First Annual 29th Birthday.

Wow, it’s been a crazy birthday here in Antarctica.  The craziest part is the fact that we’re one day ahead of the United States so I had a birthday here on the 8th and then a second one on the 9th.  48 hours of birthday is just the right amount of time.  Let me give you a run down of the days’ activities.

Day one – December 8th (or December 7th)

Unfortunately I had to work on this day, but that’s ok because it was my final day of official training for my new job as a power plant operator.  For those of you who do not know, one of the power plant operators has left due to his contract ending and another will be leaving in about three weeks.  As far as we anyone here knows, there is no one lined up to cover the positions, so they started training me. 

Work was pretty mellow compared to the day before when I was running around starting engines, shutting down engines, draining glycol, adding oil, opening louvers, etc.  My first activity of the day was tearing/cutting up some bed sheets to make more rags.  The rag bin is outside and on my way back in, I slipped and fell.  Some of you may not know, but Eli and I have been joking about how my super power is falling down and hurting myself.  Well, Captain Falldown struck again.  I somehow sliced my hand open on a rough spot when I fell on the ice and started bleeding all over the place.  I headed to the hospital with fears of stitches.  The nurse originally thought I’d need them, but after cleaning me up a bit decided I would be fine.  What a way to start off one’s birthday, huh?

After work I got bundled up and took a hike out to Hut Point.  Hut point is a peninsula nearby with a great view of the McMurdo Sound and one of Scott’s early exploration huts.  Three things happened out there….1) I saw a big fat seal hanging out on the sea ice, 2) I ate a snickerdoodle (my favorite cookie), and 3) I peed on the sea ice.  I can’t quite explain why, but I absolutely love peeing outside (especially in Antarctica). 

Hut 10 is basically a fully functioning house here on station with a kitchen, laundry room, living room, dinning room, and a few bedrooms.  It’s used for visiting presidents and dignitaries but when it’s not used for that people can rent it out for the night.  Ben and Neoma rented it out and had a few people over.  We watched Goonies and ate fresh carrots that Ben somehow snagged from the freshie supply. Awesome.

Next it was off to the carpentry shop for a party.  To be honest, I’m not a big party person mainly because I don’t drink, but when there are other things happening, I can have a great time.  The people in the ‘carp shop’ sure know some great party games.  One game consisted of several people sitting around a big hunk of wood with a few nails sticking out of it.  While wearing safety glasses, each person would take a very small headed hammer and try to point blank hit their nail into the wood.  Sounds boring, but is quite fun.  The second game was one of the best games I’ve ever played.  The way it works is this: a paper bag is placed on the floor and each person, while standing on one leg, tries to pick up the bag with their mouth.  After each round, an inch or so is cut off of the top of the bag.  I only tried once because I’ve got a banged up knee and a fresh cut on my palm and when you’re no good at this game you end up on your knees and palms pretty quickly.  Eli, however, was absolutely amazing at this game.  He was like a robot that had been designed specifically to win this bag game.  Most other people would wobble around and then do a face first last ditch dive to snag the bag and then quickly try to jump up.  Eli would just slowly but surely lower himself inch by inch, bite the bag, and then slowly inch by inch stand up….no big deal.  Amazing. 

Day two – December 9th (or December 8th)

The night before Eli and I had been invited to join a scientist friend of ours (Nick) in a dive hut out on the sea ice to watch a test dive of one of the dive robots that was built on site by another group of scientists.  Wow.  So Eli and I woke up early and headed down to the sea ice.  It’s also hard for me to put into words how excited I get about walking on the sea ice.  Maybe it’s the fact that in a few months the ‘ground’ I’m walking on won’t be there, or maybe it’s just that it’s so flat near all of these mountains, but regardless, I love it.  We walked into the hut and met up with Nick.  The robot (Skinny as it’s known) is a long thin tube with a camera on the tip and small motors on the back and sides.  After the robot made it to the ocean floor we got to see fish, starfish, sponges, sea cucumbers, and loads of other crazy sea creatures.  It was amazing.  The other amazing part was that Nick controlled the robot with a controller that looked exactly like an Xbox controller.  When asked how difficult it was to control the robot, Nick said that it wasn’t so hard for him because of his years of video game experience.  How did I not land THAT job? 

Eli and I ran up to the Galley and I had by usual Sunday morning brunch (an omelet, heaps of fruit, grapefruit juice, and a sticky bun of some sort).  I quickly went back to my room and got my ECW gear on (extreme cold weather) and meet up with the shuttle going on the pressure ridge tour.  the pressure ridge tours just started this week and I just happened to walk by at the right time to sign up for one of the early trips.  My across the hall neighbor (Tom) was our tour guide, and he did a great job.  The pressure ridges are just off the shore near the New Zealand base.  They are caused by the McMurdo Ice Shelf rubbing up against the Ross Ice Shelf.  Pressure builds and the only way it can be released is through these giant ice formations that jut out of the sea ice.  And just to give you some perspective – McMurdo Ice Shelf : Ross Ice Shelf :: Rhode Island : the rest of the continental United States.  So we attached the stabilizers (spikes that go on the bottom of your shoes) and headed out on to the sea ice (yeah!).  Tom lead us over to the ridges and they were absolutely amazing.  From a distance the pressure ridges look like small frozen waves, but up close they are huge crazy mountains of ice!  We hiked through an amazing section, while constantly on the alert looking for cracks.  At one point we came around a bend and saw a seal hanging out on the ice next to a melt pool.  Everyone took their pictures as the seal stretched and scratched its belly; and as we were leaving, the seal applauded.  It was hilarious. There was one woman in our group who brought along five GI JOE action figures and I helped her set them up so she could take a few photos to send to her Army buddies.  I could continue to talk about the awesome pressure ridges….but a picture is worth a thousand words….or so I am told. This one shows the pressure ridges in the front and then across the back you can see Scott Base on the left (green buildings), Castle Rock in the center (the dark rock on the horizon) and Mount Erebus (the Snow covered Volcano on the right).

Today was also the McMurdo Arts (and farts) and Crafts Fair, which is a big deal around here.  The galley was totally packed with people, and I had a great time wondering around looking at all of the art being made here on station and I even bought a few things.  The best part, however, was seeing how popular Tiffany “Tia” Kramer’s jewelery was.  I had no idea.  I’m sure she made a bundle.  Congrats, Tia

Next I went to the McMurdo Coffee House to watch one of the Sunday afternoon Coffee House movies: 2046! This movie had been on my list of ones to see for a while and I was pretty psyched to see it, but about one minute in we realized that we wouldn’t be able to finish the movie….the bottom half of the subtitles were cut off.  I blame the Chinese…or whoever made that movie.  So instead I went back to my room and watched the greatest movie of all time: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. 

The Sunday night science lecture was about ice core drilling at WAIS Divide (West Antarctic Ice Sheet).  It is quite similar to the Andrill drilling project except it is bringing up ice cores rather than rock cores, and the drill site is in the middle of the flat white nothingness that is the middle of Antarctica.  My roommate, Karl, is at WAIS Divide as I write this….hope you’re keeping your sanity, Karl. 

Oh, I almost forgot….I got a lot of birthday lovin’ from various people.  Emails, cards, packages, banners, gifts, and a lot of “Happy Birthday!” yells.  Thank you all for your kindness…it really meant a lot.  I had a great birthday.  Thank you. 

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4 Responses to “First Annual 29th Birthday.”

  1. worstdukeever Says:

    wow n8! it sounds like you had an awesome birthday! because i was traveling all day long on your birthday to get myself back to granada, i thought about you alot. plus, i had just got this awesome bday gift for you. im thinking about trying to send it to you, but first of all… i dont really know how to do that from spain. and also, you might prefer to have it waiting for you once you get back. so either wait until i get home or wait until YOU get home. either way… you’ll be waiting. so deal with it. i love you and i love hearing about all your adventures. and the photos are brilliant. smooches.

  2. Andyman Says:

    Yah, dude! Happy Birthday!

    I only discovered you’d been keeping up the website today. I read every Antarctica story at once–it was great! You give lots of awesome detail, and I loved reading it! I really like how the pictures fit in and I can view them instantly, too. real nice!

  3. Ellen Says:

    Nate-

    Since you had two days of birthday, …and you are frozen in time,…does that mean you did not grow 1 year older, …or that you are now two years younger? Go figure!

    Happy day!

    Love,
    Auntie Ellen

  4. ianphillips Says:

    Here you go, buddy. I’m back on the blogglesphere!

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