Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ann Curry, Discovery Hut and the exciting answer to "How can I send Keri mail?"

First off, lots of people have been asking me, how exactly is it that I can send you mail?

To those people, I say, you are my favorite people in the world! God bless you and your mothers! The answer to your very valid question is, sending Keri mail is easy!

I am lucky enough to have an APO address, which means the cost is the same as shipping to an address in California. You can just scribble my little address (listed below) on your package or envelope, and send it by good ol' United States Postal Service. If you are sending items (and I highly encourage this practice) there's a little customs form to fill out, too, but it's pretty self-explanatory, and this can also be obtained at the post office. A special thank you to Amber, who apparently tried to me some food. I guess didn't like her order. But I appreciate the thought! And again, if you send me mail, I will send you Antarctica things! Yay! (How's that for shameless solicitation?)

So here's my address:

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

When will I get that mail? Well, that's another story. Let's do a little McMurdo Station by the numbers. As of last week there were 22,000 lbs (!) of package mail just sitting in Christchurch, waiting to get into McMurdo-ites hot little hands. There are about 1000 people here right now. So that means at least 22 lbs of that mail is mine! Ha! So let's just say, the mail service here is weather-dependent.

A few more numbers -- as of a few weeks ago, there were 240,000 cans of the world's worst beer for sale here (CD. New Zealand beer. Bad. Cheap. Bad.) They are trying to sell it to us for pennies on the dollar. I don't love beer, so I am not holding up my end of the bargain, but there are plenty of people here willing to take up my slack, and drunkenness ensues nightly.

The station's pretty crowded now, so here's another number .... we can pack 28 people into one room at McMurdo. It's the bunk room, for people housed here temporarily (and that can mean up to three weeks, at this place.) Also known as Man Camp (as it is the boys who get stuck there), it also smells exactly like you would imagine a place called Man Camp would smell.

Anyway, on to other topics. For example, guess who I ran into the other day?

For those who are emailing me asking me if that was me they saw on the Today show, yes, it was! I was hamming it up for Ann Curry's live shot (live from McMurdo at 3 a.m. here). I was being that loser that always drove me nuts when I was doing live shots, and lucky for me, I know exactly where to position myself so the camera would have to zoom in on poor Ann's pimples in order to box me out.

Actually, I wasn't the only one up at that time in the morning. This was possibly the Today Show's drunkest ever morning crowd. We all stayed up and made cute little signs. One of my favorite bands played, and you could feel the Antarctica love in the air. Even better than you could feel your toes. In fact, people made so many signs with Sharpie markers, that I almost asphyxiated while walking through the dorm hallways. My favorite is the "Poler" Bear sign. Funny on so many levels...

But beyond the general drunkenness, there is actual history here. A few weeks ago, I got a chance to check out my second historic Antarctica hut -- Discovery Hut, built by Scott, used by Shackleton, and just a short walk from my dorm.

If you've read about my walks out to Hut Point, Discovery Hut is the hut we are referring to.

The cross, on a hill above the hut, is there for another brave Antarctica explorer who made a bad decision somewhere that ended in death. It happens a lot down here.

This hut is smaller than Terra Nova, and wasn't ever really lived in. It seems to have been used mostly for storage. You can see here there is a dead seal carcass outside, still frozen from way back when, and some boxes of yummy dog biscuits.

I also had to get the obligatory photo of myself ... look mom! I'm an Antarctic explorer too!

Other pictures of the week? Not lots, as I spent a good chunk of the week sick in bed. But I did particularly enjoy this photo of friends heading off to ski. Note the fancy duct tape ski bindings neighbor Dave is about to use. (I hear those skis didn't actually make it all the way back to McMurdo Station.)

Also, please enjoy this cool Antarctica sky -- looking out from town over the sea ice runway. Cheers!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Halloween at McMurdo! Scary....

If you browse a lot of Antarctica blogs, you know this, but Halloween is a BFD in MacTown. It's weird, because without all the advertisers' holiday hoopla, I barely even knew Halloween was coming up, and it feels nothing like autumn here. But it happened, and it was great fun! Here are some pictures of the biggest Halloween party on the continent...

I dressed up as the Nurse from Hell. (Ask my former patients ... not too much of a stretch, 'eh?) What made me the Nurse from Hell? Well, aside from my devil ears, I told everyone I was just learning to start IVs, and I would only dig around a little... anyway, people really seemed to like my beer IV. I made lots of new friends that night...

Where's Waldo? Here is my friend Steve. I think he also channels Harry Potter. You decide.

My favorite costume. 'Nuf said.

This is my freaking fantastic roommate, Lizzie! And me too!

The Hamburglar!

Tee-hee! McMOrgy. How many naughty things can you pick out in this picture?

My favorite mad scientist!

Two-face, and my favorite McMurdo nudist on strike!

Very few holidays actually get celebrated on the actual holidays here. So this party went down October 27th. On actual Halloween, I thought, what might happen if I went trick-or-treating at McMurdo?

Hilarity ensues ...

I started out on my own, but picked up stragglers. (The cute little butterfly is another roommate, Whitney! We love Whitney!) We took pictures with all the people who gave us treats. The take -- several cans/bottles of beer, several shots, a cigar, a box of macaroni and cheese, actual razor blades, a cigarette, cookies, an old hamburger, an expired library card, a half-used bottle of conditioner, tea, Emergen-C, fruit leather, and even some actual candy. Here's a picture of the take (minus a few beers.) Pretty good deal for a few hours of shaking down my neighbors.

Bleach Master, Antarctica BBQ, Keri crimps her hair, The X-Files Sno Cat, and other random stuff...

They say it's a harsh continent down here. That's what we hear when we are inclined to complain about anything going on. It's a harsh continent.

One of the things that happens on a harsh continent in jano world is that we start to run out of supplies. Things like hand soap. And floor soap. And bleach. That's right, a couple of weeks into this season, we figured out the station had run out of liquid bleach until vessel (a big boat that arrives with supplies every February).

That means, as a janitor lead, I am the station's new bleach master, at least for our department. I have probably made 200+ bottles of liquid bleach from powdered bleach since I've been here, and expect to make many many more.

Here I am, in my quest to keep this station nice and disinfect-y.

We complain sometimes, but ordering supplies down here can be tricky. It's so much cheaper to send stuff by ship than by plane, that that's the preferred way of getting stuff to us. Problem is, when you go the way of the icebreaker, you need to get your order in two years (!) in advance. So if we need a particular cleaning supply, we can order it, and will see it sometime in 2010. It amazes me that there exists within today's internet world, a process that takes two years to fill a duct tape order. But that's this place. It's a harsh continent.

But of course, my life isn't just bleach making. The nice folks at the Carp Shop (that's where all the cool carpenters hang out) invited the janos up for a little Antarctica BBQ last night. So while you all may be just finishing your little North American grillin' out season, we're just starting to fire up our grills here. Who would have thought I'd be grilling out on the harsh continent?

By the way, great view from the carp shop, up at the top of town.

Here are some pictures of the wonderful people I work with. I love them all! It's so cool to around such fantastic people every day.

Next, I thought I would throw in some photos of one of two Sno Cats here on station. One of these was used as the Sno Cat Mulder drove around in the X-Files movie. He came to Antarctica woefully unprepared. He had no hat, no gloves, but he did have a Sno Cat. So, if anyone remembers how much I love the X-Files, you can imagine how excited I am to get to see this one! David Duchovney, why don't you love me?

There are a lot of theme parties here. They need to keep us busy so we don't hammer attack each other. (Yes, not so long ago, there was a hammer attack here. Sometimes people get all stir-crazy and such). So to stem the tide of hammer-related injuries, they like to get us all dressed up! Here is friend Chris at the Polie Toga Party.

I get dressed up too! Last night was 70s/80s night. I skuaed a crimper, and voila! I AM the 80s. Also a picture of friend Hally in her fabulous 80s-ness.

I thought I would throw in a picture of Chris Mallon for his mom. We are enjoying torturing him, as his mom is very sweetly finding Antarctica blogs online, and inquiring about her son's well-being. We love you Rose! We keep telling Chris to call you more often.

This hole appeared in the wall near my room. How did it appear? As most of these things do down here -- as if by magic. What is funny, is that the longer the hole remains, the more people are falling in love with it.

Last, thought I would toss in some pictures of the tourist signs. I am a tourist in Antarctica. How crazy is that?

Ice Runway!

They fly in big boy planes down here. Big big planes. But it's pretty rocky and volcanic and cliffy and icy and all that good stuff, and so what's a government outpost in Antarctica to do? Land the planes on the ice! For now...

Right now, Mac Town's ice runway is right in front of the town. You can watch planes coming in from just about any point in town, and it's about a five minute drive out on the ice to a little collection of shacks that supports the runway. This is NOT actually where the plane I flew on landed. That site is called Pegasus, and it's 30-40 minutes out of town. The runway currently in use was built over several weeks by people who came here when I did. Eventually, the ice here will melt enough that planes can't safely land anymore (it needs to be 80 inches thick) and people will have to fly in much further away from town.

I get out here from time to time, as there are a few bathrooms out here (think of the kind of bathroom you would use at the county fair) and we, as janos, get to clean them! The good deal -- we get to get out of town, and even see Mt. Erebus, the active volcano not so far from us. Here are some pretty pictures of our lava-filled friend...

Uh-oh! What if she explodes! Sometimes Erebus does, although from the pictures I've seen, the lava generally cools so quickly that it falls as solids, not a lava flow. Of course, I do hear that there is an emergency action plan in case of a really big explosion. My plan -- get in the nearest vehicle headed for the nearest plane, and get on that plane ASAP.

Here are a few more pictures of the cool buildings at the runway, and some of the awesome equipment one can find there!

I am an Antarctica firefighter!

So for those of you who don't know, Antarctica is the driest continent on this happy little planet, and that means my long thick hair air dries in minutes, and my skin is nice and scaly, and my mucous membranes are dry, and my fingernails crack ... and if anything were to catch fire down here, it would burn, baby, burn in a sobering amount of time. Since I could only survive so long without actual buildings down here, that would pretty much suck.

But guess, what? We're in good hands, because this tiny little town has it's very own McMurdo Fire Department!

Here's the station -- Station One, they call it, because they actually post firefighters out on the sea ice runway from time to time also, and that's Station Two. Wisconsinites, take a close look at that fire truck .... that's right! It's a Pierce fire truck, made in the USA by the good Pierce truck folks in Appleton, WI. I thought that was pretty cool.

Anyway, the nice folks over at MFD allow some civies like me to come in from time to time, so last month, I got to suit up and spend some time as an Antarctica Firefighter (for a day!) Here I am with the coolest chick I know here, my new roommate, Lizzie! Yay! We love Lizzie! She is an ACTUAL firefighter from New Zealand, employed here at MacTown. She is also way cooler than me!

Not only did I get to help do some fire inspections, check out the trucks, go along on a fire alarm call and hang out in dispatch, they were also crazy enough to let me drive.

Check out the tires on this thing! It's called a Mat Track, and steers, oh, not as well as tires. But totally fun to drive. Plus, as one of the guys explained to me, it's like a giant fire extinguisher on wheels. Basically, you could use this remote control (where the gear shift is on manual transmission cars) to control a nozzle mounted outside the truck, and the back is filled with the chemical. Pretty cool.

I got to drive the truck up and down the ice runway outside of town. I also had to help shovel out Station Two! Look at how deep the snow is! Look at my bulging muscles!

So anyway, it was a great day, and thanks to all the cool guys and gals for making it happen. Love the fire department here! Good fun!