Friday, June 22, 2007

The official greeting

Here it is, our official Mid-Winter Greeting from the 2007 Winterover crew:
Photos and design by Robert Schwarz

This year, winter solstice for us actually occurred around 6 am today, June 22. That's the time when the sun was at its farthest point away from us in the southern hemisphere about 23.5 degrees below our horizon. Tonight will be our big celebratory feast prepared by the three finest chefs on the continent, and I'd also add anywhere in the world.

The greetings from the other stations are pouring in now. Some are simple letters congratulating everyone else for enduring the same thing they're going through, others are nice photos of the stations and their crews complete with elaborate menus and invitations to join their celebration. We also got the customary letter from the US president. It was exceptionally dull, uninspiring and included a typo.

Here are some examples of cards from around the continent:
McMurdo almost looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, in a quaint industrial way.

From Palmer, the American station on the peninsula where three of our fellow Polie winterovers from last year are stationed.

Bird Island is near South Georgia Island, where the British Antarctic Survey has a crew of four.

This is from the South African station on Gough Island, where the birds look like they were extras in Disney animated features.

The German station Neumayer is on an ice shelf in Queen Maud Land.

Another British station from South Georgia Island with the crew in a cool looking ice cave.

King George Island in the peninsula is home to a few stations including Artigas from Uruguay. They sent their greeting in Spanish and English.

We received many more but this gives you an idea of the spirit of Mid-Winter Day. The Galley is all decked out in white linen table cloths, wine bottles holding candles and flowers from the greenhouse. In a few hours we will sit down to a magnificent dinner, a couple of cases of wine and some good camaraderie as we celebrate reaching the halfway point in our polar winter. I'll post photos of the celebration soon. Happy Winter Solstice to my friends down south and Happy Summer Solstice to everyone up north enjoying the sun and warmth. The rays are now headed our way.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anatomy of a greeting

The big holiday of the year, Mid-Winter’s Day is coming up June 21. Part of celebrating this milestone for all of the stations on the continent is to send greetings out to the other fellow wintering crews from other countries, like Christmas cards.

We took this year's photo inside the old garage arch, which is now nearly empty after the demolition of the old garage, paint room and gym (which was turned into the Dodgy Bastards Bar). Robert Schwarz was the photographer for all the following photos.

He worked on setting up the camera beforehand, using Sven as a model.
Some makeshift risers were put in place with Richard joining Sven for adjusting the camera angle.
Then we all assembled in the Galley and went en masse down to the arch. We didn't want to spend too much time in there because our collective breath would soon fog up the air too much so we quickly fell into place for the group photo.
Robert had his camera on a timer to snap shots every few seconds. Here's his better side as he runs to get into place.
And here's a good one. We all had to hold our breath for about 10 seconds to let the condensation clear out for a good clear shot.
Then we could all exhale.
Although Mid-Winter Day is Thursday, we won't have our grand gala celebration until Friday June 22 and then we'll have the added treat of a two day weekend following it. I'll soon post photos from the celebration plus our official Mid-Winter greeting card. We're almost halfway through the winter!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

All in a name...or not

Colorful names and nicknames for places and people have long been a part of Antarctic tradition. At the South Pole station, we have buildings with such names as the Cheese Palace, Chades, Altie Meadows and the like. I don't know if there are other "official" names for them because it seems that's just what they've always been called. Ice Palace just sounds so much more fun than something like Summer Camp bathroom #1.

We've entered a new era of being politically correct now, of not overstepping the corporate line dictated from above or doing anything to raise the eyebrows of human resources. There are several structures that are known by certain names in the Polie lexicon but "officially" we can't call them that because they are not in line with the image that the government agency running the show wants to project to the world.

For instance, this is what everyone refers to as the Beercan. It's the structure that protects a stairwell that goes from the power plant arch, now buried under the snow, up to the first and second floors of the Elevated Station, and it looks like a beer can if you have a little imagination. The official name is The Vertical Tower. How brilliant is that? Maybe the name helps to distinguish it from the Horizontal Tunnels that we also have here. We're not supposed to call it the Beercan because that would imply that we know what alcohol is and I should also add that we are not allowed to include any alcohol in any photos that are used by our company or the government agency or that are used for any PR purposes.

This is the new smoking bar, the 2.0 Lounge, located right at the bottom of the stairs at Destination Alpha (near the SOC). But we're not allowed to call it a bar or a lounge. It is officially the Smoking Facility because to call it a bar or lounge implies that not only are people drinking in there, they're also having fun, another thing that is apparently discouraged. By the way, it was announced last week that in 2010, all of the US Antarctic stations will be entirely smoke-free and there will no longer be any indoor smoking facilities, bars or lounges.
Here is a closeup of a sign that used to be on the door, a nice touch of ironic whimsy, I think, but there were stern orders from up above to remove the sign.

We did used to have a fun bar, 90 South, when we still had the old galley under the Dome. That was taken down in winter 2005 and the smokers got moved into the Black Box, a dinky little storage room that I used to use for alcohol storage for the store. Then last winter, the Black Box went away and we were able to turn the old gym into the new bar. It was christened the Dodgy Bastards Bar, but of course we couldn't officially call it that in anything for fear of offending delicate ears.

Here's the kicker. Now we've just been told that we are no longer allowed to call the galley the galley and must use the official name the Dining Hall Facility. "See you up in the Dining Hall Facility" is just not going to catch on and I don't care what the official orders are, I'm still calling it the plain ol' galley. I suppose we could call it the DHF since we also love acronyms down here but I just found out that there's a limit to that too. I submitted an article to our company's monthly newsletter and mentioned the BF5K, highlighted here in an earlier post. The final edition came out this week with my article heavily edited and the 3rd Annual BF5K was turned into simply the 3rd Annual 5K, which completely missed the whole essence of the event, organized by BFK. I should have known. Maybe we have to call Kevin just K, instead of BFK from now on.

So I guess I should add the disclaimer that this blog will be using non-PC terms whenever possible and the galley will be called the galley and the photos will, at times, show alcohol and people having fun. If the corporate and government agency police start cracking down on us ice bloggers too, it will be a sad day for freedom of speech.