From South Pole:
Nov. 27, 2011 18:37 NZDT B2 Science, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
Interesting last couple of days. Friday (two days ago, for us) we had a partial solar eclipse, my second here. Whereas two years ago I traipsed outside with colleagues to take pictures, this time I stayed in the Galley where a viewing party formed. Aside from being much warmer and cozier, this also turned out to be a good move because, while nearly perfect for every other photographic task, my little Canon S95 was not up to direct shooting of the event; a big DSLR with a telephoto lens (and a mylar partially-silvered filter) is really needed to do justice to a direct exposure.
Fortunately, one scientist set up a pair of binoculars in reverse atop a tripod, projecting the image of the sun on a cardboard box on an adjacent table for convenient viewing and photographing. This was cool even before the eclipse started, since you could see sunspots on the projected image. The eclipse got to about 70% of totality, during which the snow outside turned the same liquid-silver-grey colors I saw here two years ago during the last eclipse. Quite beautiful and a little eerie. The viewing turned into quite a gathering, with maybe fifty or so people turning up. A few die-hards also went outside to view the mercurial snowscape up close and personal.
Yesterday, finally, was “Thanksgiving,” or Thanksgiving dinner at any rate, two days after the official date — my first major holiday meal at the Pole. Nearly the entire station turned out for appetizers, followed by dinner, in three separate seatings (most of us IceCubers took the 2nd). The galley windows were blocked off by screens, and lit candles adorned the tables — probably the first open flames I’ve ever seen at the ever-so-fire-safety-conscious South Pole. Rather than displaying information about how cold it was outside or the day’s flight cancellations, the overhead monitors showed images of flickering fireplaces. It was downright cozy, I have to say, and we had a fabulous meal:
After our seating, several of us stayed to help out with the next. I served wine and pie for an hour or so, then helped with the dishes. It really felt like a community effort, with so many people helping, from the kitchen staff who clearly had worked hard for days, to Katie the station manager making sure the place settings were correct, to several wine-n-pie servers. Fun, also, to do physical work with other people — while bustling to and fro, pouring wine, busing tables, and cleaning plates, I remembered taking pleasure in moving quickly, with purpose, with others, in my restaurant job days (so many years ago now).
Today was fairly quiet, with much of the station recovering from dinner and the follow-on parties (which I mostly skipped, creeping back to my room and watching Avatar on my laptop before conking out). But the friendly communal feeling still hangs in the air, a feeling I will miss when I head North in two days… something I am nevertheless very much looking forward to doing (weather and mechanical gods permitting).