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The Way I Like to Spend a Marathon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

This weekend, we had a marathon in McMurdo. The full 26 miles 385 yards, people! Did I run it? HELL NO. But I did my part and read the times. And it did mean I got to spend a beautiful day out on the ice.

Here’s a view of the finish line. That’s Samina, who is sitting out so she can read numbers as people come in. Mount Erebus is in the background.

This is Kim, Samina and myself, the finish line crew! We’re sitting by the apple, where people could go take shelter, but it was so beautiful I don’t think many people went in. It was about 40 degrees F, with hardly any wind.

Daniel, our stalwart race organizer, passed out at the end. Today he had to file a bunch of spill reports, since people didn’t pee where they were supposed to, and instead peed all over the place. He had to get GPS coordinates of each patch of yellow snow.

And remember, don’t eat the yellow snow.

Welcome Samina, the CRUD and Coffee House Trauma

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Thursday, January 17th, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

So I’ve been threatened with dire punishments if I don’t update my blog more often, so here’s a little entry for you!

 Samina got in a few days ago and it’s been great to see her and catch up. She’s off to Happy Camper to sleep in the snow tomorrow. I am certain it’ll be great - everyone seems to have a wonderful experience. Except my pal Mikey who was out in Condition 1. I look forward to timekeeping at the Marathon on Sunday with her! I am personally of the opinion that you are utterly mad to run a marathon in Antarctica, but then again I’m also sort of impressed.

Somehow we’ve got two strains of flu and a ton of different viruses going around here. Many of our part-time workers (bartenders, burger bar cooks, bowling pinsetters and so on) are out of commission. It’s something - when Burger Bar shuts down half the town wants to commit suicide. It’s just that time of the season. Thus far (knock wood) I’ve managed to avoid the worst of it.

Also, we had a scare with one of our bars - The Coffee House, which is one of the older buildings on station, has a weak roof and there was a chance it was going to get shut down. That’s the place where they serve wine and, not surprisingly, coffee. It’s popularity with the beaker set has currently saved it from closure, but we had a day there where we thought it was a goner. But we’ll have a bit more Coffee House good times to enjoy before the season comes to a close.

 That’s all for tonight - off to bed, hugs to all.

Visit to the Oden

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Sunday, January 13th, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

Today we had a visit to the Swedish icebreaker Oden. The crew was kind enough to give us tours of the ship, which is a lovely vessel and very nicely appointed.

Here she is, with a view of the reinforced front, which breaks the ice. We learned a lot about icebreaking during our visit. Instead of pushing the ice like I thought it would, generally what they do is drive the bow of the ship on top of the ice, then use water jets to move the weight of the ship to one side, which causes the ice to break because of the weight. She is also very manouverable - she can go from full ahead to full astern in about 12 seconds. She’s not very fast, though. But she is really cool and seems like a nice place to live and work.

Here we are walking on the deck to go inside.

This is Tomas, the second mate, who showed us around the bridge. It’s amazing all the instrumentation they have on the ship - which turns out to be incredibly necessary since some of the places they go through are pretty much uncharted. He was saying that at one point in their journey here, they were in an area that was supposed to be 800 meters deep, and in reality it was only about 200 meters deep, because most of the depths they have are based on speculation.

They have very comfortable living areas as well: lounges with nice sofas, a little bar, a nice galley, and generally everyone gets their own room, which is something I envy. They also have two saunas! All in all, the Oden seems very nice, and I was fortunate to get to visit.

A great explorer passes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Friday, January 11th, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

Sad news today for the Ice community - Sir Edmund Hillary passed away at age 88. Besides his historic conquest of Everest (along with Tenzing Norgay, of course), Sir Ed was also a great Antarctic adventurer as well. He was so incredibly awesome, he drove to the Pole in a modified farm tractor. Read all about the trip here.

Also, the icebreaker is here! Can’t wait to meet all the Swedes. Will hopefully post some pics this weekend. Now, off to Burger Bar!

Distinguished Visitors and Polishing the Floor with Kiwis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

We seem to get “Distinguished Visitors” (or DV’s) down here quite a bit, but for the most part I don’t get to meet them. Sure, they pretty much eat the galley food, and though the DV hut is nicer than my place (read, no roommate), it ain’t no crystal palace. Usually the DV’s are high-ranking military dudes or that type of thing, but every year there are some congressmen or senators who come down. (And occasionally freak out because there isn’t a French maid to turn down their covers in the evenings.)

We were kickin’ it at breakfast today, and a member of the House of Representatives came over to our table. It was Rodney Frelinghuysen, from New Jersey. Yeah, he’s a Republican, but I have to say, I appreciated that he came over to chat. So many times DVs get here and don’t interact at all with participants, and some (including John McCain a few years ago, I heard) are really nasty. Hopefully Rep. Frelinghuysen has gotten an appreciation for the program, is having a great adventure, and will go home and tell the members of the Science Subcommittee to please, please, please give us more funding.

In other Antarctic news, the finals of the Dodgeball tournament are going on right now. The fires have been fueled by a controversial article in a New Zealand paper, touting the Kiwi team’s abilities in this, America’s National Sport (no lie, that’s what it said.) Yep, the Kiwis are in the finals. In fact, every team who managed to show up for most of the games got into the finals….and I just got word, Kiwis got knocked out in the first playoff round. AWWWW! So much for their Dodgeball Dreams.

It’s been cooling off here (summer lasted about one day) and today it snowed a lot, was windy, and about 30 degrees. If you think about it, that’s something considering there’s never night to cool us off. My friends tell me this is the most snow they’ve seen here in several seasons. The snow never lasts long though, because the wind blows hard! But the other day I was down by the water and could actually smell the sea.

I’m starting to think about places to go afterward…some people are going sailing in the New Zealand archipelago, and I’d consider that, and also some people have talked about going to the Cook Islands (New Zealand’s Hawai’i). It’s just a question of timing, really. I might want to go out and do something on my own, too - you can swim with dolphins, or go horseback riding, or lots of other things. I can’t wait to eat some non-galley food and see some green that’s not olivine! (Dave, I got you some olivine, don’t worry. I have peridot bits all over my desk right now because of it.)

My ship comes in

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 @ 8:34 am

Well, not my ship. But out on the horizon, you can now see a teeny tiny dark spot. It gets a little bigger every day! It is the icebreaker Oden, which is now on its way to McMurdo. I tried to take a picture but it’s still too far out. Eventually it’ll get in here and break the ice in the channel.

 We also saw penguins from Hut Point on Sunday - little Adelies. They walked for a while, then all laid down and slept for about fifteen minutes, then got up and started on their way again. They were pretty far out, but it makes me confident that we’ll see some more once the channel is open. I hope we get to see some whales too!

OK, Now You Should Be All Up To Date.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

So I’ve done some MARATHON posting! Hope you enjoy it all. I suggest you go to the post named SLACKER and read it up to this one, but your choice, Dear Reader!

 Now it’s off to bed, and in the morning, INVENTORY!!!!

(Oh, and I’ve got to give major credit to Jimbo for his post on Anthony Bourdain’s blog for giving me a kick in the pants. I adore Anthony, but I think I can be more responsible than him when it comes to posting.)

Icestock and New Years

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

Antarctica has a thriving music scene, and at McMurdo, our culminating event is Icestock, an excellent outdoor concert. We had thirteen performers this year whose styles ranged from punk to bluegrass to blues to whatever Don Juan Pond plays (there’s a long explanation for it, I just don’t remember it all right now!)

In typical Ross Island style, the weather turned crummy on the day of the one big outdoor activity. Kish, our overlord of music, had to shovel about five inches of snow off the stage, and then lay electrical cables down. Yes, he’s still alive, and managed to play some great sets with his fabulous bands, despite the cold.

 I came out a little late (took advantage of some sleep-in time) but arrived in time to enjoy the (musical) fruits of the chili cookoff contest. The chili chefs each got their own milvan to decorate and prepare their master recipes.


Here’s an example of one of the milvans. CHILI-LICIOUS! I don’t have a picture of Holly Troy’s milvan for some reason (sorry Holly!) but I will say Holly’s chili was pretty darn good - GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN THE CONTEST! Congrats!

I have to say, my primary reason for coming out was because I’m an official groupie of the band Don Juan Pond. (Check out the link to see a picture and the story of the actual Don Juan Pond. Beware if your mind is as twisted as mine.) DJP is made up of my co-workers and friends Jean and Jane, and their super-rockin’ bandmates Genevieve and Chantal. They rocked it out and did not freeze, despite, well, the level of clothing you’ll see in the picture below:

It definitely snowed the hardest and was the windiest and the coldest while these chicks were playing. But they are HARD CORE and did their whole set just like this.

YES it is all about the band!!


Here’s a nice shot taken by Daniel from the stage looking down at the crowd. I am actually in this picture - I’m sitting on the porch of the Carp Shop’s Sawbucks having my cuppa coffee with the infamous “Carp Sauce”, chatting with my friend Danny (who lives in Buena Vista and is one supercool old hippie.)

That night we had a “Sex and the McMurdy” party - all gals except for some “special guests”. There were cosmos, lots of fun and laughter, and…well, I can’t say it but it starts with “s” and ends with “trippers.” Female bonding at Mactown is an amazing thing.

New Year’s Eve was quiet for me - the next day was a workday. I did stay up and rang in 2008 with a nice glass of port and lots of love and good thoughts for everyone!

Opening Presents!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

Just wanted to give a MEGA word of thanks to Mom, Kathy and Samina for sending me such great Christmas presents! And many thanks to Sue and Phil and Grandma and Grandpa for the Amazon gift certificates. Here’s some photos of my present opening, courtesy of my friend Kim, who oohed and aahed over everything along with me and took pictures for your pleasure.

Here’s Kai and my tree - I didn’t have enough space to put presents under there but it gives a little Christmas cheer to our fridge.


Me, complete with bow-head, VERY HAPPY to have so many fun things to open!

THANKS MOM!!!!! Love you lots!

Celebrating the Season, complete with Bad Santa

Filed under: Uncategorized — Wrote by Laura on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 @ 10:56 pm

The biggest party of the year is the Holiday Party, which is held in the Vehicle Maintenence Facility. They clear out all the trucks and other vehicles, and clean the place up really nice, and we decorate it for the holidays. It’s a wonderful big party - the space is large enough where everyone can fit in comfortably. There’s quite a bit of food and libations, and everyone gets really happy. (I should say, mostly happy- as tends to happen during the holidays, there were a number of breakups and other emotional things going down. Just not to me.) 

They had a slide show where everyone could submit pictures of friends and loved ones. So Mom, Dad, Jimbo and Kristi - you all had your picture projected on the wall of the VMF in Antarctica! Sita got her photo up as well, of course, complete with balls of yarn.

I unfortunately lost my camera for a while at this point. I rediscovered it a few days later, on actual Christmas (this party took place the Sunday night before, so we had two days to recover.) I did manage to score a couple pictures from my co-worker Daniel.


The fuelies made this freekin awesome Abominable from scratch. VERY CHRISTMAS!


My friend Jean with the candy cane pole. There was much pole dancing going on once people really got into the beer and unfortunately the candy cane did not survive the night. However, it did live up to its intended purpose with the mistletoe and all. Incidentally, you can see the slide show going on in the background.


A crowd shot. This is slightly less than half of the space we had to play in.


My friend Bill presenting McMurdo’s Santa with a Bass. Many people made that same present for Santa that night. As they say, “bring him cookies and beer, he will come to your house first next year!” Unfortunately, the excesses of beer and friskiness (i.e. gropeage of personal lady bits) landed Santa in H.R. I declined to sit on Santa’s lap this year, which turned out to be a good choice, I think.

All in all, it was a really fun party. It was great to be able to see everyone and have a laugh. Also, the Kiwis grilled up some tasty sausages. Too bad they wrecked them with that ketchup. (Yes, I have a thing about the Kiwi ketchup. I just can’t drop it.)