This is the second day of my transition to night crew. Not that it matters, because the sun will be looking over my shoulder the whole time. I have been sleeping a lot late into the day, and drinking coffee and watching football games late into the night on the TV far more than normal over this weekend to adjust my habits from am to pm. This should be easy for me, as when I was a bachelor, and the band would be playing late into the evening, I would sleep late into the next day and become a night owl – or a Vampire – with very little prompting. Now after ten years of a very happy marriage, I find it a bit more difficult to make the change. Believe me, I have no problem sleeping Saturday away, Jenny will confirm this, but I somehow manage to always make it to work on Mondays at my regular 5:00am. I consider myself unusually fortunate that my transition period started on a Saturday, and will continue late into Monday, but what am I gonna do with all this time?
Well, I’ll tell ya! Because there are restrictions against overtime, the management of the facility has implemented lots of extracurricular activities to keep people moving and engaged. There are 3 different gyms available, as well as the Ross Island Trail system to explore for those of us with a bend for physical exercise. We have a craft room available with two sewing machines and bountiful supplies of paints, colored paper, stencils and books to learn everything from calligraphy to origami. They have a tool box there, that should be in the Vehicle Maintenance garage, (it’s huge!) full of scissors and glues, exacto-knives and putty, ribbons and sequins, images of Penguins galore!
We have Crary laboratory and free tours of their facility to show off the multitude of scientific achievements that have been generated in Antarctica over the years. Everything from video of this past springs eruptions of Mt. Erebus to the skulls of the various seal types to be found on the coasts. Crary has it’s own library housing many of the important documents of the original Naval base activities here a McMurdo as well as displays of the transition of Naval to Air Force support of this facility.
The Coffee shop is very popular because of it’s massive collection of board games and puzzles, it also hosts live music from time to time, and can show movies in one of it’s side rooms. It is an old military Quonset hut so the acoustics are terrific. This is also the place most popular for staff meetings because the movie room is filled with row after row of full size sofas, very comfortable. We have too local taverns, one with a large dance floor for CW dance classes and Saturday night band performances and the other is quite small with shuffleboard a pool table and seating for about 60.
The Ross Island Trail system includes footpaths to the top of Observation Hill, which commands an excellent view of McMurdo Base as well as the harbor we open for the resupply vessel expected at the end of January. There is a much longer path around the base of Ob-Hill for those of us with a fear of Heights. (That would be me.) All around Ob-Hill are amazing views of the Antarctic, the Ross ice shelf and in the distance Mt Erebus, the active Volcano I have mentioned in earlier reports. On a calm day, you can see the smoke rising in the endless blue skies. There are other trails you can take, which last between two and six hours. For these you must follow very specific guidelines, always travel in at least a team of two, carry an emergency radio and special safety gear, file an itinerary and fill out travel forms with the local Fire Department. That may seem like overkill, but the weather can change in minutes and we have to know how to find you if it does. The mandatory extreme weather gear and training we all get when we arrive covers most situations, but for people like me, first time on the ice can easily prove disastrous for the poorly equipped. Much better safe than sorry.
We also have regularly scheduled events like the Masquerade Ball and the Christmas party. Each weekend has several events planned of one size or another to get people involved. Socialization is a big part of the managements responsibility, especially at this time of year when people are missing their families over the holidays and beginning to count the days till they return home. We have a long ways to go before that ship is unloaded and stored away. And we need everyone healthy and at their best.