North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia

North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia
North, but still south... the fijords of Fuegia

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Midwinter

 We're half-way through!  Here's our Midwinter Greetings photo that was sent around the continent to all the other Antarctic stations... about as much solidarity as we can get...

And as part of the Midwinter thing, we have a celebratory dinner.  Here's the menu... gorgeously painted by one of our doctors Pat:
It's neat because in some diary entries from Antarctic explorers of ages past, one of their midwinter dinner menus was printed with a similar watercolor border... a fellow winter-over from McMurdo sent these excerpts around for folks to relive a bit of the past... read on!

From South with Scott, by Edward R. G. R. Evans. 

But to return to the menu for Midwinter Day. When we sat down in the
evening we were confronted with a beautiful water-colour drawing of our
winter quarters, with Erebus's gray shadow looming large in the
background, from the summit of which a rose-tinted smoke-cloud delicately
trended northward, and, standing out from the whole picture a neatly
printed tablet which proclaimed the nature of this much-looked-forward-to
meal:

                      Consomme Seal.
             Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
                  Horseradish Sauce.
          Potatoes a la mode and Brussels Sprouts.
             Plum Pudding.         Mince Pies.
                    Caviare Antarctic.
       Crystallised fruits.        Chocolate Bonbons.
             Butter Bonbons.    Walnut Toffee.
                  Almonds and Raisins.

                        _Wines._

         Sherry, Champagne, Brandy Punch, Liqueur.
             Cigars, Cigarettes, and Tobacco.
                      Snapdragon.
        Pineapple Custard.      Raspberry jellies.

and what was left of the Buszard's cake!

The menu was, needless to say, Wilson's work, the exquisite dishes
Clissold produced, the maitre d'hotel was Birdie, and Cherry-Garrard the
producer of surprises in the shape of toys which adorned the Christmas
Tree that followed on the dinner. Everybody got something from the tree,
which was in reality no tree at all, for it was a cleverly constructed
dummy, with sticks for branches and coloured paper leaves. Still, it
carried little fairy candles and served its purpose well.

Then I must not forget the greatest treat of all: an exhibition of slides
showing the life about our winter quarters and the general work of the
Expedition from the starting away in New Zealand to this actual day
almost in the hut. The slides were wonderful and they showed every stage
of the ice through which we had come and in which we lived. There were
penguin pictures, whales and seals, bird life in the pack, flash light
photographs of people and ponies, pictures of Erebus and other splendid
and familiar landmarks, and, in short, a magnificent pictorial record of
events, for Ponting had been everywhere with his camera, and it is only
to be regretted that the Expedition did not take him to the Pole. This
was, of course, impossible, when everything had to give way to food.
Following the photographic display and the Christmas Tree came the only
Antarctic dance we enjoyed. Few of us remember much about it for we were
very merry, thanks to the wine, and there was considerable horseplay. I
remember dancing with the cook whilst Oates danced with Anton. Everybody
took a turn, and associated with this dance I might mention that Clissold
so far forgot himself as to call Scott "Good old Truegg." Truegg was the
composition used by us for cooking in various ways omelets, buttered
eggs, puddings, and cakes of all kinds, and, although it was a great boon
to the Expedition, we had by this time tired of it. Still, we used it as
a term of endearment, but nobody in his sober senses would have dreamt of
calling our much respected Commander "Good old Truegg"; the brandy punch
must have been responsible for Clissold's mixing up of names! We had now
arrived at the stage when it was time to shut up, the officers became
interested in an aurora display and gradually rolled off to bed. It was
left to me to see the seamen turned in; they were good-humoured but
obstreperous, and not until 2 a.m. did silence and order once more reign
in the hut.

Very wisely our leader decided on June 23 being kept as a day of rest;
our digestions were upset and we took this time off to make and mend
clothes, and returned to our winter routine, a little subdued perhaps, on
June 24.


Before the second excerpt, check out the spread and scene at our dinner:



 Me and Robert in our finest on hand...

Local-grown centerpieces... 

Perhaps a bit different from Amundsen's group?  You decide...


A Midwinter excerpt from Amundsen’s The South Pole:

“In the hut preparations for a feast were going on, and now one could really appreciate a good house. The change from the howling wind, the driving snow, the intense cold, and the absolute darkness, was great indeed when one came in. Everything was newly washed, and the table was gaily decorated. Small Norwegian flags were everywhere, on the table and walls. The festival began at six, and all the "vikings" came merrily in. Lindström had done his best, and that is not saying a little. I specially admired his powers and his liberality -- and I think, even in the short time I have observed him, he has shown no sign of being stingy -- when he appeared with the "Napoleon" cakes.

Now I must tell you that these cakes were served after every man had put away a quarter of a plum-pudding. The cakes were delightful to look at -- the finest puff-pastry, with layers of vanilla custard and cream. They made my mouth water. But the size of them! -- there could not be one of those mountains of cake to every man? One among them all, perhaps -- if they could be expected to eat Napoleon cakes at all after plum-pudding. But why had he brought in eight -- two enormous dishes with four on each? Good heavens! -- one of the vikings had just started, and was making short work of his mountain. And one after another they all walked into them, until the whole eight had disappeared. I should have nothing to say about hunger, misery, and cold, when I came home. My head was going round; the temperature must have been as many degrees above zero in here as it was below zero outside. I looked up at Wisting's bunk, where a thermometer was hanging: +95º F. The vikings did not seem to take the slightest notice of this trifle; their work with the "Napoleons" continued undisturbed.

Soon the gorgeous cake was a thing of the past, and cigars came out. Everyone, without exception, allowed himself this luxury. Up to now they had not shown much sign of abstinence; I wanted to know what was their attitude with regard to strong drinks. I had heard, of course, that indulgence in alcohol on Polar expeditions was very harmful, not to say dangerous. "Poor boys!" I thought to myself; "that must be the reason of your fondness for cake. A man must have one vice, at least. Deprived of the pleasure of drinking, they make up for it in gluttony." Yes, now I could see it quite plainly, and I was heartily sorry for them. I wondered how the "Napoleons" felt now; they looked rather depressed. No doubt the cake took some time to settle down.

Lindström, who now seemed unquestionably the most wideawake of them all, came in and began to clear the table. I expected to see every man roll into his bunk to digest. But no; that side of the question did not appear to trouble them much. They remained seated, as though expecting more. Oh yes, of course; there was coffee to come. Lindström was already in the doorway with cups and jugs. A cup of coffee would be just the thing after such a meal.

"Stubberud!" -- this was Lindström's voice, calling from some place in the far distance -- "hurry up, before they get warm!" I rushed after Stubberud to see what the things were that were not to get warm; I thought it might possibly be something that was to be taken outside. Great Heaven! there was Lindström lying on his stomach up in the loft, and handing down through the trap-door -- what do you think? -- a bottle of Benedictine and a bottle of punch, both white with frost! Now I could see that the fish were to swim -- what's more, they were to be drowned. A happier smile than that with which Stubberud received the bottles, or more careful and affectionate handling than they received on their way through the kitchen, I have never seen. I was touched. Ah, these boys knew how a liqueur should be served! "Must be served cold," was on the label of the punch bottle. I can assure P. A. Larsen that his prescription was followed to the letter that evening.

Then the gramophone made its appearance, and it did me good to see the delight with which it was received. They seemed to like this best, after all, and every man had music to suit his taste. All agreed to honour the cook for all his pains, and the concert therefore began with "Tarara-boom-de-ay," followed by the "Apache" waltz. His part of the programme was concluded with a humorous recitation. Meanwhile he stood in the doorway with a beatific smile; this did him good. In this way the music went the round, and all had their favourite tunes. Certain numbers were kept to the last; I could see that they were to the taste of all. First came an air from "The Huguenots," sung by Michalowa; this showed the vikings to be musical. It was beautifully sung. "But look here," cried an impatient voice: "aren't we going to have Borghild Bryhn to-night?" "Yes," was the answer; "here she comes." And Solveig's Song followed.

It was a pity Borghild Bryhn was not there; I believe the most rapturous applause would not have moved her so much as the way her song was received here that evening. As the notes rang clear and pure through the room, one could see the faces grow serious. No doubt the words of the poem affected them all as they sat there in the dark winter night on the vast wilderness of ice, thousands and thousands of miles from all that was dear to them. I think that was so; but it was the lovely melody, given with perfect finish and rich natural powers, that opened their hearts. One could see how it did them good; it was as though they were afraid of the sound of their own voices afterwards. At last one of them could keep silence no longer. "My word, how beautifully she sings!" he exclaimed; "especially the ending. I was a little bit afraid that she would give the last note too sharp, in spite of the masterly way in which she controls her voice. And it is outrageously high, too. But instead of that, the note came so pure and soft and full that it alone was enough to make a better man of one." And then this enthusiastic listener tells them how he once heard the same song, but with a very different result. "It went quite well," he says, "until it came to the final note. Then you could see the singer fill her mighty bosom for the effort, and out came a note so shrill that -- well, you remember the walls of Jericho." After this the gramophone is put away. No one seems to want any more.

Now it is already half-past eight, it must be nearly bed-time. The feast has lasted long enough, with food, drink, and music. Then they all get on their feet, and there is a cry of "Bow and arrows." Now, I say to myself, as I withdraw into the corner where the clothes are hanging -- now the alcohol is beginning to take effect. It is evident that something extraordinarily interesting is going to take place, as they are all so active. One of them goes behind the door and fetches out a little cork target, and another brings out of his bunk a box of darts. So it is dart-throwing -- the children must be amused. The target is hung up on the door of the kitchen leading to the pent-house, and the man who is to throw first takes up his position at the end of the table at a distance of three yards. And now the shooting competition begins, amid laughter and noise.

There are marksmen of all kinds, good, bad, and indifferent. Here comes the champion -- one can see that by the determined way in which he raises the dart and sends it flying; his will, no doubt, be the top score. That is Stubberud; of the five darts he throws, two are in the bull's-eye and three close to it. The next is Johansen; he is not bad, either, but does not equal the other's score. Then comes Bjaaland; I wonder whether he is as smart at this game as he is on ski? He places himself at the end of the table, like the others, but takes a giant's stride forward. He is a leery one, this; now he is not more than a yard and a half from the target. He throws well; the darts describe a great round arch. This is what is known as throwing "with a high trajectory," and it is received with great applause. The trajectory turns out to be too high, and all his darts land in the wall above the door. Hassel throws with "calculation." What he calculates it is not easy to understand. Not on hitting the target, apparently; but if his calculations have to do with the kitchen-door, then they are more successful. Whether Amundsen "calculates" or not makes very little difference; his are all misses in any case. Wisting's form is the same. Prestrud is about half-way between the good shots and the bad. Hanssen throws like a professional, slinging his dart with great force. He evidently thinks he is hunting walrus. All the scores are carefully entered in a book, and prizes will be given later on.

Meanwhile Lindström is playing patience; his day's work is now done. But, besides his cards, he is much interested in what is going on round the target, and puts in a good word here and there. Then he gets up with a determined look; he has one more duty to perform. This consists of changing the light from the big lamp under the ceiling to two small lamps, and the reason for the change is that the heat of the big lamp would be too strongly felt in the upper bunks. This operation is a gentle hint that the time has come for certain people to turn in. The room looks dark now that the great sun under the ceiling is extinguished; the two lamps that are now alight are good enough, but one seems, nevertheless, to have made a retrograde step towards the days of pine-wood torches.

By degrees, then, the vikings began to retire to rest. My description of the day's life at Framheim would be incomplete if I did not include this scene in it. Lindström's chief pride, I had been told, was that he was always the first man in bed; he would willingly sacrifice a great deal to hold this record. As a rule, he had no difficulty in fulfilling his desire, as nobody tried to be before him; but this evening it was otherwise. Stubberud was far advanced with his undressing when Lindström came in, and, seeing a chance at last of being "first in bed," at once challenged the cook. Lindström, who did not quite grasp the situation, accepted the challenge, and then the race began, and was followed by the others with great excitement. Now Stubberud is ready, and is just going to jump into his bunk, which is over Lindström's, when he suddenly feels himself clutched by the leg and held back. Lindström hangs on to the leg with all his force, crying out, in the most pitiable voice: "Wait a bit, old man, till I'm undressed too!" It reminded me rather of the man who was going to fight, and called out: "Wait till I get a hold of you!" But the other was not to be persuaded; he was determined to win. Then Lindström let go, tore off his braces -- he had no time for more -- and dived head first into his bunk. Stubberud tried to protest; this was not fair, he was not undressed, and so on.

"That doesn't matter," replied the fat man; "I was first, all the same."
The scene was followed with great amusement and shouts of encouragement, and ended in a storm of applause when Lindström disappeared into his bunk with his clothes on. But that was not the end of the business, for his leap into the bunk was followed by a fearful crash, to which no one paid any attention in the excitement of the moment, himself least of all. But now the consequences appeared. The shelf along the side of his bunk, on which he kept a large assortment of things, had fallen down, and filled the bunk with rifles, ammunition, gramophone-discs, tool-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, pipes, tins of tobacco, ash-trays, boxes of matches, etc., and there was no room left for the man himself. He had to get out again, and his defeat was doubly hard. With shame he acknowledged Stubberud as the victor; "but," he added, "you shan't be first another time." One by one the others turned in; books were produced -- here and there a pipe as well -- and in this way the last hour was passed. At eleven o'clock precisely the lamps were put out, and the day was at an end.”
___________________________________________________________________________

We're not in such rough conditions, but the nuances of life are very similar... except no gramophone.

Next time, another installment of "so, what do you do down there for fun?!"  But before I go, just a few shots of auroras so you all know what it looks like outside... last week was a good one for lights in the sky... thanks to Christy Schultz for the photos-- my camera no workie so goodie for these kinds of shots.

Outside in a full moon-- with increased exposure times it sure looks brighter than it is but even still it's quite bright out w/ the moon... just like back home in west Texas... the following few shots were taken outside of an outlying building-- the NOAA air research observatory which is a 5 minute walk (or so) from the elevated station.


The auroras.. often they'll just start as a green band on the 'western' horizon, then as they get more active...

You might get more colors... the colors show up better in pictures because the receptors are more sensitive to different light wavelengths (colors) than our eyes are... but sometimes in a really impressive aurora you can see purple, red, blue, and different greenish shades with the naked eye...
 So, these shots are one progression of an auroral event... it gets bigger, splits into bands, shimmers and "dances", swirls... can get pretty crazy.  The best one I've seen had me and a friend hooting and hollering at the heavens...


 The following are just some random other shots with really neat shapes taken with a fish-eye lens to get a whole bunch of sky... the long black shape at the bottom right horizon is the elevated station-- home...


 And back to the NOAA building... hard to capture how grand and sky-encompassing the auroras can be... but I think you get some of the idea anyway...

That's the end for now... the internet is so slow to post all this stuff!  A last shout out though to all the Fenstermachers at the Vail reunion right now-- sad I'm missing it, thinking of you!  This is my room, where I was sitting when talking to some of you earlier today--




Don't mind the socks... it was laundry day...

xo jos :)