My next post was going to be about either the South Pole Traverse or the incredible Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his life. Since both the Traverse teams are out on missions right now and I’m in the process of reading Shackleton’s harrowing story of the Endurance through a few books that have been published about the tale before I move on, my New Year’s celebration will have to do. Bringing in the New year in a place like McMurdo Station is an interesting experience. They have a 9 hour musical festival called Ice Stock, plenty of friends to hang out with, and with the longer-than-usual time we’re granted for the holiday, there are plenty of hikes to keep yourself busy. Most of the town has to actually work on New Year’s, with a party late at night for those that don’t work. For those that worked through New Year’s as a Mid-rat (the shift that works through the night) it’s pretty much just another day.
I work out at the William’s Field Airway and they pretty much give me full control over the food I cook with exception to a lot of meats that they’re almost out of. I tried to make the Willy Cafe a nice place to be to bring in the New Year. I was able to scrounge together a pretty good meal for the people that have to eat my food out there and most everyone on Mid-rats is pretty pleasant company. When I got back from town that morning, I found out I had the next couple nights off for the holiday. Most of the town celebrates their New Year’s Day a few days later on the 2nd and 3rd with a big celebration and the 9 hour concert series, aptly named Ice Stock. Since I worked with most of the regular town people on the Airfield, I had the holiday off.
My first day off was spent with some of my favorite people on the ice. We went on a hike around Observation Hill, the big hill that juts out above McMurdo Station. Standing ever vigilant for thousands of years protecting McMurdo from extreme winds from the North, people over the years have carved small trails into the hill. Zigzagging switchbacks climb all the way to the top where a big Jarrah wood cross is perched in commemoration of one of my favorite explorers, Robert Falcon Scott. It was carried up Ob Hill over a 2 day period with the help from sledges more than 100 years ago to give tribute to this amazing man and his four other companions that perished on their return trip from the geographic South Pole. There’s also a trail carved into the side of the hill stretching the entire base of it, which is what we went on. The view around Observation Hill is spectacular, complete with weddel seals, penguins, and a breath-taking view of the Ross Ice Shelf.
Ice Stock is a fantastic celebration the Station puts on for everyone. They even put up a stage, small coffee shack, warming shacks, and a grill area that the cooks grilled brats for the coworkers at the concert. The bands that played the concert were just talented people from the community that put together their own band’s set lists. Shitty and Loud, 30 Minutes of Classic Rock Radio, Antarctica’s Premier Kesha Cover Band, and Van Shiefflen were some of the names of the bands that participated in Ice Stock. Obviously a lot of the bands were just hilarious cover bands to make everybody’s life a little more fun while on the ice. I appreciated any of the people involved since they had to give up whatever precious time they had off during the holiday and practiced on their down time weeks prior to Ice Stock.
I’m still amazed at the incredible amount of talent in this community. Whether it’s in science, art, music, or any other form of intelligence, it seems like we have someone in the community that is incredible at it. After Ice Stock, I ended up having a restful night with friends in our community coffee house drinking hot cocoa and watching movies all night. These have turned out to be some of my favorite times here in Antarctica. A group of good friends getting together to celebrate a holiday or any other event we can justifiably have fun at is definitely the meat of life here at the base, on par with the beauty that is Antarctica. The grandeur of Antarctica is why I came down here in the first place but the surprisingly like-minded people that have been so great throughout my experience here are why I’ll probably end up back here eventually.
The new year brings about unanswered questions over the next couple weeks. I’ve had the opportunity to apply at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for the winter as a production cook. They’re going to fly me down to the station in a couple weeks but they can’t do that until I’m completely physically qualified through the medical facility they use back in Texas. I’ve had to do a psychological evaluation and exam to see if I’m mentally capable of handling the South Pole during the winter, several medical tests throughout the last month and a half, and a dentist is being flown down to the Ice to do check-ups for all winter-overs within the next week. After all of that is submitted, the medical facility says if I’m fit to “PQ” for a winter. After all of that is done, they’ll fly me to the station for my interview. The next couple weeks will be spent in making travel plans throughout New Zealand and filling out forms for the next adventure I’d like to go on if I don’t end up wintering over in the South Pole. There’s a fair possibility of that outcome since only about 60% of people that do the psych testing pass. Either way, the next month here on the Ice will eventually decide my fait for the new year’s adventures.
My time here at McMurdo so far has been incredible. The job hasn’t been my favorite compared to some of the other ones I’ve worked since we’ve been limited with some of the food we’ve been able to cook but some of the people here will likely be apart of my life for many years to come. That, the beautiful landscape, and the wild animals around this area have made this adventure well worth it. A South Pole winter will likely end up being a very taxing endeavor but for now, I’m having a great time with amazing people.