Ah yes—the subtleties of South Pole culture. This brilliant gingerbread ‘pee-can’ is a monument to an age-old custom down here at the end of the earth where all directions point north—the Chamber Pot. In this case, a former can of marinara sauce.
There is a newly built main station, dedicated just this week, but not all 250 of us living and working here fit in the very nice single bedrooms that are part of that edifice. Through some strange aberration of design, the building is made to house about half the workers and has no coat hooks, bar, or yoga studio. What were they thinking…but since the design team is based in Hawaii, they just MAY not have had a clue about life at the Pole...although to be fair they were commissioned to accommodate 150 people in their building while the reality is much different.
At any rate, the Other Half of us live in a glorified tent village about a 10 minute walk from the main building, which we lovingly refer to as Summer Camp. We have our own recreation building here and a separate smoking lounge where people hang out with Marlboros and bottles of Smirnoff. It is a bit of the wild west on this side of the tracks
since we don’t really have to behave out here, and the most popular videos to watch at the smoking lounge are Deadwood and Firefly: one a tony gold mining western yarn and the other a science fiction western cult classic.
With workers employed 24 hours per day, one can be assured that there will always be a drunk person in the lounge and many a romantic (if you can call it that) hookup and friendly brawl has taken place here. Wait...one recent brawl was not quite SO friendly, but be assured that is not the norm.
Back to the Pee Can…many of us store these under our beds because the toilet…sweetly named the Ice Palace….is a very cold walk from our quarters. Imagine being under many many covers in a chilly room, having finally built up enough body heat under there to fall asleep, only to find you have to use the facilities. This means donning the bunny boots, hat, parka, etc, and venturing out into the blinding light that is the 24-hour sun reflecting off a giant sheet of ice and snow. I do it, but then I’m a fussy princess, but there are few men that do not succumb to the convenience of the Pee Can. And thus the Gingerbread Pee Can was born, thanks to Baker John who is a genius.
Christmas, like Thanksgiving, is an upscale event here, and we served Beef Wellington and Lobster tails to an appreciative audience. Afterward, a really fun dance party until the wee hours—those who work hard DANCE hard. The next week, live bands for New Years Eve with many, many construction workers showing up in drag. Cross dressing steelworkers of the Pole—seems to be a bit of a tradition.
Christmas Day a traverse arrived, the ITASE Traverse, which is a train of vehicles that travel 880 miles from the coast of the Antarctic to the Pole to collect snow samples every 2 kilometers in an effort to document the pollutive effect of airplanes on the snow. There were twelve folks traveling together for two months with no day off. One of them, Luci, was the cook and gave me a tour of her galley, pictures here show her two burners, 2 foot diameter dining table, and slosh bucket sink…a kitchen on the road which also served as a home to her, her husband, and two other workers.
Now that is the Wild West.