Thanksgiving in McMurdo

Thanksgiving is an important holiday in the U.S. Antarctic Program. It’s traditionally observed on Saturday rather than Thursday (effectively only one day after U.S. Thanksgiving, thanks to the International Date Line), to allow most station personnel to take a two-day weekend to celebrate and unwind. A two-day weekend may sound normal, but it’s a big deal down here: we all officially work six days a week, and this is the first full weekend many of the early-arrival staff have gotten since August.

The SPIDER science team has a tight schedule to integrate the payload, so we generally keep the lab open 7 days a week. We also run early and late shifts, with overlap from lunch through the afternoon. Each team member is expected to take a staggered day off every week or so, mostly at their discretion (or when someone reminds them to). Even with the days off it’s a grueling pace and a stressful time, and we are all far from family and friends. This makes holidays all the more important, and the McMurdo community does their best to make them special.

Turkey Trot 2022

Thanksgiving in McMurdo begins with the Turkey trot: a 5K-ish loop around town, starting and ending at the chapel. This is mostly a fun run: some competitive runners, but plenty of people in costume and cheering squads on the sidelines. But it also has some substantial hills up and down the transition, and the special challenges of the Antarctic climate. Today’s conditions: overcast, 18F, wind chill of 3F.

I am not a runner, and I’ve never run any kind of a race in my life. But there’s a first time for everything! I cobbled together an attempt at running clothes, registered for a placard, and joined the chilly crowd for the 10am start. I didn’t think through the course, didn’t push hard, and just followed along in the cheerful pack. It ended up not being a full 5K (the lead runner got ahead of the team sent to mark the turnaround!), so the course was a little short. But it was fun! I had a middle-of-the-field finish. Should do this again some time…

Near the finish line. Photo by Jared May.
SPIDER runners post-race: Simon (with awesome costume), me, Susan. Photo by Jared May.

Thanksgiving Dinner

The McMurdo galley pulls out all the stops for holiday dinners, and most of us bring (or scavenge…) one decent shirt to wear to them. We made a reservation for the whole SPIDER team to eat together Saturday evening, along with most of the LDB team. We also invited John Kovac of the BICEP/Keck team, who had an unexpectedly long stay in McMurdo on his way to Pole. It was a good meal with good people, and a good reset for the work ahead.

A very SPIDER Thanksgiving 2022! (I’m at the far back left corner) Photo by Jared May.

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