Journal from Terry Trimingham Week ending Saturday, December 24, 1994

Skua as a noun AND a verb... The South Polar Skua is a brown sea gull-looking bird. It is an opportunist and will steal penguin eggs and baby penguin chicks if it can. There used to be a lot of skuas in the McMurdo area scavenging through the garbage. They still come and hang out looking for food and whatever they can get, but it is slim pickings for them these days. They do sit on the top of food waste bins, and circle around where the old dump used to be (they aren't dumb!). At a BBQ you better hold your hot dog close, or a skua may descend from the sky and snatch it out of your hand, or off the grill!

In McMurdo there are recycling boxes in all of the dorms. Lots of people refer to them as "skua" boxes. You can go looking in them and score all kinds of goodies. When folks get tired of a T-shirt or shrink a sweater in the wash, it goes in the skua pile. I have found all kinds of things in the skua boxes: coffee pots, slippers, bath robes, humidifiers, jeans, pictures for the walls, bulletin boards, turtlenecks, sweaters, and even shoes! It is a fun way to expand ones wardrobe and quality of life down here. So, not only is there an animal called a skua, there is also the practice of being a skua, or going "skuiating" as we say. (It is very similar to scrounging or scavenging.) I have a great time frequenting the skua boxes to see what comes along!

************************** December 18, 1994 Hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. I found an Xmas tree in the skua pile when I first arrived, but it was in a box. Have never checked to see if it is a whole tree. My roommate and I hope to get it out this week and check it out, I guess I am late on that, only a few days to enjoy the tree and it will be time to take it down!

This week was very warm, summer set in! I think the average temps were right around 30F, and there wasn't much wind at all. Most of the buildings have thermostats that are adjusted for it being cold outside, so when it isn't cold outside, it can get unbearably warm inside! Especially places like the galley with all the bodies in there. It has been very warm in the radio room too. I stopped wearing sweaters this week; just shirts were more than adequate to stay warm!

There were a few days when we had light snow. I would wake up in the morning and see snowflakes drifting past the window, but could hear drips days at home - it was nice. One day there were icicles formed on the railings of the dorms, pretty neat. The warm weather also brought fog here and there and it fouled up the helo schedule a bit on a couple of days as they couldn't get through this big fog bank between McMurdo and the Dry Valleys.

I got a chance to take a couple of work hours on Monday and complete an index for the Castle Rock booklet we are trying to produce. I made a huge list of names of places you can see from the loop and told how and when they got their names. I went to the greenhouse in the evening. They are painting the new addition, and it looks slick. (Last winter some folks added on a kind of inside porch, a lot of windows all around). I saw that someone had had a party in the Greenhouse a few days earlier and left it a mess. Not only were there beer cans everywhere, they had taken chairs off a cargo line and left them in there. Some tomato plants and one of the cucumber plants were broken off (destroyed); also the lights were messed with somehow. I don't know why folks do things like that. On the good side, though, there were radishes ready to pick, LOTS of lettuce as usual, and it looks like some kind of beans had been planted...should be interesting. After taking all the greenhouse readings, I left, intending to help sort the big shipment of box mail that came in, but I couldn't find anyone in the mail room.

Instead I walked to Hut Point with a friend and enjoyed the still, warm evening. We watched one of the LC 130's (XD07) land on the ice runway. This was it's first flight down since the trauma it had last year, when it had a propeller fly off and cut through the fuselage out at the Geologist Range. They had almost left the plane out there for the winter! Tuesday we had a meeting about the play, and I said I would help paint the set the next evening. I spent some time skuiating in the "Elephant Barn" (the place where waste management works), and found a couple of good props for the play. I had a nice quiet evening listening to music and knitting; I even finished the sock I started two months ago!

Wednesday I went over to the set for the play to help paint. A number of the folks who said they would come didn't show up (as usual), but we were going right along. The director happened to walk in when we were 3/4 done and said that the color was wrong! Now we have to wait for them to get another color and do it over again. The next day after work I got together with a friend and she coached me on how to turn a sheet into a pair of curtains for the play set. It took a lot longer than I thought, but I think the finished product will work (it still kind of looks like it was once a sheet to me!).

Saturday was my day off, but I also had to change my sleep pattern. I got up at 7:30 and called a woman I had just met that also had Saturday off. She and I met at 9:00 and took our skis to do the Castle Rock Loop. It was overcast and CALM! There was about 4" of new snow all around the loop, deeper in some areas than others. We had had that light snowfall for a few days and no wind to scour it away. I am glad we had our skis as the conditions were almost mushy, and we were sinking in when we walked. It was one of the few days I wish I had a pair of gaiters here! The ice runway was being moved to Willy Field that day, and we could watch the buildings slowly move along the ice road in the distance. It was the first day that the snow road between Willy Field and Scott Base opened too, and already at the transition it was MUSHY and weird. No more C-141's now, so that means less cargo space for fresh vegetables. I guess I will have to start learning to like 3 bean salad! The food has been pretty good so far.

The new weather channel on TV is pretty neat. They not only give the forecast for Mactown, they tell about weather at Scott Base, Dry Valleys, remote camps, and give high/low temps for major US cities. I enjoyed looking at it!

I am in the process of changing my sleep pattern to work midnights. I tried to take a nap before coming in at midnight, but it was impossible to sleep. I am going to be a zombie when I get off at noon! I missed the big Christmas party at the Helo hangar tonight, but I have to sleep SOMETIME. Tomorrow is the "Polar Plunge" at Scott Base, but since I will have just finished working and will have been up for over 24 hours I am not going to attempt it. I don't want to push it! Every year they cut a hole in the ice at Scott Base and folks strip down to their shoes and take a plunge in the ICY water!!! I think they are NUTS! They are also having a 2 mile "fun run" in McMurdo and I am going to miss that too. There is so much going on here that it is hard to try to do everything!