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Antarctica 2012 — Work:Play

7 A-surreal-scene-in-Antarctica

The weather has not been favorable to those aboard the Aurora. The ice pack completed its stranglehold on us, finally pinning our ship into place. We have been running the engines to keep a small pool open at the rear of the ship, but we are going nowhere.

In light of this development, we decided to have an ice station on the floe we keep waking up to. With a week since our last ice station, everyone seemed eager to get onto the ice. The ice is not favorable to many experiments, but we are all making the best of the circumstance. This floe is over seven meters thick in places, and is littered with ice rubble.

Extreme care has to be taken here, as little snow filled traps are everywhere, just hoping to sprain or break an ankle.

The first day outside ice station 7 was highly productive. The terrain was of particular interest to the snow mapping team, and the weather was fantastic. Our team found a suitable flow for our experiments, and worked until we no longer could.

Blizz conditions were forecast for the second day of this station, so everyone remained aboard.

Unfortunately the blizz did not open up the ice as expected, and we awoke on the third day to find ourselves still pinned in place.

Without hope for leaving we mustered our strength and sought more work in the cold. At the end of the day we had a well drilled and flooded worksite.

We decided the scientific value of this worksite was exhausted, so we headed inside to clean up our gear and make a plan for the following day. The lack of open water prevented some of the oceanographic experiments from taking place, and the snow and transect teams finished their work early, so we were one of the last teams to come in for the evening.

The week aboard, coupled with grueling hours of work had apparently built up some steam in our group. As a result, our equipment laden sleds found themselves pulled into a very interesting place. In the process of being dragged to the ship they passed through the midst of our community, almost entirely in play.

Play is undervalued. I long ago decided that an ideal life depends primarily upon three things: enough to eat, at least one person I can really depend on, and adequate time to play. Much of engineering feels like play, so that criterion is typically well met. Still, there is something magical about trudging back with cold aching muscles and walking into a winter scene that one would only expect in childhood. I paused, and watched as dozens of the hardest working people I have met smiled, laughed, and worked out some cabin fever. Their smiles and laughs were contagious, so we finished pulling in our gear, and joined them in celebration of a hard day’s work.

I have opted to omit the description of the scene, instead choosing to upload photos. I have included a few work photos to provide evidence that we do actually work out in the field. Please don’t take the ratio of work to play photos as a measure of our work to play ratio. Editor’s note: click on thumbnails to see larger images of David’s great photos.