It's afternoon now. But I'll get back to that.
The season goes on. I'm not yet sure if it slowly goes on slowly or quickly as I have no idea how fast time is passing. I suppose not having seen a sunset or night sky in 86 days will do that to you. Time is distinguished, if anything, by the weekend. Sunday is the only day that stands out among all the rest. Some people here count the days by showers remaining before they go home. Most of us don't really keep track instead preferring to respond with incredulity when someone approaches us in the galley and says "wow, can you believe that we only have five weeks left in the season?" We don't really need to pay attention to passing time except to make sure that we get to work on time and don't miss meals. There are no appointments to keep, people to meet, or shows to see here. It's an isolated little world that might as well be frozen in time.
Of course, time does pass here. In the time that's passed since I last wrote, we had Christmas, New Years, and a smattering of events (and confusion) to go along with the both of them. Christmas wasn't really all that different from thanksgiving, with the notable exception of par more decorations, silly hats, and beef wellington instead of turkey at dinner. Christmas also marked the beginning of the most confusing two weeks of the entire season. For Christmas, we had Wednesday and Thursday off. We then worked straight through until New Years, when we had Friday and Saturday off. We're currently following that up by working from Sunday until Saturday to get all caught up.
A famous Pole Christmas tradition is the race around the world. The heavy equipment operators groom a course 1.75 miles long that encompasses both the ceremonial and geographic poles. This year, the course ran around the station, out to the South Pole Telescope, turned over towards IceCube, and then returned around the poles back to the start. The race took about 20 minutes, and as is typical of Polie events, was populated by all manner of people in goofy costumes.
This guy dressed up as a plane.
One remarkable thing about living at the Pole is that we live on a two-mile thick sheet of ice. And the whole thing slides towards the ocean about 33 feet every year. What this means is that the actual pole moves every year. Or rather, we movie while it stays in the same place. So on New Years every year, we hold a ceremony to move the pole. The winterover machinist every year makes a new pole marker for the next year, and the surveyors over the summer calculate the location of the pole. We all stood in a big half-circle from the old pole to the new one, and passed the american flag from person to person until it reached the new location. And then Bill, the station manager, pulled the cover off the new pole marker.
It's one of the biggest ones ever made, and it's incredibly difficult to get a good picture of.
Especially when the CUSP research associate keeps photobombing you.
And now, it's serious business time. Have a picture of the top of a fuel tank to set the mood.
Pole has become like a second home to me in the time I've been here. I have a comfortable bed, a job, good company, and fantastic food. And really, the summer season is just so short and I don't especially fancy leaving. When I was on my way down, I had an inkling that I might want to change what I was doing with my life; that I didn't really want to go back to school and keep paying time and money for a degree I wasn't going to use. And when I got here, I fell in love with this place. It's beautiful and comfortable. So what's a polio with a summer contract who doesn't want to leave to do?
Get a winter contract. So I did. I signed a piece of paper saying I will stay at the south pole for nine months of almost total darkness in temperatures that will occasionally fall below -100ºF with no way in or out because I really love it that much here. Yes, I'm crazy. But apparently not crazy enough to get weeded out by the psychological evaluation process. It does seem like this winter will have one of the smaller crews in recent years. Although our goal is to have 48 people, there are a large number of positions that are going unfilled, as the medical contractor has been deciding partway through the season that many people are not physically qualified and there isn't enough time to replace them. It's certainly going to be an adventure.
But like I said at the beginning of all this, it's afternoon right now. Winter doesn't come until evening, and so there's plenty of summer still left to go. A few days ago I was out in a skid steer sorting through massive piles of scrap metal when I felt like it was getting close to the end of the day. I glanced down at my watch and sure enough, it was getting close to dinnertime. But them something struck me as strange. We don't have a day-night cycle here. The sun goes around and around and around parallel to the horizon. There's no appreciable difference in light between 0300 and 1500. But there is a difference between November and January. The sun peaked in height in December, and it's been getting lower since. It'll hit the horizon sometime in late March, but right now it feels like four o'clock in the afternoon. It's strange how even though my body has adapted quite well to the utter lack of day-night cycle, there's still that feeling of time that comes with the height of the sun above the horizon. I imagine in about a month we'll hit what would be the "golden hours" back North. The golden hours are the few magical hours of light just before the sun sets in the evening when everything looks beautiful and magical and wonderful. I imagine it will last a few weeks here, and should make for a good time with my camera. But we'll see. There's still plenty of summer left.