Christmas was different.
On the Tuesday prior we had a surprise visit by Santa’s Sleigh from McMurdo station. On that bright and early morning a large helicopter landed and unloaded 8 elves and a wonderfully sarcastic pilot carrying a 20 pound gift box for the camp. We ravenously tore into the box and to our shock and awe it was filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, and cheeses. It was the most excited I’ve ever been about a gift I could eat.
15 scientists from throughout the Dry Valleys converged at the Lake Hoare camp for the holiday weekend. It was like getting the whole family together. And it all started rather benign. Christmas Eve was dedicated solely to the creation of highly disfigured cookies and the most immaculately intricate gingerbread house ever made in a field camp (this statement has not been scientifically validated). Over the course of 6 hours we had made the dough from scratch, used stencils to carve out slots for windows, and crushed different colored cough drops into powder to form the stain glass windows. Once baked, our creation was lit up by candles from the inside.
Christmas day was an adventure. After being forced under penalty of death to either paint or eat the remaining cookies we geared up for the first annual Dirty Little Hoare Regatta. After sterilizing the construction materials we built the world’s sorriest excuse for a Navy out of bottles and duct tape and prepared them for launch on the small pond next to Lake Hoare. In a testament to my time growing up on the water mine sank immediately. The dragon won.
Christmas dinner was an extravagant affair by all standards. After everyone had showered and put on a fresh set of clothes we gathered around the table for an incredibly civilized meal. We put up thick black canvas curtains to block the light out for a candlelit (neon?) dinner. It was the first ‘dark’ I’ve seen in over two months. It was wonderful. After good conversation and even better food it was time to steal presents in the form of a White Elephant gift exchange. Then a round of Greenland coffees were served. That’s when things got weird.
Chairs were cleared out of the way and we all lined up around the table. What happened next was a feat of physical strength and dexterity I never thought possible: the Table Traverse. The goal of it is to climb around the table (under and over) without ever touching the ground. Beginners can traverse the width, experts traverse the length. Then we tried to traverse a folding chair. It didn’t work.
The events that followed can not be explained in full detail. Here is the edited synopsis:
There were wigs and tight pants.
There was a dance party.
I hadn’t thought too much of Christmas other than that it was a very enjoyable few days. It was only the next afternoon that I had time to reflect on what a strange experience it all was. I’m unable to fully articulate the oddity of it, so I leave you with my favorite quote from the afternoon:
“When I came to he was holding a wet towel to my head and my pants were at my knees. But at least the wound was bandaged.”