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

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Well,we're past the halfway point!  This last weekend we had our mindwinter celebration, marked by a big dinner, "drive-in" movies in the gym (projected onto a a big 'screen' made of old sheets on the back wall, plus we move in couches and cozy chairs, have popcorn, and for midwinter-- warm cookies and cold milk... and this was special because it wasn't the watery powdered stuff we usually get in the gally but a secret stash of UHT milk in boxes... not fresh from the cow but as close as we're going to get!), and two days off.  We also had a brunch sponsored by the greenhouse, where an assortment of Farmer's Market type things were served including homemade ginger beer.

Part of the spread for the midwinter Farmer's Market Brunch.

Enjoying brunch and basil lemonade on the 'verandah'....

The pepper harvest before midwinter dinner... wow!  We ate a bunch of that lettuce too.


During our dinner, our station manager read a piece crafted by the station manager from McMurdo which she then worked on to fit South Pole.  A nice representation of this time of the season for us.  We all had a lovely evening, and the moon came up a few days later which was a nice change from the darkness outside.  though right before it came up, I took a brief excursion outside to get rid of some greenhouse trash and took a moment to enjoy the scene-- dark, crisp sky, little wind, and just fresh cold air coursing into my lungs and wakening my face.  Sounds rather ordinary but sometimes you just have to allow the ordinary to become more than that.

 
Mid-winter Dinner - 2012
by Katie Hess (and Harry House)
 
Mid-winter day is a time of great significance here in the Antarctic and especially at the earth’s axis.  Celestially, on Thursday at 11:09am the South Pole was tilted the furthest away from the sun that we would all winter and marks our steady return to a position where the sun will once again be visible above the horizon.  Early explorers would mark mid-winter with feasts and commemorative toasts to loved ones back home and to each other.  For them, the day provided a much-needed morale boost after many months of isolation. 

Much has changed since the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, both on the ice, and back ‘in the world’.  There are no Poles to discover any longer.  Now we seek to discover more about dark energy, dark matter and find elusive energetic neutrinos.  Nations no longer wait breathlessly in anticipation of our safe return, carrying word of feats of endurance and discovery, at best a newspaper will print that the fastest time skiing or kite skiing to South Pole has been beaten by a matter of hours.  We can converse with our loved ones back home in real time – most of the time, so our feeling of isolation is much reduced from 100 years ago or even 30 years ago.  Certainly, we now enjoy many of the comforts of home by comparison, though at times we all lose sight of that.  It is easy, and reasonable in many ways, for us to feel our contributions pale in comparison to the legends of the past.  It is understandable that many of us no longer feel any connection to those that came before us, or even to the legacy of the continent of Antarctica.

While all of this may be true, it misses the point.  Having the privilege of working here in one of the most isolated places in the world, where we know that it will be only the 50 of us here together for 9 months, where the weather can disorient you or cause severe frostbite in minutes during the winter, where it is possible to break the world’s coldest temperatures records, this is still one of the most unique opportunities in the world.  Because of this, we are all now members of an exclusive group of individuals that share a common bond.  This bond extends not only with each other, but across all the stations on the continent on this special day.  It transcends time as well.  If the early explorers were alive today, they would be just as interested in our sense of being here as theirs.  They are indeed with us tonight in spirit, and they also would appreciate a place at the table.  Please make room for them if you can.

And so, on this special evening, I propose a toast to all the Antarctic Heroes, past and present and future.

Everyone gussied up and enjoying a social hour before the dinner service.

Robert and I standing in front of the wall of midwinter greetings-- a tradition for all wintering parties to extend invitations to their festivities.  Take a look at ours, and others around the continent, on Robert's website at http://www.antarctic-adventures.de/2012/spole12.html


The galley decorated for dinner.




Enjoying the fine food produced by our fine galley staff.


Our fine galley staff, in regalia espepainted/created by Mel one of the cooks (third from left)


Menu item: Salad of local greens topped by grilled shrimp skewer and creamy cilantro (local grown too!) dressing.