McMurdo in May

Monday, 1 May 1995, May Day
I've pretty much crashed out in my room the past two nights, reading and watching television. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was on; I haven't seen it for years. I haven't been missing much.

Tuesday, 2 May 1995
It's the start of the new bowling season; I've managed to find myself one of the co-captains of the Wild Turkeys, a brand-new team in the "B" League. We don't have enough permanent players to field a team of four, so we're trying to scrounge the rest of the team so we don't forfeit our first match.

Friday, 5 May 1995, Cinco de Mayo
The bowling match went OK. We lost by only 15 points. If I hadn't gotten a "chicken" (three gutter-balls in a row), we might have won. I did get a few spares and even a strike (my first ever), so it wasn't too bad. Our next game is tonight, against UDAMAN (pronounced U-da-man), Bernie Sanchez' team.

Last night at Scott Base, I finally got my hands on a little liquid nitrogen for parlor tricks. Because it is so cold compared to body temperature, -320°F (-196°C) vs +98.6°F (+37°C), you can do some amazing things with it. Scotty took some photos and Woody took some video footage. The crowd was amazed as I poured some of the frigid fluid into my mouth and spat it out amidst large plumes of mist and fog, like a reverse fire-breather. Lest anyone attempt to emulate this behavior, remember that I am a trained professional and I have been handling liquified gasses for over 10 years. Improper handling can result in severe injury or death.

Sunday, 7 May 1995
The weather has been particularly ugly these past few days. On Friday, we had wind chills below -100°F (-73°C) all over town. Up at B-133, the ambient temp was -41°F (-40°C), the low so far. After the Friday night bowling game (in which I broke 100 for the first time), I checked out the band room and practiced bass for a couple of hours. By Saturday, the weather picture was entirely different. The temp had risen overnight to +10°F (-15°C), but anytime it gets warm the winds kick up, in this case, up to a sustained 40 knots, with gusts up to 61 knots. We went back to Condition 1, but this time, due to visibility, not wind chill. I was in the Weather Office in B-165 during the afternoon squall, watching the chart recorder peak time and time again. It hasn't been too bad today, it's still warmer than it was earlier in the week, and the winds aren't particularly excessive. Marcello checked out the band room tonight and we jammed for a couple of hours, me on bass, him on guitar and a Kawai synth box as drums and backup instruments. We played a lot of 12-bar blues and a little rock-n-roll.

Friday, 12 May 1995
In addition to the regular Thursday meal at Scott Base, there was a birthday celebration. When I arrived on the 19:00 shuttle, I walked into the liveliest crowd I've seen in weeks. There was pavlova, an N.Z. dessert, and a pastry-covered ice-cream filled "cake" with human-hand-shaped candle thrusting up from the center, burned down at the finger tips. One special treat was L&P (lemon and paora), a distinctly Kiwi soda pop; I've had it in Christchurch, and now, here. The dart board was so packed, I didn't even try to play. I sat in on a discussion of the overcrowding of Earth and its affect on the quality of life for the majority of people. It was a pretty interesting discussion, partially because half the group was from the U.S. and the other have from New Zealand, each with very different standards of what constituted overcrowding, and a very different range of experiences with urban crowding and urban decay.

Saturday, 13 May 1995
I bowled my best game ever, last night: 113. We lost anyway. It's calm and warm right now; the winds are less than 15 knots, it's warmed up to close to last weekend's temps and it's only getting warmer tomorrow. This probably means that we are in for another round of Condition 1 or near-Condition 1 weather, since what always follows warm air is cold air (and quickly, too). Tonight is the Diesel and Drummi party at Scott Base. I am told that Diesel is N.Z. slang for beer and Drummi is a type of open oven in which you cook Hangi, slow-cooked/roasted food.

Sunday, 14 May 1995, Mother's Day
The food last night was terrific. It turns out that the Drummi is a 55 gal. barrel, turned into a combination steamer/smoker which imitates the cooking technique of Hangi. Traditional Hangi is cooked in a pit that is layered with leaves, coals, and food, with a layer of leaves and dirt on top to seal in the moisture and flavor. It comes out a lot like polynesian food, cooked for a luau. We had beef, chicken, lamb and pork, along with potatoes, squash, cabbage, carrots and kumara, some sort of Maori tuber which faintly resembles a cross between a banana and a potato. I have never had such tender chicken in all my life; even though there were no sauces, the food was moist and very tasty. Starting after dinner, Bandayboo played 'til 1 in the morning, when the last shuttle took us home.

Monday, 15 May 1995
The IMP-8 antenna is tied down until we can get new controller boards at airdrop. It's a good thing they did it before today; the winds have picked up and the temps have fallen, so we are right back where we were at the middle of last week.

Saturday, 20 May 1995
Until yesterday, it had been a quiet week. A joint broke in the plumbing above the TelCo office, showering the phone switch and several monitoring computers with hot water and wet ceiling tiles. Equipment was switched off immediately, but several of us spent hours opening stuff up and drying it out; phone service was down for most of the day yesterday and part of the morning today. The good news is that almost nothing was damaged by the water. The phone switch still works, as do all of the computers. One printer fuse and one VGA monitor gave up their lives in the line of duty.

The movies have been pretty good, of late. So far this week, we've seen "The Villain", a western parody starring Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Ann-Margret; Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part I" and "Wayne's World". Tonight at the coffee house, "Speed" is playing.

Monday, 22 May 1995, Victoria Day
I was walking back from a party at Hut 10, Saturday night, when I heard music coming from the band room; Marcello was playing guitar with Val on bass and John on drums. After Val and John left, I picked up the bass and Marcello and I played some Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. The two songs we worked on most were "Crossroads" and "Hey, Joe". I felt particularly good when, between the two of us, we were able to figure out the walkup for Hey, Joe", even though I left my bass tab in my room.

Friday, 26 May 1995
There were no evening activities at Scott Base last night - we had severe Condition 2 due to visibility. At one point in the afternoon, I could not see Medical from B-155. Tonight, though, was a lively night. I started it off by going to the May birthday dinner. The ambiance was amazing; for a little while, I forgot where I was. The dinners are held in the O-side, with the lights low and the doors shut. There are tablecloths, place settings, real plates, cloth napkins and more. In short, it looks like a restaurant, not the galley. We had stuffed steak and lobster tails. It was the single most elegant meal I've had since arriving. Afterwards, I went bowling and got the second lowest score I've ever gotten. If I hadn't bowled a strike in the 10th frame, it would have been a truely dismal performance; we only won by 15 pins. Shortly after the bowling match was over, Scotty picked me up and took me over the hill for Friday night darts. The most interesting part of the darts match was that the four teams were separated by hundreds of miles, with everybody sending in scores by HF radio. We played 501 against Casey Station (Australia), Amundsen-Scott Station (U.S.) and Davis Station (Australia). Casey and Davis are on the coast of Wilkes Land and Amundsen-Scott is the South Pole. Davis won.

Tuesday, 30 May 1995, Memorial Day
In honor of Memorial Day, we got Monday off. It was all go at the Beach Party at The Erebus on Saturday night. The band played until the wee hours, as usual. There was a well attended (and fun) birthday party for Hope Stout at Hut 10 on Sunday. Scotty showed up with some amazing chocolate/licorice-filled pastries. I did end up working a little this weekend; there was a tape drive that didn't want to cough up its tapes. It ended up needing a retaining clip realigned. Other than that, I read a bit and surfed the Web.

There's a small birthday party for me, this evening. It's just some folks and some tunes and some snacks, but I expect it'll be fun all the same. As someone pointed out to me, this is a pretty unique place to have a birthday. I know I'll never forget it. On this day, ten years ago, I was on the island of Mikonos, in the Mediterranean; today, I'm on Ross Island at the meeting of the Ross Sea and Ross Ice Shelf. I want to spend my birthday in 2005, in the most exotic place I've been to yet.

Wednesday, 31 May 1995
The birthday greetings keep pouring in; I even got e-mail from my grandmother, a librarian in a small town in Ohio. The party last night was low-key, but fun. A bunch of people showed up early, but things really got going after the bowling crowd got done with their league play. People had a good time, the beer didn't run out and nobody barged in to shut us down for noise complaints. As I said, low-key, but fun. I got a few presents (which I wasn't expecting); the most interesting of which were a small jigsaw puzzle of Saturn and its moons, and a hollow plastic nose, filled with "snot" candy - disgusting but entertaining.

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