Christmas has come to a close here at the South Pole. So long, Christmas, 2006.
Observance of Christmas started on Sunday with several activities including a co-ed touch rugby game, signing of POW/MIA flag by veterans at the station, and the headliner event, Christmas Dinner.
Christmas Dinner is a semi-formal affair here at the station with many people wearing ties and dresses. The galley lights are dimmed, candles are lit (empty wine bottles are the candlesticks), and volunteers pour wine and soda for diners. Since the galley couldn't possibly accommodate the station's summer population in one sitting, the dinner is served four times: three seatings on Sunday night and one small seating on Monday morning for those who had to work on Sunday night.
Due to our relatively late arrival on Station, all of the seatings other than the first one were full, so that made our decision easy. Unfortunately, that meant that we sat down to dinner at 16:00 and had to be out of the galley by 17:00 so that the next seating could get started on time.
Dinner was Beef Wellington, Vegetable Wellington, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, beef gravy, vegetable gravy, rolls, salad, king crab legs, and asparagus. For dessert we had the choice of pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, or cheesecake. And after dessert, we could nibble on post-dessert by grabbing a handful of Christmas cookies on our way out of the galley.
This morning started with the ceremonial raising of the American and POW/MIA flags on one of the construction cranes. The flag will be displayed until midnight tonight, after which it will be taken down and shipped north to be placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC during the northern hemisphere summer.
Shortly after the flags were raised, the annual Race Around the World started.
The Race Around the World is a two-mile run/walk/ski/bike/ride/waddle/trot around the South Pole. It's probably the closest thing to an all-station athletic event and parade that the Station has. A good part of the Station populations turns out to either take part in the race, cheer the racers, or simply watch the spectacle. As someone who doesn't run anywhere, I naturally chose to walk the course. There were a number of walkers, a couple of skiers, one bicyclist, and numerous runners. I finished the course in a respectable 35:19 considering that the course was snow-covered, the temperature was cold, and I was wearing ECW.
Several groups took time to customize equipment from around the Station for entry into the race. One group decorated a snowmobile and sled with a mini-Christmas tree, garland, ornaments, ribbon, and other fippery. Another group lashed a sofa to a sled, got some people on the sofa, handed one of them a disco ball, and towed the whole mess behind another snowmobile. By far the most original float was the IceCube Hour Shower. Some of the handier and more enterprising IceCubers modified one of the Solars (something like a highly specialized outhouse) by adding plexiglass windows, a shower head, hot water, a shower curtain, a drain, and a water pump, and a gasoline generator. This was then strapped on to one of the larger sleds. For good measure, another sofa was strapped on to the remaining space on the sled. This, of course, was too heavy for a snowmobile to pull, so one of the Caterpillar machines here at the Station was used.
Showers are so dear here at the Station that when I looked inside and saw hot running water, I immediately thought about jumping in. I don't need an hour in the shower, but five minutes, instead of the prescribed two, sounded like a real luxury.
There were prizes for the winners, but everyone who participated also got a coveted Race Around the World T-shirt.
After that, life around the Station turned low-key as many people took naps or vegetated in front of the television with others. A two-day weekend here is rare many of the Polies took advantage of the down-time to relax. Of course, the obsessives among us (yours truly, included) spent at least part of the afternoon working. Several other IceCubers and I walked over the ICL this afternoon to get in a few extra hours of work. So much work, so little time. I've only got nine days left on Station before I'm scheduled to leave so I'm trying to get as much done as possible.