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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas day at South Pole

First of all, Happy Holidays to all from 90 South. 

We received a most desired gift for Christmas from the meteorologists: after a couple of weeks of 15-knot winds, we had a perfect, windless, South Pole summer day, which felt warm and invited us outside.  Timing couldn't have been better, because Christmas day is when the entire station goes outside to run the race around the world.  Where else on the planet could you go out for a morning jog and end up crossing all of the meridians?  The temperature had dropped just a bit, down to -13 F (-25 C).

So, we started off the day with the Race Around the World at 10 AM.  I had a good run and came in fifth out of a fairly competitive group of people (more on this later).  After the race, a shower, and a quick brunch, I joined Chris and two others on a tour of the 10-meter telescope.  Chris has been my neighbor in the Science building for the last two months.  He has now completed his work overhauling the azimuth bearing of the telescope, and will be going home on Tuesday, so this was one of our last chances to get a tour from an insider.  After the tour, we spent quite a bit of time walking around the science buildings, basking in the Antarctic summer sun, and enjoying the polar views, before heading back to the station for dinner.  Dinner was prefaced with fine hors-d'oeuvres in the hallway, followed by a sit-down meal that included lobster (I had to come all the way to the South Pole to taste my first lobster!), accompanied by a choice of six different wines from Australia and California's Napa Valley, and closed with a choice of four different desserts (I had three of them).
Before going to sleep, tired after a long day full of activities, I jumped on the bicycle with my MP3 player, and went out riding on the ice for an hour trying to burn off some of the extra calories and  enjoying the last little bit of one of the best Christmases I ever had.

The Southernmost Christmas tree is made of recyclable materials and is decorated with ornaments taken from our daily lives here at Pole.  In the background are ice blocks available for carving by those of us with an artistic sense.  The sculptures will be judged on Jan 9.

The start of the Race Around the World: a 2-mile loop around the station and around the geographical South Pole is a Christmas tradition.

A view of the 10-meter telescope from the rooftop, during the tour that Chris gave us in the afternoon.

After visiting the telescope, a group of 4 of us went on a walk to the Ice Cube Laboratory to enjoy the warm December sun.

Christmas dinner main course at the South Pole: Beef tenderloin Wellington with a Cabernet demi glace, grilled Maine lobster tail with lemon parsley butter, portobello and goat cheese Wellington, Basil mashed potatoes, haricot verts with toasted hazelnut shallot butter, and challah bread.

Christmas dinners are a group effort.  Our kitchen staff puts in most of the work, with most everyone else contributing some of our free time.  I helped in the dish pit for one hour, washing dishes after the second serving of the day, with three other happy volunteers.

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