Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New old glory

The American flag flies proudly at the geographic South Pole. After being constantly whipped by the frozen Antarctic winds over the winter, the old tattered flag is going into retirement.

This one was put up on January 1 of this year and flew the entire winter. Per tradition, it's now being replaced by a new one for the summer. Katie invited members of our crew who haved served in the US military to take part in the changing of the guard. The sun is barely visible in the background as blustery winds were blowing snow all over the place.

Todd (Air Force) and Jared (Army) started the folding of the old flag.
Chris (Marines) helped out too and it was a little challenging for them wearing heavy gloves in the -72F temps. With the windchill factor around -117F, we were all hoping for a quick ceremony.

The new flag is going on to the pole now. Andy and Sue (both Air Force) also participated. There's a Scott tent in the background that was erected a couple of weeks ago. People have been spending the night camping out in it, more for the novelty of being able to say that you did it than because it's really any fun sleeping outside in these temps.

The new flag will fly next to the pole marker and sign for the summer and a lucky winterover crew member will win the old flag in a raffle. I already won the Japanese flag that flew over the ceremonial pole so I'm happy to already have a special memento from this winter.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Our horizon cleared up enough last night to see this:

The camera exposure makes everything else look dark but this photo shows the sun's image the best. This is undoubtedly a refracted image because at this point, only the top of the sun should be physically just peeking over the horizon. The atmosphere bends the light and projects it higher than it really is, creating an optical illusion of the orb. We still count it as seeing the sun.

A group of us hung out in the Galley last night enjoying a tenderloin appetizer, cheese and wine and just watched the sun slowly make its way around along the horizon towards ARO.

Thus the long night of 2008 officially ends.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Celebrating the return of the sun

We still haven't seen the sun yet but that didn't stop us from using its return as an excuse to throw a big party.

We had our last traditional formal dinner, the Sunrise Dinner, on Friday. It was the last time to bring out the table linens this winter and decorate the Galley with lights and crepe paper suns. As you can see through the windows, it's finally light again outside and the window coverings are back in storage until next year.

We raised $450 in donations from the crew to buy wine for the meal. Michael tried a new concept this time for the feast - a family-style Thanksgiving meal. He wanted everyone sitting around a huge table around which the plates of food would be passed, just like a family holiday.

I don't think my family has ever feasted quite like this. Michael and his crew prepared 25 different dishes, from starters featuring tenderloin, salmon and shrimp, to two kinds of homemade rolls, 4 different types of stuffing, 2 kinds of potatoes, 3 different gravies, various veggie sides, ham, cajun pulled pork and 6 perfectly seasoned and cooked, juicy turkeys. Of course, Deb made the most beautiful pumpkin and apple pies for dessert.

Lead mechanic Jack did the ceremonial turkey carving which signaled the start of the meal.

And then the dishes just kept coming out of the kitchen every few minutes. I did a poor job of pacing myself through the meal and ended up with a giant mound of food on my plate by the time all the dishes passed by. I polished off everything - I may not be that big but pound for pound, I can pack away an atonishing amount of food.
We had 50 out of our crew of 60 show up for the dinner. A few here hate the rest of us too much to sit down and eat with everyone else but that's what happens after being cooped up together for nearly 8 months now. We all had a great meal and kicked off a much-needed two day weekend.
The sun should theoretically be visible anytime now. If it weren't so overcast out at the moment, we might be able to see refracted rays peeking over the horizon before the actual globe rises high enough to see it directly. Just as we missed hitting -100F this winter (-99.9F was the closest), we might also miss seeing the sun's initial slow and happy reappearance. That's OK, it just means that we're that much closer to being out of here and sitting on a beach in Fiji...

Monday, September 15, 2008

One more week

This was the view yesterday outside my berthing wing in B1 looking towards Summer Camp:

The sun is coming really is! In just one more week we'll begin the 6 month long stretch of full on full time solar rays. The night is almost over.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dinner these days

Last night, in celebration of Leah's birthday and in "honor of toasty cooks, past and present", Michael served this:

The ramen is to commemorate a legendary night a few years ago when two feuding cooks couldn't get along enough to produce a dinner so the station manager threw a bunch of instant ramen soups together and served it to the crew. I wasn't there that year but the story is indeed a legend. The burnt toast is to symbolize how we all feel right about now...toasty and burned out. And the cooks always joke about being so toasty, everyone is just going to be served cold cereal for dinner so tonight's selection features frosted flakes.

At least milk was provided to go with the cereal. Actually right next to the ramen, cereal and burnt toast were grilled steaks and lobster tails so no one was actually deprived of the traditional Friday dinner of surf and turf.

But people actually ate it! Stacy sprinkled the frosted flakes on the ramen and mopped it up with burnt toast. OK, it was his second symbolic course after his steak and lobster but his gesture was saluted.

Michael will make it up to us tonight by more of his homemade Chicago-style pizza...mmmm!

By the way, he has recently updated his website Cooking South with lots of photos...check it out!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's coming

This is what the horizon looked like all day yesterday:

It looked like the sky was on fire. This photo was taken from the Galley window overlooking the Dome, which you can't qute see but it's in the dark half. Only 11 more days until sunrise...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The rest of the weekend

Last weekend part 2:

After the Art Festival, our greenhouse tech Terry held a Farmer's Market open house. The official name for the greenhouse is the Food Growth Chamber and as I've mentioned before, it's a project that was designed by my alma mater University of Arizona.

Kiwi Paul not doing a good job of impressing Katie

Terry made some delicious salads, spreads and dips to go with greens that we were able to pick ourselves from the FGC. The biggest hit was some carmel corn that tasted just like Cracker Jacks.

There was a mojito bar set up in front of Polemart, which is right next door to the greenhouse. We found a good use for some of the fresh mint that is coming out of our ears now.

Everyone enjoyed grazing and trying some really peppery mustard leaves.

We have plenty of bok choy that we put in salads and the cooks use it up for veggie sides.

Swiss chard and some long leaf lettuce.

We got locked inside briefly when Deb and Mandi put a broom handle and a ski through the door handles but we certainly would not have starved in there.

And we had a putt putt golf course set up in the A3 hallway.

There were six holes including the BioMed Bunker that was in front of Medical.
Michael is about to tee off on the second hole. It was a par 2 and the corner made it too difficult to get a hole in one.

This one required another person to operate the ferris wheel. You have to time it right to get the ball to go into one of the baskets as the wheel revolves.
Here's a close up of the wheel. There's a vise grip for the crank handle.

I didn't get any photos of the open mic night but it was loads of fun - great music, corny comedy acts, bad jokes and some late night blues karaoke that happened long after I went off to bed.

The sun is coming back! It's light enough outside and it looks like a nice early dawn. When it's clear on the horizon, there's a wonderful orange glow, our assurance that the sun is indeed rising slowly. In just under two weeks we'll finally get to see the sun itself and squint like moles in the brightness. After setting a record warm temperature last week of -28.7F (-33.7C) due to a warm storm that moved in, we're back down to normal now at -78F. It will still be winter cold for a while longer. We're going to take our official winter crew picture outside this afternoon so you'll be seeing that in a post soon.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Art Fest

We kicked off our monthly two day weekend with an art show, a farmer's market and an open mike night.

IT Nate's posters for the events this weekend

Who knew we had so much artistic talant on station? Calee was the organizer of the first event, where the Galley was turned into an art gallery with displays of the abundant creativity of our crew.

Deb, Todd and Michael checking out the thousand of tiny photos within

One of the centerpieces was this work by IT Nathan. He took a photo of Jon O outside and used a program to reconstruct it with thousands of little photos, all of us from this winter. It's a great homage to the crew and fun times of Winter 08 and it's a beautiful work of art.

One of our meteorologists, Lance, turned scrap copper wire into a forest of bonsai trees.

Greenhouse tech Terry had her handmade jewelry and notecards tastefully displayed.
Artistic talent came in many forms - our mechanic Jack had a booth set up for giving dream interpretations and fortune telling.

Stacy the painter's hobby is making clocks from recycled objects. The window display is Deb's painting of a Martian space ship zapping penguins.

Here's Stacy again, getting his head painted by Mandi who was doing face painting and tattoos.
Our resident brew master IT Mike had a sampling of three of his homemade craft beers. My Michael is trying the South Pole Pale Ale which was fresh and delightful, unlike the more than two year old beer we sell in Polemart.

This last art installation was the work of our power plant guy and resident juggler/punster Will. So these are plastic ants...and it's art...and the piece says "ica". I had to have it explained to me. I'll work on putting up some more photos of the rest of the weekend fun soon. Today, it's my turn in the dishpit so it's 9 fun hours of washing dishes but I get to work near my favorite person on station!