The Argonauts: An Exploration of Life

More news from the South

Vilmar on top of the bottom of the world

The land way way down under

Read the complete journals of Vilmar’s Antarctic adventure.

14 OCTOBER, 2000

Hi everyone!

Today I had an “interesting” McMurdo moment.

They say that having a good life is nothing more than a matter of good timing and possibly location and genes. I just finished eating lunch and was walking out the door when several people came into the Galley holding sheets of paper. At first I thought the plane (De plane, boss! De plane!) had come in early then I noticed they were “old” hands. Seasoned salts as it were. Being a curious animal I hung around thinking they were going to do a poetry reading for the mess hall or possibly, heaven forbid it being this early, Christmas carols! Then everyone’s attention was summoned by clanging on a glass and the group launched into the song, “Hello, Dolly.” With further inquiries, I was able to determine that there is a young lady who has a penchant for food trays that are subdivided into little compartments. Over the winter they were used and I was able to use them also until they switched to plain blue ones like you find in the buffet restaurants. Anyway, she stole one and would use it every day. The dining staff didn’t care and would wash it for her.

Fish

Then someone kidnapped it from her. They took a picture of it strapped with duct tape to a chair and a note saying that if she didn’t sing “Hello Dolly” at 12:30 in the dining facility, she’d never see her tray alive again.

OK, so maybe in telling it doesn’t convey the same amount of silliness as seeing it in person but it was quite funny when it happened.

I almost felt like taking my parka off today as it was so warm. Or at least it felt like it! Got up to 20 degrees and with the sun shining and no wind blowing it felt almost tropical.

The hills that had snow on them now are almost bare since the dark rock sucks up thermal energy that melts surrounding snow. Basically the same concept that will clear this area within a few weeks. The nasty weather will also go away in a few weeks and we should see no more blizzard-like conditions.

I understand that torrents of water flow down form the hills as summer approaches. The roads get very muddy and after all the snow and ice has melted, the dust settles in. Roads need to be watered in order to keep dust down and when the winds blow dust gets into everything.

My two folks came in today. I was very glad to see them!

Also came to the realization that being here and being so detached from goings on in the US, I do not get my knickers in a twist over what happens politically. Maybe it’s because I am so busy that I do not want to dedicate efforts to writing letters. I’m not sure but at this stage, I really do not give a s*.

15 OCTOBER:

Met a guy who wintered at the South Pole and he mentioned one of the things they do is to try getting into the “300 Club.” To join you need to get into a sauna that is cranked up to 200 degrees and then rush outside into 100 below weather and run around the Pole to claim you ran around the world. I don’t see how a person can do that as flesh is supposed to freeze in seconds at that temp but I guess the heat given off by the body allows one to do so. He also said he’d try and see how long he could stand outside in just a pair of pants and shirt in 100 below weather. Longest was just over one minute. Crazy. But then you’d have to be a bit eccentric just to want to winter over at the pole.

Exciting Air Force news: the first C-17 landed here today. It came with only 50,000 pounds of cargo and left with passengers. The folks it took were not supposed to have left until the next flight but at the last minute they chose to take them so a mad scramble ensued trying to locate these individuals.

Heard that one of the games folks in the Dining Hall play is “Who’s That Crotch.” We have to turn in our trays through this small opening in a wall and the folks on the other side of the wall only see our crotches as we walk up. To see a face you have to bend down at the waist and peer upwards. So after a while they can tell who it is just by the crotch. VERY strange.

16 OCTOBER:

The biting hawk was out today blowing chilly breezes into my clothing. Still a beautiful day out. No clouds to speak of and a fair nip in the air—most likely about 5 degrees or so with 30 to 40 MPH gusts. As I crested this snow hill coming to work I feared being blown backwards and down again. It was persistent enough that in just a few minutes any exposed skin became very sensitive. Plus it actually forced me to walk into it head down a la Mr. Natural.

The station is really getting crowded now. About 740 people are in and the chow hall is beginning to have long lines and folks begin to scheme when they will go eat or do clothes.

17 OCTOBER:

Last night was party night so I shaved for the occasion.

Fish

The carpenter shop put on the first party of the season in their building. It’s known as the “Carp Shop” party and has become legend. At first I thought it had a fish theme due to the name but I’ll get to that later.

Newly shaved I went to eat then back to the shop to catch up on email and other correspondence to include this infernal journal that’s become an albatross around my neck. But I know that soon it will be finished and worth all the effort as the days will settle into a routine with little to write about.

Then I headed off. Easy to find as the building seemed to take on the properties of a magnet. From my vantage point on a small bluff I could see people being drawn to one location as if in those old science fiction movies where humans are made zombies and pulled in to become food for the green eyed aliens.

Star Trek’s tractor beam concept also works for the effect it seemed to have on folks. Now on a roll of ideas, I’ll venture to say it looked like an aerial shot of the savannas in Africa where you see a watering hole and the animals have their tracks radially pounded into the ground and you see them attracted to the pull of the relief the water will provide them. The same relief some of these folks were feeling when they went to their own special “watering” hole. Pretty cool, really.

It was packed in there. Margaritas flowing freely, beer pouring into thirsty gullets, sodas left virtually untouched. (HA!) The music was quite good and folks would jump up on tables and dance away. A treasure trove of costumes were found so folks would be putting on the weirdest colors of wigs, strange clothes, and then parade around having a great time.

The Carp Shop folks even made a mirror ball and hooked it up to a home made motor connected to a lift chain with a small spot light hung off a cargo door. Quite innovative. A DJ booth was set up and guys donated their CD collections for use. Huge Peavey loudspeakers were located throughout, blenders were going, “shot” girls and guys distributing cups of margaritas to anyone wishing one. I had several. Not too strong so I kept my wits about me.

It was a good way to meet folks from other locations on the station.

The only difficulty the party presented was for those with weak bladders. The bathrooms were outhouses, unheated. And the wind was still blowing strongly so some folks would be in line anticipating a quick jump into the pisser only to find themselves ill dressed for it and vacillating between giving up their spot to get a heavy coat or risk getting colder. Then they got smart and started lining up indoors.

The highlight of the evening was the barbecue. 10PM, sun still shining, zero degrees and wind blowing—people were still barbecuing. They had started at 6 with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and what not. But then they brought out “THE FISH.”

Probably the closest to a “carp” that matched their name, this thing was a monster.

Scientists here catch Antarctic Cod and have been studying them for years in an effort to determine what they have in their system that keeps them from freezing in 28 degree water. If they can figure it out then we may have an environmentally safe solution for all the anti-freeze we use in vehicles, motors, etc.

The fish is also under stress from the fishing industry since many countries are now restricting where fleets may go in and around their international zones, then the industry is encroaching into Antarctic waters. Efforts are under way to ban fishing south of the Antarctic Circle but that’s a tough fight right now.

Anyway, our “delicacy” weighed in at 125 pounds and was caught in waters over 1400 feet deep. They are an ugly species and soon I will go to the station aquarium to see one live and swimming. A very tasty fish, too, albeit a little on the greasy side.

Left at midnight with the sun having set not long before. Still a nice “dusk-y” color behind the mountains. I suspect in another week it’ll be up 24 hours.

Well, that’s it for now.
Vilmar

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