We took a leisurely route down and stopped off at the aquarium on the way back to Crary. I didn't see that much had changed since my previous visit: the aquarium still smells of fish and the fish are still as ugly as can be. It seemed to be a popular place for such a late time in the evening; in addition to the three of us, there were a handful of VXE-6 who arrived at the same time we did. Nobody spent too much time in the aquarium; it's not a very exciting place when there's nobody to explain what is what and what is going on.
The Galley gave me almost everything I asked for. Cucumbers were the one thing I couldn't get. I had intended to balance the meal with a Thai Pickled Cucumber salad, but we haven't had a cuke in weeks. In the end, I made Thom Yum Goong (sour chili shrimp soup), Red Chicken Curry and Masaman Vegetable Curry. Lori and Paul were lifesavers in the kitchen: they chopped anything I needed so I could focus my attention on the contents of the pots. There were a few moments of excitement as I learned first hand that cooking on electric is not the same as cooking on gas: the Red Curry paste burned in a couple of spots where it sat directly over the heating element. The resulting smoke was as harsh as a tear gas grenade. All three of us were coughing for the next 20 minutes, even with the window over the sink thrown wide open. Fortunately, the curry paste was only burned in a couple of spots; I hate to think how bad it might have gotten if I'd been on the other side of the kitchen, chopping vegetables.
Dinner was served at 19:00 to an appreciative crowd. It wasn't as hot as I would have liked, but only one person (Karen Joyce) thought it was too spicy to eat, but she's not a real fan of capsicum cuisine. I thought Scot Colburn was going to pass out; he ate heartily, but his face was flushed and damp with sweat. Once the second batch of rice was done, a couple of us went back for a taste of seconds, cleaning out the Red Curry entirely and leaving only a serving or two of the Masaman.
After the dinner mess was cleaned up and the rubbish sorted, about half the crowd stayed behind for a while and listened to music. While packing up, I checked my stock of spices and determined that I can cook Thai once or perhaps twice more before the end of the season. Kris, Andy, Paul and I were the last to leave, each hauling a load of stuff out as we went, tired but sated.
From the Chalet, I took a pair of cameras (digital and film) around the corner to the water plant, to photograph the blasting at the ends of the ice pier. Even more disappointing than the smallness of the explosions was that the only shot I took with my 35mm SLR jammed the camera. The mirror is stuck in the overhead position and won't pop back down into place. If I can't fix it myself, I'll probably have to go without for the remainder of my trip.
At work today, I got an invitation to the Kiwi Hangi up at the MCC. I arrived a little early; the food was still cooking and there were only a few of us milling around. The crowd showed up a few minutes after I did. At 20:30, our hosts asked us all to assemble outside for the Karanga and the Haka (Maori for "The Welcome" and "The Challenge"). First, Gareth, part of the RNZAF, came out and described the Karanga and the Haka, then the overhead door opened and several other members of the RNZAF marched out in formation, clad only from the waist down. Once they were in position, Corey (fully dressed) walked among the men, singing the Karanga. When finished, she moved off and was replaced by a tall gentleman who moved in and barked orders in Maori. The rest of the the men chanted in response, striking pose after pose in unison. When they were finished, they lined up and processed back into the MCC; the crowd then headed in for the feast.
The food at this Hangi was much the same as at the Diesel and Drummi party this past winter at Scott Base: chicken, mutton, potatoes, kumara and cabbage, all steamed/smoked/slow cooked in a drummi. It was just as good as I remember, succulent and flavorful without being drowned in sauce. Some people didn't think it had very much flavor, but I had to disagree. It was the flavor of the foods coming out from within, not external flavors imposed from without that made it so good. Beer I can always get, so I went for the L&P (Lemon and Paeora). I savored my meal for as long as I could, then headed down to the coffee house to meet Stan.
Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Red Mars, Green Mars and (soon to be published) Blue Mars has been down here for the past few weeks as a "W event" (W-007), part of the artists and writers program, researching Antarctica for an upcoming book set here. I had offered to share some of my winter-over experiences with him, some background on what this place is like when the sun goes down. We ended up talking about all sorts of places, from Antarctica to California (his home state). He's a pretty mean ping-pong player. He beat everyone he played (I got stomped 21 to 5). I'm not surprised that when he was at Pole, he was the ping-pong champ.
The demolition has begun on the oldest building on station, Hut 9, the old Navy photolab. My first clue was the absence of the foyer and the neat pile of construction debris out front.
Greg Falxa is heading home tomorrow. His farewell party was down the hall from my room, in the 207 lounge. The small crowd that gathered, played pool, chatted, drank a few beers and nibbled on the kiwi cheese and crackers brought by Matt, a fuelie I know from Marble Point.
The departures continue; today, the last of the Wormherders (S-023) went North. They were here studying nematodes in remote areas. When I was out at Lake Hoare, two of them, Mary and Erika, were out on the lake, walking from survey site to survey site. They were a great bunch and I'm sad to see them go.
Andy tested his homemade cloud chamber today. It's made from a custom-cut 25 cm (10") glass cylinder with spring-loaded detachable aluminum covers. The top has an alcohol-soaked felt pad fastened to the inside; the bottom is colored black to enhance contrast. The entire rig is placed over a cold source (liquid nitrogen in this case) and becomes quickly filled with alcohol vapor and trails of small bubbles that sink slowly to the bottom before condensing. When radioactive decay particles (beta particles, mostly) pass through the chamber, they leave a visible wake in the layers of bubbles. Occasionally, something much heavier than an electron passes through the chamber, leaving a broad, heavy scar in the fog.
We finally got a decent amount of mail from the stockpile up in Christchurch: three pallets (a few thousand pounds). I got back photos and slides from my mainbody trip to the ice caves and Cape Evans, the day I went ice coring with Dan, and the day I went fishing with Jocelyn. My ambient light photos are coming out great, but my flash photographs still need work.
The weather was so great when we left work that I grabbed my camera and finished off the black and white film on a photo series of the "IX Pack", the cluster of nine Jamesways that was formerly used to house men on their first season on the ice. Chris Hanson and Scot Colburn stayed there when they first arrived last summer, but the Navchaps (Navy cargo handlers) were the final residents. The XI Pack has only been used for storage since Station Close last season. It's about to join Hut 9 on the list of former historical strucures, probably in the next couple of weeks.
The big party tonight was at the Heavy Shop. It was large enough to support two bands, The Fuel Pit Pickers and Fuzzy Logic; the live music started at ten and went on 'til half-past-one. When the Heavy Shop cleared out, I wandered home and watched the open water around the ice pier and the sunlight on the mountains from a perch on the back porch of my dorm. Since I was still wide awake, I joined Dave and the other shuttle drivers in 209 for a "Simpsons" fest. We watched the fourth and fifth Halloween specials, neither of which I'd ever seen before. The take-off of "The Shining" was hilarious, especially because I had just seen the original, last night.
I got up in time to catch a quick turkey sandwich at the Skua Deli (the galley was buzzing with dinner preparations and didn't have the resources to cook a full brunch today). After lunch, I was going to go to the coffee house, but Amy and Tracy (our suitemates) knocked on the bathroom door and told us that the party was on. I spend so much time out of the room that learning about it was a pleasant surprise.
Tracy offered me a drink, kahlua and cream (made with fresh milk, recently brought down from Christchurch). Being a special occasion, our hosts served the first drink over glacial ice made from compacted snow that fell 2000 years ago. Unlike the glacial ice used for drinking water at Lake Hoare, this ice was filled with compressed gas bubbles that sizzled and popped as the ice melted.
At three, people split for dinner and I headed for the coffee house to show B5. On the way over, I met up with Donna and Tara (two of the regulars). Because of the holiday, the hours are 18:30 to 01:00, not the usual 13:00 to 23:00. We decided to postpone the show 'til after dinner. With nothing to do for an hour, I stopped by the Hobby Hut and checked out a bass (the same one from this Winter) to bone up on the tunes I'm playing at IceStock on New Year's Day.
On the way to dinner, I saw people with packages streaming down from the MCC. A couple of thousand pounds of mail came in on last nights flight; even though it's a Sunday, volunteers sorted the mail and kept the mail room open for a couple of hours, allowing us to get the last of the holiday packages. I finally got the tape of season three of Babylon 5, and slides from my ice cave trip at WinFly and my R&R in New Zealand.
Christmas dinner was similar to Thanksgiving dinner: special hors d'oeurves while standing in line, fresh breads of all varieties, a huge dessert table and turkey with all the trimmings. The special dish today, however, was not the bird, but the crustacean - lobster tails, as tender and well prepared as at my birthday dinner last season.
I arrived a little after the start of the 4 O'clock seating and ended up lingering over dessert until well past 6, talking about English TV comedies with Kiwis both from here and Scott Base.
I woke up just in time to make it to work at 11:00 (all of us in the Lab had to put some time in over the holidays). There was only one person working on the computers; I took the opportunity to catch up on a few things. I've spent the rest of the day practicing bass and working on my journal in the coffee house.
Just before lunch, Paul told me he was on the way up to the Crary library to watch penguins, a flock of 19 Adèlies playing near the ice runway road making their way, on foot and sliding on their bellies, from the direction of the ice edge over towards Cape Armitage and Scott Base. We watched their antics through the telescope for a good ten minutes before they all lined up in single-file and marched off.
One good thing came out of the cancelled flight: I got a chance to ask Camron Hastings for a quick refresher lesson in black and white film developing. I remembered to mention it to Craig, my room-mate, and to Diane, one of the other winter-overs who stayed for the summer. Diane and I took turns developing a roll of film; mine was TMAX, hers was PAN-X, but the only difference in the darkroom was how long we ran the developer cycle. I saved the chemistry in case I want to do some more black & white processing this month.
The fast low clouds are back. With the sun only occasionally peeking out, it's a been cooler today: 25°F (-4°C). Ob Hill is out in the open, but Arrival Heights and T-Site are both hidden.
It's been a long day and I've spent almost all of it indoors. I've accomplished most of what I came out to do, but I had to call back to Mactown for a replacement printer cable. Hopefully, it'll get here on the first helo, or else I won't have time to install it before I'm yanked out of here at lunchtime tomorrow.
After dinner, I got the band room and tried to organize a practice; it didn't happen. I only knew how to reach Ken, the guitar player, but when I met him there, he greeted me with bad news: he'd broken the top two strings on his guitar and there were no replacements to be found. It's not looking good. I practiced for an hour, then went to the coffee house, then home, to bed.
After printing out this week's Babylon 5 flyer, I'm heading over to Andy's for a pre-New Year's get-together.
We recessed for the stroke of midnight and stood outside in the sunlight for a while, amazed at it all, toasting the New Year
When the coffee house closed at 01:00, all of us poured out and played frisbee out front, at Derelect Junction, joined by people pouring out of the two clubs. We played for over an hour, then went to the 209 lounge to watch "Eat a Cup of Tea". It was too late and I was too tired; I went home in the middle of it.
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