Saturday, December 31, 2005

A New Year

I could have been in Chicago, Columbus, Christchurch or Katmandhu. Welcoming the New Year is the same everywhere I have celebrated- a countdown some cheering a few hugs and smiles. And I did it in a dark mostly empty bar in McMurdo Antarctica with the sun baking down on us above. Happy New Year!!!

Kathy (from Byrd Polar) and Nik, Kathy's boyfriend, and I caught a bus to Scott Base--- hoping to bring in the New Year New Zealand style. The lights were a little to fast and the music a little too slow so we caught the big orange cogg-wheeled bus back to McMurdo Station the US base where we are living. (McMurdo is the biggest of the industrial villages in Antarctica--- stations are complete with fire houses and gym facilities in dreary anti-aesthetic browns and greens.

Nik committed the unspeakable crime of seeing penguins on our journey back to McMurdo. It turned out to be a fabrication--- or rather fabric trailmarkers teetering clumsily in the wind. The result was a few glares and some disappointed boos. The icebreaker has been churning up ice to make way for supplies to get in and it is very likely that penguins will materialize from this mire. We all want penguins. (I have posted a picture of one from Cape Royds in their honor--- )

Before the nights festivities, Liz, April (the undergrads from OSU) and I trekked up the Scott's Ridge above Robert Falcon Scott's primative hut from nearly 100 years ago, we peered into the Ross Sea from the highest vantage point, peeking into the Moat below the ridge (the sea ice begins to melt and will soon be largely gone by February) In this green expanse we strained to see penguins, but had to settle for the larger and angrier ice breaker.... this ice breaker is the only noise you can hear if you travel any distance from McMurdo. Its noise is only out-competed by black smoke blasting from its engine. On this walk, My feet acclimated to the scree (rock rubble) and by the time I am in the Dry Valleys, I will be ready for some hiking and sampling...These hikes around McMurdo are important, as I am likely to be working alongside people who have steady feet months ago arriving as early as October....

Today- Icestock and a Chili Cookoff mark the New Year- I have my snow school (field safety) refresher tomorrow and head for the field in a few days. In the meantime, I feel a bit anachronous listening to hippies bop on the stage in a land haunted by mighty explorers.

This is a harsh place.

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