- Sunday, 1 December 1996
Thanksgiving dinner, yesterday, was exquisite. I arrived late for
the 15:00 seating and didn't have to wait in line. The appetizers
in the foyer were superb, especially the Japanese-style rice balls
served with wasabi and seasoned shoyu. Inside, there were too many
choices... I picked up some freshly baked antarctic cod, roast turkey,
cornbread stuffing, real mashed potatoes, generic vegetables, and a
few other odds and ends. The desserts were killer. There were
pastries, cakes, pies, and the ice cream bar with assorted toppings. We
should be enjoying those leftovers for days.
I went over to the
with Peter, one of the other computer techs, but lingered so long over
my food that our entire table finished and was replenished with folks
from the 16:00 seating. Before yet another wave could hit the food
lines, I had had enough nibbling, and I went home and napped.
After a few hours of desperately needed downtime, I bounced back around
eight and went club hopping. I split my evening between karaoke at the
and the dance party at
the Erebus. When it was all
over, I didn't even try to find another party to go to; I just hit
was where I spend most of my day today, before and after dinner. The
mail had been good to me last week, so I was able to treat the local
fans to new third season episodes. This weekend marks the last fresh
episode back home (fourth season); if all goes well, I should have
that tape in about two weeks.
- Monday, 2 December 1996
Today was filled with fun and excitement. Right before lunch, I
got a call from the radio station - a time slot opened up and I was
offered my own show. I start at 22:00 tomorrow night. After lunch,
my name was suggested as the most likely candidate for replacing a
modem (and testing the replacement) at Lake Hoare. In the middle of
all of this, the weather turned on us again. After a stellar weekend
of sun and near freezing (melting) temperatures, we got more snow and
less visibility. Even though the day had been unsuitable for landings,
the flight from
took off during a sucker hole. Three hours into the flight, before
they even reached
they turned back due to weather. The flight from Pole was also canx'ed;
Chris, my roommate is still there from his "one day" trip, last
week. The evening finished off with a birthday party for Lenore
Hinson, the volunteer organizer for the greenhouse. It was a typical
shindig, with lots of folks, tunes and great munchies. I got there
too late to miss the surprise, but it was still going strong for hours.
- Tuesday, 3 December 1996
I just got back from my first radio show. Over the course of two
hours, I played selections from 22 discs, 80's music, mostly. It
was a lot of fun. It was like being the DJ for a big party: thousands
of CDs to choose from, and whatever struck my fancy, I could play.
- Wednesday, 4 December 1996
A great day for news - the top three stories on CNN were all space
related: the Mars Explorer launched three minutes before the broadcast,
the Columbia might return to earth Thursday or Friday, and the
Clementine probe may have discovered ice in craters on the moon. I
wish we had that much good news from space every week.
- Thursday, 5 December 1996
Right before the end of the workday, I found an invitation on my chair
to the annual Hangi put on by Kiwi Cargo, a group of N.Z. military that
live in McMurdo and process our cargo as well as cargo for
I wouldn't miss the experience for anything short of a trip to Pole:
fresh well prepared food, freshly imported beer that hasn't been sitting
in a warehouse since February, and a great party thrown by a fun bunch
- Saturday, 7 December 1996
The Kiwi Hangi was excellent, as expected. Chris Liljenstolpe (my
roommate), Mike Mahon (from
and I arrived on time, before the festivities. Mike, as it turns out,
got back from New Zealand this week. He left here a simple science
tech and returned as the winter-over station manager. The three of
us sampled the beer and chatted until it was time for the Powhiri,
the formal welcome.
Once all the guests filed outside and stood back from the entrance,
the overhead door opened and a single Maori came out, bare from the
waist up, painted and brandishing the taiaha, the long club. After
a brief demonstration of his skill with the club, the same warrior
presented the Wero, a formal challenge for important guests, by setting
a small item at the feet of the ranking manuhiri (vistor),in our case,
the NSF representative. The Rep picked up the item, signifying peaceful
intentions, the club-wielder retreated into the building, and a group
of Kiwis, also unclothed from the waist up, marched out in formation
and ran through a set of precision poses and chants, completing the
welcome. In the -20°F (-29°C) windchill, they did not tarry
at their task. When they retreated into the building, we followed
them, and the feast was on.
The food was as good as I remember it, doubly so, compared to what
the Galley has been pushing out lately. There was fried bread,
steamed potatoes and kumara, pork, chicken and mutton, all without
sauces but still packed with flavor. Even the beer was fresh; kegs
of Speight's and Old Dark arrived on this afternoon's flight.
The crowd didn't start thinning out until 21:00; Chris and I left
an hour later as the die-hards were singing along to Kiwi rock-n-roll.
Interesting stuff, but I couldn't understand a word of it. If you
didn't know it was English, you wouldn't know by listening to it.
- Tuesday, 10 December 1996
My second radio appearance was far from flawless, but I'm still
getting familiar with the equipment. I ejected CD's that were
playing; I forgot to push sliders from "cue" to
"program"; I fumbled with the CD players while failing
miserably to cover the gap with chatter; I hit the wrong play button;
but, I still had a ball. For nearly two hours, I played nothing but
music from 1985 just to hear it all again. I even got requests for
songs of the period - Chicago, Foreigner, Mike and the Mechanics,
Wham! I even spun some vinyl, just to hear a song that wasn't on CD.
If I winter again, I'll definitely be signing up for a radio show. It's
more fun than I ever imagined.
For a Tuesday, it was a busy night. Right after dinner, I went to a
meeting for IceStock '97, the traditional New Year's Day concert. There
are at least four bands signing up and a bunch of smaller acts, like
me and Dave Smith on didjeridu (Dave just got back from a month's R&R
in Australia, where he picked up a genuine wooden didj. I couldn't
afford it, but it does sound nice compared to my PVC pipe didj. There's
a reason why tubas aren't usually made of plastic. The sound from a
wooden instrument is much richer and much more interesting). After
the meeting, John Booth set up to play in the
but I left early to check out the
scene and to prepare to pry myself away early so that I had time to
prepare for my radio show.
- Thursday, 12 December 1996
Mike Mahon invited Chris and me over to
for drinks; we were the only ones on the 21:00 shuttle. The place was
fairly crowded; we sat on the short side, away from the pool table.
Mike was tending bar, but wasn't too busy to chat with us. Only a few
rounds later, it was time to go. The last shuttle, at 22:30, was packed.
Chris went straight back to the room, I finished out the night at the
- Friday, 13 December 1996
Bad news from the mail room: today's flights from
The next opportunity for mail is Monday.
- Sunday, 15 December 1996
Today was the busiest day off I've ever had down here. After an early
brunch, I grabbed cameras and headed for the bare patch of ground
for the annual chili cookoff. Two rows of milvans lined the area,
shelters for the contestants. In the middle were pallet after pallet
of beer, and dozens of black 55 gallon drums. Over the winter, hundreds
of 24-packs of Miller Genuine Draft were unintentionally frozen and
thawed, making all of it unfit to drink. To speed up the disposal
process, it's been turned into entertainment. Teams of four to five
gathered around a pallet of beer and a pallet of drums, the first team
to empty all their beer wins. The cans could be punctured, but not
crushed nor cut apart. During this spectacle, I took photos from every
possible angle, including climbing up on both sets of milvans for
some interesting overhead shots. People had all sorts of accessories for
speeding the process, most involving nails, one (from the
made from welded steel plate. After 45 minutes, several of the pallets
were bare; Kiwi Cargo took the prize.
The first batches of chili were ready even before the spoiled beer
was gone; I sampled several. All were good, but most were not to
my taste. My favorites were made by the Navy comms folks, the Firehouse,
and the helo pilots. I didn't happen to sample the winning entry, but
it did look and smell very good. The judging started right about the
traditional time for
I headed inside and popped an old season 2 tape in, because the newest
tape still hasn't arrived. There it a flight due in tonight, however.
My sources tell me that there's mail on board.
- Monday, 16 December 1996
At half-past-twelve, the flag went up. I checked, the tape from
arrived. Peter, Chris and I are watching it, season 4 of
we couldn't sleep if we wanted to. Not only is it like fresh news
from home, it's damn suspenseful.
- Saturday, 21 December 1996, Summer Solstice
Saturday is normally our big night off. Because of the Christmas holiday
schedule, it's just another school night. The clubs are closing at 23:00
and the town is quiet. It doesn't even feel like a Saturday.
Every year about this time, the active runway shifts from the
by mid-summer, the warmer temperatures and perpetual sunlight take their
toll on the sea ice, creating huge melt pools at the
and at the runway complex itself. There's still several feet of ice, but
under a foot-thick layer of slush and water in some places. Today is
the last day for the Ice Runway. I wanted to get some new pictures of
town from the sea ice at "midnight" because the sun lights up
the slope, face on. Unfortunately, the weather was against me.
Dressed up, I caught the 02:00 Ice Runway shuttle. I should have gone
earlier: the driver mentioned that there had been four penguins wandering
around. To make matters worse, fog was blanketing Ross Island; the top of
was hidden, as was
I meandered between the buildings at the runway, trying to find something
interesting to photograph, and went home on the next shuttle run. The
driver was kind enough to stop just outside of town, close enough for a
panoramic view of town, but last year's photo was a better photo-op.
- Monday, 22 December 1996
The long week is finally over. This afternoon was the Info Sys Christmas
party at the
We've been gathering goodies for days. Nancy Farrell made a huge batch
of Japanese food - maki sushi, yaki soba and more; Chris, Peter and I
worked on real hamburgers. Not the ubiquitous over-frozen, past
freshness-date, hockey puck, preformed patties; real burgers,
hand formed from seasoned ground beef. It was a lot of work, but very
much worth it.
The big event this evening was the town party at the
It was the usual sort of thing, a few hundred folks, some food, a live
band. After eight straight work days, we all needed to blow off some
- Wednesday, 25 December 1996, Christmas Day
Back in the States, it's a White Christmas; here, it's as far from that
as we ever get. The weather the past few days has been terrific - light
winds, cloudless sapphire blue skies and temperatures hovering around
+32°F (+0°C)! I haven't worn a coat all day.
plans were a bit derailed for today. The TV and VCR that normally
live in the
for upcoming Visitor events. We scrambled around a bit and are currently
playing the new Season 4 episodes up in the library at the Lab (which is
closed for Christmas). Mark Smith, the Chaplain and a B5 fan, offered us
the use of the Chapel for the remainder of the season.