What to do in Antarctica?

by wonderfullyrich on November 21, 2005

First off, the weather today is a perfect example of why the wind makes all the difference.  It’s an ambient +19F but we have a 15-25 Knot wind that’s been blowing through, it’s a cold -9F outside with cloudy skies.  We are definitely wearing big red today.

I’ve been working on this question of “What the heck is there to do in Antarctica?” for a while and this is what I’ve decided on.  I have to admit it’s a strange concept that we aren’t bored milling about here given the nearest city is about 1800 miles away (say the distance from Denver to Orlando).  Let me start by saying that I’ve been here a bit more then 5 weeks and probably experience only a few hours of boredom during that entire stay.  As I’ve mentioned this is a social place, and it’s hard not to be social in it so that’s probably the first thing we do with our off time.  This is a unique place where you can meet a massage therapist working as a shuttle driver and an Air National Guard LC-130 Pilot at the same table talking about the works of Socrates, and I’m not kidding. 

This though is just one portion of what we do for fun down here, I’d have to say the second major thing is drink.  The National Science Foundation and Raytheon Polar Services Company would hate me saying that, but it’s one quick and easy way to decompress and be social around here.  As noted we have 3 official bars here on station and given that drinks are one or two dollars a piece, it’s fairly inexpensive to go out and have a night on the town (at least as compared to $4-7 dollar drinks at a bar at home). 

The third largest hobby around is probably site seeing or being active, although this is anecdotal and just a guess.  Hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, running, or being active in some form. (I’ve seen a unicycle, and found out there’s something called skate skiing so we get odd things here.) We have 3 or 4 major places to go and we have one weekend day to see them per week and a decent amount of time after work (remember the sun’s always up now).   Hopefully the weather cooperates making the one day good for getting out (Sunday for most). 

Obviously outdoor sports like snowboarding are popular around here, but one you might not expect is rugby.  Now it’s not full contact rugby like you’d expect in the state, but they do play rugby outdoors and on the lava rock.  (It’s mostly melted now.)  We have a ton of other organized sports around here like indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, and bowling in leagues and open times. 

Indoor games are also extremely popular, by that I mean cribbage (it’s huge), scrabble, settlers, and many other board games. There are other organized indoor events like Bingo on Wednesday’s, and foosball tournaments, or pool tourneys, and karaoke, etc., etc.  One that I hesitate to mention is sex.  Like any college town it seems to be a sport unto itself to hook up and stay hooked.  The average this year is the best it’s ever been between men and women (currently 33 women to 67 percent men).  My guess is that’ll keep getting better.  The age group runs from two 18 year olds to a 70 year old (who helped settle McMurdo 50 years ago) and is fairly heavy on those below 40. 

Speaking of which, there’s a ton of parties around here.  There’s a house that you can’t rent called Hut 10 which is booked solid, it’s got couches and a kitchenette, TV, etc.  Now the other place to have parties is at hide outs like the carpentry shop (know as the carp shop) or other work centers, and last but not least is a dorm room, although they get small.  Of course we have regularly yearly parties that are Recreation Department sponsored and a big deal.  So far as I can tell they are Halloween and Ice Stock (I’ll cover Ice Stock as it gets closer), but I’m not done with the season or my research.  I think Thanksgiving and Christmas include parties as well as the feast, but I’m not yet sure.  (Bill help me out here)  We have regular concerts down here with the multitude of bands that form (blue grass, punk, cover bands, etc) so we are never at a loss for new music around here.  (Underground trading does go on here).

The last and perhaps most regular thing that seems to happen around here is Movies… Perhaps I should make that the third sport around here.  Good god there’s a lot of movies.  Between the collections that people bring down here, the fact that people get netflix down here (yes it actually works just fine), the station’s “rental” (you don’t rent, you check it out) of VHS and DVDs, as well as the second run movies that are constantly playing on McMurdo TV (channels 9 and 10 are dedicated to between about 5 pm and 6 am), we have a constant and overwhelming supply of movies to watch down here.  March of the Penguins was just on today so needless to say we didn’t have to wait for it on DVD.  It’s actually rather insane in some respects and gratifying in others.  You can see some great films down here, (there’s projectors, big screen TVs, and some people ship down huge TVs as well), but at the same time we are sitting in front of a television.  Thankfully we don’t see much broadcast television.  We do get Air Force News and Fox News, but many of us seem to avoid that.

As an odd side note McMurdo has it’s own film festival for movies that are made on continent some time in January.  The film community is pretty active around here. I’ll try and post a few films eventually.

I’d also like to note that Bill follow the path of a different medium down here, he was a DJ (as anyone with ambition can be down here) on multiple shows on 104.5 FM.  It’s a Air Force Radio News and Television Station affiliate, but anyone can sign up and broadcast (after a few hoops).

So what else would you like to do?  We could have you learn a few new skills… You could learn how to knit, or stitch, or get your amateur radio license, or rock climb, or volunteer to help out a scientist, or learn geology, or cook, or learn to snowboard, or become a mechanic…  There’s always something going on and things to experience down here.  Rarely is there a dull moment.

I can hear someone asking this in my head, so here’s the question and answer.  What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen so far?  I’d have to say a kite, which is also perhaps the most memorable object down here.  It is the windiest continent in the world, but it never dawned on me to bring a kite.

Oh this seems like it took forever to compile and write, but I doubt I hit it all, so you’ll probably see updates and add-ons as I get them.  Let me know if you have questions or comments.  I’ll try and compile a video of the various sporting activities that I have seen so far and post it.

Hope your warm and comfy! 🙂

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