Saturday, December 19, 2009

South Pole Update. Christmas-time, 2009.

Here’s to a white Christmas!

It’s so easy to forget that being at the South Pole is remarkable. After the initial wow-factor, life takes to its ruts and everything seems quite normal. Consequently telling you all about it seems sort of silly. BUT, here I am, remembering that this is a pretty incredible place to be.

Some words to describe the South Pole – away from station, in the wilderness:
White
Desolate
Dead
Sharply inhospitable
Subtle
Sublime
Beautiful

And some words to describe the station itself, as seen from the white desolation beyond:
Dirty
Frantic
Ugly
Warm
Smokey
Civilized, and what an ambiguous word that is

I do like it here, but what a weird place it is.

---

I’m sick. Have been for two weeks. It’s just a regular cold – referred to by the many sick in this dessicated petri dish as the MacTown crud because it came from McMurdo like everything else – but I can’t kick it. It’s cold here, and dry (very very dry), and there isn’t much oxygen. Sleep comes irregularly, so your body struggles. This regular old cold, then, is dragging along, keeping me whiney and tired, and forcing me to slow down. Which is good, as I’ve been quite busy:

Snow School.

A few weekends ago I got to go to snow-school, or ‘Happy Camper’. Awesome. We learned about radios and airplanes and field-camps and everything, and that was all good fun, but then we went out and lived in the snow, miles from station, for 23 whole hours. Dropped off in the stark white, 12 of us set up tents, built a wind-wall out of snow-blocks, cooked dehydrated noodles, and generally grinned our little faces off. It was warm – minus 15 – but still, just sitting around out there gets you cold. Instead of sleeping in the tents, they said, we were welcome to dig survival trenches. So I dug. And slept five feet under, wrapped in a really huge sleeping bag, nestled up to my hot water bottle. I slept better than any other night here in my survival trench.

Also, I’m in a band.

Well two really. One of them plays Violent Femmes songs and is loud. The other plays folky-bluegrassy songs and is loud. Loudness is crucial.

I sing for the Violent Femmes cover band, which is incredibly fun. We headlined an open-mic night (is that even possible?) and if I do say so myself, which I do, we rocked the house. I never realized how much cardiovascular fitness it requires to shout and sing and yell into the mic while strutting and jumping and waving your arms. Like I said before, incredibly fun.

Other than playing in the snow and playing music and being in a movie, I work and occasionally sleep. There is an infinite supply of laughter, of good food, of sitting in the sauna and skiing out into the cold. Life here is good. But I do miss animals, plants, smells, and the woods.

So that’s life at the South Pole.

7 comments:

Ericka said...

And to think I've been complaining about the weather we've been having here! Of course, when you're not used to subzero temperatures and not prepared to deal with them, it is pretty miserable. I admire what you're doing down there!

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