Antarctica

Week 10 The Festive Season - A Short Walk Around the World

19th December - 26th December 1999

This week started like all others, with heaps of work. Even though - well because - we had just finished deployment there was heaps of jobs to do. The cables had to be dragged from the new string site, the Weather Port around the hole needed pulling down and putting up around the new hole. It didn't feel like the holiday season at all.

Then a random event broke me out of the work rut. I went to have a coffee one morning at around 2am. It was Friday morning and I had a job that needed doing, but had been putting off. In the galley was Bert, Peter, and Tim (yep, Peter and Tim are still here). I sat down and got talking to them. Bert was telling them about the LC-130 that had crash landed in the 70's, and been abandoned at the end of the ski way. Over the years it's been buried by snow, but an entrance from the surface has been kept open. Bert offered to take us with a snow mobile down to have a look at it. I almost said I was too busy but luckily thought better of it.

After a quick fun ride on a sled pulled by a snow mobile we were there. I realised it was the furthest I been from SP in 2 months - a huge 2 miles. The Herc had a very rough landing which caused structural damage. It was towed off the runway and abandoned. There are holes kept open down to it so that the tail can be reached, and the emergency hatch near the flight deck. Through the hatch you can get into the flight deck and back into the fuselage. There is a lot of snow inside, but it easy enough to crawl around inside. It's very interesting and strange to be inside a Herc full of snow and covered in a layer of ice crystals. It was a great evening out for us all.

When we got back I had to do the job I'd been putting off. I hadn't made a present for the Christmas Eve gift exchange. I had decided to make rum balls, and then wrap them in a cane marker flag with a South Pole 2000 patch sewn to it. I had looked for recipes the night before and found an Aussie one which I would use. A key ingredient was Arnots biscuits, which are in a extremely short supply at an American station. Well thats what I thought until I remembered that Peter and Tim were sponsored by Arnots! My very unsubtle hint was rewarded with a packet of specially made high calorie Arnots biscuits that had been man hauled all the way from the coast.

After annoying the breakfast kitchen staff by getting in their way making my gift, I got a small amount of sleep. I woke in time to go to slushies - drinks at ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory). Slushies is a semi-regular Friday evening event. The theme being drinks made with snow collected from the clean air sector. Before I knew it we had to rush back for the gift exchange.

The gift exchange was very popular, with over a hundred people showing up. To participate you brought a gift and put it under the tree, and in exchange you are given a number. All the numbers are in a hat and as your number is drawn out you get to either pick a gift, or steal someone else's. There was a limit of 3 steals per present. A lot of the presents were hand made, with a lot of thought and care. Things like the knitted hats, Bert's Aurora photo, and some very nice wood presents with SP themes, were quickly stolen 3 times. I was very pleased when my present was stolen.

I again stayed up fairly late, helping clean up and doing some work in the kitchen. Tim came in late and I gave him and Peter a present of rum balls. There were a lot of people hanging around, since many people work nights, but had the day off.

Though it would probably have been hard to get any sleep it might have been an idea to try, as the next big event was Race Around the World. Soon before 10am a more than unusually loud noise vibrated through the dome. Someone was playing the bag pipes - sort of an unexpected event. It was the signal to flock outside for the big race. A track had been graded by JP around the pole for a race - like a fun run. I think it was supposed to be three laps, but I was happy to WALK around once. People were dressed in costumes such as Superman and the winged amanderite. While the serious racers are on foot, there are also skiers, sleds pulled by all sorts of vehicles, some with lounge chairs, and a big wheeled bike. The bag pipe player rode around on one of the sleds. It had some of the atmosphere of the Bay to Breakers - but a bit colder.

The highlight of Christmas was dinner. I managed to arrange to be in the third sitting this time. So I did my dish washing in the afternoon. Once the seconds group were seated I went off to shoot some pool with Tim, and then went and got into my usual party clothes. The dinner was not as fancy as Thanks Giving, but made up for it with fresh salad!! Some of the salad was thanks to Dave Z. who grew it in the hydroponics unit here. We were all given a souvenir pole marker, and the meal was accompanied with the usual good service. After dinner there was music in sky lab by Darin and Von (banjo and guitar) for an hour or so, and then Dave Zimmerman put on a performance (guitar and vocals) in summer lounge. He is a solo act that is very popular, and very fun to hear.

Today (Sunday) I slept as long as possible as we deployed the second string in the evening. It was actually started by the day shift at around 3pm. We took over and finished at around 3am. It went well as we it was deployed in a very good time. But the night shift didn't flow quite as well as for string one, with many minor problems occurring. But at least we didn't drop anything significant down the hole this time!

To be continued .......

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