Ms. Tomato has been invited to return to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to work as the 2009 winterover sous-chef. In fact, as you read this, she is boarding a plane bound for the bottom of the planet.
What does 'winterover' mean? Much like it sounds, in late February the sun will begin its annual setting, move into its single night, and then, somewhere around September, begin to rise again. That makes about two months of sunset, four months of such darkness one cannot see one's hand, and subsequently two months of sunrise.
The station closes mid-February to all air traffic, since temperatures will be hovering at minus 50 F around then, perilously close to the point at which hydraulics freeze and sieze. There will be no mail, food, or people in or out of the Pole until mid-to-late October, a full seven or eight months in complete isolation, save for eight or so hours of internet per day. For retail therapy, there is a small store that sells some of the plonkiest plonk on the planet, as well as Glenfiddich and Hershey bars. And yet, with no alternatives about, the wine dregs and bad chocolate from downunder become more delicious as the days drone on.
There will be approximately 40 men and 10 women co-existing, all confined indoors with Ms. Tomato's cooking and a lot of board games. We will be scrounging the frozen food bin for
anything exciting to keep all tastebuds amused. We have already shipped down a supply of Spanish Smoked Paprika, a treat that will be saved for a special occasion. The small greenhouse on the first floor of the
station will provide fresh jalapenos, cucumbers, and enough lettuce for 2 or 3 salads a week, and that will be the extent of the live food.
The narrow bandwidth and odd hours of satellite connection to the outside world makes uploading photos an arduous task, but we will try to post on about the food and survival situation. And perhaps hint at the inevitable romantic dramas that arise in confined spaces where human animal tendencies rise toward the surface, and the gender ratio creates a sort of desperate competition and resurgence of one's childhood issues. Losers at love, mostly menfolk, have been known to crumple under the weight of the love-loss and require a wheelchair, straightjacket, and team of nurses to escort them onto the first plane out of there when it finally touches down.
Of course, the majestic Aurora Australis will have to be documented. As will the before-and-after shots of some of the menfolk who arrive fresh, plump, and cleanfaced, and invariably wind up looking like the Ted Kaczynski the Unibomber.
In honor of Summer Solstice, June 21, 2009, we will do our very best to show how we like to Party At Pole...with a post about the fancy Mid-Winter Dinner where we pull out all culinary stops. The celebration is often followed with the July Girlfriend Switch, so there should be plenty to talk about...stay tuned.