Waiting on Oden

Hey, guess what? It’s foggy again…

Yes, it’s been a bit gray and foggy and blowy for days now, if not weeks (it’s kind of hard to tell, when there is no night to delineate one day from the next). The big run-up to the holidays, to Icestock and New Year’s, is over. The next excitement on the community calendar will be the arrival later this month of the icebreaker Oden and then a visit from the Nathaniel Palmer research vessel, and, finally, our annual (yes, annual) shipload of supplies.

Oden will allegedly bring the penguins, as it breaks up the ice enough for them to travel more comfortably. Despite having the intelligence of a chicken, the little birds are rather picky about where they hang out. They like water, but not too much water*, and ice floes of a certain size and thickness. Odin delivers that, apparently, though there have been sightings of rogue penguins here and there out on the ice already.

*Penguins avoid open water because leopard seals and orcas don’t. ‘Nuff said.

The field camps are breaking down, one by one, and people are continuing to trickle off the continent. The sun is already noticeably lower in the sky as it does its slow spiral down to winter sleep.

The deadline to send outgoing mail by air is January 13, though we will continue to receive mail until the last flight sometime in late February.

The snow is all but gone around town and on the trails, and what little remains is grimy and shriveled and ugly.

That said, there is still beauty and wonder to be found amid the fog and gray gloom and mud. You just have to look a little harder for it.

Actually, those of you reading the blog don’t have to look hard at all… A couple nights ago I attended a screening of a rough-cut of a feature-length film made by a guy who’s been down here the better part of a decade. He is part of the communications staff, but has a side hobby as a time-lapse photographer. His current project has gotten interest from Serious Film People and will be edited and scored professionally and hopefully released later this year.

Until then, you can see an amazing short clip of his stuff here. The video really captures much of the beauty of the area around McMurdo.

If for any reason the link didn’t work, try this:

As for me, I’m working on another far more modest movie, but don’t expect it to be ready for several weeks, partly because I want to include Oden and, dammit, I am going to find me a penguin to photograph one way or another.

Until then, all I have to offer are a few photos from my hike around Ob Hill Loop yesterday… it might not look like much, but it was a beautiful walk. The fog tends to flatten the light and make it impossible to judge distance, whether miles or inches, but I was treated to loads of big, fluffy snowflakes and plenty of seals and skua, so I can’t complain.

On the Ob Hill Loop trail, with fog and a curious skua (right foreground) to keep me company

Seals hanging out around (and in) a crack in the sea ice. There is a seal partly submerged just to the right of the one lying on the ice.

Ob Hill was created out of at least four separate volcanic eruptions, each with its own signature color. Here's a shot of the trail going through them... note the foreground is black rock, then red, then tan and finally gray. Cool, huh?

Ooh! Sexy ventifact!! A piece of lava that has been scoured by wind-driven ash and sand over the millennia until it resembles coral. Or brains. Mmm, brains...



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