Happy Camper, tractor pulls and Pressure ridges
Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
8Trip End Ongoing
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Sean Sullivan, RPSC
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035
So it's been great weather here in Antarctica. Just as I had predicted, the Austral summer here is much easier to take than a winter in Michigan. It's been SUNNY, SUNNY,
The Runway has been moved to Willy field and Pegasus field on the Ice shelf, and glacial ice, respectively. So there is no threat of falling through the Sea ice and into the Ross Sea anymore (not that there was much of a threat before, they keep a close eye on the ice depth). But I have heard some horror stories about something called trap door ice. Apparently back in the early years at Mc Murdo, back in the late 50's and early 60s, someone was driving a vehicle on the ice one moment and then the next moment they were simply gone. The ice gives way and flips over completely, like a trap door might, sealing the hole up again and leaving the landscape much the same as it looked before. The C-17's land on Pegasus field,
My schedule has been switched to nights now. 6pm to 6am. Which really doesn't make a difference to me. Actually I think I will get more sleep now, because there are less distractions (people) around during the night. We were given two days off to make our transition. Staying up all night takes some effort with out the aid of a good party and loud music, so we had to come up with some entertaining ways of doing it.
Saturday night. Started out with the 12th annual Women's Soiree. A fund raiser for charity that's become a McMurdo tradition. This year it was for the Kiwi Family Trust. The show consisted of Musical act's, Poems, and dance troups including one by the girls from Shuttles who recreated the dance number from Napoleon Dynamite and a Belly dance finale.
I evenly divide my evening by going to the White trash party. AKA the Men's Soiree, a testoserone filled retaliation party, to counter act all the estrogen given off earlier in the night. This was a drunk fest in one of the dorms. They had their annual underground tractor pull races. Which entails Two people wearing a harness with a thick rope coming off the back about 20 feet standing side by side in the hallway of the dorm. Behind the pullers are the pullee's (or Weights) a person sitting on a food tray holding on to said rope. Which for me was a cute petite beaker (Scientist) who studies seals down here at McMurdo. She had done this before and was ready to take the title. I was new, and nervous. Didn't want to fail the fans from Cargo that were anxiously watching. So when the flag drops the two tractors pulled their weights down the hallway to a predesignated finish line. I took off and my beaker was hanging on tight behind me. I was surprised as to how quickly I took the lead, almost a whole rope length ahead of my competator. When suddenly my rope went tight and I came to a stop. My beaker had fallen off as she was passing the other runner on her food tray, and got caught up in his feet. Not only did she fall off the tray but she got a good rug burn on her elbow, ripped her toenail back a little and banged her head on a doorjam. "oooh", the crowd gasped. I turned around and couldn't believe my eyes as the beaker jumped back on the tray, ready to win. Which we proudly did without any further incidents, thankfully. Afterwards she laughed and she acted as if it was nothing. "Get me another drink, it won't hurt until morning", she said bravely. I tried consoling her and tending to her wounds. (Mwaaaha haaaa!) But she was a tough girl and wouldn't have any of it. (foiled again) She proudly wore her battle scars. Within minutes she was the tractor pulling a man near 200 pounds on a food tray behind her, racing down the hallway.
Later on the same evening I went on a tour of the pressure ridges over near Scott base (the Kiwi's scientific base nearby) . The pressure ridges are where the Sea ice meets the Ross Ice shelf and it collides, slowly forming ridges and bumps. The Sea Ice eventually looses and breaks into beautiful formations and crevasses. The Pressure ridges are usually off limits to the Americans. The NSF has made them off limits in an effort to preserve our health and safety. Ha ha. Always doing what is best for us. The truth I heard about it was. One time a few years ago someone was cross-country skiing over there, and they poked at a seal with their ski pole, which is against the Antarctic treaty. Damn fools! It takes just one idiot to ruin it for everyone. Anyway, lucky for us, the beaurocracy took a break, and we were offered tours of the pressure ridges through our Recreation dept. Albeit a guided tour and with someone who had special emergency, sea ice training, and an ice pick to lead the way.
Later after the tours we tried to stay up even later by watching some Christmas movies at the coffee house, which was officially closed, but we had the key and special permission to be there. We started the night out with National lampoons Christmas Vacation, then on to Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, and finally Sometime around 0530 am A Christmas Story. I was asleep half way through Christmas vacation. So my first night of transitioning to nights didn't go so well.
The next night, Sunday worked out better for me I didn't watch movies, in a dark room. Ha ha. We ended up playing games, and taking a hike up Observation hill. Where I found myself writing out postcards to Aunt Marlene, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Diane. By this time it was 0700 , and I was starting to nod off as I was thinking about what to write. I made it later than the previous night at least. It sucks to have to hike down 700 feet when your ready for bed though. When I finished the hike I tried to do some yoga in the Chapel. The Chapel is always open for use and the Yoga classes are held there because all the chairs can be moved for room on the floor. I almost fell asleep in one of the poses on the floor so I felt it was time for bed at 0930. That's better. Almost transitioned.
Finally on Monday night I got it. I did some computer work until 0130, then started a 7 mile hike at 0200. JonO and I went to Castle rock. It's one of the predominant landmarks on Hut point penninsula. About 3.6 miles one way. It's a good hike, where the distances are
Snow School, or Happy Camper as it's known around here, is a cold weather survival course that everyone on the station must attend. It's a good ole time. You start in the class room, going over the dangers of cold weather, and cold weather injuries. Learning what hypothermia is and the signs and symptoms, and looking at gross slides of people who have suffered from frostbite.
After that we all pile into the Delta for a trip out to Happy camper, camp site. We have a couple of other classes out there on how to use a whisper lite camp stove
When we arrive it's right to work. We now have to construct our shelters and create a campsite. We start by erecting our Scott tent.
It was a great piece of snow archetecture. I ended up sleeping in it as well as Andrew, one of the guys who helped me build the quinsy. The other two guys who dug the doorway entrance, Eric, and Matt, slept in a different quinsy that was built by a previous Happy Camper class.
By the end of the day we were all whooped, after so much digging and being out in the elements. I slept for about 9 hours total in there. One of the longest sleeps I've had here.
It was a great experience to spend the night out under the midnight sun here in Antarctica. One I had been looking forward to since I've been here.
Well everyone, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy new year. Make it a great year and make it your best one yet.