Christmas Alarms

Dec 27, 2008


So apparently the ‘big day’ of Christmas for Swedes is the 24th of December, so we celebrated by not having an ice station that day and relaxing instead. Christmas eve for them consists of glog (hot spiced wine), a traditional white fish, and watching a compilation Disney Christmas movie in Swedish. (Yes, I have to say it’s pretty interesting to watch cartoons in another language with a bunch of excited Swedes when half of them are buzzed on spiced wine… at times they started singing along with the songs, which was pretty entertaining.) Then we had a ‘fancier’ dinner (and by fancier I mean I wore my cleaner pair of jeans, although some people really did get dressed up), had some really good food, played music and had a bit of a party. It was fun, and good to relax for a while instead of stressing about ice stations. The Swedes don’t really do anything for Christmas day, but we don’t have an ice station on the 25th either so people stayed up until ~4am. I went to bed at 2:30am and was up at 7:45am, but a lot of other people slept in pretty late on Christmas day.

So for Christmas morning, I got exactly what I wanted from Santa… an 8am fire alarm when I was in the shower! (Because it wouldn’t have happened any other way!) Now for most people, the 8am fire alarm caused them to awake from their late-celebrating slumber, get their snow survival suit, and go to their respective muster stations; the place where we gather in a fire drill, but I stood there in the shower thinking ‘you gotta be kidding me!’ and tried to rinse the shampoo out of my hair, shove some clothes on and RUN to my outside station, holding my towel and trying to quickly dry my hair during roll-call before it froze in the Antarctic cold, although it froze anyway. It turned out there was some kind of steam leak in the engine room so while it ended up ok after a while, it wasn’t a drill so we stood around for a while waiting for orders (and shivering with frozen hair). At a time like that the only thing you can do is just be entertained by the strangeness of your own life- it’s Christmas day and I’m standing outside in my pajamas, quite literally freezing cold, on the deck of an Antarctic icebreaker with shampoo frozen onto my head. Yup.

Since then we’ve started back up with ice stations, (we’ve left the Amundsen sea area and are heading towards the Ross sea) and we’re waiting to moor at one while I type. I need to do two more big experiments before this trip is over, both of which take a considerable amount of time, so I’m just hoping we find some good sea ice spots for that. Part of the problem is we never know what we’re going to find at any given place we decide to set up an ice station, so some of the stations we pick end up not having very strong ice (which we don’t know until we start drilling) and I have to wait for the next one. Past the half-way point of our trip, though, I start to wonder how picky I can afford to be because I never know if the next station will be more or less ideal than wherever we currently are. (Mainly the issue is that I need brine for my experiments and not all sea ice stations have retrievable brine, particularly if there is too much snow weighing the ice down and pushing it below sea level.)

2_survivalsuitFor the record, this is what our actual submersion emergency suits look like. We did drills in them once before this alarm.

DSC_0118All the rage in Antarctic high fashion


Posted on 2008, in 2008 (12/27) Christmas Alarms, Season 1: Life on an Antarctic Icebreaker. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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