surf or rock climbing.
Last night, at the climbing wall, myself and two others had a long discussion about the merits of various vehicles that can be turned into living quarters. One girl and her boyfriend had lived out of a Subaru Outback. We all agreed it was likely not the best choice for two people. Better to go with a Toyota Tacoma. There was discussion of pros and cons of solar panels. Panel vans vs tear drops. Here were people who had found a way to make work work for them. One worked supply, a fairly menial job, but a great way to get down here. The other is a physician. He works ER, as minimally as possible. Both are headed to Thailand after the ice to go climbing and sit on the beach, significant others in tow.
Bicycle trips across the country? Check.
Living in Vanagon in Hawaii? Well obviously.
Working just enough to fund the adventures? Goes without saying.
Everything down here is paid for -room, board, laundry. Except booze. So folks typically manage to save a good chunk of change. And if the folks I’ve met so far are any indication of those to come, I’ll have a few ideas on where best to spend it.