New Year’s at McMurdo

For the last two-day weekend for the summer season, the base prepped for IceStock. It’s an outdoor music festival at McMurdo that features bands cobbled together from friends on the ice.

It began at 4 p.m. Saturday and went until 1 a.m. Sunday, (or until people were done dancing — I’m not sure; I went to bed).

When it got started, it was flurrying, which seemed appropriate. There was a Chili Cook-Off to keep people warm and give them something to eat along with their booze consumption. There was also coffee for sale with proceeds going to help pay the medical bills of a recently-sick McMurdo employee who has been coming down for years.

Richard and I hung out and listened to Moist, a band of 911 dispatchers and firefighters. They played classic rock and sounded pretty good.

During a break between acts, we walked over to Skua, the free thrift store on base. It’s pretty great if you hit it at the right time, like most thrift stores. There are shoes, clothes, costumes, books, electronics like humidifiers and hot pots. The inventory is entirely stuff that people brought down or had sent down and then no longer wanted. Everyone has access to it and the only rule on donations is to only contribute things that you would still pay money for. No clothes with stains or tears, nothing that is completely worn out or broken.

I had high hopes for finding a pair of shoes to wear around the building that are somewhere between my running shoes and my Crocs. I didn’t find anything that day, but the inventory is constantly changing. It’ll happen.

After Skua, we went over to the med clinic and Richard gave me a lesson on suturing. I’d not done suturing before; it’s not something you learn as an EMT. It was interesting and made me see that doctors could benefit from learning to sew. I imagined the knots used were complicated and hard to learn. I remember Richard spent hours practicing on our couch in medical school. Turns out, it’s pretty simple to be clunky, but functional at suturing. I could still use some practice in finesse and timing. Richard said the point in teaching me was just in case he needs stitches on his back or somewhere hard to reach.

I also got a Mass Casualty Incident tour of the clinic. I played with the wheelchair and learned where the immediate care, delayed care and minor care patients go in an emergency.

Next, we went back to IceStock and listened to the most popular band on base, Bad Decision Tuesday. They are a lead singer, guitar, saxophone and violin. They have a unique sound, but unfortunately the mics were off. You couldn’t hear the violin or saxophone.

Since we’d missed dinner, we were to the galley to try to cobble together some food. Then we played a game of Scrabble with the wrong number of tiles. I won.

All of a sudden, it was 10:30 p.m. and I was eager to go to bed. The rest of the station stayed up. From the general look of fatigue about the station today, I think it’s safe to say that people had fun.

So, that was the end of the day. Here’s a look at the beginning.

Today was my Christmas!! Last night at dinner, my boss, Kate, came over to our table and asked if I wanted to take Christmas the next day. The weekend was going to be Richard’s last two-day weekend, so I jumped at the chance to be able take both days with him.

We slept in a little on Saturday morning. There was a photo and workout scheduled for the people who have been participating in CrossFit this season at 8:45 a.m. The picture was outside in the crazy strong wind. Then, the two classes (there’s an a.m. group and a p.m. group) joined together for a huge class.

By the time we were done, brunch had started, so Richard and I went and ate many, many calories. The brunches are something the station really looks forward to, especially the cheese platter. The sous chef in charge of salads, Karen, puts out a variety of cheeses that are way fancy for Antarctica: blue cheeses, port wine cheddar, three kinds of goat cheese, swiss, a really nice crumbly cheddar and some gorgonzola.

After brunch, Richard and I bundled up for a hike out to Castle Rock. It was windy, but worth it. The snow — which I’m still not sure if it was falling or just being blown around from already fallen snow — blew horizontally across our path. The wind was coming from the east, so on the walk out to Castle Rock my right side was cold and on the way back, it was my left.

The climb up to the top of Castle Rock was sheltered until you popped out on top.

Three hours later, we were back at McMurdo and ready to eat more food. We raided the 24-hour pizza stash and made hot drinks.

So that catches you up to where I started this post.

Super windy on top of Castle Rock.
Super windy on top of Castle Rock.
IceStock. (FoxRunners, can you find the Elmo?)
IceStock. (FoxRunners, can you find the Elmo?)

4 thoughts on “New Year’s at McMurdo

  1. Does McMurdo base belong to a certain country? What is the main function? Research? How many people live there at any one time?

    1. McMurdo is operated by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Navy. Scott Base, which is only a mile or so away, is operated by the New Zealand government. The main function of McMurdo is to support scientific research as granted by the NSF. During the summer, the population of McMurdo can get up to 1,000 or so. In winter, it is much smaller — closer to 140.

  2. Hi Steph,

    Just wondering if Richard got a chance to see David Beckham while he was in Antarctica on his UNICEFF soccer tour???

    1. Nope. Beckham was at the U.K. base, which is on the other side of Antarctica — nearer to Chile than New Zealand.

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