Thanksgiving at McMurdo

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I may be so bold as to say I like it more than Christmas. In fact, I will declare it as my favorite holiday. One of the reasons I love it so much of course is the food. But another major reason is because of my family’s tradition of spending the holiday in Chincoteague. If you don’t know what Chincoteague is, it’s a tiny island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore where the ponies cross the channel in the summer to raise money for the fire department. They’re very charitable ponies.
We go there every Thanksgiving with our family friends the Stewarts and we rent a cottage, kayak in the channel, bike around the island and have all the fun. I seem to be missing this tradition more and more in recent years, but I have been there the past two years so you can imagine I was a bit homesick to not be there this year.
However, Thanksgiving at McMurdo was still fun and it was good to try out something new. We didn’t celebrate on Thursday because most people were working. Instead, the festivities were held over the weekend. Because I’m on night shift, my days off were Friday night and Saturday night, whereas the day shifters had Saturday and Sunday. I additionally have Sunday nights off of my regular schedule, so I had a 3 day weekend woo!
On Friday morning the Kiwi base (Scott base) hosted a day bar for us night folk. Some of us walked the 3 ish miles over, but we did have shuttles running people to and fro. Being a normal Friday work day, none of the Kiwis were at the bar since they don’t have night shift, so it was all Americans but just drinking in a different location. Their bar is different in one very noticeable way: there are windows. None of ours have windows which gives them a very divey feel and as soon as you go outside to leave you are blinded by the constant sunlight. Note to self: always bring sunglasses to the bar. When it came time to leave we thought we missed the last shuttle and the weather had suddenly gotten much worse. Thankfully when you work in shuttles you know people who might be willing to come pick you up and they did which was awesome.
scott base day bar
Walking to day bar
Friday night was apparently the big night to go out, but I had volunteered to stay sober in case of emergency. Everyone in shuttles has to do it for at least one holiday during the season. There was daybar on Saturday morning and a 5k race which looked fun but I ended up falling asleep at 630 AM and sleeping until 530 PM so I missed out on both, but felt very well rested for my meal.
We had to sign up for specific dining times for our Thanksgiving meal – either 3, 5 or 7 PM. I chose 7, which gave me a little time to collect myself before starting to drink and stuff my face with food. Everyone got dressed up and they were serving wine with dinner which made it special. I kept getting comments that I had dressed straight out of the 90s and looked either like Melissa Joan Hart (from Sabrina) or Lizzie McGuire, which I’m assuming were meant as compliments. I sat with friends I had met on the plane ride down – a research group from Georgia Tech (who are mistaken in thinking that they are the ‘real’ Tech …). Per tradition we all went around and said what we were thankful for and mixed with the wine you can imagine that it got a bit sappy.
foods. yum.


After dinner, one of the departments was throwing a party so a lot of people headed there. The worst part about being night shift is having to stay awake after having drank during my morning, but somehow I managed by just vegging out and watching movies. I didn’t have the energy to stay awake for brunch which starts at 10 AM, which is very sad indeed because brunch is by far the best meal of the week.
Sunday night was just another chill night – everyone seemed to be recuperating. There are weekly science lectures on Sundays and that week my friends from Georgia Tech were presenting. They have a robot called Ice Fin which they’re using to explore life under the ice shelf. The oceans here are similar to the ice-capped oceans of one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, so they’re doing preliminary research here to eventually move into space research. Pretty cool stuff!
ice fin
Icefin in action. Photo credit
All in all it was a good weekend. Not quite like being home, but still fun 🙂

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