Saturday, December 16, 2006




Strike a pose!


Time out...


Perhaps the most challenging day so far. After our “breakfast” at 5:30 p.m. we head out to the site once more, Jean and Lionel in the Pisten Bully, Simon, Sophie and I on the skidoos. This time it is our last time skidding over the sea ice. The ice is starting to melt and it is getting too dangerous, we have to change our route to the other side through Willie Field, Snow Mass, and Scott Base.

I am enjoying this last ride, where the sensation of flying across the sea encircled by mountains is inebriating. As soon as we get to our camp, Simon realizes he has forgotten his GPS, bad news, since we were plotting the fourteen 24” spheres this morning, and again, for safety measure, two skidoos at a time must go, I volunteer, to get once more that blast of speed across the sea. This time coming in, that gasping sensation is seeing McMurdo Station nestled in the Volcanic rock, it is here looking at what seems like a coal mining town with cardboard buildings, that my heart is warmed by what is giving me life at this moment, this engine of a place, where we are fed and kept warm. It is on this icy surface of the sea, that I become aware of our dependency of this place, and I move toward it as a young born toward its mother.

As soon as Simon comes back out with his GPS, we go out once more to our site, where Sophie has already unpacked all the 24” and 19” spheres, assembled them and already to go out. We spend the rest of the evening, laboriously bringing the spheres one by one to their exact position. Then three at a time on a sled, first Simon plots the exact positioning of each star, then we drill the hole, then we put in the pole, then we manage to wrangle the bottom half of the sphere onto the pole then very laboriously turn the other half upside down and turn it maybe 30, 40 times as it wobbles on this very thin thread, while someone else holds the dead man strings so that the entire sphere does not spin out of control off of its rod.

I can hear Jean singing, “Come on, let’s twist again…” in the background. We then have to dead man every single sphere in two places, we run out of string, can only do one, then have problems with three of the rods, need rethreading, walking through the very soft sugary snow, sometimes sinking in over one foot deep is laborious and difficult, but we are in good spirits. Around 1:00 a.m. we need a break, I had bought a bottle of Merlot in the galley, and Lionel, Frenchman that he is, and wine-maker at that! Brought our card table out in the snow with four plastic cups and the bottle he opened ceremoniously and we waited in the cold until Jean finished his master shot, looking for food, but accepting that we only had nuts and chocolate, I start getting cold, in fact freezing, and start flipping out how cold my fingers are, Jean tells me to go into the Pisten Bully to get warm, I get in there, cover myself with all types of clothes I could find in my bag, and when I look up again, it is 5:00 a.m. and my team had been working for four hours on their knees in the icy surface, dead manning the fourteen 19” spheres while I had already had a half night’s rest! Needless to say it was a moment.

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