Disaster strikes Antarctica!!

And if that every happens – McMurdo will be ready for it!!!

McMurdo Station has a little medical center which I think might be the largest on continent. This doesn’t mean it’s anything to brag about. Being the largest on the continent is still the smallest when compared to anything else off-Ice. However, an incident might happen that would overwhelm our medical facilities and in that case, the station recruits residents to participate in a Mass Casualy Incident Drill.

I volunteered to be a stretcher bearer. I would carry those too injured to walk on their own from the scene to the ambulance, or from the ambulance to the hospital, or wherever they needed to be transported them to. I felt a little bit like Maxwell Klinger from M*A*S*H*, but without the dress or schnozz.

When the call went out than an mock-disaster struck, we were all instructed to muster at the firehouse for further instructions. We were issued neon vests with “STRETCHER BEARER” tacked on the back with duct tape.

Waiting for instructions. I made sure the rumor mill was in full swing with what kind of disaster happened...

My team of stretcher bearers was the first to be sent “on-scene.” We loaded our stretchers and blankets into a van and were whisked away to the scene. The scenario: A truck carrying diesel fuel was struck by another truck causing a spill, as the firefighters were responding to the incident, their firetruck hit an airport shuttle. Four vehicles and numerous caualties.

Those damn firefighters....

So when my team arrived on station, much of the scene was already controlled. The “un-injured” firefighters had many of the casualties already triaged and bandaged. It seemed all they needed us to do was to deliver the stretchers. The firefighters carried the bodies on the stretchers themselves (which kind of made me feel puny as it took four of us to carry a body on a stretcher when only two firefighters could carry the same body themselves).

Firefighters showing us up by carrying a stretcher between just the two of them.

We were instructed to watch this one person who didn’t say anything. I thought he was “dead” and that was why we were instructed to watch over him. If he was really “injured,” they would have put him in an ambulance or van immediately to get him to medical. Nope, he just sat there, didn’t say a thing.

He was fine - just banged his knee. He just didn't say anything.

We stayed at the scene of the disaster throughout the entire MCI. I have no idea what kind of mayhem was occuring at the Firehouse or at McMurdo Medical. It was a beautiful day for a disaster! The sun was out, it wasn’t too cold.

Hey! I didn't get injured!

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A weekend at Hut 10

Emily’s Birthday Extravaganza!!!

For Emily’s “one and thirtieth” birthday, it was agreed we would rent out Hut 10 for a party (and by renting out, I mean that we put down a $50 deposit and as long as we don’t burn the place down, we get the full $50 back!)  So I rented Hut 10 for Sunday the 7th and proceeded to write an email invitation to everyone.  As I was typing my invitation, I get an invitation from Deke stating he had rented Hut 10 for Saturday the 6th.  Gah!!!  So we just had one big weekend bash!

Oh it was one heck of a bash! Complete with Beatles Rock Band! Sadly we couldn’t play it cuz our Wii was hacked into. So we played Tetris instead.

The party started Saturday night.  I was working at the local craft fair that night, so I didn’t arrive to the party until later (not because I was running late, but because I was working at the craft fair!!!), so I was expecting the party to be in full swing.  Surprise Surprise!  The party was quiet.  People were quietly talking on the couch, music was quietly waffing through the room … it was odd.  Quiet.  That’s because Emily invited the Station Manager.

Poor Dave.  He’s a cool guy.  He’s really personable, not just some upper management guy (although he is!).  If some one challenged him to a Pants Off Dance Off, Dave would totally drop trou and shake his booty!!!  But this crowd was not having it!  They kept quiet and out of trouble.  It wasn’t until Dave left that the music got louder and the party picked up.  The first game we played was Telephone Pictionary and out the 7 people that played, three of the pictures were of “Thank goodness!  I thought that guy would never leave!”  Poor Dave.

Updated February 9, 2011 – Sadly, my intentions of updating this blog daily epically failed. I knew better. I should know better to have such lofty goals. Three months later, I’m afraid I can’t remember much of that party. I know we watched Return to Oz later in the evening – to which most of us fell asleep. The next morning, we started on the clean up, and the rest of the day was spent playing Nintendo Wii. And by playing Wii, that mostly meant playing games that highlight the features of a remote that follows your hands and motions. Although I played a lot of classic 8-bit Tetris trying to relive my glory days of the late 80’s early 90’s. The tetris game that I often play is the B-Game, where all you have to do is clear 25 lines. You can choose whatever speed you’d like, which I always chose the fastest – Level 9, and you could choose what height you’d like to start at. Being ten years rusty, I started with Level 3 and tried to work my way up to Level 5. I often offered my friends a chance to play rather than just watching although they were mostly chatting amongst themselves. Every once in a while they would comment and snicker on how I could never pass this certain level of 9-5. I would hand them the remote and they would crash and burn very quickly. Only after they had tried level nine themselves did I get the awe and admiration that I so deserved. Sadly, the thrill of beating Level 9-5 has still eluded me, but I’m sure I’ll have the chance to try again another day. I’m just pleased that I have retained what Tetris skills I developed in the 80s.

Clay playing a bit of Wii, but this is probably not Tetris but Wii Resort - maybe even a gladiator game!

Emily's favorite drink is Champagne, so there were a few bottle of that floating around that evening.

Of course, as McMurdites, to spice the champagne up a bit, we added cubes of dry ice to the glass. Makes for a more interesting drinking experience.

This was Emily's Birthday Extravaganza, and this seems to be the only picture of Emily that I have.

I’m still not sure about this wordpress. I still don’t like the way wordpress auto-formats my text and pictures.

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Dressing up…

McMurdo was fortunate this year for Halloween to land on a Saturday this year.  The Halloween party could actually be held on Halloween Night!!!  The Halloween party is not an NSF-sanction event.  Instead it is a private party with an invitation list of about 1100. 

I dressed up as an Elvis Presley Song.  Anyone care to venture what that song might be….

I'm the Devil in Disguise!!!

I went to the party with my friends Cheryl, Deke and Emily.

Me, Deke & the Other Cheryl

Deke has a tradition of dressing in drag for Halloween.  This is actually a time-honored Antarctic tradition as the men of McMurdo in 1956 also dressed in drag and have continued ever since.  However, this is the first year that Deke bought a dress without trying it on.  It has been decided that Deke does not look pretty when he wears a conservative dress.  He looks better with something low cut and a short skirt – he’s got the legs for it!!!

Cheryl was so proud of herself with her costume.  As space in luggage is limited, some of us (not all as some people bring down very elaborate costumes!!!) bring very few items to be used as a Halloween costume.  Heck, I’m wearing those black pants right now as I sit in my office at my computer!  The horns and glasses took very little space in my suitcase!!!  Cheryl brought down a red tank top and blue shorts she bought at Goodwill.  She accessorized it (as all good Wonderwomen do!) with painted cups, card board, duck tape and scraps of fabric.  She even skua’d the boots and painted them red!  I wish I had known so I could have brought down my SuperSheryl costume and we could have been Super Hero SCheryls! 

Cheryl using her golden lasso to capture her roommate.

Emily couldn’t decide on a new costume, so she went as Alice in Wonderland again in 2010

Emily in 2010

Emily in 2009


Using authentic Antarctic Ice to keep the beer cold. (But it also made the cans a little dusty and dirty...)

I don’t have many stories for this blog. Just pictures. Some people get really creative with their costumes!

A panoramic shot of the party in the Big Gym

The Hamburgler of McDonald's fame!

This guys is AWESOME!!! Cuz you can totally tell he made his costume with items from Station. He's Ob Hill!!!

A group of people dressed up as a Beer Garden! It was also awesome!!! They had that orange plastic fencing! And they had usable tables to set your beer on. They would walk around the party & corral people into their garden. AWESOME!!!

I took this picture for you, Laura! Can you guess who it is?!?!? For those who aren

Me and the new Housing Coordinator. My medal used to look like that year, except for mine had pigtails and said "Dealing with Whiners daily."

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Shades of blue…

Because WordPress SUCKS!  This post will be nothing but pics.  Just blue pics.  (but what shade of blue are they….)

It reminds me of those teetering rocks in Wyoming

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Berg is MUCH bigger than the Delta...

... see...

You can tell the difference between the blue iceberg and fresh white snow

I tasted the icicles. They're salty. Next time, I'm bring them back to my dorm for some margaritas!


where's Sheryl....

Just to give you a small glimpse into the scale of this massive iceberg

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As if I hadn’t seen enough ice in Antarctica…

McMurdo has a great Recreation Program.  There is something going on every day to keep morale up, keep us busy, and keep us out of trouble.  They also offer a few field trips to get us out of town.  Early in the season, while the Sea Ice is still thick enough to drive on, they offer “boondoggles” (an Antarctic word for “field trip”) to Cape Evans.  I went on this field trip last year and loved seeing the ice caves and the historic hut of Robert Scott.  I was anxious to see the Ice Caves again and made sure to make it on one of the first trips to see the ice formations in all their glory!

Sheryl, Joseph, Matt and Mike

Inside the Delta Passenger Cabin/Box/Death Trap

It wasn’t until I was inside the Delta that I found out that we weren’t going to the Ice Caves.  Jigga-wha?  We’re not going to the Ice Caves?  Where the heck are we going?  To the Hut?  I’m spending an hour and a half in a bumpy, sweaty Delta for a hut? 

The DeltaLet me explain a little more about Delta’s.  These vehicles are massive.  I’m not quite sure what their purpose is for.  They weren’t built for speed (we’re only allowed to go 25mph tops!), they weren’t built for comfort (they’re a metal box with no ventilation), they weren’t built for snow (they get stuck on the Sea Ice all the time!!!)… I don’t know why we have them in Antarctica, but we’ve got an entire fleet of them (You have to have a fleet so when 4 of them break down, there will still be at least two working)! 

The Delta DriverThe Delta Driver’s name was August.  Although his face is not covered with a long Antarctic scraggly beard and he doesn’t ware carthartt’s as often as the average McMurdite dons, August definitely has the bitter, toasty, curmudgeon attitude that allows him to fit right in!  August believes he is above the rules.  He doesn’t need to drive at a slow pace to protect the Sea Ice or the passengers in the back cabin.  He drives as fast as he can and damn the bumps and cracks we hit on the way!!!  It was a very bumpy ride.  Reminded me a lot of Ace Ventura driving the four-wheel in the African Jungle.  Sometimes the bumps were so big, the force leapt us off of our seats by a good 4 inches!!!  I don’t think August noticed, we hit quite a few of those bumps along the way.  We even passed another Delta that had left 30 minutes ahead of us!

So, we didn’t head for the Ice Caves, but we didn’t head directly to the Historic Hut either.  We were heading for an Iceberg!

What can one say about an Iceberg.  It’s a really large chunk of ice.  I’ve been trying to decide what shade of blue it is…. Light blue?  Kool-aid blue?  Cotton Candy blue?  I think I might have to lean more towards the Cotton Candy blue and I wonder if it’s because the Iceberg has a bulbous shape to it…Sure, there are parts of it that are sharp and jagged (especially as the 24-hour sun melts the ice into long, spikey icicles), but in general, it seems very large, and cotton-candy-ish.  Or maybe even more similar to the blue milk that is ever so popular on Tatooine.  The iceberg has a milky looking consistancy going through it.

A lot of ice...

The Rec Dept urged us to wear Yak Tracks and use Ski poles for traction.  The Yak Tracks I was happy to use.  The Sea Ice below the layer of the snow is slick and Yak Tracks have spike on their soles which are great for keeping me upright.  The ski pole I was not a fan of.  In fact, as I was trying to climb up and around the Berg, I often threw the ski pole like a dart to get it out of my way!!!

Climbing around the iceberg after I threw the ski pole away

Some day, I’m going to embroider a smile onto my face gaiter.  These pictures need something more than a flat, grey face with sunglasses.

August, too cool for ski poles, opted to use a pick axe.  Here he is, flexing his muscles, trying to show that he is man enough to scale an iceberg.  Hey, he got me to at least take a picture of him.

I would post a lot more pics on this blog, but wordpress will not insert photos where I want them!  DARN YOU WORDPRESS!!!  I may try on another page…

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Life is easier when the wind is at your back, but maybe not as exciting…

October 21, 2010 

Temp: +10ºF  Wind Chill: +1ºF

In McMurdo Station, there is Observation Hill or as the town residents call it: Ob Hill.  There are mentally disturbed people who run up this hill for FUN!!!  The deluded Recreation Office organizes an event called the UpHill ObHill Race.  Some crazy person ran up this hill in under 20 minutes.  I’ve never been to the top of Ob Hill.

Quick 20 minute strollThat’s not to say that I’ve never been out of “town.”  Hut Point is an easy 20 minute stroll down a gentle hill.  My friend, Brenda, and I have been strolling down there often.  Brenda has never been up Ob Hill either.  We have made it our goal for the 2010-11 season to make it up Ob Hill by February.  Many people scoff at this notion as they say Ob Hill is easy and could easily be done in an afternoon.  Brenda and I disagree as we huff and puff to walk up the gentle incline of Hut Point.  We have decided to condition our legs and lungs with a training program.  We’ll start off easy with strolls to Hut Point and then do other trails increasing in difficulty until we reach the pinnacle of Ob Hill.  Last week, we made the ambitious goal of the Hut Point Ridge Trail.

Hut Point Ridge Trail starts just as a regular walk to Hut Point.  It’ll take you to Discovery Hut (an old relic of Robert F. Scott’s Expedition of 1910-13), around the Point and up hill to the ridge.

Vince’s cross was erected in memory of George Vince who was swept out to sea in 1913.  Other than that, I have no idea who Vince is, but his cross is on a high bluff of Hut Point that gives commanding views of McMurdo Sound.  It also gives me a place to sit and rest.  Quite often, Vince’s Cross is the place where the strong winds gather.  A week prior, the wind was so strong that I could actually lean into it at a 45º angle.   What we called windsurfing, we stand at the top of the point with our feet firmly planted into the ground, spread our arms out and “Hang-Ten” in the wind singing Beach Boys songs and daring the wind to give us its worst!!!

Because we had done this part of the hike numerous times before, we proceeded on to the Ridge.  So started the climb.  Under the impression that the Hut Point Ridge climb was easier than Ob Hill, we trudged up the trail of snow and loose rock.  The wind pounded into us – the wind is never at your back when you’re going up hill.  Caught between covering my eyes from the wind with sunglasses to being blinded with fogged sunglasses, I did my best to shield my face with the hood from Big Red (my jacket).  The wind is relentless and we took many breaks to face the opposite direcetion and have our wind at our back.  The wind still pounded us, but it’s bearable when it’s at your back. 

The first stop to the Ridge is Roll Cage Mary.  A shrine in the middle of nowhere that was originally dedicated to the memory of a truck driver whose truck broke through the Sea Ice and plunged into the icy depths of McMurdo Sound (kinda like Titanic but without a pretty piece of bling).  It has since been re-dedicated to all the men and women who gave their lives to support the science of Antarctica (Awww…). 

Like many Virgin Mary’s of the world, Roll Cage Mary is dressed in blue with pale milky skin.  As with many of her other miracles, Roll Cage Mary was able to protect us from the wind with the pile of volcanic rocks she is mounted on.  We spent quite a bit of time with her just to stay out of the wind.

The wind proved to be too strong for us and we retreated back to Hut Point and the gentle hill rather than climbing the curving trail to the Ridge.  But we still called it success!  Neither of us had ever been to Roll Cage Mary before!  We had walked farther than any Sheryl or Brenda had walked before!  Next time: the ridge and then eventually: OB HILL!!

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And now for something completely different

October 5, 2010          Temperature:  -17°C   1.4°F          WindChill:  -24°C   -11°F 

If I hadn’t decided to do something different, I would never have been able to participate in fantastic events. 

Meal times at McMurdo is a lot like school cafeterias.  As we enter the galley, we pick up a tray, go down the buffet line, scoop what we like onto our plate and then proceed out into the dining hall to find a table and enjoy our meal.  And like school, there are certain tables that are always populated with certain cliques.  The cool kids are at this table.  The nerds/scientists sit at that table.  The jocks/firefighters sit at that table.  The outcasts are over there.  The cheerleaders are over there.  I looked for my own clique-y table.  As one of the popular kids, I found it to be overly crowded and there wasn’t possibly a chance that I could wedge into any spot.  I continued to look around and saw some acquaintances that I had spoken to in the hallways before (it really is like school around here), but never really hung out with.  I sat down and made polite conversation.

Blah blah blah.  How’s work.  Blah blah blah.  What are you doing tonight?  I’m going to the Outdoor Safety Lecture so I can go out on hikes later in the season.  What are you doing tonight?  He says that he’s in the Dodgeball tournament tonight starting at 7:00.  I went to the Dodgeball Tourney last year.  It was awesome.  The excitement, the adrenaline, the laughter … it is true McMurdo entertainment.  I was sad I was going to miss it, but I had to go to the Safety Lecture, so I wished my acquaintance good luck.

The lecture, as all lectures go, was mind numbingly boring.  It was done at about 7:30pm and I thought I’d check out the last bit of Dodgeball.  Luckily, they were running late!!!

I managed to get there just as they were starting.  The Big Gym, where the event was held, is contradictory to its name.  It’s the size of a basketball court, which is a good sized playing field for the Dodgeballers, but there is only the smidgeonist bit of space for the fans.  There is a staircase of the far side of the basketball court which is where I set up my cheerleading spot.  I looked around to see the various teams.  As with all McMurdo sports events, the teams were themed with costumes.  There was a superhero team (Mr. Incredible, Batman, Sailor Moon and a few others who wore their underpants over the tights), two teams of Janos (which is short for Janitors, but were well dressed in bright, obnoxious colors and patterns nonetheless), the Fleet Ops group who all wore black sweatbands (boring!!!), and the Kiwis with their boring black shirts.  This was owning up to an event that would not disappoint.

A head to head competition between the two Jano teams led the event.  There were some veteran dodgeballers on the Jano team.  I recognized them from last year.  They play with skill and style.  They can catch the ball, throw the ball, dodge the ball and do it all with flair.  The first game was exciting.  A Jano threw the ball at a speed so fast that it would have received a ticket from the State Patrol.  He threw it so hard that it zipped past the other team, beyond the court and passed the waiting teams standing in the doorway.  Amazingly, they all dodged the ball.  It was like a scene from a comedy movie.  The ball whizzed down to hit a straight line of spectators and each body ducked to one side or the other to dodge the ball.

There was another episode where all but one of the janitors were out and four strong members remained on the other team.  It looked dismal for the jano.  But in an amazing feat, the other team through their balls, the single jano caught them, brought his teammates back into the game and quickly took out the other team.  The Superhero team was slaughtered in a shut out from the Janos.  They went down as if paper dolls being hammered by a rock.

There was beer in the bleachers and we were cheering up a storm, mostly for the janos.  I had to dodge three balls even though I wasn’t playing.  They sure do make a sound as they are smacked onto a back wall.  We pounded against the stairway banister, we whooped and yelled for our team.  We booed the cheaters.  We laughed at the fancy moves the dodgeballers played.  We giggled as the only player left standing on the losing team was the token girl.  We awed in amazement as we watched contortionists twist their bodies in unnatural ways to dodge a ball.  I wasn’t playing, but I had such a fantastic time!  I am so glad I went to the Dodgeball Tournament.  I could have gone to the bar, I could have watched a movie in a friend’s room, I could have worked on my craft projects.  I could have gone to bed early.

I am so glad that I tried something different or I wouldn’t have had such a fantastic time!!!

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Ah! The weekend!!!

October 3, 2010  10:41pm          Temperature:  -15°C   5°F          WindChill:  -26°C   -14°F

Still trying to figure out the formatting of wordpress.  I’d sure like to format the above in three separate lines, but with no space between the paragraphs…

In Antarctica, we work six days a week and only have Sunday off.  Saturday evening, some friends had arranged a card game at the Coffee House and invited me to join them.  I was expecting uno, go fish, or skip 10, I certainly wasn’t expecting Munchkin.  It was me, Whitney, Rich, Deke, Joseph and Larry Fabulous.  Yes, that is his name: Larry Fabulous and he certainly is.  He lives up to his name in every sense of the word!  He is a licensed masseuse and even though he and I had cards in our hands and were “technically playing,” he and I chatted as I got a massage while the others were intently playing the game.  Whitney came to the table saying that she never wins this game, she won with a commanding lead. 

After the Coffee House, Emily joined us and we proceeded to Gallagher’s Pub for the 80’s/90’s Dance Party.  There were a lot of people in costume.  I kick myself for not bringing my costume from Mona’s 80’s Birthday Party. 

On Sunday, I tried to make it to Chapel on time.  I was excited as the protestant chaplain this month is epicopalian so I wouldn’t have to sneak in to the catholic service.  I couldn’t remember when the protestant service started though: 10:30 or 11:30?  10:30 or 11:30?   I showed up at 11:30, just as they were starting communion.  Guess I was wrong.

On Sunday, I meant to get an early start on moving my stuff from my the dorm on the far side of the complex to my old dorm in the center of the station.  But the weather changed dramatically and it was difficult to walk as visibility dropped drastically.  I could barely see my dorm!  The weather blew through and later in the evening I was able to move my belongings, one bag across the complex at a time.

I’m spending one more night in the old dorm by myself and am enjoying the internet it offers.  Tomorrow, everything changes.


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A snowy day

Antarctica: Day5 The snow comes in.

Temperature:  0ºF/-18ºC

Windchill:  -22ºF/-30ºC

Woke up to an odd sight this morning in Antarctica:  SNOW.

Contrary to common belief, it does not snow often in Antarctica.  Antarctica is the largest desert in the world!  There is not much precipitation here!  But lo and behold, it was a light light bluster of snow about the station today.  Helicopters are grounded for the day.  I am not.  I’m still out and about.  Here is a pic of what McMurdo’s weather station posted about today’s conditions:

This is the official weather info we get on station

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I’m not a short story writer by any means.  I’ve known that since elementary school.  I’ve never been able to write a short story in my life.  Everything is pages and pages long!  But I’m going to try to keep a daily blog.  It may be very short, brief and concise at times.  I think if I ever start to write a short story, it will evolve into a novel and it will be days until my next blog posting.  So I’ll attempt to do short little updates.  This will be nice for people like my parents who want to keep in touch and it will be nice for me when I attempt to complete my scrapbook in the summertime!!!  Wish me luck!!!

First Trip to Hut Point

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