Thanksgiving and beyond
Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
8Trip End Ongoing
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By the way a Skua is an Antarctic and Sub Antarctic gull. It's looks a lot like a Sea gull only larger and brown with white flashes amongst it's marking. They are know as scavengers and nest raiders down here. They have much the same reputation of a sea gull back home, called many dirty names, and have been know to attack some of the residents of McMurdo if you're stupid enough to walk outside in the presense of one with food or a blue food tray. Yes, they even know the color of the trays and plates.
About a month ago, my roomate and I playfully started a rumor that I was attacked by a Skua while crossing the street eating a piece of corn bread. I had a large bandage on the side of my face and covering my ear because of a medical issue. The thruth of the large bandage was a much less exciting story. I had a cyst on my face, a large one that got infected, just below my ear and on the jaw bone (a painful pressure point). It got properly infected and I had to have it lanced. Lancing it was so painful that it took a local anesthetic, two tylenol 3 pills, and finally a shot of demeral which was the deciding factor to getting the job done. After weeks of taking anti-biotics and wearing this bandage on the side of my face, that looked like an A-cup bra, I had been asked about 1000 times, "what happened to you?" So I would tell them a Skua attacked me. In the end of it all, I had people coming up to me in the bathrooms and the galley, anywhere, Saying "I heard about you, your the guy who was attacked by a Skua? Is that true?" Yes, the McMurdo rumor mill is still alive and thriving. It's kinda fun to play with too.
About 2 weeks later my friend Jane came in with a bowl of soup that had torn celphane on top of it and part of the contents spilled out, and a small scratch on her hand. She had in fact been attacked by a skua.
Later on, I did a short, 1 hour volunteer stint in the galley. I made some veggie trays and refilled the dips. The galley staff is totally inundated with work when the holidays start. It's kinda unfair because the DA's (dining assistants) are some of the lowest paid workers on station. So during the holidays lots of the station residents come in and volunteer to do work for them so the DA's can do the less strenuous work or possibly even get an hour or so off.
Dinner was great, we had Turkey with all the fixin's of course. Cranberries, Smashed potatoes. veggies, prime rib. Mmmm, it was all great. In order to feed 1100 or so people they had to schedule 3 times to eat. 3, 5 and 7 pm. I was at the 7pm dinner. Which ended up being the rowdy one. Most people showed up with a bottle of wine (or two) at the dinner table, I arrived with a bucket of ice and some beer. CLASS, real class! I sat with my friends JonO and his brother BenO at a table of "Beakers" (thats slang for scientist down here.) Of course, by the 7 pm dinner lots of folks have had the time to have lots of drinks. The mostly white tableclothe, family style dinner was highlighted with raised glasses and lots of loud "Ehhhhhhh" types of toasts where people didn't really say a toast. They just got louder and louder holding their glasses up higher and higher, and yelling Ehhhhh! until the whole galley was giving spouting off one, loud extended EEEEEeehhhhhhhhhhhhh, eeeeehhhhhh,ehhhhh! followed by lots of laughter. It was a fun night. We all left full, happy and well spirited.
I finished off the night with music, and drinks in one of the dorm rooms, getting to know a few friends a little bit better and being introduced to some new ones as well...
The next day we had a recreational trip planned for Cape Evans. Just cargo people. Earlier in the week I was trained as a historic hut guide just for this purpose. Cape Evans, the location of the most famous and most visited of the historic huts, in the vicinity. Terra Nova Hut, named after the ship, Terra Nova, that R.F. Scott and crew traveled to Antarctica with, in order for Scotts South pole expedition. This particular hut was brought and build by Captain Scott and his men in January of 1911, it was subsequently used by other early explorers, including the infamous Sir Ernest Shackleton. I felt lucky to even get to go to this Historic landmark, let alone become a hut guide, as the hut is limited to just 2000 visitor a year, by the Antarctic Heritage Society. In reality only aproximately 700 - 800 people visit it each year.
The trip out to Cape Evans is about 1.5 hours in a Delta passenger transport. We saw many seals, one close enough to stop and get out for pictures, and another Adelie, penguin encounter. Both extraordinarily funny to watch.
Attached to the side of the hut was the horse stable which still smelt of dank straw and hay, and there was a stack of harvested seal blubber
Outside was another memorial, cross raised in dedication to the 3 members of Shackletons TransAntarctic Expedition that had perished. The same three that were mentioned earlier with their names scrawled on the bunk. There were food caches, and storage boxes, a small weather station for observations, and bleached white dog bones from a couple of the dogs that perished during their time here. There was also a giant anchor right out in front of the hut. It was from the ship Aurora. Also from Shackletons TAE. One day the crew came out of the hut to find that the ship had been ripped from her moorings and was loose in the Ross Sea. The men were stranded for some time but eventually recovered the ship. The anchor standing stuck in the beach as a testament to the powe of the Ross Sea.
The trip was an amazing success and I was glowing from excitement. I had wanted to go and see this hut since I had arrive at McMurdo and had one failed attempt at doing so already. This is a page from the Heroic era here in Antarctica, some of the last, great explorations, and expeditions on planet Earth. People coming here before they knew what excisted. As a morbid testament to the sacrifices that have been paid to Antarcticas exploration Captain Scott and his men perished on the return from the South Pole, only after finding out the the Norweigan, Roald Amundson and his men had already reached the pole and planted a Norweigan flag just a month or two earlier, beating him to the prize.
For a little heroism of our own, my friends and I did a run up Observation hill to
commemorate the birthdays of JonO and Carl. May not seem too heroic unless you know that we did it in our underwear. Yes, the first annual Underwear ASScent as we called it. There were 6 of us total and we made a great spectacle of ourselves. We took it all off e
xcept for Underwear, boots, hats, goggles and gloves and hiked up Ob hill as fast as we could. It wasn't that cold believe it or not. It was a perfect sunny day, with no wind about 25 degrees I would guess. The only thing that really hurt were my nipples. At the top we celebrated with some hooting and hollaring, looking down the hill to see the McMurdo ambulance waiting patiently for our shenanigans to end, and make sure our darwinistic stunt didn't cause any frostbite in any tender places.
Alls well that ends well! And so it did.