Santarctica at Mcmurdo Station.
I would call this the southernmost Santacon, but we’re a good 700+ miles from the South Pole, and there could be a couple of Santas making merry or doing something or other. You might say, “ah, well, close enough,” but Polies take their global position at 90 South quite seriously. So, I respectfully and affectionately call our little gathering “The Largest Congregation of Santas Furthest from the North Pole.” It’s a mouthful, but someday it will be a world record if I ever get around to contacting Guiness.
December 12, 2010, 2pm, dorm210 lounge. Particpants trickle in and are issued Santa and Elf suits of the finest quality felt. Some have blown-out crotches or armpits, most lack belts, the Elf boots lack soles, and many Santa beards contain goo of an unknown substance. I claimed the one Rudolph suit in the bunch, complete with blinking nose. After we departed the lounge, and before reaching our first destination, we attacked three normal humans and transformed them, willingly, into Santa. Krampus carried the bag which bore their naughty street clothes.
Our first stop, of course, is the iconic carved wooden sign that bears the name of our beloved work camp. In the background we see the tangle of power lines and heavy equipment preparing the new ice pier. Beyond that, at the tip of Hut Point Peninsula, Discovery Hut (1901) stands as a proud testament to the history of Antarctic exploration. Beyond that is the 10 foot thick sea ice that bridges us with the Continent and the majestic mountains of the Royal Society Range. I would like to think that if Robert Falcon Scott or Ernest Shackleton were standing on the verandah of the hut looking north, they would approve of our antics as fifteen of us clad in red, white, and green (of the finest quality felt, mind you) clung proudly to the sign and hip flasks and posed for photographs.
Walking back to the downtown area of McMurdo, we decided it was high time for some reindeer games such as ‘Red-Santa-Red-Santa-send-SANTA-Right-Over.’ The elves, outnumbered, of course were not the winners, but did accumulate some Santas. No injuries were sustained.
We walked over to Ivan the Terra Bus, parked downwind of Santa’s port-of-call, the Post Office. Ivan is a 56 passenger Foremost bus, a massive beast of a vehicle with tires nearly as tall as I. Legend has it that a song has been written about Ivan. Christine Powell had suggested, when looking at a photograph from a previous Santarctica, that Ivan’s name could easily be changed to ‘Ivan the Merry Bus.’ I found that to be a marvelous and innocently mischievous idea, and led the group over to the bus with the tools to do so.
We frolicked around Ivan, and wished him Season’s Greetings, and built ourselves a pyramid composed of Santas and Elves. As it turns out, the volcanic grit that makes up the substrate of McMurdo is painful on Santa’s knees and paws, especially with the added weight of more Santas and Elves.
Santa decided it was time for a drink, and wandered to intrude upon the mid-afternoon serenity of Coffee House. On the way, a distraction presented itself, and the gym seemed like a good stopping point. Some checked in to the nearby library and quietly looked at magazines while others were curious about the workout regimen. The Elves assisted weightlifters in the gym with heavy weights. A Santa was benchpressed. I bounced about a bit on a yoga ball. Then, drinks. Bottles of wine were distributed for the more refined Santas and Elves, while I opted for the candy cane taste of Peppermint Schnapps. “Ho’s” all around as we outfitted Peggy the bartendrix in Santa regalia.
After we left the Coffee House, a couple Santas were found sleeping in the outside cardboard bin.
We spread some cheer, and pulled them out. Then, on to the galley to inspect that preparations were going on for Christmas. All was well, and we moseyed on to the Chapel of the Snows, a place that I had only visited once before for a yoga class. We respectfully kneeled on the altar and said some ‘Ho-llelujahs,’ then wandered to the back of Hut 10 to crash the Environmental department’s holiday party. One, two, then ten Santas peeked in the windows. We were not invited inside, so we sat on the deck and admired the coastline.
Nearby, the sound of a honking front loader at the back of Building 155 caught our attention. What could that be? The sound of the weekly beer delivery from the beverage warehouse to the store? Why yes! Santa, My Elf, and myself found it would be only proper if Santa would assist in the delivery of such a locally treasured commodity. We passed flats of Speights along the assembly line into the storeroom. Santa approves of cooperation.
Krampus, My Elf, and myself found that it would be only appropriate to end the Santarctic activities with an ascent of Ob Hill, the little conical peak that watches over McMurdo. I changed into some warmer gear, and performed the Christmas miracle transformation from Rudolf to Santa. We scrambled up the rocky trail to the site of the former nuclear power plant and the remains of a warehouse in the process of demolition.
We signed our names on the blue tray that marked the halfway point, and then made the summit head on into the wind. The cross at the top was erected for the memory of Scott, Evans, Oates, Bowers, and Wilson, and their ill-fated return from the South Pole in 1912. On the cross is inscribed “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” (Tennyson).
Thank you McMurdo, for another
fun episode of Santarctica.
Until next year,