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.