time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Christmas!

December 28th, 2008 by liz

Christmas at the South Pole is pretty excellent. On Christmas Eve there is a big dinner, and then a party afterward with lots of dancing. On Christmas day, there is the race around the world and then brunch. Christmas Eve was pretty uneventful–we had dinner and then went to a party and then I went to bed early. I know, I’m lame. But I had to get enough sleep to be ready for the Race Around the World! The one really nice thing about Christmas Eve was that people dressed up a bit. There wasn’t a pair of Carhartt overalls to be seen anywhere that night.

Liz and Abby on Christmas Eve.
Liz and Abby on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day was great. First, we all ran in the Race Around the World, which is basically a running race that has 3 laps around the pole for a total distance of 3.7km. That doesn’t sound like far, but at 11,000ft. altitude and -10F temperatures it’s really brutal. I decided to cross country ski instead of run, since the course was snow (like everything else here). This was hardly a strange choice of locomotion though, as there were people riding in chariots pulled by other people, people in sleds behind snowmobiles, and full-on bulldozers in the race. It’s really quite a spectacle, and the participants span the full range of seriousness–from marathon runners to dudes who are still drunk from the night before.

The start went pretty well for me–I got out ahead of the pack and was in the lead going into the first turn. And then I hit the fluffy snow. It seems that only a small fraction of the course had been groomed nicely, and the rest was like trying to ski on sandpaper. The result was that I was working my ass off to go at a speed equivalent to a leisurely jog. I still managed to be the first place woman skier (woo!), but I ended up with my throat burning from the cold dry air and a nasty lung-burn cough. Never fear though, I’m mostly fine now. Next year I think I’ll run.

A fuelie carrying an empty 55-gallon fuel barrel during the race around the world.
A fuelie carrying an empty 55-gallon fuel barrel during the race around the world.

After the race I ate brunch and then went to take a nap, only to find that my cold-air cough prevented me from sleeping. I came back for the end of brunch to have “second brunch,” which was most excellent. After a hiatus for more people to take naps, we went out sledding in one of the chariots from the race around the world. After narrowly missing crashing into a building, we went in for dinner, and then came back out for more sledding. This time, we had our eye on a bigger hill. After three somewhat successful runs where we also narrowly avoided crashing into buildings, we decided to watch a movie in the summer camp lounge. When we came back out, a bulldozer was destroying our sledding hill. Apparently fun is not allowed at the south pole because it’s too dangerous.

I mentioned that there was a sauna here, and one of our favorite activities is to get the sauna really really hot and then run out to the pole. At Christmastime, there is a giant welded Christmas tree that lives next to the pole. One night it was pretty warm out (-10F), and we managed to get a bunch of pictures before we froze.

Brad, Abby, and Liz by the welded Christmas tree.
Brad, Abby, and Liz by the welded Christmas tree.

Bill, Brad, and Liz by the Geographic South Pole.
Bill, Brad, and Liz by the Geographic South Pole.

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