Friday, December 29, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Hanging with the Locals

This looks like a photo-shopped photo, but it's really us, "posing" near an actual Emperor penguin hanging out by himself out on the Ice shelf. Now that these guys are rock stars, it was pretty thrilling to get to see one. They are beautiful birds. I saw a few Adelies two seasons ago, none at all last season, so I guess patience paid off in the penguin sighting department. I have a photo of myself with Robert Plant, one with Werner Herzog, and now one with the big Emperor. But really, these cheesy snaps are just momentos to mark life's little exciting moments - stuff to show people to prove that I had a pretty fun life...but none of the abovementioned captured moments compare to the rich experiences I've had with the other "guy" in the photo...Happy Holidays to all those reading this blog!

Stellar Axis = Boondoggle!

Boy, has this been a great season for getting to hang with the Artists & Writers grantees for this Antartic cubicle dweller. These photos are of the Stellar Axis Project by Lita Albuquerque, a conceptual artist who has a detailed and interesting narrative on this project that I won't even attempt to relate here - aside from all the geek speak, it is just plain cool as hell to look at! Especially in the white out condition where I found myself during my official "boondoggle" to get out of the office. I worked with a team of 5 others anchoring the 55 small balls into the snow. The spheres are in the pattern of stars of the southern sky, so their placement is not random. I cannot beleive how much fun I had doing this - mostly because I got to work with Simon, the scientist on the project, who is not afflicted with the coating of 4 months of labor camp crankiness that has descended on me & other townies. The other reason it was so much fun is because I love this weather....give me white out, blowing snow sideways, near blizzard conditions and I my spirts really soar. So many people whine & cry when the weather is like this & want it to be oppressively sunny all the time, and I don't get it. I am in such a minority with this that I get to go do cool stuff like this in this weather because no one else wants to. To me, it is so much more surreal & otherworldly to see these blue spheres this they are posed in front of a swanky cyclorama - no horizon - no sky - just a void of empty stillness. Snow started collecting in little blobs on the sides of the spheres, and it looked like they were wearing little tortured mouths...they had personality that changed with the weather. We bonded. It was magnificent. I was only out for a few hours but my spirits were so lifted after being out in the cold & working on a project that I begged to be part of the takedown crew. At around 5:30 Will came by in his truck & gave me a quicker ride back to town (after posing with me with "Sirius", the biggest sphere) as we'd gone out in the Pisten Bully. All in all, a grand afternoon!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Saying Goodbye to New Friends

These photos are of Anne Aghion's film crew, who were here under the Artists & Writers Program of the NSF. Anne, Rich and Sylvestre were an absolute delight to get to know & hang with. They have been here since the first day of Winfly, were out in the field for 7 weeks, & just came back last week & left today. Anne is from Paris, Sylvestre resides in Quebec, and Rich is a Brooklynite. They were everywhere with their camera & giant boom mic, filming people eating, bag-dragging, sorting mail, washing dishes, bowling - as well as getting to go all the cool places us townies may never see as station workers - places I'll probably have to come down as a fat-walleted tourist to see. It is ironic: for one year now I have hung in ecstatic anticipation of meeting the iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog. I got to meet him, and tried not to be a sycophant slinking around trying to somehow get more deeply into his psyche - which I inevitably got to do by participating in the several talks he gave to the community, and more so by getting to visit with him a bit on a one to one basis - but he was so busy filming & flying all over the place that I didn't develop the casual friendliness that happened with Anne's crew. I was probably also holding back & not wanting to bother him with my obviously star-struck, social ineptness. But with Anne, Rich & Syl there was teasing, baudy tales, long dinners with roaring laughter & real conversation. I made some new friends - delightful, funny, creative friends. So the irony is that by the time the 120 pax left this morning, it was the filmmakers I wasn't anticipating meeting that were the hardest to say goodbye to. Herzog left too, and I waved at him feeling truly honored to have been in his aura - but Aghion's crew touched my well as my "so-well". Bon Voyage mes amis!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Just passed the 100 day mark...

I know it's been a very long time since I've written, but I've been a little "crispy" lately...actually they call it "toasty" here - right around the 100 day mark, a lot of us that arrived Winfly were starting to meltdown, get cranky, blow up over small things. We are cooped up & ready to get out of town! Luckily, my boss knows I can't be trapped in an office all day so I get to go out & hang out inside milvans (pictured above inside that big ugly steel box)...the other picture is just me sitting outside, enjoying the warm weather. My birthday was awesome, with Will taking me on a special "boondoggle" and treating me to a much needed massage. The Thanksgiving holiday was great...Herzog has been hanging out with McMurdans & showed his new feature film to us that is coming out in the states soon ("Rescue Dawn"). It is a terrific film, and a true story...we are all starting to make rough post-Ice travel plans, now that our stints are half over. It is good for me in the "crispy" moments to look at the bigger picture of coming down here: great cheap travel opportunities and a job you don't have to give two week notice for in February. Will write again soon - must get back to my data entry!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Meeting Herzog

As much as I don't want to title a post with the cliched 90's gerund, it just seems appropriate this time. 25 years ago I sat enthralled in the cinema classes I was taking as part of the film production degree I was earning at the University of Texas. The main part of the program was the technical part of making films, but I used my extra hours taking foreign film critique classes that expanded my knowledge of great filmmaking throught the world. I was exposed to Bergman, Ozu, Bunuel, Godard and many great barely viewed auteurs. One of the filmmakers whose work seemed to really speak to my soul was that of the intense & dynamic German director Werner Herzog, who coincidentally, is the person standing next to me in this photo - just another day hanging out in Antarctica! It seems like I have gotten more than my share in the last few years of meeting some of my idols: I held hands with Springsteen during a song where he crooned to the people who were standing in the front row. I danced onstage with Elvis Costello at an Austin City Limits show in 2004; and got to meet Sir Edmund Hillary my first season on the Ice. But I never thought I'd meet Herzog - it just seemed too....farfetched. I remember c. 1981 sitting around some shabby Victorian house in Austin, drinking wine with a bunch of intellectuals/punk rockers, feverishly talking over each other about art, music, films...and the standout memory of that evening is of this giant black & white poster of a young Werner Herzog hanging on an otherwise blank wall. I tried to barter something for it with the owner, but it never became mine. Today, while I was hovering around downstairs at "baggage claim", awaiting Herzog's arrival, I was nervous & sweating- afraid that he might be annoyed by some gooney fan accosting him after his arduous journey halfway around the world. But he was gentle & kind, and generously gave me his attention while posing for this picture (thank you Shuttle Bill!). I sometimes assume people who are known for their creative brilliance will be disinterested in meeting anonymous fans - but Herzog was so charming & gracious, that I was a little bit I didn't actually deserve so much kindness from someone I'd admired from a distance - but then again, he's spent his life following his creative muse, which probably leaves one satisfied and agenda-less...but I'm going off an a tangent here that could go on forever. I'm just really really greatful for the surprises that have come my way.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What will they say....

...a zillion years from now, from the Planet NeBaDon (on the 8th outer circle of the Blort Galaxy(tm) - when they look at the history books) - what will they think about this small colony of Polar workers on the frozon butt-end of former planet "Earth" and what they did for "fun" on their only night off? Hopefully, there will be surviving diaries like this one (and the 1000 others on this same blogger about the same labor camp & same 70's party) where they can read with a mixture of awe & malaise about how long work hours, lack of external stimulation (ie: billboards, media, shopping) and grubby oil-stained uniforms causes one to dress up like an escaped mental patient & dance with wild abandon to heinous 70's disco music, dirty dance & make out with sweaty people you don't even know. (btw, EYE did't make out with anyone I didn't know, I just saw it all around me - EYE made out only with folks I've known at least since winlfy). Now, to date myself, I will confess that I danced to these "songs" when they first came out (and wow, we thought they were really great!), and if I remember correctly, there were no wigs, cross-dressers, or SS helmets involved in our costuming....just quiana (sp?) nylon, really bad hairdos, oh and those fascinating scenic polyester shirts on the men, unbuttoned to the smallest rib, full roiling chest hair on view....(back when men were'nt afraid of their own hirsuteness).

I think we work-fried Antarcticans just need a burst of color and wildness and loud music to compensate for the drudgery of the long work week. I personally love color & fluffy, shiny things much more when I'm down here, and others must feel the same. The interesting thing about the party scene here is that no matter what the theme ("disco", "rave", "goth", "white trash"), the garb of choice is always the same: "escaped mental patient cross-dresser w/fright wig looking for a halloween party". You couldn't pay me to do stuff like this off Ice, but on Ice, it seems perfectly....natural!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stormy Weather...

I wish I could post the movie of me in this is very dramatic, but in the meantime, here is a pic after a short hobble in the windy snow-blowing weather known as "condition 2". If I weighed 8 pounds less I might blow over, and no one is allowed to drive around or work outdoors as they may get hit by flying debris. During condition 1, everyone must stay indoors, as it is way too dangerous to go out. Right now I can feel the wind wobbling the building I'm in, & I can get just a glimpse of what those early explorers had to deal with (while sitting at my comfortable new ergonomic work station, nibbling 3 year old beef jerky, feet drenched in sweat as I'm wearing insulated footwear in a 75F office.) Yesterday Will & I were interviewed by a film crew for a film they are making about McMurdans, which will air on the Sundance channel sometime next year. I felt so dreadfully dull hearing my overly wrought monologue-style answers that I've heard myself wax on about my Antarctic experience for the umpteenth time....but who knows, I may not end up on the editing floor as I fear... Will had more exciting stuff to talk about, so maybe if they don't axe him, you'll still be able to see me sitting next to him, semi-serious interviewee look on my face, with my really bad Antarctic hair. For some reason, my hair looks really bad down here - guess it 's the dryness combined with wearing a hat a lot (greasy on top, fried ends). Speaking of hair, we dyed Will's hair last night with a beat up box of Miss Clairol we found in skua. The box showed a platinum blonde shade, but his hair turned out a hue that could only be called "luminous pale strawberry" now my heavy equipment mechanic boyfriend has a better dye job than I have. For lack of activities around here, people are always doing creative things with their hair: reckless bleaching overlayed with clown-wig colors, mohawks, pictures shaved into temples, girls going bald, guys braiding hex nuts into their beards...there's been a breakout of that lately, probably in preparation for the S&M rave this Saturday. I probably won't be attending, but I'll post if I hear anything juicy.

Can't believe I've been here a month already. 1/6th done = yippee!

Monday, September 11, 2006

More Great Pix

Ola blog readers! I had a fairly uneventful week, but my boyfriend got to go out to Black Island to work on generators (& the T-Rex, which broke a track on the way out). A group of 11 traveresed across the Ice shelf to BI, which we can see here from McM. But what is great is seeing our station from across the ice. The bottom photo is a view of McMurdo from Black Island (in the top left). It's like a glittery metropolis as seen from a highway out in the county. Our station looks so cozy from out there, and IS cozy compared to the blustery harsh conditions Will & the traverse team had. They had heated buildings & good food, but harsh working conditions. I spent the week in my warm cubicle, taking long walks after work in near blizzard conditions...I have to admit, I find it exhilarating - while the extreme heat just flattens me, the extreme cold invigorates; and there's no way I'm going to stay indoors & miss sunsets like the one pictured, which lasted for what seemed like hours & was utterly fulfilling. The last time I watched sunsets like this were in Oaxaca, Mexico, so it is surreal indeed to be seeing them here too. These seem more special, probably because they are so short lived, and seem almost..three dimensional...soon we will have 24 sun, so I am going to go out & enjoy all of these clear days, no matter how cold it is.

p.s. the other photo is of Will in his beloved T-Rex, "Nodwell" tracked vehicle that weighs over 18,000 lbs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Sun in Out!

It has been a very overcast Winfly until now - the sun came out a few days ago & now we can see gorgeous sunrises & sunsets. The full moon down here was spectacular - it seemed close enough to touch, and was so bright you had to squint as it bathed the town with a surreal orange-y blue light.

The purpose of Winfly is to construct the Ice Runway for the C-17 flights (which will be almost every other day throughout the summer (Oct-Dec)). Some of these photos are of the snowblasts & tractors which remove the snow off of the ice, so there will be a smooth surface for the runway, which is just outside of town. We can walk, jog and ski out to the Ice Runway, and they have their own galley. By December, the sea ice will become too unstable (slushy) for the big planes to land on, so almost overnight the buildings & accopanying detritus which support the runway will disappear, and Pegasus (the permanent runway used forWinfly & redployment (Feb) flights) will again be used.

I am learning my job easily, and right now don't mind so much being chained to a desk, but as soon as it warms up I'm sure I'll miss the rugged outdoor work I did last year. I am going to ask for an outdoor job during ship offload (Feb) so I can get a megadose of hard outdoor work. I've been going to the gym almost everyday for cardio on the treadmill as it's so easy to gain weight here will all the unlimited food being served...oh well, there's always skua* for larger pants!!

*skua: 1) depository of cast off items from people leaving the Ice (think of Wal-Mart after a tornado hits it), always great stuff - anything you could want (clothes, books, toiletries, and some rather dodgy items as well). 2) indigenous Antarctic bird, kind of like a seagull-like pidgeon, that hangs outside the galley looking for food.

It is now Saturday morning, and I'm looking forward to sleeping in and enjoying Sunday brunch. Will has been out at Black Island fixing generators & a broken Nodwell (T-Rex), so I look forward to his return as well ;-).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Settling in to Winfly

Sunday brunch is one of the best times of the week: homemade waffles, fresh fruit, sweet rolls, real eggs...all to enjoy for 3 liesurely hours in our one day off. My boyfriend, Will has to work a few hours on Sunday, so I read for while, then waited for him at the cozy Coffee House to watch a 4:00 movie. I had tried to go on a walk during the afternoon but my glasses freeze over from my warm breath & I can't see out of them. I'll have to start wearing goggles over them, as I have to have my lower face covered when it's this cold out (up to minus 40F with wind chill!). The pix attached are me & Will standing out in the evening on a particularly cold day.

I have signed up to host a radio show again (I've had a show the past two seasons) with a girlfriend I worked with last year in the Heavy Shop. I'm also thinking of getting a part time job either pinsetting or working at the video counter in the store...there are so many opportunities of stuff to do in one's free time.

I'm also attaching a lovely photo of penguins! We don't see these big guys here in Mactown...just the occasional Adelie model. Don't have too much more to say at this point...just working & training each day, and trying to get enough sleep. My room has warmed up to about 65 degrees so I can sleep in regular pjs instead of my ECW...more later!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

4th Day on Ice

Despite the -22F ambient temp, it is warm & cozy in my dimly lit, plastic flower laden office with celtic music in the background (which reminds me of my other favorite place on Earth: Ireland!). I have only deployed to the Ice in October in previous seasons (with 24 hour sun), so to be here in August & see pitch darkness & pink sunsets is incredible. There are also only 300 folks on station so far, whereas there will be up to 1100 when all the mainbody flights get in in October. Like everyone has said, Winfly (August) season is magical - walking up the hill to work this morning & watching the wind blow waves of soft snow across the ground under a streetlamp surrounded by an inky black sky - there are no probably isn't as stunning to someone from a cold climate, but I am from a place of perpetual blinding sunshine & oppressive triple digit heat for 5 months of the year. I hate hot muggy weather! I seem to thrive in this climate! I must've been a polar seal in a previous are some more pix, including some of the amazing giant vehicles used on the Ice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Down Under Part Three

I am in is cold, desolate, beautiful, dark, surreal, and most important: it feels like home. Do you think I'm kidding? Most people ask me how I can take the isolation & lonliness - these, of course, are people who've never been I got news for you! It is cozy & homey & filled with closeness & caring people who are all here for a common purpose: to support science research blah de blah blah..I could say all kinds of official sounding things about the station but you can read all about that stuff anywhere. What I hope to reveal in this extended missive is the elusive underbelly of why this place is so magical to me... of why I feel "safe" here...and how it has met long, deeply "intergenerationally entrenched" unmet needs in the deepest part of my soul.

Wow! That sounds heavy doesn't it! This is a place that pulls you are either drawn to the stark cold remoteness or you are not...and what you find what you get here your own self staring back at you with no defenses or barricades. But then, this could be only my personal experience!

I'll keep this initial post short..and here's a stunning photo of my plane arriving at the Ross Ice Shelf on August 22nd, 2006. More later!