Thursday, October 25, 2007

Discovery Hut

I finally went out on my first real hike around base. It was pretty short, but given the conditions and the company, the distance was right. I'll save the longer hikes for the days that aren't quite as nasty. I'm really looking forward to those around Castle Rock and Armitage.

For a hike around base, it is pretty much the rule to load up with your ECW gear. I had only three layers up top, two on the bottom, and plenty of accessories to keep the rest of me warm too. I only managed to stay warm as long as we were moving which was difficult because I was hiking with a gym rat that was sick and never does cardio.

Discovery Hut is only about 15 minutes from base. It was chosen by Scott because it is the on land off the southernmost navigable water in the world. When we got to the hut, we learned that you unfortunately can't get in with out a guide. However, lucky for me I bartered a guide to head out there with me in the future in exchange for some Oregon Chai. She wanted to buy it off of me, but I told her to be more creative and she came up with the idea of the tour. From Discovery Hut, Scott set out with Sir Ernest Shackleton and one other man to go farther south than anyone else before. This trip laid the foundation for the dislike between these men.

Discovery Hut with McMurdo Station in the background.

Since we were not allowed inside, we took a hike up the ridge near the hut and back around to base. In offered up some great views of base, that I hadn't seen before. It also offered up another close encounter with wildlife.

105 year old dead seal.

After this final view of the base, we headed up the ridge. About half way, a soul that is much braver than me went running by up the ridge. He was moving at a good clip and only had on long johns and a windbreaker. I'll wait a little while longer for it to warm up.

Near Hut Point looking up at the ridge we would hike up.

The highest point of the hike offered the great view of town below. In the middle of the picture are two green buildings. I work in the right one. The really large white and yellow building to its right is where I eat, sleep, shower, etc. The hill in the background is Observation Hill. The pass to its left leads to Scott Base, the Kiwi base.

By the way, for those who were curious Kiwi paraphernalia includes any well made tourist stuff you can think of with the logo of Scott base on it. They had t-shirts, spoons, hoodies, patches stickers, stuff animals, underwear, books, calendars, memo papers, bottle openers, and even more stuff that I can't remember!! They also had some stuff to support the people who live there like toothbrush, shampoo, etc.

The hole in the ground in the front right of the picture is the ice pier. Apparently, we get a huge ship to come in once a year to deliver cargo. This is how we get pretty much all of our supplies from cars to print cartridges.

Home. McMurdo Station.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home sweet home . . .

A bird house.

I might move into that birdhouse. I haven't seen a single bird yet so I'd have plenty of room to move around. The skua should come when the weather warms up and are notoriously better at grabbing food off your tray than a boardwalk seagull.

My home for the next five months is a coed dormitory. It might have adults, but it has all the making of a college dorm. Everyone tries to decorate their space to look it different. Everyone rearranges it to maximize space. There isn't enough room. Everything is communal, and you just make do.

The building I am in, 155, is actually more than a dorm. It hold the galley, recreation offices, finance, HR, broadcasting, a store, laundry, computer lab, and a couple other things I'm sure I am forgetting about along Route 1.

Building 155. The white area on the right is where the galley starts.

Route 1. Computer lab in the first opening.

There are people working around the clock to make this base work. For the night shifts, most do it for six weeks straight. Then they get the chance at Christmas to switch over to day. No thank you to both. I'll just work days. Because so many people have odd schedules and it is very similar to a college dorm, they have quiet hours all but six hours a day.

Night shift worker's room who is sometimes the roommate of day shifter.

Even though, I'm in the FnG (F'n New Guy) dorm, it does have some perks. We don't have to put on any more than pajamas to head to the sauna, cafeteria, store, laundry, etc. Even my bathroom is 10 feet away instead of the longer walk upstairs that others have.

"Ye Old Sauna"

Communal bathroom.

My room is small. I'm a roommate with two firefighters. We have the bunk beds and closets on one side. The other side is a lounge. It isn't great, but it works. I don't spend much time there so I don't mind. However, I wouldn't mind debunking beds. I've learned to respect people who make beds on the top bunk. Wow is it difficult!! If you have any tips, let me know.

The lounge side of my room and my roommate Kurt watching the news about the California wildfires. What else would a firefighter watch on his day off?

The bed side of my room. My bed is the one on the top left. My gyms clothes are airing out and the rest hasn't been unpacked beyond putting it in a stack so that I could put my bag away. My first care package is just visible above the orange shirt. Thanks again for jelly bellies, purple Oregon Chai, Sour Patch Kids, and so much goodness.

OK, this post isn't very exciting for me to write so I'm going to cut it short. I've been writing it from one of the Coffee House computers and listening to so a lot of music that I love and miss. I came in to Ben Harper's 'Burn One Down,' move on to the Black Crowes' 'Jealous Again,' then I heard some Dave Matthews and David Gray. I don't have any CDs or music of my own down here so these reminders of home are oh so good. Also, my office mates don't like music so I get nothing except for when the food warehouse guy underneath turns on his stereo. Lucky for me, he loves U2.

Tonight, I'm off to work on my Antarctic bowling.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It has been a few days . . . .

It has been three days since I've posted. Part of that is me being lazy, part of that is working to come up with new material, and part of that is me being busy.

The highlight of my weekend was getting to see the Banff Film Festival. I've seen it the past three or four years and I love it every time. Great stuff! Perhaps even more amazing that the film festival itself was how many people were crammed into the galley to see it. (By the way, the galley is still named the galley even though it isn't on a ship because the Navy used to own this base and called it the Galley.) I don't think you could have put one more person on the viewing side of the galley.

Saturday, I slept in a little and then headed to the gym for my longest run ever on a treadmill. 13.1 miles. Ugh to the treadmill, but it is better than doing nothing. I think I can run faster on the treadmill than outside because it forces me to keep a certain pace, but it also takes a lot more concentration for me to keep at it hour after hour.

Luckily, the fun of running for two hours on a treadmill wasn't the only fun for the day. After lunch, one of Old Antarctic Explorers (O.A.E. which is really just a nickname for anyone who has been down a few times), took us out to his secret spot for sledding. It took a short hike ducking under pipes and making sure not to step on frozen fuel lines, but we finally arrived at our sledding hill.

Our sledding hill with the sea ice at the bottom as far as the eye could see

Once we got to the hill, Joe, our OAE tour guide, went first to 'show us how it was done.' Unfortunately, he lost his sled. If you take a look in the next picture about half way down and a quarter of the way in from the left is his sled spinning away unto the sea ice. It is a small dot, but it is also in the area he clearly told us not to go. I don't think we were in danger of the sea ice breaking underneath us because that is also where they land the C-17s right now. The problem was that we wouldn't be able to easily stop on the ice and could keep going until we got to an unchecked area where there could be crevasses (already broken through ice) into the ocean below.

Joe's sled spinning away onto the sea ice.

In the end, we all figured out how to go down in our own way. Some went down the slower, but more native penguin style, others went with something akin to a toboggan, and a few went down the fastest way of all, on their back.

Penguin style sledding.

Toboggan style sledding with the base of Observation Hill in the background.

After a couple hours, we packed it in because the weather was taking a turn for the worst. Still, it was a great day. I honestly can't remember the last time I went sledding, especially stolen cafeteria style tray sledding. The parallels between a college campus and this base continue to grow.

Amanda poses beside her weapon of choice for sledding.

I simply strike a pose for my mom's viewing pleasure, just like on Semester at Sea. I guess I should thank her because if she didn't want those photos then I probably wouldn't have any photos of myself at all.

Our hike back to town with the helipad directly in front of us and my dorm somewhere in the white.

We only get one day off a week and everyone wants to make the most of it, but everyone also wants to catch up from being exhausted. As I was on my way back to my room to get some of my missing sleep, Kevin drug me out to the Coffee House for a movie. They were viewing Ghost on a home theater system as good as any that I have seen. It wasn't spectacular, but it did have five pretty well spaced speakers, a huge TV, and five rows of couches for your viewing pleasure. I had no idea that part of the Coffee House existed and though I was reluctant to really watch any TV, I was still excited to find out something new about this place. That was actually the first TV I have watched except the final three outs of the Rockies making it to the World Series and that was just because I was waiting for someone else.

I closed out the night by volunteering in the pot room in the kitchen. Wow is really all I have to say. I know some people can make a lot of pots while cooking dinner, but we washed for almost two straight hours while pots and pans continued to show up. Amazing. Egg beaters as tall as me. Spatulas that could double as oars. The next morning, my right shoulder was soar from being used so much.