Mark Weekly, who works with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), recently had a birthday at the South Pole. We like to make a big deal of anniversaries, since there aren't too many events to be had down here with no reminders of outside holidays or special events. Whatever excitement happens, it's all made up, homespun, and down to our little group, and odds are, with 43 of us, there will be a birthday every week or two...whoopee!
Mark won the pingpong pancake championship a few weeks ago and is on the fire team - thus the cake decor. The cake was 6 layers high and weighed 35 pounds, baked and built by Chef Francis, grinning here.
In our little hive on an ice sheet here, we have a gym, a screening room, a pool table, a library and an arts&crafts room. That's about it. One cannot come here and hope to be taken care of and entertained. One must come with the idea of taking care of things themselves and creating their own fun. So first-timers here tend to end up either very disappointed, or very resourceful and creative.
Ms. Tomato grew up locked in her bedroom most of her youth (not her choice) and had a good deal of early training in the ways of self-amusement. Therefore we like to think of ourselves in the latter group. When Cinco de Mayo showed its face this year, around the same time South Pole Greenhouse Farmer Joe presented us with a large baggie of fresh jalapenos, a plot virtually hatched itself.
Here you see big doings at the South Pole - two sturdy science nerds attempting to outdo each other in a Jalapeno Eating Competition. Dr. Erik, who oversees science this winter, (photo #1 at above right) won with a total of 20 raw jalapenos, a mixture of red and green, which he ate like so many apples.
Runner up Ross, left, who is a cosmologist with the South Pole Telescope project, didn't fare quite as easily..after choking down 13 exclusively green peppers, he looked so green himself we ran for a bucket. No loss of points for giving up the goods, however, as the wave passed, 'though he did offer a few large burps.
We have sunk into deep winter here at the Pole. The above photo-herald of what is no longer to come is a collection of the very last carrots on our little island in the snow. We divided them up among the 43 of us and ate them. Notice the trimmed ends which had to be amputated due to rot…a scene reminiscent of the film Soylent Green where Charlton Heston’s daddy brings out a precious, limp couple of raw vegetables as his last meal before voluntarily becoming a grocery store biscuit.
Although ambient temperatures have not yet hit the –100 F mark, they are hovering and, with windchill, outdoors are often around –120 F. Photo at side shows Chef Keith organizing our exterior refrigerator, specifically the bread and dough shelf. Behind him are stores of potato product, and Ms. Tomato, in the photographer’s p.o.v., leans on a box of diced carrots and peas, part of the mound of brick-frozen vegetables we avail ourselves of on a daily basis.
In an effort to drink a chilled cocktail, Erin here placed her vodka in a snowdrift, in the firm belief that a high-alcohol liquid such as this cannot freeze. Indeed. It is solid as a rock after an hour or so. Vodkasicle, and inaccessible at that. Let this be a warning.