Originally meant for posting on March 4th.
Today I had a very good day. Though I had my galley duty and I was up and about at 5 am in the morning, the leader asked me at 7 am along with a few others to get ready to leave within half an hour. Of course I was ready within 15 minutes after requesting another member to carry on galley duty. I would do his tomorrow. I did not ask why since I had a feeling that it could be to visit Russian and Chinese stations. He had been trying for last few days to contact them for permission to visit their stations. The third in the Larsemann Hills is the Australian station, Davis, but that is far away at 120 km. We were at our proposed site at 8 am where the leader told us that we might visit these two stations weather permitting. Last night the satellite picture had shown a big system traveling towards the ship quite fast. The temp was -5 C and with wind chill it was -15 C. Right now it is quite desolate place. I have said earlier that looks quite beautiful; however, if I have to stay there all by myself even with the assurance of being picked up half an hour later, I shall get panicky. At about 9:45 am it became quite windy. I had gone out to visit a frozen lake, and when I came back to the igloo hut, one member told me with a sad tone that the proposed visit could be called off. I advised him to learn this lesson to never feel disappointed in Antarctica.
The weather improved after some time and ten of us left in two choppers, first for the Chinese station, Zhong Shan.
China or Chinese always invoked earlier a feeling of being mysterious and secretive, but now they bring about a sense of awe. Power of wealth can change how people look upon you. We were not sure how Chinese would greet us and were ready for a cold and indifferent welcome. However, we could not be more wrong. They greeted us smilingly and warmly. The American culture was clearly visible when they treated us with all kinds of canned soft drinks. The leader immediately sent for an interpreter. This young fellow was an Architect and interior designer who was spending summer here since China is rebuilding its station. The current structures are 18 years old, but to me these also appeared very reasonable and spacious. They had done their landscaping quite imaginatively with stones and boulders. This station has the advantage of a big flat area. It is also very close to the sea. Two more people joined us, one with professional video camera and another young girl with latest Nikon Digital SLR, D80. Both were journalists and working for United News of China or Shanghai News Service. My long flowing hair and goatee perhaps fascinated the young lady, Zhang, and she wanted quite a few of my close ups. I tried asking other Chinese members if the journalists always write flattering and good reports or they could be critical also. I perhaps could not make myself clear, or the deputy was too clever. He said everything is so good about this place like glaciers, icebergs, snow etc. They opened all the laboratories for us to visit and interact with the scientists working there. Normally, 20 members winter there; however, at this time there were about 90 people because of the construction activity. Seven members were women. The station doctor is a surgeon. There is a close cooperation with the close by Russian station, Progress, for medical and other technical assistance. The Antarctic scientific activity of China are organized by China Antarctica Research Expedition (CHINARE).