Terry's Field Journal: assembling tents, international feasting and more (c) Terry Trimingham May, 1995

07 May 1995 The beginning of May started a countdown around McMurdo. Only six more weeks until Air Drop, then only six weeks until Winfly, and then only six weeks and we are GONE.

Last Tuesday I got a little reprieve from the heavy shop. I have friends that work in the BFC (Berg Field Center), and when they advertised that they needed help with some tents, I volunteered.

They had cleaned and repaired all the Scott tents, and now needed help in re-assembling them. It was me, the two BFC folks, and four others It took a good 1 1/2 hours to walk us through the process of assembling a tent and making it ready for the scientists that will be taking it up to the Polar Plateau somewhere to live out of while they collect data. The tents are the same basic design Cmdr. Scott used 80 some odd years ago, consisting of 4 poles with covered with stretched heavy canvas fabric. Each tent has a liner and an outer shell, and both have to be put on the pole and tied down. We made good and sure that our knot-tying was correct and tight...you don't want to have the tent fail when someone is depending on it for shelter in this extreme climate. It takes some doing to get the liner and the shell to line up correctly. There is a door you have to line up as well as the "coozer" (an exhaust vent at the top of the tent). After that, we set the tent up and tied down the shell and the liner in many anchor points all around the tent. We also made sure that the guy lines on the outside of the tent were in good repair and neatly tied them in coils that you could undo with a mittened-hand if need be. Everything we did was very meticulous and it was time consuming. There was a special way to "fold" the tent and the poles and then put them in a special cover and tie that a certain way. I had good practice remembering a lot of my mountaineering knots!

It was fun, though, and the group of us assembled 16 tents that day which was a good accomplishment. We got quite a system going and it was nice to share in that teamwork.

15 May I decided that since the weather had been SO windy and nasty out (not giving me a chance to go walking, my main exercise), I would try the treadmill in the aerobics room after work. The treadmill is great and I had a BLAST! You can program it all kind of ways, with hills, vary the speed, etc. I put on a random program and walked at a pace of a 13.9 minute mile for about 1/2 hour. It felt wonderful and I took a short sauna afterwards.

Last Saturday there was a party at Scott Base called "Diesil and Drummi". It was a strange convolution of a New Zealand "Hangi" (the Maori equivalent of a luau, or big feast). For a Hangi, the food is buried in the ground with hot coals/rocks and steamed for hours.

The New Zealand cargo handlers used to do a Hangi every year in McMurdo, but for some reason this year they were not allowed to. Apparently there was some sort of Hangi celebration over the summer, but it was held at Scott Base instead of in McMurdo. Instead of burying the food under ground, they modified a 55 gallon metal drum, and made baskets that would set inside it. That allowed them to steam the food in the drum, and bypass having to bury the food for the Hangi.

Anyway, the cook at Scott Base saved the drum from last summer, and that was the "drummi" part of the party. The "diesil" was referring to beer, or "fuel". They made steamed lamb, beef, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, kumara (NZ sweet potatoes) and served up a big feast. It was fun to have some really different food and to learn about the New Zealand customs and culture!

On Wednesday, May 17th (Norwegian independence day), we had another feast. Our head baker is full-blooded Norwegian, and she made sure the galley recognized that special day with a HUGE meal at lunch. We had Swedish meatballs, potatoes, fish, boiled cabbage, and a lot of wonderful Norwegian desserts I had never heard of. It was great!

In the afternoon the wind died down, and we decided to call a "condition 4" and go out for a walk. I called a number of folks and was joined by a party of four others (more and more folks are asking me to call them when I go out).

We headed out right after work and the moon was nearly full. It was really bright on the snow, and the temp. was WARM - only about -12F or so! I didn't even have to wear my polar fleece sweater that night!

We walked on the ridge that goes to Castle Rock, and lo and behold, saw a good show of auroras even with the full moon competing! Pretty amazing! It kind of spread around in the sky, and by the time we got back into McMurdo you could see the shafts of light twisting and dancing right over Ob Hill.....it was NEAT!

I spent last Thursday at the BFC going through "kitchen boxes", (cooking gear for scientists in the field). There are two sizes of large wooden boxes with supplies inside for two or four people respectively. My job was to go in, take everything out, make sure the stuff inside was in good repair, clean, and accounted for.

They are pretty well-equipped. For example, a party of two would get two cooking pots, a pressure cooker, a big pot for melting snow, a fry pan, coffee pot, tupperware bowls, bread pan, pie plate, plates, mugs, knives, spoons, forks, can opener, serving utensils, etc. as well as a tent repair kit, dishtowels, soap, and basin for washing up. I had quite a time fitting everything in those boxes....that is for sure! It was nice to do for a change, and reminded me of getting ready to go on a trip. I love organizing things like that, so had a good time.

After work I did laundry and decided to change my room around. I didn't do much: just got a new colored bedspread, put out some fake flowers I'd bought in Christchurch, and hung some new pictures on the walls. But it is nice to have a change!

On Friday the weather was wonderful out, and we walked over to Scott Base to join in on a dart game with South Pole and Casey Station (Australia) on the HF radio. I had known about dart games on the radio for over a year, and had really hoped to be involved in that this year, but it is not possible to use the big radios in McMurdo for things like that. It was wonderful for my friend the cook at Scott Base to alert me to the game, and invite me to play.

We had a BLAST! I know nothing about darts, but am going to learn! The tradition for games in the winter is very strong. South Pole had 5 folks there in the radio room and Casey had their entire station turn out (18 folks)!

We played a game called "301" which was easy to learn - I even threw the darts once! We led the game the whole way up until the end, when someone at South Pole had a freak throw and ended the game abruptly. There was all kinds of cajoling on the radio waves and accusations of cheating let me tell you! We are going to try again next week at the same time, I am really looking forward to it! I liked talking to Casey and Pole more than I enjoyed throwing the darts!

28 May 1995 I have started on a new project in my spare time.... cutting up rags for a rag rug. I had been saving rags that I liked, and finally decided to get going on the project. You have to cut the rags into 1" strips, and crochet them together to make the rug. My rags are all old sweatshirts, and I have them in a myriad of colors in the blue-green-purple-black part of the color spectrum.

Wednesday the wind was calm all day and we hadn't been outside, so we got a group together to go for a walk after work. It wasn't a true "condition 4" like we love to walk in because there was a slight breeze blowing. One of the guys had looked on the Internet and found a notice about geomagnetic disturbances put out by NASA. It indicated that that night would be good for aurora activity, and so we were all keen to get out and see some action!

There was no moon when we went out, and the stars were magnificent! The Milky Way was so bright it kind of lit up the entire sky, and we could see the Magellanic Clouds with no problem whatsoever! All of us at one time or another spotted shooting stars too - big ones streaming across the sky. We could feel the wind though, so didn't go much further than about a mile and a quarter.

We even went inside the "tomato", a round red shelter set on the trail for getting out of the wind. It reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or something, all frosty and sparkly inside, lit only by our flashlights.

At the top of the ridge where we decided to turn around, we all got down on our backs to watch the night sky for a little while. It was wonderful to see the satellites up there and the occasional shooter going by. About 1/2 mile away was Castle Rock, a black void surrounded by the starry riot.

On the way back we looked over our shoulders and could see the sky churning and swirling with the faint greenish light of auroras. It made me think of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as I watched the light silhouette a small volcanic crater in the distance.

When we returned, our faces were all very frosty faces and it was fun to compare them. We were very happy to have gotten out in the fresh air!

Copyright (c)1995 Terry Trimingham. This information may be redistributed online for education projects as long as this copyright notice is included. Permission to use this material in print or for commercial purposes must be obtained in writing prior to use from the author.