Beer slushies and science

From time-to-time I can see the Southern Lights from the steps of my dorm. Occasionally, I have to go to the back steps to see them. It’s quite inhumane that way.

We’re coming into a cold stretch. It’s going to be in the -40s and below over the next week. It seems like no one really notices until it’s at least -50F.

I haven’t seen the sun since, well, at this point I have no idea. I caught a glimpse of something that wasn’t the sun, but wasn’t night the other day, when I was deep out onto the ice during a Search and Rescue training, that I have to assume was sunlight, but it’s been so long I’m not sure I’d recognize “the sun” at this point. It was just a little bit of purple and red along the horizon. It’s a little bizarre when the weather channel ticker reports next sunrise will be in August. The sun won’t rise tomorrow. And that’s a little unnerving.

People here are definitely showing the effects of Antarctic winter. Word finding difficulties are pretty obvious. It’s like we have collectively had a stroke. You know what word you want, but just can’t quite make it come out. No one gets offended when you finish their sentences, because sometimes they just can’t. Vacant stares are becoming a little more prevalent. Rumors and horror stories are starting to pop up about people having difficulties with the most hard-wired tasks – like forgetting the PIN to a bank card.

We are in it.

I was recently asked what the most difficult part about being down here was. After thinking about it for a bit, because everything takes a bit at this point, I came to realize the most difficult part is the monotony. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

People are jumping at the chance to break up the daily routine. I recently had to inventory about 40 field medical kits. 4 people showed up to count each pill in each packet in each kit. It took all of us an entire afternoon. And they all seemed genuinely grateful to the chance to do something different.

Any bullshit reason for a social event becomes the next thing to look forward to. It’s the small thing to hold on to to break up the monotony. Thinking about the winter in its entirety can be a bit overwhelming. So you don’t think about it. You think about the day-to-day and whatever our next event happens to be. We’ve had fake, non-binding lesbian weddings, debutant balls, easter egg hunts (the eggs were beers). Different groups will gussy up their work stations and throw a theme party (“Death and Taxes” at the carpenters shop!). Whatever it takes to break it up. Even making the epic mile-long trek to the Kiwi base (which is about 15 minutes in a van) is something to look forward to. Even though it’s the same people, in the same room each time, it’s an Event. They have different beers than we do. Next up is the science fair. That’s next week. I think. I’m not immune to winter brain, so it could be two weeks away. But I think it’s next week.

The woman who is organizing it just walked by. It’s Wednesday.

Now, one might think that the science fair in a station full of scientists might be pretty legit. In actuality, we only have 2 or 3 people on station currently involved in actual science. My project, in conjunction with one of the mechanics, is determining the most efficient way to cool a beer to ideal drinking temperature. Just leaving it outside when it is -33F is clearly the superior way. But you have to keep a close eye on it. Because if you don’t, it’ll turn into a slushy. Or explode.

We have quite the full social calendar because we have to. And because we can. And because we are in the deep of winter and things are starting to get weird.

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