The ferry made a bumpy landfall, and the deckhands scrambled to secure the stubborn craft before she washed out of reach of the moorings. She protested, bucking against the lines, and the passengers clung like barnacles to anything that itself wasn’t moving. McGee gave the waves their due respect, but he nearly grinned as he held on, making towards the gangway.
The Chilean gave a grin and a salute as he disembarked, and appeared to mouth a vaya con dios, but couldn’t be heard over the winds. McGee waved and waited for the ferry to offload what little cargo he had — a seabag and a foot locker contained all he had in the world. He wasn’t the kind to get attached to things.
A man in a heavy parka, a red safety vest overall, stood waiting, looking cold and miserable. He forced a smile and a handshake. “Major McGee? I’m Geoff Damen. Welcome to Antarctica.”
“Thanks. I don’t see the colony.”
“Just over that ridge, about half a kilometer,” Geoff pointed. “It’s not an easy walk but it mostly shields us from these winds. Major, what do you prefer to be called?”
“Anything that feels good,” he smiled. “Call me Dan, Danny, D.J., or even just McGee.”
“D.J. sounds good. Let me get a sledge for your gear.”
The two men loaded up, and Geoff handed him a red vest to wear. It had a strobe and a transponder attached. They began the long trek over ice pack and bare rock. The terrain was unforgiving; sharp edges were everywhere, and the ice did its best to claim McGee as he picked his way over the steep incline.
“How the hell do you get your supplies through this?”, he called ahead to Geoff, who was springing over the crags like a mountain goat.
“For large shipments we have a big vehicle. But it’s high maintenance and fuel’s expensive here. Plus the way around takes hours. So for the small stuff, we just walk it. You’ll get pretty nimble over this ground, sooner than you think.”
McGee stumbled along after his guide. The five-hundred-meter trek was taking close to a half hour, with frequent stops for water. At last they found themselves approaching a sharp outcropping of rock. The climb to the top was hell, and he had to catch his breath midway. At the crest Geoff was waiting. He gestured in the direction they were traveling, and McGee looked down into the valley.
“Jesus H. Fuck…” he gasped.