Thanksgiving and beyond

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

So it's been a while again.  Damn! the internet is painfully slow today.  It's all due to the bandwidth we have at our disposal.  Our internet connection is through sattelite communication, and the scientist get most of the bandwidth dedicated to them.  Which makes sense, but still becomes frustrating when your trying to check your email and it takes 1.5 hours to open 5 emails.  WOW!  I think I could write a letter by hand and tie it to the leg of a Skua, in hopes that the bird might possibly fly above the equater and drop it off at my chosen destination by mistake, before I could open my next email and respond to it.

By the way a Skua is an Antarctic and Sub Antarctic gull.  It's looks a lot like a Sea gull only larger and brown with white flashes amongst it's marking.  They are know as scavengers and nest raiders down here.  They have much the same reputation of a sea gull back home, called many dirty names, and have been know to attack some of the residents of McMurdo if you're stupid enough to walk outside in the presense of one with food or a blue food tray.  Yes, they even know the color of the trays and plates. 

About a month ago, my roomate and I playfully started a rumor that I was attacked by a Skua while crossing the street eating a piece of corn bread.  I had a large bandage on the side of my face and covering my ear because of a medical issue.  The thruth of the large bandage was a much less exciting story.  I had a cyst on my face, a large one that got infected, just below my ear and on the jaw bone (a painful pressure point).  It got properly infected and I had to have it lanced.  Lancing it was so painful that it took a local anesthetic, two tylenol 3 pills, and finally a shot of demeral which was the deciding factor to getting the job done.  After weeks of taking anti-biotics and wearing this bandage on the side of my face, that looked like an A-cup bra,  I had been asked about 1000 times, "what happened to you?" So I would tell them a Skua attacked me. In the end of it all, I had people coming up to me in the bathrooms and the galley, anywhere, Saying  "I heard about you, your the guy who was attacked by a Skua? Is that true?"  Yes, the McMurdo rumor mill is still alive and thriving.  It's kinda fun to play with too.

About 2 weeks later my friend Jane came in with a bowl of soup that had torn celphane on top of it and part of the contents spilled out, and a small scratch on her hand.  She had in fact been attacked by a skua.

So on Thanksgiving day I started with a round of disc golf with my friends Jesse, and Jeremy.  Yes, McMurdo has a disc golf course.  It's quite challening too.  Probably more challenging than many other courses in the world because it is right here within town.  Your climbing 20 foot snow banks, the wind is blowing, your shooting across streets, and some of the holes are hiding behind buildings, a lot of the time you are shooting over and through the cargo yards.  Sometimes your disc gets lost between the cargo lines  You really have to pay attention to where your shot goes, or you could spend more time looking for your disc that throwing it.

Later on, I did a short, 1 hour volunteer stint in the galley.  I made some veggie trays and refilled the dips.  The galley staff is totally inundated with work when the holidays start.  It's kinda unfair because the DA's (dining assistants) are some of the lowest paid workers on station.  So during the holidays lots of the station residents come in and volunteer to do work for them so the DA's can do the less strenuous work or possibly even get an hour or so off.

Dinner was great, we had Turkey with all the fixin's of course.  Cranberries, Smashed potatoes. veggies, prime rib.  Mmmm, it was all great.  In order to feed 1100 or so people they had to schedule 3 times to eat.  3, 5 and 7 pm.  I was at the 7pm dinner.  Which ended up being the rowdy one.  Most people showed up with a bottle of wine (or two) at the dinner table, I arrived with a bucket of ice and some beer.  CLASS, real class!  I sat with my friends JonO and his brother BenO at a table of "Beakers" (thats slang for scientist down here.) Of course, by the 7 pm dinner lots of folks have had the time to have lots of drinks.  The mostly white tableclothe, family style dinner was highlighted with raised glasses and lots of loud "Ehhhhhhh" types of toasts where people didn't really say a toast.  They just got louder and louder holding their glasses up higher and higher, and yelling Ehhhhh! until the whole galley was giving spouting off one, loud extended EEEEEeehhhhhhhhhhhhh, eeeeehhhhhh,ehhhhh! followed by lots of laughter.  It was a fun night.  We all left full, happy and well spirited. 

I finished off the night with music, and drinks in one of the dorm rooms, getting to know a few friends a little bit better and being introduced to some new ones as well...

The next day we had a recreational trip planned for Cape Evans.  Just cargo people.  Earlier in the week I was trained as a historic hut guide just for this purpose.  Cape Evans, the location of the most famous and most visited of  the historic huts, in the vicinity. Terra Nova Hut, named after the ship, Terra Nova, that R.F. Scott and crew traveled to Antarctica with, in order for Scotts South pole expedition.  This particular hut was brought and build by Captain Scott and his men in January of 1911, it was subsequently used by other early explorers, including the infamous Sir Ernest Shackleton.  I felt lucky to even get to go to this Historic landmark, let alone become a hut guide, as the hut is limited to just 2000 visitor a year, by the Antarctic Heritage Society.  In reality only aproximately 700 - 800 people visit it each year.

The trip out to Cape Evans is about 1.5 hours in a Delta passenger transport.  We saw many seals, one close enough to stop and get out for pictures, and another Adelie, penguin encounter.  Both extraordinarily funny to watch.  The Weddell seal looks like a giant slug, and when it moved it was like watching a big fat breakdancer doing the "worm" and then taking a much needed break after just a few second of effort.  The Adelie practically came from nowhere, almost invisible camoflaged against the blank white canvass of the sea ice.  Running frantically, directly to us.  Why us, it's like a wide open desert and he was heading right to us.  When he reached us he promptly ran in circles for a couple of minutes and then went on his merry way.  What?  Penguins are so damn crazy. When we reached the Terra Nova hut I stepped into the back of the Delta with all the passengers to lay down the ground rules and give a little history.  I found a little blurb in my Lonely planet Antarctica that mapped out the whole place telling you where cool things were, who slept where, and even pointed out a little message scrawed on the inside of the bunk from one of the people on the expedition.  It was an interesting little scribble that said "RW Richards, August 14th, 1916.  Losses to date, Hayward, Mack, Smith" Naming the more unfortunate members of the Ross Sea party that had perished during Shackletons Trans Antarctic expedition.  There was also a dark room for the photographer, a couple of different laboratories for experiments, a half stuffed Emperor penguin on the table that Scott himself used for his writtings and studies, a fully stocked kitchen, newspapers, books, and glass wear.  All strewn about the hut, and remarkably preserved, as if the explorers just stepped out yesterday and were due back any minute.  It was kinda ghostly and eerie, as you had to use flashlights to see in the darker corners of the room, and the only light was natural half light shining in from a few windows in the building. 

Attached to the side of the hut was the horse stable which still smelt of dank straw and hay, and there was a stack of harvested seal blubber just outside the stables, that they used for fuel to heat the stove and stay warm.  Also I turned around and looked on the floor to discover a box of Emperor penguin eggs that some of the explorers gathered to study during the Terra Nova Expedition.  The amazing journey to collect these eggs was so intense that it almost cost the men their lives, all in the name of science.  The story is told in a book called "the Worst Journey in the world." by Apsley Cherry-Garrard.  I took tons of pictures and stayed inside for over an hour.  I finally left because you can only have up to 12 people in the hut at one time and I felt like I wasn't giving anyone else a chance to come in and see it. 

Outside was another memorial, cross raised in dedication to  the 3 members of Shackletons TransAntarctic Expedition that had perished. The same three that were mentioned earlier with their names scrawled on the bunk. There were food caches, and storage boxes, a small weather station for observations, and bleached white dog bones from a couple of the dogs that perished during their time here.  There was also a giant anchor right out in front of the hut.  It was from the ship Aurora. Also from Shackletons TAE.  One day the crew came out of the hut to find that the ship had been ripped from her moorings and was loose in the Ross Sea.  The men were stranded for some time but eventually recovered the ship.  The anchor standing stuck in the beach as a testament to the powe of the Ross Sea.
The trip was an amazing success and I was glowing from excitement.  I had wanted to go and see this hut since I had arrive at McMurdo and had one failed attempt at doing so already.  This is a page from the Heroic era here in Antarctica, some of the last, great  explorations, and expeditions on planet Earth.  People coming here before they knew what excisted.  As a morbid testament to the sacrifices that have been paid to Antarcticas exploration Captain Scott and his men perished on the return from the South Pole, only after finding out the the Norweigan, Roald Amundson and his men had already reached the pole and planted a Norweigan flag just a month or two earlier, beating him to the prize.

For a little heroism of our own, my friends and I did a run up Observation hill to
commemorate the birthdays of JonO and Carl.  May not seem too heroic unless you know that we did it in our underwear.  Yes, the first annual Underwear ASScent as we called it.  There were 6 of us total and we made a great spectacle of ourselves.  We took it all off e
xcept for Underwear, boots, hats, goggles and gloves and hiked up Ob hill as fast as we could.  It wasn't that cold believe it or not.  It was a perfect sunny day, with no wind about 25 degrees I would guess.  The only thing that really hurt were my nipples.  At the top we celebrated with some hooting and hollaring, looking down the hill to see the McMurdo ambulance waiting patiently for our shenanigans to end, and make sure our darwinistic stunt didn't cause any frostbite in any tender places.

Alls well that ends well!  And so it did.
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suzzz on

totally awesome
Oh my gosh this is so cool Sully. I just caught up meeself, keep them coming when you have some downtime but most of all enjoy, it looks so beautiful!

Suzanne -Atlanta

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