December – Part Three – Why, hello 32! Birthday Part One

December 16, 2013.

Ah, my birthday.

The day I finally hiked Ob Hill.
The only day of the week that I was able to walk normally due to incredibly sore legs after said hike.

I started out my birthday at the fire house. At two minutes after midnight, I received what I would consider my first birthday present, a call to dispatch the guys on. Yes, I am a horribly wicked woman. I love waking up the kids in the middle of the night. Especially when I was getting out of work early.

Due to holidays, skipping meal breaks, and coming in on my off time, I was able to cut out of work and around 12:30. Once Cindy, a fellow dispatcher, came in from getting her mid-rats meal, I went home to change and grab my camera. I stopped off in the galley for a sandwich to take on my hike as well. My original plan was to be on top of Ob Hill at 04:02 AM. Why? 04:02 am is the actual time of my birth. Yes, I know I’m in a completely different time zone and that I was planning on being up there 18 hours before 04:02 am on the east coast, but c’est la vie.

So, after going to my room, changing and opening up my birthday gift from Rick and one of my gifts from Aunt Victoria, I had my bag loaded and was ready to tackle the hill.

I headed up the road and was shortly at the point I had reached before, but never went past.

I took a moment to look around at the town which was quietly sleeping, for the most part. The sky was a stunning shade of blue and a few wispy clouds swept their way across the azure.

I turned the opposite direction towards Castle Rock and Mt. Erebus and saw fog rolling in. The base of Castle Rock was obscured, as was part of our most active volcano.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned it before? We live pretty darn close to Mt. Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world.

Right, next it was onward and upward.

My next stop was at the podium where the guest log book was SUPPOSED to be located, however, due to constant weather changes, the box it lives in was being replaced and there was no book on the podium. This means I’m going to have to climb the hill again so I can sign it.

As I got closer to the top, I kept staring at the cross and trying to figure out how much longer it would be to get there. It reminded me of being in New Zealand with Rick, hiking Mt. Sinclair and him reassuring me “it’s only 30 minutes before we get to the top” even though the summit looked DAYS away.

Remember, I’m from the flatlands, I don’t do up very often.

Then I reached a point in the path that divided. One trail went to the left, the other to the right. The problem I had was, I couldn’t see the cross any more. I wasn’t exactly sure which way to go. So I took the path to the left.

Then I discovered I chose poorly.

I was standing in front of a pretty steep incline with no more trail upwards. There was a part that lead around to the back side of the hill, but I know that I am a rather clumsy individual, and it would not be wise for me to attempt that trail. I backtracked to where the path divided, and headed up the other path.

Lo and behold, there was the cross, the summit and the view. And the wind.

The windchill kept me from staying at the summit until my goal time of 04:02, but it was still a glorious view!

After I got chilled, I started down the hill. My legs were all wobbly and at one point I slipped on a rock and landed on another rock. I knew at that point that I would have a bruise on my hind-end.

I finished the traverse down the hill, happily singing Happy Birthday to myself to help stay warm.

When I got back to the room, I was exhausted and sweaty. I called Rick to thank him for my gift and to chat for a bit before passing out.

I needed my beauty sleep. After all, my birthday soiree was later that evening.

A view from the top

A view from the top

View from the top, again

View from the top, again

Proof that I was there!

Proof that I was there!

Peaking around from my hiding spot

Peaking around from my hiding spot

Ob Hill Cross

Ob Hill Cross

Beautiful birthday morning

Beautiful birthday morning

IMG_7577

IMG_7574

Castle Rock and Mt. Erebus

Castle Rock and Mt. Erebus

IMG_7569

Castle Rock, shrouded in fog

Castle Rock, shrouded in fog

December 2013, part two – Fire Expo

Dec. 07, 2013

Ah, the annual firehouse expo. This year it featured engine rides, trying out on the bunker gear, 5 alarm chili, and putting out a building fire. Okay, so the building and the fire were props, but it was still fun for those who gave it a whirl. I stood outside with the folks playing with the oversized water-hose and took a bunch of pictures of them. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sprayed until the very last person.

Or should I say thankfully.

Again, pictures to come.

A December Condiment – aka catch up time

Almost on the home stretch

Almost on the home stretch

IMG_6211

A cloudy yet pretty day

A cloudy yet pretty day

Wasn't climbing to the top this day

Wasn’t climbing to the top this day

John, a firefighter

John, a firefighter

IMG_6197

Pressure Ridge on the back side of Ob Hill

Pressure Ridge on the back side of Ob Hill

Me

Me

Keri, my coworker

Keri, my coworker

December 2013 – Part one

So much has happened in the past two months. I am having to remind myself of things that have happened via photos.

The end of the year started out much like the beginning of 2013. So many things happened, and quickly.

Dec. 04, 2013

With the weather becoming warmer at the beginning of the month, more outside activities started occurring. During the first week of December, I took a stroll about the Ob Hill Loop with two coworkers, Keri – a dispatcher and John – one of my firefighters. It started out being a lovely day, but the time we were on the back side of the loop, our ears were quite red and probably nearing frostnip status. At least mine were. My first season here, I got a slight case of frostnip on my right ear and am now more prone to it occurring. Despite that, it was still a good walk about.

Ob Hill Loop is probably my favorite recreational route. Due to the wind and fog at the top of the hill, we didn’t go to the top. However, it was that day that I decided if it was clear on the morning of my birthday, I was going to hike that damn hill.

Pictures to come!

47 and a wake up!

Since August 27th, 2011, I have spent 752 days in Antarctica.

I now have 47 days and a wake up left in the season.

I will have been here for 385 days if I leave here as scheduled on February 24th.

That means, I will have been on ice for a total of 800 days since August 2011 by the time I leave.

And now, I will begin the long task of catching everyone up on what has been happening since November.

Coffee.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few minutes trying to decide what to title this post. Over the winter, I volunteered as a barista, but now I have a part-time position with GSC (another one of the contractors here) as a barista/bartender.

I haven’t had the chance to work at one of the bars yet, so this post is simply about doing the barista thing, oh and coffee.

First things first, let’s talk about the ingredients we have to work with.

1. Coffee Beans – Antarctica is an extremely dry continent. To ensure that we keep as much moisture as possible in the coffee beans, we have to keep them in the bags and the bags sealed as long as possible. I generally don’t fill the grinder unless I have people in the coffee house, and then, I only fill it a quarter of the way. No one wants dry, funky beans as the base for their coffee.

2. Milk – Obviously we’re a long ways away from any place that we can purchase milk. To fix this problem, we have milk powder that we blend with water to produce Whole, Skim and Soy milk. We generally make our drinks with whole milk because it produces a better foam.

3. Sauces/Syrups – We have Ghiradelli Caramel, Chocolate and White Chocolate sauces. We also have Irish Cream and Amaretto syrups.

4. Liqueurs – We offer Kahlua, Bailey’s and Grand Marnier

5. Miscellaneous – I generally bring in cayenne pepper (for Zombie Slayer espresso shots), peppermint (for Peppermint Mochas). I also recently found an unopened bottle of peppermint syrup in skua that I’ve been experimenting with. Cinnamon, cocoa powder and nutmeg are also on hand at the coffeehouse for extra flavoring and latte art.

There is also a decent variety of tea kept there as well.

I’ve been working the “day bar” shift at the coffee house. Day Bar is held at the CH on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The best day shift to work is the Thursday morning shift because there are no other bars open at that time. Since the coffee house also serves wine, this is where the night shift workers go to unwind after their shift. The day shift hours at the CH are from 0630 to 1130. I generally get there around 0530 because I want more people (town folk) to have a chance to get good coffee before they head in to work.

So the first thing I do when I enter the coffeehouse is turn on the espresso machine. It takes around 25 minutes to warm up, so it’s important to turn it on early. After that, I start pulling out everything that I’m going to need – tampers, jiggers, whisks, syrups, sauces, wine bottles, etc. I unlock the cabinets to make sure the wine bottles I use on display match what I have available.

After I get everything set up, I go through and straighten tables and chairs, and I wash any leftover dishes from the evening before. The CH is open as a lounge 24 hours a day so there are often a few mugs and wine glasses that need to be cleaned.

Once all of the housekeeping chores are done, I make my first cup of coffee, for myself, of course. I’ve been on a cinnamon kick lately, so one of creations I’ve been consuming has been named the Caramel Cinnamon Amaziato. It’s delicious and it’s what I generally recommend to customers who have no idea what they want to try, they just want to try something new. I get a fair number of repeat customers for that drink only.

Enough rambling. Time for photos!IMG_0875

Drink in the making

Sauces and Syrups

The Bar

Coffee House Lounge

Wake Up or Unwind

Early Morning Tori

Sign

Fluke

Tea with steamed milk

Fleur

Step 2

Step 1

October flew by way too fast

Wow.  I can’t believe October is almost over.

The pace of this month was most definitely set by the new people arriving on station.  There were times when I had to deal with winter-brain frustration, which I’m sure did not give some people the best first impression of me.  Granted the evil day star has been over the horizon for quite a while now so in theory this whole fogginess that I’ve been dealing with should dissipate soon…  It’s just frustrating.  Sometimes, T-3 moments are amusing (like when I put toothpaste on my hairbrush last season), but it is kind of scary when I’m in the middle of giving an announcement over the radio, an announcement that I have probably made 100 times, and I blank out mid sentence.  I’m so thankful that my supervisor was working with me that day and that she has wintered before, and was able to finish my sentence for me without blinking.  And then she was able to explain to one of the new dispatchers that I wasn’t slow, that I had serious winter-brain.  The previous days before this incident, my new co-worker just kept looking at me like I had no business working here.

If you’ve never experienced the winter to mainbody transition here at McMurdo, the best analogy I can give for the changing of the seasons is this:  Imagine standing in a field or garden, somewhere that you are totally at peace, and then picture swarms of hummingbirds around you.  Nothing that means you any harm, but they’re constantly flitting about… they’re looking at you funny, they’re trying to get where they need to go, and you can’t move.  They’re speeding about, but you’re either standing still, or walking at a slow pace so you don’t draw their attention.

I’m starting to get back to my normal self though, which is good.  I’ve gotten used to the stimulant overdose – freshies, new people, new sounds, new smells (one thing you really notice down here are new smells).  I had a case of the crud that lasted about a week and a half. 

The hardest part of the past month was my winter-over family leaving me.  The ones from the firehouse.  The people that I ate almost every meal with, spent almost every evening with…  The people that saw me laugh, cry, sing and attempt to dance.  That family.  It was rough on me.  The last three were the hardest to say goodbye to.  The Thurmanns and I spent the past two winter seasons together, and the first summer I was here was also the first time Raymond spent a season here.  Their last 6 days on continent, I spent almost every hour of my free time with the three of them since I won’t be able to winter next year since I’m staying for the summer season.  Ah, Antarctica.  Once she wraps her icy fingers around your ankles… yeah, it’s easy to find comfort and community here.

Another difficult adjustment over the past month was getting a roommate.  She’s a sweet girl but after having my own room for 8 months, it was a bit of a shock to have someone else in there with me.  We get along great and since we work the same hours, we basically have the same sleep schedule.  Although this morning when we got home from work (every Sunday we work together), we spent an hour giggling from sleep deprivation and just being silly.  It’s a good thing that we don’t have day sleeper neighbors, or we would probably have woken them up.

So that’s just a bit of what is going on.  Hope everyone is well.

Pressure Ridge Tour

A few weeks ago, I signed up to take a pressure ridge tour.

Of course the weather turned crappy that day and I wasn’t able to go.

A few days ago, I signed up for another pressure ridge tour.

The weather decided to cooperate this time.

On Sunday, September 22nd, a few of us loaded up in a van and headed over to Scott Base to tour the pressure ridges. For an explanation on what exactly a pressure ridge is, let’s turn to Wikipedia for a moment –

A pressure ridge develops in an ice cover as a result of a stress regime established within the plane of the ice. Within sea ice expanses, pressure ridges originate from the interaction between floes, as they collide with each other. Currents and winds are the main driving forces, but the latter are particularly effective when they have a predominant direction. Pressure ridges are made up of angular ice blocks of various sizes that pile up on the floes. The part of the ridge that is above the water surface is known as the sail; that below it as the keel. Pressure ridges are the thickest sea ice features and account for about one-half of the total sea ice volume.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

We headed over to Scott Base to drop off the van and start our journey. It was just a small group of us, eight in total. As this was listed as a “photography tour”, we all got our cameras ready and started down towards the ice. The last time I walked down that path was when I did the polar plunge in 2012.

We hadn’t been on the ice that long when, all of a sudden, I’m face to face with the ground. I didn’t remember falling. I had leg on the ice behind me, and realized my right leg was down in the ice. I briefly had an “oh crap” moment. I quickly rolled over onto what I hoped was more stable ice and was helped up by one of the guys on our trip, Greg. Both myself and my camera were okay so we continued on our way.

The sky was a gorgeous blue, the sun was shining, and not a cloud was in the sky, until the end of our tour.

It was the perfect day on the ice.

pr13

pr1

pr2

pr3

pr4

pr5

pr6

pr7

pr8

pr9

pr10

pr11

pr12