I have to say that it’s strange being away from hustle and bustle that usually marks the festive season. There are no Christmas jingles blaring, or cramped shopping malls, no advertisements with endless amounts of the usual junk to buy, or the cheesy Christmas movies playing on the television. While for some, this sounds like paradise, it actually makes it hard to feel Christmassy at all. All of these things, that can be somewhat of a grind in the real world, are what build us up, put us in the mood to celebrate. But, while everyone back home was frantically organizing their Christmas, we continued to work and remind ourselves that we would soon have two whole days off!!
Christmas at Scott Base arrived on the 23rd of December. Funnily enough, this was my first white Christmas. I can’t say that I ever imagined that my first white Christmas would be at the height of summer at the bottom of the world. But hey, stranger things have happened, right? For me, the day started out as a normal work day. We had bathrooms to clean before brunch, which would be followed by base meeting. That is quite a lot of work for us to achieve before 10am and we weren’t sure we would manage. But, lucky for us, being Christmas and all, some volunteers kindly helped us get us through our morning chores and by 9.30am we were ready to rock and roll. Brunch was bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages…. what would be our usual Sunday affair, except it was Saturday. Base meeting, which also usually happens on a Sunday, was short and sharp to our delight. While the rest of the base went to complete the few base tasks (jobs that people need help with around base like moving stock for the chefs etc etc), the domestics were left to transform the dining hall. It took us a good few hours to finish the food prep, rearrange and decorate the tables but by the end, it looked like Christmas and we were finally ready to begin our celebrations. All scrubbed up and looking fine, we kicked the day off with a drink in the bar. At 3pm the doors separating the dining hall from the bar were opened and the dining hall revealed. It was dinner time.
We were spoilt for choice and definitely were not going to go hungry. There was roast chicken, lamb and veges. There was the traditional Christmas ham and then not so traditional sushi. There were fruit platters, cheese platters, brandy snaps, fruit mince pies, mulled wine and the list goes on. It’s safe to say that we were all stuffed by the end of dinner. Once everyone had finished eating it was time for our secret Santa. For the past couple of weeks, everyone has been busy making their secret Santa gifts and we were all eager to see what our friends had come up with. One by one, Santa’s elves picked out gifts from under the tree and the lucky recipient got to go sit on Santa’s knee and unwrap his or hers present. The creativity was amazing. People had made some truly incredible stuff! I guess that’s what happens when you select some of the most talented people the country has to offer to be your staff. The gift I made was a wooden photo/ note holder. I had cut blocks of wood out and run a grove down it to hold the photo. I engraved them with little pictures and sanded them up. They turned out pretty well in the end I think. Unfortunately, the person that had me wasn’t here yet due to a delayed plane but never mind, it was still awesome to see everyone else open theirs. The rest of the evening was spent socializing and digesting dinner. Once I felt I wasn’t so full that I would pop, I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and go for a walk-up Crater Hill, one of the few walks I had not yet attempted. The hill is a steady climb for most of the way and with a sharper incline to finish off the last few hundred meters. It was a lovely wonder. From the top, you get a view out over the sea ice all the way out to Cape Evans. My walking buddy and I spent a little time wondering around enjoying the scenery but eventually the bite of the wind became a bit much and we headed back down the ridge. Coming down is a bit like trying to walk on ball bearing. The old volcano is steep and lose under foot. It was good fun.
Day two was a nice, easy relaxing morning. In the afternoon, I took the opportunity to go out and enjoy our ski field. Our ski field consists of a rope tow, also known as a nut cracker, and a slope that is a few hundred meters long. It’s not much, but it is great to learn on and a bit of fun. I had never used a rope tow before and are fairly new to skiing so it was slightly intimidating. Anyway, with a little encouragement, I decided that I would have a crack. The idea with the rope tow is that you grab hold of the rope, flick a metal tool over the rope and clench it with your hand so it jams the rope in-between. The tool is attached to a harness you wear, so as long as you keep the tool shut and let the slack be taken up, the rope will tow you to the top of the hill. I managed to get up okay and wobbled off the tow. My first run down was pretty shaky, I couldn’t get my ski to turn in the soft powder and tumbled over a few times before I remember what I should be doing and got the hang of it again. After that it was smooth sailing. With every run, I got a little but more confident and had to think a little less about what I was doing. All in all, it was a fantastic day and can’t wait to get out and do more. So, in a nut shell, that was our holiday. Now, it’s back to the grind, that is until New Year’s when we get another two days off whoop!