Friday, June 27, 2008

Why did I want to come here?

A few people have asked why I wanted to come here. They can't relate or understand why I am here, let alone why I would winter here. I'm not sure they ever will. There is a quote that I first saw on a marathoning shirt, but it applies to anything that someone is passionate about that others might not understand.

"For those who understand no explanation is needed, ...For those who don't none will do". - Julius LaRosa on the Jerry Lewis telethon

Video by Matt Harding.

For those who understand what this video invokes in me, you know. For those of you who don't, I can't explain it. When I see this video, I am inspired by the world we live and want to explore it. I want to see what I haven't seen. I want to experience what I haven't experienced. Learning about the people on this planet is something that I find so enriching. I can't explain why. I just know it is.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swimming with the fishes

Dave W. swims with the fishes.

In my polar plunge post, I mentioned that some people had great pictures taken with fish near their heads. The video above doesn't show that, but it does show the fish in the hole. Pretty cool.

Quick aside. Apparently, the fish they actually bring in for research in the summer aren't cautious. They haven't been naturally selected for that trait and consequently, they are easy as can be to catch.

Raja hesitates, hesitates, and hesitates some more.

This is one of my favorite clips. Raja has already plunged twice and each time she hesitates. It's wonderful. It's Raja.

My plunge shows just how much on autopilot I was. I just kept telling myself get in fast, get out fast, get to the hottub. I completely forgot about the harness.

My plunge!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Midwinter's Eve

Fine dining at the bottom of the world.

"And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the [McMurdo] dining room proudly presents - your [Midwinter] dinner!" Can you name that song? This past weekend while most of my friends back home were celebrating the longest day of the year with a backyard BBQ, we were celebrating that the days can't get any shorter or darker here. For some people, that meant a quiet night in their room. For others, it meant a hike. For most, it meant the best meal of the season put together by the galley staff.

Lots of people on station donated their time or drinks for the evening.

Katie managed to save some freshies for the feast.

Mark and Shandra volunteer in the kitchen.

Shane and Matt make some yummies.

John, the baker, is the reason so many of us come with a few extra pounds. Hmm, hmm, good!

Midwinter dinner is a huge undertaking for the base. People start planning over a month in advance. There are decorations, planning, entertainment, and who knows what else committees. I'd speculate that one third of the station contributed to pulling the dinner off by donating wine, serving, helping in the kitchen, decorating, making play lists, sewing window treatments, setting up, breaking down, building ice sculptures, and even burning DVDs. Unfortunately, even with all that help the galley staff spends most of the evening working. After the dinner portion of the evening, they get to come out and celebrate too.

Jim and Jeremy made some great ice sculptures.

Jim and Jeremy also made our very own wine refrigerator.

Hors d'oeuvres and wine before the main meal.

During the summer, the holiday meals were great food events. They didn't have the same feel as this celebration though. The decorations, the mood lighting, music, and sculptures were all top notch. It might have also been that all of station was eating at once instead of at three different rushed meals. I felt like I was at a find restaurant at home with 124 of my closest friends. OK, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but it was a special evening.

Kish and B-Nelson provide live entertainment

while Louie serves up some scallops

and Carol dishes out some wonderful bruschetta with fresh tomatoes

while the rest of us mingle and chat.

The evening started out in the pit of the galley. B-Nelson, Kish, and Jen all played music while servers weaved through the crowd refilling glasses and delivering tasty treats. In the background, pictures were shown on the projector to remind us of the people or places we might be missing. It was great to see so many people cleaned up, not in their work clothes, and sometimes, all fancied up.

Giving thanks to the galley staff who made all of this possible.

After that, we moved to the upper area for dinner. I don't even remember everything that I ate. It was a lot. There was gnocchi. It was good. I had a great salad. After speeches and toasts, I took a break to wash dishes. I came back and had some great desert and then finished out the evening back in the pit chatting and dancing. A lot of people filtered out after dinner, but plenty stayed to socialize. Some of the Kiwis that didn't show up for dinner finally came over as well. Good times. Lots of smiles. Tons of laughter.

Peter pitches in to clean up.

Fancied up with William T.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Midwinter 2008

Midwinter's Day or the Winter Solstice, first celebrated in 1898 by the crew of the ice trapped Belgica, might be the most celebrated holiday on the continent. Certainly, more people take part in the summer holiday because they are more here, but I didn't feel the summer holidays were as festive. They weren't intimate and people may have been missing home. This is just my impressions though. I feel like the Midwinter holiday has a special meaning for winterovers. It is the turning point for our revolution around the sun. From here on out, we just get closer to the sun and closer to day light. The sun should rise around August 20th, but we'll get day light on the horizon a few weeks before that.

Part of the tradition is for each research station to send a greeting card or invitation to dinner. I don't think anyone has ever been able to accept an invitation though. Below are this year's cards. Some of them look a LOT warmer.

McMurdo Station, Ross Island (United States)

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Geographic South Pole (United States)

Chilean Antarctica Institute, Various (Chile)

Bird Island (United Kingdom)

Halley Research Station, Brunt Ice Shelf (United Kingdom)

SANAE IV, Fimbul Coastal Ice Shelf in Queen Maud Land (South Africa)

Jubany, King George Island (Argentina)

Scott Base, Ross Island (New Zealand)

Syowa Station, East Ongul Island (Japan)

Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island (United Kingdom)

Neumayer Station, Atka-Bay (Germany)

Palmer Station, Anvers Island (United States)

Midtvinterhilsen-Troll Station, Dronning Maud Land (Norway)

Mawson Station, Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea (Australia)

Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva Station, King George Island (Chile)

Davis Station, Princess Elizabeth Island (Australia)

Dumont d'Urville Station, Adelie Land (France)

Concordia Station, Dome C, Antarctic Plateau (France, Italy)

Crozet Island Station (France?)

Casey Station, Vincennes Bay (Australia)

Belgrano II, Coats Land (Argentina)

If you made it this far and think it seems like a lot, don't forget how many bases are down here.