Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's turkey day!!!

Today is turkey day!! However, we are working right through it. Instead, we'll have get the day off on Saturday to celebrate. This will be out first two day weekend of the summer season. I'm pretty excited, especially since I've gotten a little sick over the past week because I haven't been able to sleep well. Other people are excited because they are going to consider the next three days as Thanksgiving and eat accordingly. Today is the official day. Tomorrow, they'll call home and eat some more. Saturday, we'll have our feast.

Our feast day will start out with a 5K Turkey Trot. I am tentatively going to run it. I've never done a 5K before. After that, we can choose from four different dinners. You can only sign up for one though - 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, or midnight (for the night workers). You head in, BYOB, eat a lot, drink a lot, and enjoy your new friends and family. I was in the kitchen yesterday and they are already thawing out a ton of turkeys. However, I've heard that the Antarctic edition of the Thanksgiving includes the Antarctic cod. It is a 200-350 lb fish that one researcher catches for us to eat.

After dinner, what you do is up to everyone. My group of ten will probably be going sledding and then heading out for game night. I'm excited for it. Other people may drink themselves into a stupor. Some might watch movies and sleep. It should be a great two day weekend no matter what and I am looking forward to it.

Earlier last week, I would have sworn we would not be able to sled near base because so much snow has melted over the past week or two from here. However, a couple days ago we got some snow. I'm pretty excited about it. Officially, we'll only get 10-20 inches of snow down here all year. The reason we have so much overall is that once it snows, it doesn't melt. Our snow in town only melts because of all the human activity around it. I'm thankful for snow today :-) but still miss rain. The last good rain I rememer is the one I caught biking in with Sam Geboff. Good times. Denver times.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!

SNOW over Observation Hill!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

John Bain, this one's for you!!

You can move far away, but no matter how much things might change they also stay the same.

This photo was taken in the men's firehouse bathroom.

I thought you might appreciate that one, JohnBain. I hope Osceola is still treating you, Cecilia, Tim (?), and Nala well. By the way, I met a Cecelia down here who spells her name differently. She taught my Happy Camper school and guided my last Cape Evans trip.

The firefighters either have the best or worst schedule on base. They work 72 hours a week. Almost everyone else works 54. However, they are on duty at the firehouse for 24 hours straight and then have a day off. I'm not sure if this schedule is different from in the states. Because of the number of days off, then often get labeled as rabble rousers because they can go out and play (i.e. drink) a lot more than others. I'm sure it is just a few who give the rest a bad name.

As I understand it, when they are working 24 hours straight, they aren't always working. They are sometimes just on duty at the firehouse in case something happens. I'm not sure when our last major fire was, but because it is such a dry continent when things go they go up in a hurry. To keep things from going up in a hurry, they have two or three full size fire engines which must have come down on the yearly resupply vessel. We always have at least 100,000 gallons of water for them to use in a fire. We use about 72,000 gallons a day on base. Our holding tanks carry around 205,000 gallons.

One last thing. I didn't do a good job of getting contact information from people before I left. Please e-mail me your addresses and phone numbers.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cape Evans ski trip

Yesterday was a rough day. I went out to Cape Evans again. People have been seeing a ton of penguins out there so I figured it would finally happen to me and took my heavy zoom lens, a decision I would grow to regret.

This trip was a special trip because instead of taking the Delta out and back, we would get to ride out and ski, run, or walk the 15 miles back. If you weren't done by a certain time, then the Delta following everyone would pick you up. There were two runners, two walkers, and eight skiers. It looked like it was going to be a great day. The sun was out. There wasn't any wind which was really important and it was pretty warm.

I started out in the usual gear as all of my outdoors runs - top and bottom tights, wind pants, capilene shirt, fleece top, one set of gloves, eye protection, and headware. I tried using a neck gator as headware the same way that Gift does. Great idea!! It keeps your skin covered, but lets the majority of your heat out of the top and you don't get nearly as sweaty.

One of our first time cross country skiers, Travis, working on step 1 - where are the skis . . .
One of our most experienced skate skiers, Kurt.

I took a bunch of pictures at the start of the run, but I didn't take the time to set up my camera properly and the pictures showed it. They are all over exposed. I need to get better at paying attention to the details, especially when every picture is getting twice as much sunlight. So there were something interesting formations, including an iceberg, at the beginning of the run, but you don't get to see those. Instead, you get my first look at live wildlife (outside of the Skua birds) since I got down here. SEALS, or maybe better put SEAL!!

About five miles into the run, there was a seal hole beside the road. I'm not sure how it got there, but I heard the Weddell seal before I ever saw it. The sound reminded me of the heavy breathing of someone who just jumped into water that is a little too cold or that just over exerted themselves. The same seal, I believe, just kept going under and kept coming back up to the same hole.

Same Seal

Same same Seal
I'll call this seal Andre. Extra points for anyone who knows the reference who isn't in my family

After we passed the seal hole, we continued on past a couple islands and even a sign that pointed towards the penguin ranch. Apparently, they go to penguin rookeries and put garbage cans over penguins heads and then transport them to the ranch. They used to try other means of capture, but apparently the dark keeps them calm. John Bain, you should try that with Nala instead of the crate that she could see out of it, but you better get it made out of adamantium.

I'm not sure exactly what they study at the ranch. It has something to do with penguin diving. There is only one penguin hole out there for them to use. A penguin can go in the water but it is too far to any other holes so they always come back to the same hole which allows them to have a contained environment to study them in.

I think it was somewhere around the penguin ranch that I ran into a really large wall compliments of the pack I was carrying. That pack included my zoom lens which also let me get some great pictures of the seals, but the total pack ended up weighing 13 lbs. Normally, I run with 3 lbs. I had been able to keep up with the leading skate skiers until this point and then I just crumbled. The last 5-6 miles were just brutal. When I was finally done with the run, I felt worse than I did after my marathon. I think there were three reasons for this: the heavy bag, soft snow that I kept sinking into, and getting a ton of sun exposure. I'm pretty sun burnt today.

I'm glad I did, but I won't be doing it again which might mean no penguin pictures for you readers at home, at least not from Cape Evans. On the other hand, I did get my camera adjusted right and eventually made some pictures worth taking a look at. Keep in mind that all of that flat area in these photos is sea ice and should melt in the next two months. Our major supply ship will cut across between where I am running on the sea ice and those mountains.


More mountains.
Castle Rock is the tallest rock in the picture. We can hike there from base.

Food for thought. We take pleasure in seeing the seal. Assuming that it was laboring for breath after coming back up to the seal hole only made the scene that much more dramatic. It is similar to a professional athlete in agony. We love the extremes and turn it into tourism of a sort. We might have been doing it to this seal. I saw a documentary about the rise of corporations that hit on a point similar to this. As first world travelers, we go to third world countries and turn their suffering into a sort of tourism. What they call life and may or may not enjoy, we go to explore because we can. However, we can always leave. Big difference.