Settling in, getting used to frozen snot
Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
10Trip End Feb 16, 2009
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Note on food: everyone seems to assume that the food at the South Pole, 1,000 miles from anything resembling planet Earth, would be terrible. I assumed the same, and we were all wrong. I don't know how James Brown (yes, that's the sous chef's name) and his crew do it, but we eat pretty well here. Some days I help the cargo department bring food up from the old station, the iconic geodesic dome which is now essentially a giant refrigerator, and I have noticed that some of the New Zealand lamb has been deep frozen since 2002. Somehow, though, almost everything we eat here is really tasty, restaurant quality and even the snobbiest Polie can't complain.
The elevated station, called such because it rests on stilts which are embedded in "snowcrete," also houses almost everything else that gives the community its surprising vitality, including a multipurpose sport court, exercise room (who needs it here?), library, store, post office, numerous conference rooms, a few very well-equipped movie lounges, an art room full of supplies, and a music room crowded with instruments and posters of last year's "Polestock," "Mother of Polestock," and "Red-headed Mutant Stepchild of Polestock" concerts.
The shop where I spent some of today indexing Caterpillar and Snowcat components is in one of the arches, large metal buildings mostly beneath the ice.
I went to the doctor this morning to test my pulmonary capacity, so I should be ready to search and rescue as soon as I get equipment fitted.
Fire doesn't seem like it would cause much concern in a place naturally devoid of anything flammable, but one has to understand that the stakes are high. Supposing a fire did erupt-which is not at all inconceivable considering the amount of fuel and strange chemicals hanging around-we would all be completely screwed. Think about that one for a minute.
So I'm going to be a volunteer firefighter.
Yesterday I braved the cold for about eight hours with the surveyors, a pair of amiable engineers working out of one of the many Jamesway huts that orbit the station. I like working with them because we do things that feel significant. Half the time it's involving cables that go to the sensors that will be drilled a kilometer into the ice for the Ice Cube neutrino telescope's detectors. I thought it was cool. Also, I get to ride across the airstrip in a sled pulled by a snowmobile, which is every bit as fun as it sounds.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted and the ice that encrusted my eyebrows had frozen to my eylashes, making every blink a chore.
I also had beardsicles, my favorite reason to work outside in Antarctica.