After months of speculation, the "mercury" finally dipped below 100F this week. (Temperature here is officially measured with "RTD"s, resistors whose resistance value changes with temperature. These are very robust and have an extremely wide range of operating temperatures. Mercury would be frozen at -100F.) Monday morning the call went out and nearly half the station rushed to the sauna, which was warming up to +200F. After stripping down and heating up for 10 to 20 minutes, they ran outside, up the ramp and over to the geographic pole wearing only boots and an occasional neck gaiter, thus undergoing a temperature change of 300 degrees, and joining the "300 Club". I was not awake early enough to join that group, and the temperature warmed back up to the high 90s soon after. Thursday it dropped again and over half the women on station took the opportunity to join the club. Most of us agree the sauna is actually the worst part. In fact, we have to "trick" the sauna to get it that hot--it normally has a cutoff that won't allow it to be heated above 150 or so, so the temperature sensor is placed in a glass of cool water to fool the controller and heat the sauna up to 200. The only frostbite that usually occurs is the lungs--people think they are going to get cold and run up the hill out of the dome. I walked as slow as I normally do and managed not to burn my lungs at all, although the galley resounded with coughs from those who hurried. On the way back in, my skin felt cold--lots of little prickles of cold, but no frostbite or nip, and no sense of "feeling cold" in the hypothermic sense. Its really an amazing feeling to run around at -100 naked!
My sister and her husband had a baby girl a couple weeks ago. I wish I could be there--I'm so excited to be an auntie! Instead I've demanded as many pictures as I can get, as Olivia is the most adorable baby I've ever seen!
Last weekend was "Christmas in July". Meghan and I organized a special dinner for the station, and the galley was decorated to the nines with a Christmas tree and other decorations. We even had a visit from Santa! Lots of people volunteered to help out with the food preparation and decorations and cleanup. I mined the remaining "fresh" potatoes to make real mashed potatoes with lots of garlic. We also had honey glazed ham, Mike's Famous Lemon Basil Chicken, stuffing, green beans with almonds, pasta primavera, Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, and a host of salads. For dessert we had about 5 kinds of pie, 3 kinds of cookies, and fudge.
This weekend we had Casino Night. There is a "kit" of accessories to decorate like a casino--green felt cloths to go on the tables for the various games, play money, even green visors for the dealers! The tables were run from about 8 to midnight. There was poker, blackjack, baccarat, roulette and craps. We were each given a playing card in our invitation, and every hour a door prize was given out. At midnight there was an auction (with the play money) for the remaining prizes, and a roulette pool (we bought numbers for 5 real dollars, then one person won the pot). It was a lot of fun and most of the station turned out for it.
Its a two day weekend, as its the first weekend of the month. I've been working furiously trying to get a database setup in my lab: every day I fill out a log sheet for the four projects that reside in the Aurora Lab. These log sheets include some weather information, status of various parts of the equipment, and also whether I found and frost or snow obscuring the plexiglass windows to the sky. These sheets are retrograded every summer, and then someone (a graduate student, no doubt) goes back through the sheets and correlates the information I've reported with the data collected that day. Not only would this database be more efficient for the tech here, but the information can easily be put in a report every week that gets sent to the PIs, so they can analyze their data right away. Setting it all up has proven more difficult than I'd expected, so I've been working closely with one of the IT people to get it going.
We are all also looking at winterover jackets--we have two arrangements, one with McEwings, a Christchurch outfitter supplying MacPac brand clothing, and the other with Patagonia in the states. Negotiating all the embroidery and the ordering is complicated, and I've been helping out with it a bit.
I have lots of pictures to upload of casino night, the winterover embroidery design, the 300 club patch. I'll let you all know when I get that on my website.
copyright 2001 Andrea Grant
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