Sunday, January 20, 2008

Playing catch-up

Sorry for the dearth of posts while on R&R, but there has been so much else to do besides play around on the computer. I think the lack of connectivity at Pole has conditioned me to not really relying on the internet for entertainment.

Anyhow, some things we've done while in McMurdo:

A couple mornings ago a few of us got to take a tour of Scott's Discovery hut just down by the pier here in McMurdo. The building was based upon an Australian Outback bungalow, so wasn't exactly well-adapted to the cold polar environment. But, it's a neat historical structure still full of all sorts of artifacts. And, if you find yourself just pining for the smell of an old barn, this is the place to go for comfort.

The walk on the way back from the hut gives a good perspective of some of McMurdo (mostly dormitories on this side of town) with Observation Hill looming in the background.

We also encountered some wildlife as we got back to Building 155 where we're all being housed: a skua. The skua is a pretty rough character. He will hang out in wait of unwitting souls that bring food outside, and will dive bomb any person no matter how big or small in an attempt to wrest said food from their clutches. The skua operates in a morally empowered manner due to its protected status under the aegis of the Antarctic Treaty, which poses dire consequences for humans that might their place and resist the skua. In general it is best to not approach the skua, keep all valuables and edibles out of sight of the skua, and never look the skua in the eye. They can sense fear and trepidation and will have no hesitation when it comes to taking you down like the filthy, weak human you are.

Yesterday we took a walk over the hill to New Zealand's Scott Base. It's a bit over a mile, and the road climbs a few hundred feet above sea level. Scott Base was founded by the recently deceased Sir Edmund Hillary, and last year he was down here for the base's 50th anniversary. It was a nice hike, but I still found myself finding walking on dusty volcanic rock (instead of clean snow/ice) to be somewhat bizarre.

So, we've still got to get ourselves together for a trip to Castle Rock. I want to talk to somebody about the inflatable lunar habitat they have here over by the Science Support Center. I'm still trying to track down a copy of the Apollo Program documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon", which somebody in the Rec department here still has a copy of from when the director showed up in McMurdo for a screening. We will be here nominally until sometime Wednesday morning, and then it is back to Pole and the hectic work until station closing and the beginning of the long stretch of winter. In general I've just had a great time here on R&R, and have done so very much (or little) that has shed vast slabs of stress that had accumulated throughout the summer.


Becky said...

Isn't it nice to just sit sometimes? If you get a moment, stop by the galley and tell Paul (the baker)I said howdy.
Are you eager to get back to work, or do you hope for some windy weather?

AaroN said...

Everyone seems to trash talk the skua as they operate without impunity in the Arctic environment. I certainly don't want to be the first guy to take a swat at one. (Although, I'm sure people have when no one was looking.) ;)

EthanG said...

The skua does get ragged on because it will attack people, but people still get excited when they see the first couple of the season. We Polies were all excited a couple weeks ago when one showed up at Pole. So, it's a love/hate relationship.

Wild, unshaven folks are more just part of the scenery down here versus the wildlife. It wouldn't be the same landscape without them.