Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend

The community celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday. Combined with Sunday, this weekend is the only two-day weekend this season. Other than this weekend, we work 6 days a week. So you can imagine the excitement around the community for this weekend.

The festivities began with a party Friday evening: Freezing Man, a parody of Burning Man. The event was held in the big gym. Partygoers were decorated with all manner of attire, costumes, body art, jewelry and hair adornments. One band after another took to the stage to amaze the audience with an incredible array of musical talents. There are about 900 persons on station now, about the population of a good sized high school. Yet we have 4 excellent bands from within our ranks.

The actual Thanksgiving Holiday feast was celebrated on Saturday. Three seatings were offered: 3 pm, 5 pm, and 7 pm. Everyone had to sign up for a seating. The medical department all signed up at 5 pm. The dining facility was transformed into a artistic display of culinary esthetics.

The diners arrived in their McMurdo finest attire. This evening's dinner and the Christmas dinner are the two times that people really dress up for a meal.

I volunteered to work in the galley from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm to give the dining assistants a hand. This news will probably come as a shock to my wife who has yet to see me volunteer for kitchen duty. My job was carving tenderloins of beef as diners came by. Just an aside, doing dishes here is almost fun. You wear a cap, long apron, and humongous gloves. Water goes everywhere. The dishes are cleaned of food residue by hand then are sent through a long enclosed dishwasher via conveyor belt. Reminds me of a car wash. They come out the other end steaming hot, sanitized, and sparkling clean.

Sunday evening, from 6 pm to about midnight, I was to go with a group of twenty to Cape Evans and the ice caves. Cape Evans was a outpost for Robert F. Scott, the Antarctic explorer. He had a wooden hut on the Cape that today still has all the original contents, perfectly preserved. Whale blubber, penguin carcass, cans of food, and supplies all sit exactly where Scott and his team left them nearly one hundred years ago. No spoilage, no rusting, no change. When guided through his hut, one gets the impression that they must have just stepped out for a minute and will be back soon. The hut is catalogued, photographed, and monitored by the Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand) and is well described on their website.

The ice caves are natural formations. Sliding in on one's bottom, you arrive inside the cave. Light filters throught the ice giving a variety of colors from pure white to a gorgeous azure blue. Simple digital cameras such as mine are not capable of showing the dazzling display of colors and ice crystals in the caves. This is what I saw:

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