Married.

On August 3rd, 2013, six months ago today, we got married in a snowmobile/generator mechanic shop in Antarctica. It was the austral winter, and we hadn’t seen the sun in months. Did this really even happen?

hi five[I realize that we briefly talked about this event on facebook, vague anecdotes and pictures trickled through, but we never made the whole story public to the internet (far flung friends and family, this one’s for you), or gave many people the proper public credit they deserve (McMurdo Winter Crew 2013, this one’s for you). There were many, many hands involved with the creation and execution of the event, and we really just can’t thank you enough. This is a lengthy story, and that’s ok. We love you. Here goes.]

The Postal Service holds several meanings for us. The band, we exclusively listened to during our brief initial courtship in 2006. The USPS, we exclusively used to deliver mail to each other while I was in Antarctica for a year and Bryan was in San Francisco 2006-2007. Collin Stackhouse, Joseph Singleton (violins), Kira Morris, Charlotte Howell (vocals), and Brad Geer (director), performed the song, “Such Great Heights” (by The Postal Service the band), as we rappelled from the second floor of the Science Support Center (ok, “technically” lowered by Mountaineer Ben Adkison). Our Wedding Party, who waited for our arrival onstage, was a result of those who signed up on the rec board sign up sheet and was a ragtag group of heavy equipment operators, Science Support staff, warehouse workers, mechanics, IT crowd, fuelies, Kiwis, and other people that make up the community that makes McMurdo go.

The rest of the event was a bit of a surprise to us, or, shall I say, it held surprises all around. Our officiant was the newly minted Universal Life Church Minister, Communications Technician, and long-time Phillusionist Rev. Philip Doug Jacobsen.  As Phil put it to us weeks before, “We can do this your way, or we can do this my way. I would prefer you do it my way and let me run with it. I see the ceremony as kind of an entertaining show, and you get married at the end.” We were cool with that, and recognized (and appreciate) all the effort he put into orchestrating one of the greatest/most elaborate ceremonies we’ve ever been part of, but it was still the biggest trust fall of my life.

After a couple welcome zingers and jokes, Phil was about to tell our story when friend, filmmaker, and Waste Management Supervisor Ben Morin stood up in the audience, interrupted, and screened a video they had made in secret – The Drunk History of How Sandwich and Bryan Met.

- I must pause here, and tell you that it’s really hard to keep a secret in McMurdo, and even harder to do so in the winter. Hats off to you, Ben, Phil, and everyone. -

- I must pause again and admit that when the title of the video flashed on the screen, and we did not know what was in store for the next 17 minutes, may I refer to the aforementioned trust fall. -

The video was hilarious. (You may have seen Phil’s other work here.) The entire room was holding-their-guts laughing. Many other brides might have been horrified to see some drunk guy trying to reiterate the story of how she fell in love with her husband-to-be. Our McMurdo friends re-enacted the origin story of our relationship, creating scenes they’ve never been to, impersonating people they’ve never met. All made with love, cardboard, string, and an iPad. To us, it couldn’t have been perfecter. Everyone loved it. I almost peed myself at my own wedding. Internet, behold: https://vimeo.com/76196823

Phil had contacted our families and close friends back home. Melanie Troftgruben, our station Physician’s Assistant, read speeches from our moms. It was hard, having a wedding without family and friends from back home present. The sentiment was dear, and emotions got real – all over my face. (ps San Francisco and New England – We’re getting married stateside this Summer.) Thank you for including our families.

cardThere may not have been traditional, repeatable vows, but there was magic: Phil’s famous storytelling card trick of love and future. We selected cards that told the fortune of love, and some things to expect, look forward to, and work towards to build a solid marriage and maintain a stable relationship. And of course, when the time came to guess which card I was holding, Phil’s sharpie-decorated chest burst out of his shirt screaming IS THIS YOUR CARD? I love that trick. And we did not see it coming.

I’ll be honest, the week before, when Phil asked if we knew what a handfasting ceremony was, we said yes, but thought that was a little too hippie for Phil (and us).  Trustfall: with the McMurdo spin on it, our wrists were bound with 2” velcro, tygon tubing, climbing rope, and metal banding (complete with banding tools, clip, and an assist from Waste Technician Shannon Wilson) – each material with their own special meaning to our lives and work in Antarctica.

Phil had MAPCON records made from the MET. Bryan and I are officially in a DOS-based inventory database, gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in Warehouse 004.

In traditional ceremonies, next would come the part where we would exchange rings and kiss. This being winter in Antarctica and a lack of jewelry stores or smiths, on top of the fact that we are not ring people (Bryan has webbed fingers), we decided to do our own thing. Since the US Postal Service had served us well cementing the foundation of our relationship, we found it an appropriate theme to serve as the backdrop to our wedding. We had found a scrap piece of junky 4×8 plywood, and painted it like an airmail envelope addressed to us. With other scraps of plywood, we painted and cut two 1’x1.5’ stamps – one with a mustache and one with a sandwich, both icons laid on top of a line drawing of the Continent. In lieu of exchanging rings we didn’t have and wouldn’t wear, we screwed these plywood stamps onto the plywood airmail envelope (with a DeWalt screw gun that matched out wedding attire).

Immediately after Phil pronounced us screwed, we ran out of the Science Support Center building together, holding hands, out into the Antarctic night. This would be the equivalent of exiting a chapel, I guess, and moving on to the reception part of the evening. A small Kawasaki Mule was waiting for us at the bottom of the metal industrial stairs, chauferred by friend and Groomsman Martin Dragonbeard Robinson. We hopped in the back, Martin drove us in a big donut around the quad for approximately 45 seconds, parked in the exact same position he picked us up in, and we proceeded up the metal industrial stairs amidst a flurry of snowballs (throwing rice would be littering the pristine environment) to commence the reception. Which involved live music, dancing, and dancean obligatory conga line.  People dressed in dresses and suits and tuxes, and flannel and jeans. There was a skeleton and a penguin and a drag queen and a clown and buttless chaps. Upon hearing our wedding colors, Zach and Jen dyed their skin yellow with turmeric.

 

dress_9596107325_lTHE DRESS. In McMurdo, we work with what we’ve got. My wedding dress consisted of a corset made from Carhartts, a polar tent, and a month and a half of my spare time. Somehow I saw potential in a single pair of black Carhartt pants with a blown-out crotch. I navigated the usable fabric, rivets, tiny pockets, and tag onto an industrial sewing machine, grommeted the back for lacing, and used 12” heavy duty zipties for boning to make the corset. (I also pulled out my hair a little bit a lot.) The skirt was made from the top of a retired, UV-faded yellow conical Scott tent. I just clipped off the top to fit my waist, added a retired cargo strap, inserted a Carhartt fly (because I had one lying around: see above) as a zipper in the back, sewed some Antarctica-shaped patches to cover rips and stains (classy!), and added D-rings and a small carabiner to clip up the train. I made a tiny top hat out of cereal boxes, scrap Carhartt, scrap Scott tent, zipper, and a feather I ripped off a terrible Mardi Gras mask. The retired Scott Tent also provided fabric for a vest I made for Bryan, bowties that he made for himself and groomsmen, flower corsages and barrettes for the wedding party, and tons of pennant flags throughout the shop. Huge thanks goes to Sarah Leonetti for being there while I fit the damn dress, for tracing out the shape of the skirt, keeping me on track, and dressing me the night of the event. And thank you to Amy Shields, who made the bouquet out of Antarctic maps (lack of flora on the 7th Continent and all) and telco wire.

THE FOOD. Logan, our intrepid (yes, intrepid) baker volunteered to make desserts. Displayed on a silver platter during dinner in the galley were hundreds of cookie mustcakeaches (“Kiechle Cookies”), piped with chocolate and perched on a small white stick. At the wedding, the cake was multi-tiered, gorgeous, and included devils food, jelly, Italian butter cream, and whisky.  It delightfully matched the colors of our outfits: A black (fondant) backlit silhouette of the Royal Society Mountains across McMurdo Sound, with a gradient of soft yellow (Italian butter cream frosting) signifying the slow return of the sun to Antarctica. That’s pretty damn poetic (and way more poetic than the selection process of our colors – “Carhartt and Scott Tent, yep, that’s what we’ve got”). Tiny metallic stars climbed up the cake, and two small maps of San Francisco folded into paper airplanes on toothpicks perched on the top, ready to take off home.

Also big thanks to the galley for creating a wonderful meal, to Kira for creating the ambiance and decorations, to those who helped set up and quickly clean up, and to Sarah, Liz, Sue, Bamma, Stef, Logan, and all who helped put in extra time with hors d’oeuvres (prosciutto wrapped dates!) at the event.

The décor: There was so much, we are still shaking our heads as to how it all happened. First of all, it wouldn’t have been as beautiful as it was without Kira Morris, our wedding planner. We. Had. A wedding planner. I sent her my Pinterest page (yeah, I guess I turned into THAT bride), spent a couple of evenings crafting on her floor with her, and she pretty much did the rest. She incorporated the industrial function of the mechanic shop among sheets, drapery, art, and lighting to transform it into a completely different place. She made fluffy clouds with soft lighting that hung above the audience as we rappelled in. She draped sheets from a hoist and made the stage look like a circus tent. Our RSVP airmail Mad Lib postcards were strung like garland and spilled out of a giant model airplane made by Dave White. Kira painted a giant variegated watercolor map of the world that hung next to the cake, and sketched a portrait of Bryan and I on canvas and let the community color us in.  She coordinated the community of volunteers for load-in, decorated the Galley for the dinner, clean up, moving furniture and equipment, etc.

Our friend Libor says that the greatest gift you can give someone is time. At McMurdo, there is never enough time. We work ten hours a day, six days a week. Those hours are often spent in below zero temperatures in unforgiving wind chills doing physical thankless labor. After work and after dinner, there may be a good couple hours in you before you completely pass out and do it all again the following day. Sunday is your one day off. During the ceremony, Phil spoke about the Greatest Gift. I looked around the room. I looked at the people in the audience, and the wedding party behind us. All of this happened. Many hands made this happen with valuable time they didn’t have. They did this for us, for each other, for the community. In August, after a season of being tired, this. I had a series of unblinking moments where it didn’t seem to be real. There were fluffy clouds with lights in them. There were hundreds of handmade paper flowers, and I don’t know who made them. Phil spilled a beer on the stage during the ceremony and asked for another. They made a movie. For us. There’s a clown in the third row. Morale and motivation was high. The sun would finally rise next week. I’m madly in love. And holy shit, we just got married.

Here are the pictures. Thank the photographers. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandwichgirl/sets/72157634936230991/

downstairsOur hearts are bursting with love for you.  Some of you barely knew us, some of you knew us too well. Six months later, as we open the boxes of our winter wedding celebration and live it all again, we’re thinking of you. It was perfect. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  (Remember, the coupon is no good if you don’t use it)

 

This is my best attempt at listing them all:

The MEC: thank you for letting us use your space. Station Managers: thank you for letting us do this.

Wedding planner/Volunteer Coordinatrix: Kira Morris

Officiant/Master of Ceremony/Mastermind: Rev. Phil Jacobsen

Groomsmen: Zach Anderson, Jeron Garcia, Dan Pells, David Chu, Larry Fabulous, Mike Rowe, Tim Delany, Martin Robinson, Todd Russell

Bridesmaids: Spring Wood, Colleen Hardiman, Meghan Brown, Molly Anderson, Dan Vedra, Dean Martin, Sue Nylander, Shannon Wilson, Bamma Mellott

Flowergirls/boys: Faye Lee, Rich Gunderson, Liz Widen

The Cake (and mustache cookies!): Logan Atkinson

Food: Sue Nylander, Bamma Mellott, Sarah Leonetti, Liz Widen, Shane Stevens, Logan Atkinson, the entire MCM galley (filet mignon!)

DJ: Michael Hartman

Live Music: Zac Schroeder, Jason Barcomb, Mark Walsh, Libor Zicha, Tim Deale

Toasts: Phil Jacobsen, Melanie Troftgruben, Ben Morin, Nikki Beard, Libor Zicha, Erin Heard, Spring Wood

Photogs: Deven Stross, Ben Adkison, Meghan Brown, Rich Jeong, Eric Woolley

Dress advice/fitter: Sarah Leonetti

Bouquet: Amy Shields/Santos

Flower makers/décor/setup/cleanup/everything:  Wedding Planner Kira Morris, Todd Russell, Phil Baur, Rachel Javorsek, Erin Heard, the MEC, Lance Warrick, Libor Zicha, the entire wedding party, Jeremy Nylander, Shannon Wilson, Mikey Lofton, Jason Miers, Bryan Chambers, Natalie Potell

THE VIDEO: Ben Morin, Phil Jacobsen, Spring Wood, Mike Rowe, Shannon Wilson, Molly Anderson, Zach Anderson, Collin Stackhouse, Nikki Beard, Jason Miers, Colleen Hardiman

GIFTS: Ray Reed, Shannon Wilson, Mikey Lofton, The Firehouse, Jaron Garcia, Dave White, Storm Schott, Dan Vedra, Libor Zicha, Ben Morin, Molly Anderson, Spring Wood, Nikki Beard, Miles, Scott Base, and the anonymous person who left us that 1/3 bottle of Buffalo Trace – we know what that means, and I nearly cried when I saw that. Thank you all.

QUILT: The Quilt deserves its own photo album and blog post. Massive thanks to Sue Nylander, Bamma Mellott, Mike Rowe, Colleen Hardiman, Cynthia Spence, Stefanie White, Todd Russell, Collin Stackhouse, Cindy Foster, Anita Keitel, Liz Widen, Kira Morris, Meghan Brown, Jeremy Nylander, Phil Baur, Bryan Chambers

THE VACUUM: Bryan received the best gift a boy could ask for: A Dyson stick vac he had been ogling for months. Maybe longer. (NOTE: Since there’s no mail for months without a plane in Antarctica, they collected money for this gift, which was beyond thoughtful and totally nailed it. I couldn’t have selected a better present).

 

Shackleton’s whisky

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Sailing to Antarctica in tall ships, without the technology or equipment we now deem necessary to make the journey. No flights. No communication with the outside world.  No polypropylene. I’ve read fascinating accounts of explorers, their diaries, photography, and early silent movies. I feel very fortunate to work in a part of Antarctica and to be a guide to the historic huts where many of them based their journeys from.

Ross Island – zoom

There are three historic huts on Ross Island. A brief background:

1902: Discovery Hut sits on the tip of Hut Point Peninsula, a 15 minute walk from McMurdo Station. It was built in 1902 for Capt. Robert Falcon Scott’s British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904, aka the Discovery Expedition. An attempt was made by Scott, Shackleton, and Wilson to reach the South Pole, but troubles with the dogs and the mens’ health forced them to turn back at 82°S. Subsequent journeys to this region used Discovery Hut in emergencies and for temporary shelter and staging.

1908: In a promise to Scott not to use Discovery Hut,  Shackleton’s Hut was erected at Cape Royds, 19 miles from McMurdo, in early 1908. The British Antarctic Expedition (aka Nimrod Expedition) 1907-1909, was Ernest Shackleton’s second attempt at the South Pole. After trudging for weeks through snow, frostbitten, riddled with dysentery, losing ponies to crevasses, and low on food, Shackleton and his men had to turn away at 88°S (97 miles from the Pole). The expedition did, however, claim to be first at the South Magnetic Pole and first ascent of Mount Erebus. Shackleton was knighted upon his return to the UK.

1911: Terra Nova Hut, aka “Scott’s Hut,” is at Cape Evans, about 12 miles north of McMurdo. This hut, built in 1911, was the established base for the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1912 (aka Terra Nova Expedition) and Scott’s famed and ill-fated journey to the South Pole. It also housed men from lesser-known but fascinating support expedition of the 1915-1917 Ross Sea Party (a depot-laying expedition for Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition, aka Endurance).

Cape Evans is near one of our most productive fishing sites. We have not been able to stop by Cape Evans much this season, since our commute time has been doubled due to unfavorable sea ice conditions. Last week, we made a special detour to visit the hut, and pay our respects to the explorers and scientists before us. Nearing the Dellbridge Islands, on our long, slow ride out in the Pisten Bully, Brad turned to me and said, “Is that a ship over there?” Apparently the ice edge is a lot closer than we thought.  There was indeed a ship. It was not a speck on the horizon. The hull was black and the superstructure was yellow and it was definitely the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a reinforced icebreaker/polar tour ship that occasionally makes 30-day journeys to bring tourists to the Ross Sea Region.

tour ship helo at Cape Evans

As we cornered an iceberg locked in sea ice and headed for Cape Evans, we heard the thump of a helicopter. This is not unusual, our helos fly all over the place. We are used to the sound of our A-stars and Bell 212′s. This sound was different. It reverberated differently, or came from a different direction. It was noticeable. Upon seeing it, we could immediately tell it did not come from McMurdo. It flew over our heads and landed at Cape Evans, not far from where the Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) temporary camp and trailers. Tourists disembarked, the helicopter took off back toward the ship and returned with another dozen tourists. We were told they were shuttling 100 passengers from the boat.

Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, Cape Evans

In our Big Reds, we greeted them, chuckled, welcomed them to Antarctica, and bolted for the hut. Under the rules of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, there are limits as to how many people can be in the hut at one time. We wanted to get in before our chances slipped away and the mob encroached. The AHT liason recognized our McMurdo parkas and hurried us in.

This is my church. It is one of my favorite places in the world. I have been to Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans dozens of times. As a hut guide, I’ve driven there in deltas and led groups of  people from McMurdo into the hut. The history is right there; it is like walking into 1912. The provisions men  meagerly survived on, the bunks they uncomfortably slept in, the laboratory, the darkroom, the stuffed emperor penguin (slightly deflated), the pony stables, the dogs, the inscriptions on the walls, the sleds, the sledging, the illnesses, the everything.  The stories. The stories and stories of human survival and loss. I wonder if things like reaching the South Pole was ever worth it. We are disconnected from honor, glory, and valor for the sake of exploration and representing the motherland. The journals and materials left in these huts are the thing that connect us to the history of this area.

Some left behind objects at Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds made it into international news recently.  Three crates of Mackinlays whisky and two crates of brandy had been stashed under the hut and abandoned after the Nimrod Expedition quickly departed in 1909. Members of the AHT discovered them under the floorboards of the hut in 2006, and slowly freed them from the ice and rock in 2010. A crate was then flown to Christchurch, New Zealand for conservation at the Canterbury Museum, then on to Scotland (its birthplace) for sampling and analysis. A limited edition commemorative run of “Shackleton’s whisky” is now available to consumers (and yes, I bought a bottle of the first run the week it became available).

The AHT had an unopened crate of Shackleton’s whisky in their trailers at Cape Evans to show the tourists. Lizzie Meek, Program Manager of the AHT, said she could feel the liquid in the crate when she lifted it. It was beautiful. I was in shock. Speechless. I may as well have met Mick Jagger. It was a moment. All I could do was let my mouth hang open and take pictures of the crate from all sides.

Antarctic Heritage Trust blog.

 Shackleton’s whisky conservation blog.

Give money to the AHT.

fishing

 

It’s been a very productive season. There’s been fishing, there’s been catching, there’s been cribbage bracelet winning, there’s been halloween costume contest winning, there’s been tuba playing. And lots of penguins.

 

We’ve been out fishing 4-5 times a week, and filling in the extra time with lab work. Here is the blog I’ve been writing and hence neglecting my own blog for, It’s about our fishing operations, the type of fish we catch, and the science we do: http://buckleylab2011.blogspot.com/

The group that I am working with studies the effects of changes in temperature on Antarctic fish. These fish are very sensitive, and can only survive in a narrow range of temperatures. They are used to living in sea water that is colder than freezing, -1.86C. They die at +6 degrees C. No other animal (vertebrate), not even Antarctic seals and penguins, are this sensitive. Our group is looking at what happens to these fish on a cellular level. In addition to going out and fetching “volunteers” (read: specimens), I also coordinate logistics and assist with experiments in the lab.

The ice has been different this year, which had posed some challenges for our sea ice travel and fishing operations. The sea ice surrounding Ross Island and McMurdo Station, which used to break up and blow out to sea annually, had not done so in over a decade. At the end of last summer (Feb 2011), McMurdo had beachfront property for the first time in a decade. Due to various environmental reasons (don’t call it climate change, that’s a whole other thing), the sea ice has been dynamic, shifting, weird, and cracky. There are several places where we have to keep a close eye on the ice that we travel over, and monitor some cracks. Here is a map of our sites and how we profile cracks in the sea ice. Because of the cracks in the ice, profiling cracks, and detours we have to take, our daily commute to our sites doubled from a 1 hour drive each way, to a two hour drive.

In other recent news, I made a timelapse of our day of fishing. One of our premiere fishing spots is Inaccessible Island, about 11 miles north of McMurdo Station, (a two-hour drive) on the sea ice in a Pisten Bully. The sea ice is about 2 meters thick in this area, so we use two 1-meter flights on our jiffy drill. Once we get through the ice, it’s fish-a-minute. Best job ever.

 

 

 

I’m back!

Oh hi Antarctica. It’s me, Sandwich.

I came down to the ice this season for Winfly,* an early deployment that comes in August to help open the station for Mainbody*. For 6 weeks, I worked in the BFC* getting gear together and ready for science groups. The night sky has been spectacular, the nacreous clouds incredible, the temperatures colder than I ever remember (-80F windchill? really!?), and the work has been busy and fun.

Winfly has been mellow, but not boring. I’ve been working on some silly things for the craft fair, went on some walks, visited the pressure ridges*, took a nodwell* to castle rock, blew bubbles in -40F (they turn to a shredded papery substance), organized a balsa man antarctic regional event, re-created the bowling alley, chainsawed holes in the ice, watched the movie “the room” (wow. just wow), and saw a face-melting concert by colorful and talented local folk. Mcmurdo, you are an excellent village full of wonderful people.

Now is the time when Winterovers leave, and the rest of the Summer crew arrives in droves. This year is interesting, since there is a lack of bedspace in Christchurch NZ due to city-wide structural damage from the massive earthquake last february. Passenger flights come south only twice a week instead of every other day. My science team, Bravo 308, arrived a couple days ago, so I have since moved from the BFC to the lab to help things get ready for our fishing season. I’ll be here until mid-December. Looking forward to more fun and fish, but until then, trainings.

All Antarctic photos here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandwichgirl/collections/72157600202295522/

twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/sandwichgirl

 

ok, trainings.

love,

sandwich

*Winfly – winter fly-in

*Mainbody – basically, summer. when station population is at its largest and most bustling.

*BFC – Berg Field Center. Kind of the REI of McMurdo.

*pressure ridges – building-sized towers of ice formed by the convergence of sea ice, permanent ice shelf, and the land.

*nodwell – a tracked passenger transport vehicle.

around the world in 80 sandwiches

i’ve traveled alot, at different times and for different reasons in my “grown up” life. i love adventures to new places and meeting new people. i love learning about the world. one thing that has always remained consistent is my travel buddy:

the sandwich

the sandwich is not just a travel buddy, nor is it just a plastic lunchbox shaped like a peanut butter sandwich. it’s kind of my favorite thing in the whole world. we met at a yard sale in southington connecticut in 1995. it cost fifty cents. since then, i haven’t left my house without it. really.

i’ve taken hundreds of photos of the sandwich in front of various monuments and landscapes around the world. i think it’s much more interesting than seeing me as a dirty, travel-beaten backpacker stood in front of some beautiful or bizarre thing. the sandwich conveys a sense of whimsy, which is true to the tale of my sandwich self, or at least i hope. locals giggle at the foolish american taking photographs of her silly toy. i accept full responsibility for being a dork.

in 2003, dr friendly asked me to participate in a multimedia event at a great little place in san francisco called Aloft. i was inspired to finally put all my sandwich photos together into a neat little slideshow titled around the world in 80 sandwiches, complete with sandwich-themed music (courtesy of my good friend soren, who somehow found over 180 minutes of sandwich-related music on the internet). i thought it was about time to share it here on sandwichgirl.com

we’ve shared a lot of adventures, me and my sandwich. we intend to have many more.

oregon trail

 

pyramids

emporer penguin

the white house

marrakesh, morocco

camel races, virginia city, nevada

 

the david, florence, italy

monkey, laos

more ….

happy travels,

love, sandwich