Thursday, March 17, 2011
Newcomers at the South Pole anxiously await the midwinter below -100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures so that they can join the infamous 300 Club. The first time that the temperature drops below -100 degrees (and stays there), the newbies sit in a sauna until the temperature reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they can no longer stand the heat, they run outside to the geographic South Pole marker-completely naked, except for shoes and perhaps a scarf to protect their lungs from the severe cold-to experience a shocking 300-degree temperature change. Most do not make it all the way to the Pole marker and return to the sauna before they get frostbite or the cold damages their lungs.
The temperatures do not get quite as cold at McMurdo, so those winteroverers cannot join the 300 Club; instead, they join the 200 Club when temperatures dip below -40 degrees.
A winter-overer joins the 300 Club by running around the geographic South Pole naked in -100 degrees after sitting in a sauna at 200 degrees. He will receive the patch in the corner for this accomplishment.
Each season, the folks at McMurdo and New Zealand's Scott Base (about a mile and a half away from McMurdo) come together to participate in the Polar Plunge. After cutting a hole through the sea ice, participants jump into the 28-degree-Fahrenheit water in the nude (except for shoes so that they can run to a warm shed immediately after emerging from the water without getting frostbite, and a harness around their waists in case they go into cardiac arrest; there are medical personnel standing by). Although the water temperature is about thirty degrees warmer than the air temperature, it feels shockingly colder-plus Antarctic air hitting one's wet body exiting the water is not so fun either.
Plunging into the cold polar waters
Race Around the World
Every Christmas, people working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station race around the geographic South Pole, crossing every line of longitude and in essence circling the entire world. Of course this could be completed in a matter of seconds, so they build a 3-km course around the Pole. People complete the race by running, walking, skiing, or even snowmobiling.
Racing around the world
Beginning in the austral summer of 1989-1990 and usually on New Year's Day, Icestock is a musical festival in which anyone living in McMurdo can take part in, regardless of talent. Anybody who wants to sing, play instruments, dance, or tell stand-up comedy can perform during the six-hour event. Everyone else sets up chairs and coolers with food and drink to watch, listen, and perhaps even dance in the freezing weather (in January the temperatures are around 30 degrees Fahrenheit). It is accompanied by a chili cook-off.
On Thanksgiving, two teams play football on a field of snow on the Ross Ice Shelf.
Scott's Hut Race
On a Sunday in early January, people run on dirt roads from McMurdo Station uphill to Scott's Hut, run two laps around the hut, and return to the base (for a total distance of 8 km). Some take it seriously and train to win, but others just walk.
Scott's Hut Race