A few months ago I was offered the role of McMurdo correspondent for The Antarctic Sun.
Below is the piece I wrote for June!
article below originally published in the 17 July 2017 issue of the The Antarctic Sun here
June at McMurdo Station was marked by communal effort.
The June 1st flight brought in new faces, long-awaited mail and coveted fresh vegetables. Volunteers in the galley helped to unload and sort the new cargo, meaning that very same night residents saw fresh iceberg lettuce on the buffet line for them to enjoy.
Just a few short weeks later the continent celebrated Midwinter and again this spirit of collaboration extended throughout 139 souls living at McMurdo Station. Almost a third of the station showed up to assist in the preparations in one way or another – whether that be hanging planet-shaped decorations from the ceiling, rearranging all of the tables or poking holes in black paper to make starry night displays. Post-dinner another swarm of volunteers flocked to the kitchens to help make sure the galley and steward staff would be able to make it out to celebrate at a decent hour.
The following Thursday, just before 10:30 in the morning, the galley staff heard a deep rumble which production cook Karen Duey described as sounding like someone pushing a heavy cart across a tile floor. It was quickly followed by a thud as if something heavy had dropped and the alarms began going off. Within a few moments gallons of glycol, a kind of antifreeze, flooded down from the ceiling. It left a mess and was definitely going to impact work for the day next or two.
Over the next few days, station residents showcased some of the best communal effort one could ask for. They rallied together and galley staff was impressed at how many people dropped by to ask what they could do to help. The first day lunch was, as one would expect, a few hours late. It was an unexpected change in routine but everyone took it in stride. Instead of being upset, volunteers from all over the station showed up to roll burritos, wraps, and help make pizza. So many people volunteerd to help that we actually had to turn down assistance that first day.
They came back the next day instead. Day two saw volunteers from almost every single department using their breaks and leisure time to help clean up the kitchen and right the mess. The hazardous materials and waste teams took care of the waste, the janitorial and housing staff began a deep clean of the entire kitchen, and of course the safety team was always on hand. At any one time there were multiple volunteers assisting admin Savannah Parker in the deli making salads and sandwiches. The station administrative coordinator, waste-water plant technician, and electricians could be found singing while cleaning pots.
I read about the community spirit of McMurdo Station (and all other research stations on the continent) before coming to the Ice – but seeing it in action so many times this month has been truly magical. Saturday afternoon was a holiday for most of us. More than a dozen people traded sleeping in and catching up on their TV shows to wash dishes in the galley and put things back where they belonged.
By dinner Saturday order was restored. Every pot and pan was cleaned and put back on its now also-cleaned shelves. Every floor tile scrubbed. Every ceiling tile replaced. And to close out the month of June? Those who showed up to brunch Sunday morning were rewarded with a little Christmas-in-July spirit.
There are some photos of the volunteers on the original posted site, but here’s some I took of the Christmas brunch!
(post image source)