Thursday, June 19, 2008

BYO Water Bottle

Raytheon's latest budget cut?

This post will probably only relate to people who have already been down here.

Next year, the United States Antarctic Program will no longer be giving out as much gear as they have in the past. I assume this has to do with budget cuts, but that is speculation. I'm not sure how I really feel about it. Having been down here, I know that you don't use most of the stuff they give you. Lots of people prefer their own gear or their job simply doesn't require as much as they give you.

When I was packing for the first time, I really had no idea what to expect. Knowing that they would provide for me certainly eased my state of mind. On the list above, I use their socks regularly, but only if I am wearing my sandals. I used their sunglasses in the summer and their water bottles after my own disappeared. Of course, that is three out of four items. Who knows. I just wanted to give a heads up to my friends who are coming back down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Polar Plunge

SPLASH into the Ross Sea of Antarctica!! (Photo by K. Folts)

Once a season, the Kiwis organize a polar plunge for anyone to attend. We aren't allowed to officially hold our own at McMurdo so many of us attend the Kiwi's event. During the summer, a number of people organize their own polar plunges where ever they can make it happen anyway. No matter how you go, the result is the same: splish, splash, EEK!

Waiting for my camera man and getting colder by the second (Photo by K. Barlow)

I used to think that all polar plunges were pretty much the same. That isn't true. In the summer in Antarctica, when you get out and the outside temperature and sun will help warm you up a little bit. In the winter, the water is usually warmer than the ambient temperature so your best bet is to get in the water in a hurry.

EEK! (Photo by K. Folts)

I've had two accidental cold water experiences in my life and neither one of them went well. My lungs felt like they collapsed and I couldn't get a breath. Someone told me that is called Diver's reflex. I don't like it and it made me worry a lot about this polar plunge. I spent most of the day trying not to psyche myself out so that I didn't end up not going. I even told someone making a movie that they could film me (to keep it PG, I kept my clothes on) so that I wouldn't back out.

The newly created 'Get me the hell out of here' swimming stroke (Photo by K. Folts)

When I got to Scott Base, a few of my friends had already plunged. Others were chatty and just slow to get moving. I had set myself on autodrive so I wouldn't start thinking and back out. I just had to strip, put a harness on, jump, and get to the hot tub. The plan worked pretty well, but the camera man had to get a set up so I had some time to sit there half naked and think about what I was doing. Eventually, he said go and in I went. After that, I don't remember much. I can remember looking up to see how deep I was and then swimming to surface, grabbing the ladder, and heading for the hot tub. Two steps towards the hot tub, I was told to hold up because I still had the harness on. It didn't even register to me because I was so much on autopilot. We had to wear shoes when we jumped because apparently your feet will get instant frost bite from walking across the ice if they are wet.

A little praying! (Photo by K. Folts)

Some people, even though they have plunged before, took their time to think about it. Raja got down to the water a couple times before she finally made it in. Kudos to her for making it in. I think if I walked away once, I'd be done. One guy has over 20 jumps though the years. I think it is pretty old hat for him. Louie managed to chug a beer before he got out of the water. A couple people actually got to 'swim with the fishes.' I didn't see the pictures, but I guess an underwater camera captures some fish right near people's heads.

Plunge! (Photo by K. Folts)

When I got to the hot tub, I had so much adrenaline and autopilot that the experience faded kind of quickly. I almost went in for a second time, but thought better of it. I warmed up, got dressed, and headed into the Scott Base bar to drink some Oregon Chai, and watch New Zealand's All Blacks crush England's Roses in rugby. Great night and I think I'll be jumping in again in the future.

Hot tub!!!!