Archive for December, 2006

Almost famous

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

We’ve hit the big time now! The Vanguard, the Portland State University newspaper, featured a story on the school’s Antarctic researchers, myself included. I guess the article was published 2 weeks ago, but we are a little behind the times down here.

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Being back in McMurdo is like being in a strange Purgatory. The exhaustion of coming out of the field has hit me (even though this season was much less exhausting than last). Taking a hot shower, wearing clean clothes, and sleeping on a bed really bring out the tired in ya. What is strange about McMurdo is passing through. I am only here 3 days (hopefully). I have some administrative stuff to do like returning gear (which I have largely finished already) and that’s about it. There is so much going on here – people to talk to, science lectures to attend, live music to hear, cosmic bowling to be bowled – that I feel like the country mouse coming to the big city for the first time. However being here for such a short time, it seems hardly worth it to inject myself into town life. So instead I am trying to reflect on the season, avoid catching a cold from the germy masses, finish a book, and slowly decrease my caloric intake. So being here isn’t as nice as being in the field or being in New Zealand, but with the right attitude, it can be an enjoyable stop en route. Oh – and having a bedroom with a window helps.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Last night was my last night at Lake Hoare (we fly out in a few hours). It is quite sad to go, as the place and the people have really grown on me. We have a nice quiet camp right now, with just Sandra, Rae, Joel, and Becki, besides Hassan and I. I was in the lab all afternoon yesterday processing ice cores, but everyone else was apparently very busy inside, making me an amazing goodbye cake. It was truly a group effort, with Sandra making the cake and frosting it as a glacier, Rae adding Blood Falls with red food coloring, Joel adding a network of ablation stakes (including a horizontal cliff stake!), Becki contributing the blue ice of refrozen crevasses and cryoconite holes, and Hassan adding the infamous Explorer’s Cove Met Station out of wire with me standing behind it with my core barrel on my back. There also is a fantastic likeness of an unused human waste bucket I had strapped to the cliff behind my tent to collect water melting off the cliff face (the gray thing to the right of Blood Falls). I had no idea that the highlights of my 5 weeks here could be condensed onto a single cake, but they managed to pull it off (everything but the nachos).

Anyway, the cake was as tasty as it was narrative, and it was a very meaningful goodbye present. In fact, I think I am going to go have some more right now…

Cake

They haven’t got us yet

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

So we saw our first polar bear tracks yesterday. I am a little shook up about it, but no harm came to us. We were travelling on Canada Glacier when I came across this track in the snow. None have been spotted so far this year, but this track confirms that they are still around, waiting for unsuspecting glaciologists to believe in their Antarctic existence.
Polar bear tracks

A day in the life

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I thought about writing about our recent visit to Beacon Valley, the place closest to Mars on the planet, but I sense there is a lot of interest in what day to day life is like down here, so I have decided to write about what I eat instead. So life down here is nice in that you don’t really have to change clothes or wash up very often. So when my alarm goes off at 6:45, if I don’t sleep in, I will pop out of my sleeping bag put on my jacket and some pants (in that order), throw on my shoes, and out the tent I go. When I reach the main hut I have a bowl of cereal (usually that brown box of granola, sometimes I have the Aussie Sanitarium Muesli instead) while I put a kettle on for tea and toast a bagel. By the time I finish cereal I make a PBJ on bagel and some tea (usually English Breakfast with milk and sugar, but lately Earl Grey black). I drink my tea while I check my email, and then go to the lab to get dressed (after I brush my teeth).

About mid-morning when we are out on some glacier I eat a bag of peanut M&Ms and maybe a Cadbury chocolate bar (usually Mint or Energy). Lately I have been skipping this step as it has been much warmer and I don’t need the extra calories so much. At lunch we have some sandwiches. If there was leftover meat, we have glacier meat sandwiches, which are the best (steak, pork tenderloin, lamb, etc.). But when there is no supply of that, we just have lunch meat and cheese with some of that chili sauce that comes in the bottle with the rooster on it.

Dinner is a much finer affair with some amazing meal created by Rae and Sandra. Do not fear, for we eat better here than most people do at home. And there always is ample dessert, including cookies, brownies, and cakes, all from scratch. Lately we have been having a lot of fruit pies.

The one thing I forgot to mention was midday tea. You’ll notice the food schedule I described is very formulaic and does not change significantly from day to day. Midday tea is the one thing that does seem to vary for some reason. It ranges from none, to full-on milk tea with biscuits, to milky chai, to the perennial favorite black Earl Grey (also referred to as Hot Beef for no particular reason). The time we take tea seems to vary a lot as well, but we drink a lot of it. There is nothing better than crossing a glacier on a cold windy day, and sitting down for a nice cup of tea.