Christmas at McMurdo

Christmas at McMurdo is a BIG DEAL! At a time when people are usually with their families, instead, they are stuck on a block of ice, thousands of miles from their loved ones. To accommodate for the potential loneliness, the meals are made elaborately and everyone is encouraged to spend time away from work.

Most of the station got two days off IN A ROW! This only happens three times per summer season: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’ Day.

I didn’t get any time off. Stewards and kitchen staff ALL work Christmas, mostly because it wouldn’t be fair if some got the actual day off. I went into work at 6 a.m. Very few people were awake on station, so things were fairly chill. We did a lot of deep cleans, which involves emptying and cleaning things that get used often or often get ignored.

Around midday, we all gathered for our family meal. The galley was closed to the rest of the station and the kitchen folk got to eat first. Everyone was allowed to bring a plus-one, so Richard was able to eat with me.

There were two soups, lots of vegetables, two meat-carving stations, fresh salad and SO MANY desserts. The bakers made handmade fudges, candies, caramels, cream puffs, baklava, passionfruit tarts, chocolate cake, cookies and three kinds of bread. It was amazing!

In preparation for the Christmas meals, I helped make mushroom and cheese stuffed pastries. My job was to use a cookie cutter to make snowflakes to bake on top. It was great. I just imagined myself at my parent’s house making sugar cookies.

After the meal, we got the galley ready for the station meals. There were four station meals that afternoon and evening. Because I had come in so early, I only worked the first hour of the first meal. Apparently, at Thanksgiving, things in the galley did not go well and the flow while people were getting their food was destroyed. This time, things flowed very well and the majority of eaters were through the galley and eating within a half-hour. (At Thanksgiving, I was told, people waited more than an hour in line to eat.)

I left at 4 p.m. and went to meet Richard at the Med Clinic where he was calling family. I got to talk to my sister, Renee.

My family met at Renee’s this year, and while I wish I had been there, this was the only Christmas since Richard started residency that we’ve spent the actual holiday together. So, that was pretty nice.

But not being with my sister was sad for me. She was a huge part of my Christmas’s growing up. Christmas Eve was the one day of the year I was actually invited into Renee’s room. We would spend the evening watching movies and talking. It meant a lot to me to get to spend that time with her. Now that we’re friends and make a point to seeing each other multiple times a year (and actually really like each other), it’s not AS important. But being so far from family makes you think of things like that. (Love you, Ne-Ne.)

Now, don’t get the idea that my childhood was all sad and miserable. Fortunately, my parents were nice to me everyday, so their being nice to me at Christmas was kind of assumed. (Love you, Mom and Dad!)

The weather was clear and not super windy, so Richard and I ran up and around Observation Hill, which is just east of town. Earlier in the day, the town held a race to the top (Richard got 8th), but since I was working and had to miss it, I made him run it again. The loop around the base is the nicest trail I’ve been on around here. It doesn’t literally crumple down the mountain when you step on it, which is unusual and very nice. We saw many, many seals sunbathing and two skuas riding air thermals over our heads.

After the run, we snuck into the end of the last dinner for seconds. I got more cream puffs.

And then came bedtime! Merry Christmas!

Climbing Ob Hill with McMurdo in the background.
Climbing Ob Hill with McMurdo in the background. See that blue building at 11 0’clock above my head? That’s building #155, where we live.
Sorry it's blurry. That's the top of Ob Hill. Mt. Erebus is ice-covered behind us. The cross is in memory of Scott, who died on his way back from finally making it to the South Pole. The cross will be 101 years old in January.
Sorry it’s blurry. That’s the top of Ob Hill. Mt. Erebus is ice-covered behind us. The cross is in memory of Scott, who died on his way back from finally making it to the South Pole. The cross will be 101 years old in January.
Running around Ob Hill.
Running around Ob Hill. It’s hard to see, but the New Zealand base is behind me.

2 thoughts on “Christmas at McMurdo

    1. I brought it down here, but it’s so windy that the poor brim gets whipped around. It’s either covering my eyes so I can’t see or pushed back against my forehead giving me zero sun protection.

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