New York Times Article

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    I was recently interviewed for a NYT article about wintering-over in Antarctica. This comes in the wake of the “March of the Penguins” movie, for a human (as opposed to penguin) perspective on wintering. Of all the quotes I gave them, what they chose to print was… interesting. Or bothersome, I’m not sure which. Anyway, wasn’t it Andy Warhol who once said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” or something like that? Somehow I expected my 15 minutes would be more grand. Maybe this was just a pre-cursor to the real thing.

    I’m not sure if it’s legal for me to reprint their entire article, but since they quoted me I’ll take a chance and quote them. BTW, they mention iceboard in the article and even gave out the URL. I suspect they originally misprinted the web address because we didn’t get all that many hits afterwards, and I later saw a “correction” published. Also, they identify me as King Penguin (I am). Users who were present at the inception of IceBoard already knew that, but for everyone else the proverbial cat is now out of the bag. My commentary below is in [brackets].

    [Joanne Murphy of the NYT writes]

    ‘ Wish You Were Here in July? – New York Times

    ‘COULD be the heat that’s drawing moviegoers to the sleeper hit “The March of the Penguins.” There is a vicarious chill to be had in sitting in an air-conditioned theater and watching the hardy birds tough out the Antarctic winter. But not everyone is at the movies in July. A few hundred hardy humans in roughly three dozen Antarctic bases are wintering “on the Ice,” and it can be as much a Darwinian journey for them as it is for the birds. The experience certainly isn’t for everyone, certainly no one from the cast of “Survivor,” said Glenn Grant, the science technician at Palmer Station, one of three American research posts on Antarctica run by the National Science Foundation. ” What a bunch of whiners,” Mr. Grant, 43, said in an e-mail interview. “You want a real ‘Survivor’ show? Oh, we’ll give you the real thing. But sometimes we do wish we could vote people off the island.”

    [Oh geeze. Why’d she have to quote me on that? I can hear the Survivor stars now, forming a lynch squad. Continuing onward…]

    ‘ They can’t. There is no transportation in or out, or even between bases, so humans, unlike penguins, must devise amusements for stark and sunless polar days and nights. “Cramped quarters, monotonous daily routines and no way out make for some intense relationships,” said Bill Coughran, 44, station manager at McMurdo, an American base and the largest on Antarctica. “Because of the adventurous draw of the place you get a pretty eclectic group, too: Ph.D.’s working as janitors, teachers working as dining room attendants.” He added on Friday, when it was 5 degrees below and windy, “Put them all in an isolated box and throw away the key for six months, and you get some pretty interesting interactions.” Isolation breeds, well, let’s call it ingenuity, and “winter-overs” have developed their own pagan rites and rhythms.

    [The article goes on to talk about Concordia station for a bit…]

    ‘The Americans favor hops over grapes. Mr. Grant, who as “King Penguin” moderates talk on, wrote: “Home brewing is not as popular as it was a few years ago, probably because they’re stocking some better beers now. But there are still brewers making their own suds. Made some good stuff on the Ice myself.” ‘

    [Yada yada, Concordia and french cooking…]

    ‘The French have none of the coveted “freshies,” though. Americans at McMurdo have some, grown in a hydroponic hothouse. Americans have their own brand of entertainment: Croquet, but “not the genteel version that most people think of,” Mr. Grant said. “To move a croquet ball more than a few inches through the snow you have to hit it full on, with a reinforced industrial strength mallet. After a few of these strokes there’s pieces of ball and mallet flying.” ‘

    [They asked what kind of outdoor activities we did. That was just one I mentioned. I don’t expect many OAEs will have ever done it on the Ice, they’ll just have to try it. Deal.]

    ‘They also bundle up and head outdoors to watch movies – “usually a comedy or cheesy cult classic” – projected onto a fuel tank. Mr. Grant likened the huddle to the penguins’ “turtle” formation, which is the way the birds spend most of the winter. As for another time-honored way to keep warm, penguins and people differ. The birds’ sole goal is to mate, but female outnumbers male, and monogamy rules. An old joke tells the story for Antarctica’s human population: “There’s a woman behind every tree.” The ratio has improved, but there are still far more men than women. People can find love on the Ice, though. “The main problem with Ice marriages,” as such relationships are called, Mr. Grant said, “is that they often end in tarmac divorces.” He added, “But if you can find someone you love, spending a winter together in Antarctica is magical.” (He won’t comment on a Web posting, not his, that shows a sign over the Palmer hot tub: “No Sex in Tub.”) Only a few hatchings of human chicks on the Ice. There are but three known Antarcticans, born at Argentine and Chilean posts.
    Europeans and Americans both screen John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing,” in which an alien takes over the crew at an Ice station. “We don’t have the cool flame-throwers that they do,” Mr. Grant said. But “at the end of a long winter you may start to believe it’s true: your co-workers are acting in bizarre ways.” “That’s when you know it’s time to find a warm beach somewhere up north in the real world,” he said. “But you’ll come back again, someday. Once Antarctica gets in your blood, it’s there for life.” Mr. Dargaud concurs. “After you go to Antarctica,” he said, “you can’t function anywhere else.”

    In July, cold comfort indeed. ‘

    Not bad really. I would have preferred that she didn’t take quotes off my posts (the beer brewing thing) without asking, but it was relatively harmless.

    Two days later I got an email from CBS News, wanting someone on the Ice to do a home-video for a week to show what wintering is like. I’m not sure how they expected to get the tape back for airing, seeing as how it’s winter here, but either way I deflected that like it was a hissing scorpion. I think I’ve had enough media exposure for a while.


    The article floated around McMurdo a week or so ago. We all thought you did a good job. About the movie, were you referring to the drive in movie theater we did a few years ago with the Clark and Mike Adventures?
    We redid the igloo this winter and had planned another movie, but it was just too cold and none of us had the ambition. You know how that goes. Anyway, nice article.
    Mike in Mcmurdo


    Congrats on being quoted! I’m still waiting for my 15 minutes. 😆 😉


    Glad to see some exposure about wintering down yonder. As far as entertainment was concerned, I played golf one time out at Willy Field in 95, Bill Russell and I won the tournement, went sledding up at Arrival Heights using asbestos abatement bags… they go fast!!! Held a cookout in -35 weather, wind was a bit of a pain, kept cooking the steaks too fast till we figured out to move them to one side of the grille. And other things that probably shouldn’t be mentioned.

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