"Special Meals"

Terry Trimingham - October 17, 1994
Communications Operator

    We arrived in McMurdo on 7 Oct. My flight was on an Air Force C141 jet. We had 125 passengers, one of the largest flights. It only takes 5 hours and I snoozed a lot of the time.

Right now I am working the evening shift at the radios, 5:30pm to 12:30am. There aren't that many people out there to listen for right now and so I don't have a lot to do. Consequently I have a lot of time to write letters! Actually, it seems I have all kinds of time as I get up around 9am and I don't have to be at work until 5:30 so I have the entire day to amuse myself.

I seem to sleep in or have a cup of tea and stare at nothing in the morning and I don't know where the time goes. At noon I go to meet my friend Rae for a walk. Most of the time she is there. The outside temps have been pretty chilly, averaging -10F or so, but with the wind-chill it is really cold, like -50 or more!. When the wind starts blowing it gets pretty nasty. One day I carried a box up there for Rae and I didn't have my hands free to cover my face. My cheeks got windburn and I am sure it would've been frostbitten if I hadn't gone in...brrrrr! I am really careful now to lather up with lotion before I go out, and pull my neck gaiter right up to my eyeballs so my face is covered. When we pull our neck gaiters up, our breath condenses and freezes on our eyelashes and sometimes one of our eyes freezes shut! Makes for a good spectacle when we walk in the chow hall!

Today Rae was sick at home, and I hope I don't get whatever she has. We have been around each other a lot. I am mostly re-acquainting myself with people that I have met in seasons past. This is my third season, and I am starting to feel like a part of the community here. There are quite a few people I am surprised to see come back, and some faces I miss. I think it will be a good season! :)

*********************** Thanksgiving McMurdo celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday to give everyone a two day holiday. Normally here we all work 6 days a week and take Sundays off. When holidays come we usually decide to celebrate them on Saturday, which allows us to take two days off which is a real treat! Of course, none of the scientists come in from the field, so that means that the radio operators still have to work 24 hours a day. We usually work 8 hours a day Monday through Friday and then work 12 hours on either Saturday or Sunday, and get the other day off. Holidays are no different to us than normal days.

I woke up in a cranky mood as I could hear people giggling and trotting down the hallways in the dorm. There was a festive tone in the air as everyone was excited about two days off. I had just finished work eight hours ago and was going to go back soon to another 12 hours of work. The more I thought of folks enjoying coffee with each other in their rooms, the more cranky I got!

Decided to go out for a walk to Hut Point. It was VERY windy, and I had to lean against the wind to get out there. There was a kind of fog in the air and ice crystals sparkling in a strange surreal way, very beautiful. I went out and back, but was still grumpy. Poor Marj (my roomie) got the brunt of it. I had also found out that I might not get to go to dinner since the guy who said he would relieve me was working 12 hrs from midnight to noon already (he didn't realize that was his schedule when he said he would sub for me). Marj was understanding and we walked up to the greenhouse together. She put up the hammock and settled in for a read; I proceeded to the ham shack.

There is a guy here who is also a ham operator, and he said he would show me how to run the radios here. Unfortunately he was also supposed to have a schedule with his brother, and by the time that finished I had to leave for work, so I never got to learn. I hope I get another chance.

Work was steady, and I did get relief at 3pm to join Marj, some of her carpenter friends and some of my scientist friends for the big meal.

It was very nice. We started out in the hallway with hors d'oeuvres before going to the dining hall (REAL New Zealand cheese and crackers, chicken wings, mini sausage rolls). Not only was there great turkey, but they had fresh fish, which was DELICIOUS!!!!! They also had a guy carving ham. There was stuffing, REAL mashed potatoes (we usually ONLY get the instant kind), brussel sprouts in hollandaise, all kinds of wonderful breads and rolls, a great crab and spinach salad, green salad, fruit salad (FRESH fruit, heavy on the strawberries!) We also had lots of pumpkin and pecan pie and a HUGE spice cake. (I am sure there was more, but I didn't take EVERYTHING!)

They had put table cloths out, but we still had to eat on the regular trays and there weren't any candles, but it was enjoyable. One of the carpenters brought wine, and I had a glass of that. My stomach still feels stuffed six hours later and I boxed up my dessert!

On the radios I hear the happy voices of scientists wishing me and others a happy holiday. I am still jealous of all the people that get two days off to enjoy with each other, but I had a good time and know I have a lot to be thankful for.

******************** Birthday Dinner in McMurdo

Last Friday night was the Birthday Dinner. Once a month foodservice gives a birthday dinner for anyone that has a birthday that month. You can invite a date if you want. Marj and I both had friends with birthdays in November, and as it turns out, both of them had b'days on the same day! We had invited them over to our room for a little celebration on their birthday and they in turn invited us to the dinner. It was VERY nice! The galley reserved 1/2 of the dining hall for it.

The dining hall at McMurdo has two sides, the "E" (for enlisted) and the "O" (for officers) sides. The navy still recognizes them, but the civilians don't. I can sit anywhere I want, but the enlisted Navy guys CANNOT think about the O side. It's funny, scientists tend to hang out on the O side, and tradesmen (mechanics, bulldozer drivers, etc.) seem to like the E side. The O side is a little smaller than the E side, and often after-hours it is reserved for meetings.

The galley staff set aside the O side for the birthday dinner. They had put tablecloths on the tables, set silverware on them, had folded linen napkins, candles, poured ice water, baskets of rolls. It was a lot like a restaurant. We also sat down to shrimp cocktail there and bottles of wine!

Normally when you go in to eat, you stand in line, take a tray (plastic, with lots of little compartments) pick up your own silverware, go through the line and take the food you want, then get your own glass and go to the table. There is no tablecloth, no bread basket, no wine, no candle, and paper napkins in dispensers, and NEVER a pre-set salad!

So this was VERY nice. Of course, we scoped out all the tables and found the one with the least amount of people and the most bottles of wine. We were joined by 2 guys from Scott Base (the base manager and a scientist).

The shrimp cocktail left a little to be desired. The peel and eat shrimp had been frozen before cooking, and 3 of my 4 were mushy and gross (kind of yellow-ish flesh instead of white and firm). Oh well, it is a harsh continent.

We also had tenderloin steaks smothered with onions and mushrooms, king crab legs, fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and duchess potatoes (a fancy name for mashed spuds that have been piped out...these were made from the instant dried potatoes, and I could taste the AGE of them, almost rancid). The rolls were nice and fresh, and the wine wasn't bad (hey, it was free!). They had a big chocolate cake that they cut afterwards too. We ate ALL of it and slurped up the wine too! We started the meal at 5:30 and were some of the last to leave at 7:30. I couldn't believe I had spent 2 hours in there, it flew by! It didn't seem like I had eaten in McMurdo! I felt like I had been to a restaurant. I hope I am able to go to my birthday dinner in January!

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