Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last day of the year

Yesterday, I went to Room With a View up the peninsula. Today, the last day of the year, I'm heading out to Moore's Bay. It might be a stressful trip, but it is the last day of the year. I'm super excited about the possibilities. Good bye 2009. Hello, 2010!

Moore's Bay is dead center at the bottom of the map.

More info to come. Ross Island is an hour northeast of that spot. The Dry Valleys are 30 minutes north.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ob Hill Up Hill

The Ob Hill Up Hill course.

Every year, people climb Observation Hill. Some people make it a personal goal to climb it every day to stay in shape and to remind themselves just how beautiful this place is. It really only takes 30-45 minutes to go up and down if you are moving well. However, that just isn't fast enough for some of us. Once a year in December, we race up it.

On the road up, I was in 9th place (back of this picture, leader not shown).

The Ob Hill Up Hill race is always the least attended race and that is probably a good thing. The footing is loose. There isn't much room to pass. You are allowed to go off the trail, but then you are climbing up very loose scree. I hadn't been training because I had hurt myself so I, once again, didn't think I'd do well. For those of you who have been reading this blog long enough, that means I am likely to do have done well. Whenever I think I am going to do well is when I do badly. Anyway, I got to the base of trail in ninth place, even lower than I expected.

Two-fifths up, I move into 5th.

During my first Ob Hill race, people went out to fast and I was able to pick them off. I also had to walk because I went too fast in some sections. My goal this time was to not walk at all and just finish as well as I could.

When I got to the trail part of the race this year, I didn't think I'd stay in 9th because a lot of people went out pretty fast. By the halfway point, I was able to move up to third by cutting switch backs. Shortly after, second bonked and I was able to pass him. I didn't think I'd catch first, but they started to walk and I closed in. At the top, they chose the longer route which allowed me to close quickly. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get it done. I took second and was happy with it. I didn't walk and beat my past time by 40 seconds.

2009 Ob Hill Results
Whit M. 7:07
Brody 7:11 (2007 finish, 7:51, 3rd place)
Corey C. 8:08

I was also excited because my dorm did really well. For the men, HoCal placed 1st, 2nd, and 4th. For the women, we finished 2nd. I think we could dominate dorm Olympics.

You can only see my head in 2nd here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas update

The Royal Society mountain range.

It's been a while. I haven't been posting because I've been a little down and super busy.

I was busy because a number of grantees were ending their seasons and I was trying to spend as much time with my roommate, Meg, before she left town. She is finally back in the states with her dog Warren, boy Jaime, twin Mo, and family (maybe in that order). She is starting nursing school in January. I am now rooming with her high school classmate, Brooks, who is proving to be just as brilliant.

My last big run (photo compliments of Shuttle Jo, the oldest man on Ice, who turns 81 this year).

As for being down, I was missing my friends and I haven't been getting outside nearly as much as I should. I hurt myself by running twenty miles after taking some time off to be sick. After almost a month, I was finally able to run thirty minutes without pain yesterday. I'm pretty stoked about being able to run again, especially since I just got my team's training guide for WUCC.

For those of you who I haven't told, most everyone, I'll be playing in Prague in July with the mixed Christchurch, NZ team that I won NZ nationals with in December 2008. I'm really excited and honored to play with them. It should be a treat. They helped me remember why I love ultimate and kept me from retiring for a couple more years.

Attack Skua right outside my dorm!

Other things that have happened since Thanksgiving:
  • Lots of smoothie mornings
  • One skua attacked Meg and me five times on our way home from the galley. We, and our dinner, survived.
  • Meg's going away party disguised as the Antarctic premier of her boyfriend's first ski movie
  • I lost a great roommate.
  • I got a new great roommate. We rearranged the room.
  • I missed friends back home.
  • I made new friends and connections here. I might have lost an old friend.
  • I waved the 'Just say No to Grey Matter' flag to avoid wasting my time.
  • I smiled.
  • I started to make plans for when I leave the Ice (NZ until April, Australia/Hawaii through May 1st, Prague in July).
  • I received fabulous gifts from home, including a grey hoodie I'm wearing all the time and video and ancestor info about my dog, Sabah!
  • I rediscovered how much I enjoy crosswords.
  • The Ob Hill Up Hill
  • I skied with Becky who I haven't seen since I went to the field.
  • A huge content update of the En Sabah Nur, my college ultimate team, website.
  • I ate the last of my ice cream from my ice cream cake!

Ice cream cake on my birthday!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I'm sick of talking about the past. I realize that giving a little distance can let you reflect, but today I really want to rave about the beautiful weather, or the race we just ran, or how talented some of the women I saw perform last night were, or how great the fresh blueberries I had today were, or the crazy skua attack that Meg, I, and our dinner's survived. So good. So brilliant. Instead, I'm two weeks behind on the the blog so you are getting Thanksgiving goodness.

Thanksgiving. What is it? It is different for every one and every location. Down here, it means a holiday that the NSF can move to Saturday to accommodate work schedules and allow us to have our first two day weekend in three months. It means a brilliant meal made by an amazing galley staff who doesn't get the day off when we do. It means the annual turkey trot. It even means being thankful for how lucky we are to be here, to be surrounded by amazing friends, to have lots of loved ones back home, to have health, and to even have some happiness. I think most people are just thankful for the chance to truly unwind with two full days of goodness.

Running socks (photo by D. Story).

My Thanksgiving started after one of my worst night's of sleep down here. I had been unable to sleep, due to coughing, sniffling, and a headache, until almost 4am. I woke up at 9:15 (which was HUGE for me to sleep in that long) and saw a couple of my friends dressed for running. I was confused because they don't run much, but then I realized they were heading out to the Turkey Trot. I hustled my gear together to make it over to the 10am race in time.

The start of the Turkey Trot.

Since I wasn't feeling so hot, I planned to just run the race and not race it. It was a cold and windy day so I definitely wasn't motivated to run anywhere too fast. At the last minute, they changed the race course from the ice road out to the ice runway to the road to Scott Base. Someone had fallen and broken their wrist the week before so they didn't want to risk any more injuries. This change helped me quite a bit because it meant the first half of the race would be uphill which is my preferred run.

The hill up the Scott Base road.

We started late, but it was alright because we all just huddled inside to stay warm. Once we finally got moving, I just stayed leeward of someone running my speed and let them pull me up the hill. When they faded, I found someone else. I feel bad for the guys who tried to lead the first third of the race. They all faded away. I think the top finishers all stayed leeward of other runners as long as they could. The man who won it stayed leeward of me until we were out front. Anyway, while I didn't plan to race and was just running, I soon found myself near the front and my stubborn side took over. I didn't push it, but I definitely didn't ease off the way I had planned.

The downhill portion of the race with a great view.

The results of my decision not to ease off had me tied for first at the top of the hill. When we started back down, the other runner pulled away. I was able to catch back up for a short while, but he had a great stride and just pulled away again. He tuckered me out and there wasn't anyone too close behind me so I did finally ease off and did my best to enjoy the rest of the run through an agonizing cramp and an inundation of mucas. For my efforts, I got second place overall, first in my division, a Leatherman Micra knife, and an nauseating headache (maybe a migraine).

Turkey Trot results
Simon Trotter 19:27
William Brotman 19:59
Nathan Murphy 20:10

Marika finishing her first 5k!

I think the best part of my race was after the finish. I turned back up the hill to find Marika. She was running her first 5k and she isn't a runner. I found her and ran to the finish with her, nagging her all the way she would assure you. She pulled in just under 30 minutes which is running at a pace of 6 miles an hour. I'm posting this to have a permanent record and to reminder her that she did run faster than she ever trained even thought she felt like she was walking up the hill. When she was done, she went out for another 2 miles of running. She is a rockstar and is planning to run her first, and avowed only, half marathon in January.

The dinner tables.

Thanksgiving dinner is usually a special time with friends and food. I can't really put words to our dinner. I don't think I could put words to any family dinner I've attended over the years. There is just an inner warmth that emanates from spending time with those we love and with those who know us best. Two things I can convey is that the galley staff is amazing and they are amazing. There were around a 1,000 people on base and the galley only holds 350. That means they have to have three sittings, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm, to get everyone fed and fed well. The rest of this post is just pictures of the concoctions they came up with. However, even these pictures doesn't do justice to the week of preparation that the staff put into making it happen.

Alaskan king crab legs!

Candy coated apples, bread, apple butter, and . . .


What Thanksgiving would be complete without pumpkin pie?

Truffles? Chocolatey goodness? Yes, sir.

Moose or mousse or YUM!!

Chocolate covered strawberries with real flowers.

Chocolate(?) skuas!


Something yummy.

Making it all happen.

Hmm, hmm, good?

Feeding 1000 a day and doing it well

The deliverers of goodness, these guys are the most loved on base for the tastes and most hated on base for the extra pounds.

Pressure Ridges

Pressure ridges with Castle Rock, Mt. Erebus, and the Kiwi's new helicopter in the background.

Pressure ridges.

Sea ice as of September 19, 2009.

Pressure ridges form where an ice sheet breaks and the main piece continues to push up over the broken piece. I believe some pressure also comes from the winter sea ice not allowing the shelf to slide unimpeded. Each winter, the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound fill up with ice (see the picture above). If the sea ice is out, the ice shelf can keep moving. If the sea ice is there, extra pressure can build. Similar to when tectonic plates push together to release pressure in the form of mountains, we get mini-mountains, or what we call pressure ridges.

Our tour guide and one of my snowboarding partners in Colorado, Kish.

Kish's favorite formation. I think he called it Fire Ice.

I didn't plan to go to the pressure ridges this year. There are only so many tours available and I wanted to let others go who have not been out. However, my snowboarding and winterover friend, Kish, offered me a spot on his private tour. I was more than game for that. We went out on a beautiful, almost windless day. Michael and Meg joined us as well and, as always, were a source of joy and smiles. Kish was also a rock star of a guide. He treated it like a guide back home and was entertaining and educating the entire way. Such a treat.

The Hand is going to grab you.

One of the fun things to do while walking through the 2 hour tour is try to find shapes in the ridges. I think my favorite was the Hand reaching up out of the ground (picture above). The trick of the ridges is that they are very dynamic. Your favorite formation could actually be gone from one week to the next. Finding formations reminded me of the Breckenridge Snow Sculpture competition that I'm missing back home this year.

More pressure ridges.

Me with the strongest sun screen EVER on my face.

Birthday goodness

The view from my birthday dinner.

This Thanksgiving, I turned 32 years old. I think that was almost two weeks ago, but I still wanted to mention it because my friends down here were outstanding. Bad weather kept my roommate from heading out to a deep field camp which was a bummer for her, but a treat for me. She took my birthday dinner ball and ran with it by rounding up a lot of people and good food on short notice for my Hut 10 party.

We dined on fresh pesto pasta (Thank you, Linda!), amazing pesto based salad pizza, Italian sodas, yummy cheeses, and probably most importantly ICE CREAM CAKE! We don't have real ice cream down here and that is a bummer, but Michael ordered an ice cream maker bowl and then made ice cream from scratch to make a brownie and ice cream layered cake. Such a treat! Throw in all the fun cards and messages from home and it was just about the perfect night. Thanks!

Another view from my birthday dinner.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Renewable Energy

I'm trying to get some more science stuff up here to balance out my personal posts. Hopefully, these posts will answer a little more about why we are down here (other than the personal reason of getting paid to see the world).

Lake Frixel camp.

Recently, they installed renewable energy at Lake Frixel camp in the Dry Valleys. This was one of the lakes that I walked to when I was in the field, but I didn't get all the way to the field camp. I believe that most of our camps have some form of renewable energy now, but these are still slowly replacing diesel generators. For those on the more technical side, the wind generator makes 1 kilowatt and the array makes 2.4 kilowatts of power. This is the largest single array in the USAP inventory.

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Home for the Season addendum

Our window.

I was asked if I had a window after my last room post. I do. Meg and I were just standing in front of it. It sits over her bed. To answer the other question I've been asked, no, Meg and I are not dating. We met our first season and are great friends. Unfortunately, she is leaving in two weeks to head back home to her boy, her pooch (maybe not in that order), and to attend nursing school in Idaho.

The view.

When I took this picture, the window was a little steamed over. Here are some much better pictures taken from my window earlier in the season.

I'll also be putting a bounty out on the new Ben & Jerry's flavor. I suspect it will come out and be gone by the time I return and it looks like I need to eat some. Maple Ice Cream? Yes, please. Blonde Brownies? Yes, please. Maple Caramel Whirl? Yes, please. Maple Blondie? YES, PLEASE! For the reward, it is hard to say. It should guarantee a visit to your home by Sabah and I. After that, we'll negotiate.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Seal, it's what's for dinner!

The BBC has a new nature series coming out called Life where they look at the what some exceptional plants and animals have to do to survive. They recently shared a short clip of worms and sea stars eating a dead seal on YouTube to advertise.

Click here: Seal, it's what's for dinner!

This is a part of Antarctica that I'll never see because it happens below the sea ice. While I've been below the sea ice for about a second, all I saw was a few fish. These guys went diving last year near Little Razor Back Island about 10 miles north of here, which we pass on our way to Cape Evans. It can be difficult to believe just how much life is going on below the ice when we so rarely see anything above the ice.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My Home for the Season

My accommodations for the summer, Hotel California

On a bright desert island, icy wind in my hair
Cold smell of nothingness, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw fata morgana
My cheeks grew frosty and my sight grew dim
I stopped for my parka

My original ideal for this post was to edit the lyrics of Hotel California to fit what I needed to stay, but I'm tossing that idea out. I think I tossed it out when I had to settle on parka to rhyme with the fata morganas that we see in the distance. I'm just not creative enough and certainly not motivated enough to find the rhyming words.

My side of the room.

The communal side of the room.

Meg's side of the room and us in our Halloween costumes.

My living situation is great this summer. My first year on the ice, I was in a 4-pack without a window in a loud dorm. This time, I was able to pick my roommate, pick a bay side window, and make sure I was in a quieter dorm. Seniority can be good. Meg and I chose Hotel California because it is a little quieter, more community oriented, and closer to skiing. Meg taught me how to skate ski (fancy cross country skiing) our first season on the ice. She is from Idaho and she is brilliant. She is going home in two weeks for nursing school. After that, I might be playing roommate roulette.

Upstairs lounge.

Upstairs lounge balcony.

Hotel California is one of two dorms on base that don't have TVs and cable in the room. We only have cable in the lounge. We also have Internet in our lounge which most dorms don't. Most just have the TV cable, microwave, games, books, puzzles, movies, and other fun stuff that people have left behind. I think not having TV in the rooms makes more people hang out in the lounge, which gives a more community feeling to the dorm. I like it. Our dorm also has the only balcony that I know of. It is brilliant to sit on when it's warm out. I can't wait until we are above freezing and I can run a phone line out there to call back home and work on my tan. It is going to be such a treat!

That's home. Not much to it. Each day, I wake up there at 6am, sometimes make a smoothie with our blender, boil some water for tea, and eat granola for breakfast. Then, I head to work by 7am usually, run and eat lunch at 11, work until 5:30pm, eat dinner, hang out friends, and get back to the room to pass out by 10pm. Six days a week that is my day. On Sundays, I usually go for a longer run and enjoy a terrific brunch with friends, followed up by mellow goodness and catching up on chores like cleaning the room or paying bills back home. That's my routine which also doesn't have much to it. It is simple, I like it, and am sticking to it except on nights like last night where I end up chatting in the sauna hours past my bed time.

The Royal Society Range across the McMurdo Sound yesterday (12-2-2009).