The arrival of new people wasn't at all what I had expected. It started with a trio of pilots who slept over on their way to McMurdo, and rather than being the frightening unknown, they were just people. New, certainly, but somehow nothing more - simply routine visitors from abroad.
That all changed with the arrival of summer people. We've had two flights of inbound passengers, and now the station is crawling with new people. We winterovers - 3 of us having already returned to the real world - still outnumber them 57 to 34, but after a 60 to zero ratio for 8 months, that seems very high indeed.
It's a tradition at pole for the winterovers to spend months prior to the end of season raving about all the clever tricks we're going play on the new people when they arrive, everything from hiding in the subfloors to make the station look deserted, to putting up plastic sheets around the gym and quarantining them, to digging an enormous pit trap next to the runway.
Of course, none of these plans ever come to fruition (that's part of the tradition), but a couple of people did make some effort to dress up the station for the newcomers. One person ran a plank off the observation deck, complete with pirate flag and a pair of legs sticking out of the snow below. Another, realizing the US government is broke at the moment, decided to put the station on the market, replacing the NSF logo with a giant For Sale sign.
It's a strange experience to walk down the halls now and not know the people you pass. I hadn't realized how comfortable and familiar winter life had become. While it's very odd to see the new folks around station, mealtime in the galley is when it really hits home: winter is over.
As xenophobic as it sounds, I think I understand all the anti-immigration feelings in the broader world now. The small, tight-knit community we had grown into has been unbound by the influx of people coming faster than we can assimilate them. Every winter follows a unique trajectory, and each crew forms a distinct society - nobody will ever again experience our particular culture. While many here would argue that's a good thing for the world, nostalgia is a powerful force, and somewhere deep down inside, I'll always miss what this place was.
On the plus side, the new people brought freshies. I nursed my slice of tomato for a good 20 minutes, and am sure that I have never - never - tasted anything as delicious as the pineapple which came in on Sunday. Amazing.