Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Antarctica

To celebrate Christmas, we went to another camp nearby on Lake Hoare to be with several other science groups working in Taylor Valley. Christmas with a group is of course more fun than by ourselves, so we hiked over to Lake Hoare on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with our science family.

To get to Lake Hoare, we had to walk from Lake Fryxell, head up the valleyside a ways, cross over the top of a glacier, then down the other side of the mountain to Lake Hoare camp. It took about 3 hours. Here we are, about half-way through the hike, at the edge of the Canada Glacier where it meets the Lake Fryxell Basin:

There were about ten other people at Lake Hoare camp when we got there. There were limnologists (who study the lakes), glaciologists (who study glaciers), the stream-team (who study the streams), and the two camp managers. They were busy decorating the hut and baking Christmas cookies when we arrived from our hike in the afternoon. It was very warm, friendly, and smelled delicious!

At Lake Hoare, the Christmas traditions always happen on Christmas Eve. We decorate the hut, make and decorate Christmas cookies, and build a very elaborate gingerbread house. The gingerbread house is serious business. It involves heavy construction work, but the finished product is great!

After the decorating is done, we sit down to a great meal prepared by the two camp managers. We had ham, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, homemade dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and green beans. It was the best meal I've had since I've been here! There was even bread pudding for dessert. Christmas dinner is a fancy-dress occasion. Everyone picks a wig and fancy outfit from the costume box to wear for the evening. To top off the mood, we close all of the shutters so that it's dark inside, and eat by candle and Christmas tree light! Here we are. I'm the one on the right with the silver tinsel hair, Elizabeth is behind me wearing a green feather boa, and Katie is at the end on the left with the tiara.

After dinner, we played the White Elephant present game. We gather around the tree and try to steal the best presents from each other. The present game was followed by an all-night dance party. That way we could work off all the calories we gained from the Christmas cookies and dinner. That is how we rang in Christmas morning- dancing in the hut!

On Christmas morning, we all slept in, then gradually woke up, ate leftovers for breakfast, then said our goodbyes to our "family" at Hoare. We walked our way back to Lake Fryxell, happy and full. It was a beautiful, sunny day that was great for our traditional Christmas Walk!
Of course, on our way back to the camp, we stopped to sample the soil and moss at a few spots along the way. Tomorrow we will do one last day of field work at a stream across the lake, then we're heading back to McMurdo. It'll be nice to get a shower, do some laundry, and sleep inside for a while!


  1. Looks like a lot of fun. How do you get the ingredients for the gingerbread? How far ahead do they stock that in?

  2. Rae, the camp manager, magically gets the ingredients she needs for the fabulous Christmas dinner. I'm not sure how, really... I just show up and enjoy.