Monday, October 22, 2007

Yes, I still exist

Is Keri still alive? Friends and family, you may (or may not) be happy to know that yes, I still am. Yes, it has been several weeks since I have posted any entries here. Now you know what my journal feels like. I lost in in the grand morass that was my room a few weeks ago, and just recently found it, so maybe I'll have to do a little catching up there as well.

So I've got lots of updating to do. Brain's kind of fried right now, however, so forgive the Antarctica fuzz. I also have tons of photos to share, but I'm not hooked up to a computer that can access them right now, so those will also have to wait for later.

First off, Rose Mallon. Yes, I know your son, Chris. He lives in the same dorm as I. He is behaving himself. We like to get him to drink beer so he becomes more talkative! I am taking lots of embarrassing photos of him I will eventually post here, although I told him I was willing to refrain from posting if he called you more! We are all working on embarrassing him for you!

Second off -- yay for boxes!! Thanks to those sending me wonderful things in the mail! You would not believe how good non-expired food can taste! Really really really really appreciated! I will, of course, meet any and all mail that arrives to me with fun things found here in Antarctica! Be the first on your block with official McMurdo Station merchandise! Send mail to Keri!

Life rolls on here ... slowly adjusting to the massive amounts of humanity roaming the halls. There are a lot of people bound for the South Pole who are just hanging out here waiting for weather good enough to land there. It makes it really hard to get access to a computer or to the laundry! But it continues to be good people, all around. Just lots of them.

The other thing is, now that mainbody has arrived, you have to jostle a bit harder to have the grand Antarctica experiences that we're all here for. Plus, more big bosses have arrived. Boo.

I had an overnight work shift this weekend and did confirm that it's light all through the night now. I believe tonight is the last official sunset here for the summer, but it's storming outside, so we can't see it anyway. Now it's daylight 24/7, baby.

Anyway, if you are interested in being my pen pal, I love mail!

Keri Nelson, RPSC
McMurdo Station
PSC 469, Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

Sunday, October 7, 2007



There are a lot of people here.

They are coming in by the hundreds, plane after plane after plane, and are very very cool.

But there are a lot of people here.

We're about halfway through the big push of mainbody now. We're twice as big as we were population wise, and will be 4x as big by the end of next week. I have this social pathology where I feel like I want to introduce myself to, and be friends with, every person who is arriving, but it is wiping my ass out! I need to take a break, I think. I'm just very very tired.

Good news -- a new roommate arrived and she is amazingly cool. Her name is Liz, and she's a Kiwi firefighter -- the first female Kiwi firefighter at McMurdo. Very chill girl, and I'm very lucky to have her.

I am spending more and more time retreating to my fort, now known as the Zen Palace (I have a few rock waterfalls in there) just to have a little private time. I am also assembling what looks like a fairly competitive volleyball team. McMurdo volleyball rules are pretty forgiving, which means I can do not-quite-textbook sets and not get in trouble. So that's good news too.

Every Sunday night, one of the beakers (scientists) gives the Sunday Night Science Lecture, to let us grunts know about the actual science that goes on down here. Tonight -- the work at the Penguin Ranch, where they actually leave town and set up a penguin corral, strap cameras and computer data recorders up to them, and let them swim around and record information about what they are up to. It was pretty interesting, and they're finding that these guys operate with unbelievably low oxygen levels during dives. Heart rates fall to as low as 6 beats per minute when they are at their most active. Crazy stuff, and you can check out some of their underwater footage during some of the dive portions in March of the Penguins.

That's it for tonight. Wish me sweet dreams! Tomorrow, I get to suit up and become an Antarctica Firefighter for the day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Penguins! Mainbody! Keri builds a fort!

Well, the planes have started flying, and I've got a couple hundred more new neighbors now. Mactown is starting to fill up as the McMurdo Mainbody season begins. That means our little 300+ community grew to 500+ and by the end of next week, will be 1000+, and the Antarctic summer season has begun! It's starting to get crowded!

This means I get to adjust, and accept the fact that soon, I will have to share my room with 2 more people. That's four total girls in one little space! Oy vey!

Roommate Whitney and I (mostly Whitney, because she is strong! And motivated! And not lazy, like me!) took down our bunked beds and made little partitions in our room, so we have little mini-rooms in the "larger" room. I kind of feel like I'm living in a tenement, because there are sheets hanging everywhere, and I suddenly have no space. But it's kind of cool, in that the bed I'm in actually can be made to be very high off the ground. So high, in fact, that I've decided that instead of using it for storage, I think I am going to use it for a fort! My friends agree! I am going to put in a disco ball and pirate flag, so if you want to send me things for my fort, I would be very happy!

Below is a picture of some of my friends under my bed, I mean, in my fort, last night.

It's been a great week! New friends flying in every day, a fort under my bed, guess what? This freakin' FNGee got to see some Emperor penguins on Sunday, and that pretty much kicks ass. Contrary to popular belief, we don't get to see penguins every day here. There are a lot of people here who have never seen the Emperors, so I count myself lucky! Our tour guide told us she had been out do this tour 40 times, and had never seen Emperors. Here's my little adventure in pictures...

Set out Sunday in the Deltas to go out to Cape Evans, and the hut, Terra Nova, where Scott based his expedition to the South Pole. (Long story short, he made it there, found he was beat by the Norwegians, didn't make it back). The Deltas are cool, and another awesome Antarctica vehicle I've been privileged to ride in while I've been here.

The day was as cold and crazy as I've personally seen it here. We drove 2 hours out on the sea ice, and it was so windy I could put my full weight against the wind and keep standing straight up! Ice cold! Crazy! It was the first time I even got a whiff of what Antarctica could be all about. Here's a picture of me blowing away!

On the way there, we were amazed to see some very special guests. They looked cold! But very cute! I am geeking out, but I just can't get over seeing these guys in their natural environment. It just blows my mind that moving around out in that crazy weather is their life. They were just trucking along, then they would get in a circle and stand around, wave their little flippers, and then one would just start walking again. So awesome. I want to name them all, but I will refrain. (Thanks to my friend Tyler for two of these pictures. The good ones.)

So between the Delta ride and the penguins, my day was made! But we weren't even to our destination yet...

Above is Terra Nova, snowed in. This hut was built in the early 1900s. We can only use flashlights inside, and can't touch anything. The cold has preserved it so well, that the food these guys brought down is still sitting there. It's weird to see Heinz products and other familiar brands in old-fashioned packaging, but looking like they were purchased yesterday. That's the deep freeze for you. I didn't get lots of photos, because it was almost pitch black, and the camera has trouble focusing in the dark. But here's one of the inside from friend Talie.

The scientists and explorers were doing penguin research as well. The little guy below gave his life to research a century ago. Still looks pretty good!

I told you that it was freaking cold outside! Here's me in my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear. Don't I look cold! I was!

Here are some friends huddled behind a snow/ice bank to stay out of the wind!

Anyway, it was a great day. My real dream of seeing penguins is now complete, although I hear there is a friendly seal named Lester that might pop up from time to time... stay tuned.

Finally, a great view of Mac-Town from Ob Hill, courtesy again, of Tyler. The daylight's here to stay! Bright as day at 11 p.m. last night...