28 January, 2001
McMurdo is very isolating due to the fact that everything is here. Established in 1956, the station contains about 100 buildings and can accommodate 1200 people during the summer and 200 in the winter. McMurdo has its own hospital, church, fleet post office, library, video store, (free) barbershop, two clubs, coffeehouse, shuttlebus and hydroponics greenhouse (whose crops include lettuce, tomatoes and green peppers). Mac also has its own bowling alley that will challenge all abilities since the alley itself is like an old New England country road complete with frost heaves.
Just about the time when you feel like you have forgotten where you are it is time to get out and about. The easiest way to do this is to attend the half hour recreational briefing. Here you get to watch a half hour video complete with swollen frozen feet and a 1930's soundtrack. It is also here that you learn the Search and Rescue (SAR) team maintains the Castlerock hiking trail by monitoring for crevasse danger and marking the trial with green or orange colored flags. The SAR team has a rule: avoid the black and blue markers and you wont be black and blue.
With a true blue sky above and wearing some of my ECW (extreme cold weather) gear, I'm ready to head out. I have also packed the remaining ECW gear in my backpack along with chocolate, mixed gorp, and Raro (the Aussie equivalent of Gatorade). Leaving my room, I feel like I am carrying more gear than Mallory on his first attempt of Everest. Making my way to the Firehouse I meet up with Katie Catapano, part of the Dartmouth research team I am here with. At the Firehouse we one sign-out and leave an estimated time to complete our hike, 6hrs.
While hiking the Castlerock Loop trail we are walking on seventeen feet of permanent snow. The trail climbs and winds itself away from the station complete with incredible views of: The Royal Society Mountain Range, the Ross Sea, Willy field (airstrip for the C130's), and Mt. Erebus, the local active volcano. At the half-way point the trail turns back and starts heading for Scott Base. It is here that you pass the Scott Base Skiing Hill (Skiwi Hill), the southern most ski hill on the planet.
While passing the Skiwi, the Kiwi's invited us to enjoy the slope and barbecue. An invitation is the only way Americans can visit the slope. This rule is intended to control the crowd at the slope. However, everyone who walked by was invited.
Already on the hill were people telemark skiing. Taking skiers up the hill was a rope tow designed using Kiwi ingenuity: a 1970 American one ton truck and a 1930's rope. As luck would have it, I had brought the newest board from Jake Burton, a skateboard designed for snow. So remember when you are traveling in the southern most part of the world to plan on visiting your New Zealand neighbors at the Skiwi mate-
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