With a tangible sigh of relief felt throughout the entire station the work day ended on Friday for a two day weekend. All of Logistics (Cargo, Waste, Fuels, and Materials) gathered in Cargo’s DNF building for a white elephant party. We’d created a tree out of bamboo poles and green side nets a few days before and it had since steadily accumulated decorations hung from bailing wire – old respirators, a snowmobile spark plug, a rock that arrived on a pallet from McMurdo, a Hazardous Materials sticker or two, some tinsel, silver duct tape…the bamboo poles stuck up too high and it lilted to one side, but it was glorious.
Christmas Eve came in warm (~0F), but with a 20 knot wind blowing the snow horizontal. Despite the lack of horizon and the chilly wind the much anticipated “Race Around the World” went ahead anyways and with much gusto. This year the Race was a 2.3 mile groomed course that wound around the elevated station, across the skiway to the Dark Sector, over to the Tourist Camp, and back to the pole. As it goes around the Geographic Pole it technically passes through all the world’s time zones and “around the world.”
A variety of walkers, runners, racers, skiers, snowmobiles, Pisten Bullys, and various pieces of heavy equipment gathered at the Pole most decorated or dressed up in some way shape or form. While the majority of participants were out just to have fun, there was also an official timed race component – the winners (fastest man and woman) will get to go to McMurdo in January for a full marathon there! James Tolan came in first for men at 19 minutes 3 seconds. Sarah Kernasovski came in first for women with a time of 23 minutes 53 seconds. After the race everyone gathered in the galley for a huge brunch and the awards.
At 630pm we gathered in the hallway for hors d’oeurvs. Again everyone looked lovely in something other than carhartts – slacks, ties, dresses. I wore a long black dress, silver high heels I’d found in the craft room costume box, a green shawl, and pearls. Third seating for Christmas Dinner is the most popular. With 231 people on station the holiday dinners are served in shifts. An hour is given for each meal and for the first and second seating that means there’s not much time allowed to sit and chat afterwards. Third seating however was delightfully leisurely. The tables were again laid with white table cloths, candles, and cloth napkins folded like fans atop special plates. A fake tree was set up in a corner with lights and decorations…it was beautiful.
Today, at 10.0°F, we’ve broken the previous South Pole high temperature record of 7.5°F above zero. It’s snowing outside (which is actually very rare here) and everyone is enjoying a quiet Christmas Sunday. A friend pointed out that we’re on the most peaceful continent on earth – continent-wide, though here at Pole especially, there is really no violence or theft to speak of. May everyone have this peace today. Merry Christmas!