chicken/vegetable/bean soup, fresh havarti biscuits
meatloaf, roasted red potatoes, broccolini
The smell sneaking out the back door of the galley building is fresh homemade Chex mix. I’m seven years old, helping my mom stir hot cereal and nuts in the enamel ware roasting pan. My favorite bits are the rice Chex, and I have a love/hate relationship with the pretzel sticks which are fun for spearing cheerios, but kind of a bummer to eat. I am monumentally disappointed to walk into the galley and see the actual source of the scent. The sign on the steam table proclaims it to be tarragon chicken, although I see no immediate evidence of either ingredient. I watch a table of firemen make scale models of the nearby mountains with the gray stuff on their plates. As I stand in the cold sandwich line I cross my fingers for an afternoon flight back to The Oasis. The weather has so-far condemned me to an additional day and a half of Big Base galley meals after my planned two-day visit. When the call finally comes in the late afternoon, I can’t get down to the helo hanger fast enough. The pilot sees a small break in the snow cloud which has been blowing around the frozen ocean in front of the base and decides to make a run for it. Seven of us in full outdoor gear are packed into the seven rear seats of the helicopter. Seven sardines in fat red parkas. The rotor plucks us into the air and with our nose pointed south we take off towards The Oasis. If you’ve never been in a helicopter, the movement takes a little getting used to. Unlike a plane which has wings and flaps which help stabilize against turbulence, the body of the helicopter swings below the blades. It feels like a ride on the giant swing at the carnival. A disembodied motion that makes each bump an extra surprise. As the body of the helicopter hops and lurches we can hear the pilot and helo tech glibly discussing the altimeter in static tones over the head sets. My fellow sardines assume the forced stoic nonchalance of fearful passengers, but looking out the windows, I feel more delighted than afraid. From the west where icebergs usually dot the horizon, there is nothing but the cloud of snow chasing us across the ice. To the east the outlook is steely. Heavy clouds coughing out fits of flakes and mountains waiting patiently for the smack of snow. Ahead of us the hand of the storm reaches down to stoke the rocky black ridge of The Oasis which burns like a woodcut backed by the pure gold fire of Antarctic sun.