Katy's South Pole Journal 17 March, 1995

...And what a day for a celebration! It's Saint Patrick's Day, there's a full moon (though we can't see it), it's our last weekend of sunshine and daylight savings time, AND I just found out that I've been selected for promotion to Lieutenant in the NOAA Corps! Wohoo! So we had a little "slushie party" at the Clean Air Facility today, and 22 people showed up! What fun.

The sun is spiraling closer and closer to the horizon, rolling around our field of view like a dog on a leash, slipping slowly toward the northern hemisphere, as if we wouldn't notice its escape. By next weekend we'll have seen the last of it, and we'll experience a twilight like none other: one that lasts for months! By May it'll be dark enough to see the aurora australis.

A Quiz: why do you suppose we couldn't see the full moon today?

The wind hasn't quit since the last time I wrote. Blowing snow has restricted visibility to less than a kilometer sometimes, and it sizzles against the Dome like grease in a frying pan. And every once in a while there's a rumble and a BOOM-- "Dome Thunder"-- and the whole place shakes.

We closed the two big "barn doors" to keep the snow from drifting into the dome, and the walk to work now includes climbing up a 15-foot snow drift, and tripping over sastrugi. Windchills are about the same... around -75, -80 C.

We had a "mass-casualty drill", to practice our firefighting/ triage/ emergency medical skills, and we all stashed some extra clothes out in summer-camp in case we have to move out of the dome. There haven't been any huge emergencies, but quite a few people have required stitches at one time or another, so it's good to be ready for anything.

For my birthday, Emily cooked cheeseburgers and spinach and tater- tots, and even some macaroni and cheese because that was my favorite as a kid! For dessert we had a scrumptious chocolate cake which was dressed up as a humungous Oreo cookie! Heaven!

One of the science projects is an anthropologists' study of group interaction. They're interested in the social dynamics of our group, and they're trying to determine how to choose people for other isolated communities, like crews for a trip to Mars. For the study, we fill out questionnaires about who we interact with and what emotions we've felt during the last week. I always circle "blue" but I never circle "sad"... I wonder what that says about me? We all had to take psychological exams before we could come here but they never gave us the results, so I don't know if they let us come because we passed the tests or failed them! My boss always says it's best not to be too crazy, but anyone who wants to winter at the Pole has got to be a little nuts... ;-)

Eight of us are taking French lessons and our "word for the day" last night was VACHEMENT. Translated literally, it means "cow-ly" but the French have a special use for it, like the way someone in Maine says "wicked", or someone in California used to say "totally". Try it out on your friends: it's pronounced "vash- mon" and anyone who knows French will get a kick out of it. C'est vachement facile, n'est-ce pas?

That's enough from me. Send warm thoughts our way, as we send the sun yours, ...

Cheers! Katy McNitt