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Christmas at WAIS

Posted December 25th, 2008 by

Date: Dec 25, 2008
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 7:30 pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 700 m
Temperature: -16 °C
Wind speed: 2 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: 040° Grid
Barometric Pressure: 29.06 mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Animals: None except the dead ones we are eating.
Christmas Eve dinner: Roast Duck Breast w/ Sweet Mandarin Comfit, Beef
Tenderloin, Green beans, Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Cauliflower
Breakfast: Leftovers (I was sleeping)
Lunch: Leftovers (I was sleeping)
Supper: Leftovers: Veg curry, spinach soup w/ chicken, mashed potatoes.


Logan in front of the galley, Christmas tree at right.

Merry Christmas to all of you intrepid blog readers from WAIS Divide!! The past two days have been action packed! The drilling operations were stopped for 24 hours so that everyone could celebrate Christmas. On Christmas Eve the cooks (John, Renin, and Camille) pulled out all of the stops and made us a huge holiday meal including hors d’oeuvres. It was fantastic!

Right before we started dinner, Bess (who provided motivation) and Jonathan (our local weatherman who provided the lyrics) joined forces and put together a mini WAIS Divide choir and we sang Christmas carols to everyone in the Galley. After that Ben, the camp manager told us that there is a tradition in Antarctica for field camps to sing Christmas carols to one another via HF radio. Our HF radio wasn’t working well at the time, so we called McMurdo on our satellite phone and they re-broadcast our voices to all of the other Antarctic U.S. field camps
(including South Pole station) via HF radio. It is so amazing to me that our little WAIS Divide Choir was broadcast all over the continent!

After dinner, the main event of the night that everyone had been looking foreword to was the White Elephant gift exchange. The rules of the gift exchange were quite simple. You were given a number, the person with #1 picked the first gift, then #2 could pick another gift from under the tree, or, if they liked number one’s gift they could take it. Any one gift could be stolen up to five times. Throughout the evening a few very popular items, like a knitted hat and scarf, were traded multiple times. The present that I picked ended up being from Kiwi (John who is the only New Zealander in camp). It was a Kiwi seduction kit, complete with prophylactic, lubrication, bottle of white wine, Pez (apparently Kiwis love Pez), and a full printed page of step by step instructions about how to land a Kiwi which I had to read in front of everyone in camp (which nearly killed most people in camp from laughter). I can only guess that Kiwi was betting against the odds and hoping that one of the women in camp would open up his present. As things are, however, with John being the only Kiwi in camp, I’ll have to save my Kiwi Seduction Kit for my short vacation in New Zealand on my way back to the U.S.

After the gift exchange we cleared out most of the galley for dancing, table traverses, and arch traverses. For the arch traverse, we climbed along the purloins from one side of the arch to the other. The table traverses (where you climb from the top of the table, around one side, under it, then up and over the other side) were a lot trickier because the metal folding tables were 1.) really slippery and 2.) not very stable. Luckily there were no injuries, just bruises the following day.

I stayed up all night (which was my “day” since I’m on night shift) and watched movies after everyone else went to bed. Finally at ~8am I went to bed and slept till around 4pm. Christmas day was a pretty slow day with everyone recovering from last night’s extravaganza and enjoying a much needed day of rest. I got up, made a few phone calls on the sat phone to family, then worked on editing a research paper for a couple of hours. In a little while (at 11 tonight) I’ll head back to the arch and start my workday.

It is interesting being here for the holidays. This is a great group of people with all kinds of backgrounds, from all walks of life. We are all used to celebrating Christmas with close friends and family, but here in Antarctica all we have are each other. This is the second time I’ve been abroad for Christmas. Last time I was in Nepal and didn’t know a single person who celebrated Christmas, and that was hard. At least this time I’m with other people who are going through the same thing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m missing my friends and family a lot today and can’t wait to see them when I get back. I love you guys.

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