Heading North

Grilling pesto marinated chicken

The Scallion 29

Hello ground hog observers,

     No doubt here about winter staying around at the South Pole since as the sun dips below a critical angle, it gets noticeable colder each day. Yesterday was -45F and today it is -52F even though the next full sunset is in mid March. I’m scheduled to fly out tomorrow to spend a few days in McMurdo where it’s in the 20’s, which will seem like a heat wave.

   Following brunch on Sunday, Lisa the chef made a delicious Indian meal with Chicken Masala, Nan and a half dozen other dishes.  I spent a few hours helping in the kitchen making samosas which are little triangular shaped dumplings which were ridiculously labor intensive but came out pretty good, especially with some chutney sauce. Today I flipped chicken on the grill and the scraps were much more tasty.

      The dental schedule has come to a grinding halt since everyone that wanted to be seen has been taken care of, so I’ve got a day to clean up and get things organized for the winter doc and PA who arrive tomorrow on the same plane that I will depart. No time for a “handoff” orientation of dental equipment for the newbies, so I took pictures of the equipment and they’ll just have to muddle through it when a dental issue arises with me on the phone coaching them along.

     A few hours of volleyball Monday night, and pickleball last night have kept the waistline in check and not sure if we’ll get anything going tonight or opt for the physics lecture to exercise the brain a little. Speaking of brain rattling, at lunch today I noticed the Traverse team arrived from McMurdo, hauling fuel and cargo 1000 miles in tractors at 6 ½ mph for 3 weeks that saves hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to flying.

     I published what is probably my last Scallion for the season and didn’t see a pink slip from the admin folks that I like to rattle a little, so I guess they’re still willing to let me poke fun at their policies and procedures that often make no sense. Hope your February is starting off well.

Cheers,

     Grilling Bob

Jen mixes up cocktails at the Tiki bar

Ryan demonstrates good form on the pickleball court

The traverse team parked outside after their 1000 mile journey

Melanie waves in front of the South Pole entrance known as the beer can

 

Weekend at the South Pole

 

Another view of the polar plateau

The Scallion 28

Greetings weekenders,

       Another six day work week of a filled dental schedule and a lot of folks with clean teeth has come to an end, so our one day weekend is upon us. I woke up and started some laundry, and ate a light breakfast in anticipation of the usual overwhelming brunch later in the morning. I then walked the 30 steps to the medical clinic to sort out a few things only to discover that a soda I put in the fridge last night was actually a freezer, and the 12oz can had exploded around 5:00 AM. It’s pretty amazing how 12 ounces of liquid can turn into a gallon of exploded frozen sugar water, and I spent the next hour defrosting and cleaning up the mess. In the “it could have been worse” scenario I was glad I hadn’t put a six pack inside the small freezer or I probably would have been cleaning the walls of the room it was tucked in.

     Last night was the annual South Pole head weighing contest where inebriated encouraged participants dunked their heads into a full bucket of water placed inside a larger tub. The displaced water in the tub is then weighed to determine the largest and smallest head in the crowd, and heckling is encouraged throughout the evening to add to the ambiance. Of course the same water is used over and over again so after 20 folks have dipped their head it became a bucket of everyone’s oral, nasal and ear discharges plus whatever goodies were populating their hair and beards. However, with enough alcohol on board it was a moot point and everyone had a good laugh throughout the evening.

     I ventured out for a stroll the other day with Melanie, the PA in our medical team, and we did some photos out by the south pole marker in -40F wind chill, which was pretty invigorating. I’ve been here eight times now, and it’s still incredibly impressive to imagine the explorers who sailed, skied and sledged here over 100 years ago, and all I had to do was get on a series of long plane rides.

     Hope your weekend is enjoyable as we move into February and some good times ahead. A South Pole Scallion is attached for your reading pleasure.

Cheers,

    Dry headed Bob

Practicing Pickleball in -45F

 

Note the look of disgust on the dunker on the left as he looks in the bucket!

The head weighing set-up

Taking a break in the dental corner of the clinic

Another fabulous brunch complete with a Tiki bar

 

Southern Living

Ready for a flight to the South Pole

Hola Polie Wanna-bees,

    It’s another sunny, clear day at the South Pole today, with the temperature at a brisk -21F and a wind chill of -45F. I made it here in the Basler, a 1943 turbo charged DC-3 a few days ago, and have done fairly well acclimating to the 10,500 ft. altitude. The real altitude is 9300 feet of ice but it feels like more because of the dry, cold conditions, so the stairs still require a few extra breaths.

     I got the dental machinery working and the digital x-ray software going with some help from the IT department, and it appears my schedule is booked solid for the next week. Some skeptical souls have sent notes questioning how much work I was actually doing around my recreational activities so here is my answer to how your hard earned tax dollars are being put to use in the dental arena. My work schedule is 7:30AM-5:30PM six days a week and I usually see 4-8 patients a day, sometimes with the help of the other medical staff when needed. In comparison, at McMurdo the other 6 health care providers (2 docs, 2 nurses, 2 PA’s) see an average of 2-5 patients a day between all of them. Elise, our 30 year old energetic physical therapist is the only one who is busier than me seeing 6-8 patients a day, and still runs marathons, teaches Pilates and yoga, and makes all of us look like couch potato slackers. Now at the same time I’m able to make my own schedule and have been known to take an occasional afternoon off for mental health, physical exercise or just a nap and reading to avoid dental burnout, so no need to be concerned that I might be overdoing it.

     Life is pretty simple at 90 degrees south, with interesting people, great food, plus satellite internet and phone coverage a few hours a day. It ends up being a close knit community of 60 people this season, but 10 days is just about the right amount of time for me rather than some folks I’ve met that have been here over a year. I’m still drumming up some ping pong and pickleball matches to keep the joints moving, and will probably venture outside at some point to walk over the crunchy snow and gaze out on the featureless landscape. I took a hard “pass” on the Scott tent pitched outside next to the ceremonial pole for a unique summer camping story, but admire anyone who wants bragging rights to that experience.

    Hope you are healthy and can see some light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Cheers,

   Not burning out Bob

Inside the DC-3- cozy but unpressurized

Scenery of endless mountains and glaciers

The grow room at South Pole of lettuce, cucumbers and other fresh green treats

Summertime camping awaits you next to the ceremonial pole

 

 

Heading to the South Pole

​The small chapel sits on the edge of town near the water

Hi Inauguration fans,
      I woke up early and was able to catch the poet laureate before breakfast this morning, and she was an inspiring voice to start the day. We got a few inches of snow this morning so it was feeling more like Antarctica. I’m scheduled to fly 850 miles south to the South Pole tomorrow morning, but if the flight gets cancelled I might try some cross country skiing on the fresh powder, since that doesn’t happen very often here. It’s actually considered a desert climate because the precipitation is so low, so it’s nice when everything is covered with the fresh white stuff. The flight is on a 1943 DC-3 called a Basler that is down here with a contractor from Canada called Kenn Borek. It has seats and windows so it’s a better flight choice than the noisy workhorse C-130’s, except they aren’t pressurized so you sometimes have to wear an oxygen breathing cannula to keep from passing out.
      In other news we had an interesting museum night recently to showcase some of the historic moments at the base, so I brought out some old dental equipment left over from the Navy days along with drawers of teeth from when they were still making dentures. There was even a belt driven drill from the 1960’s that ran at about 2000 rpm before the air powered drills that came out that are still used today and run at 400,000 rpm.
     A deceased Leopard seal showed up the other day on the ice near the pier that is normally used for the cargo ship, and he has an impressive set of teeth. Normally we see lots of the amazingly tame Weddell seals and the Leopard seals are a rare event, so it was worth a photo.
     Hope your week is going well. I’ve written another Scallion that attached to this too.
Cheers,
 Basler Bob

​Descending from Castle Rock on a sunny day

Kipp tries on the straight jacket at museum night

​Deceased Leopard seal with lots of pearly whites

Baggage check in for the South Pole flight

Biking, hiking and truffles

Fat tire bike for the roads and the glacier

The Scallion 26

Hi friends and family,

     We are just bopping along down here while the US seems intent on imploding, but maybe that will settle down next week. The weather has been nice enough to get out most days if the wind isn’t too bad, so my buddy Mike and I did some fat tire biking on the glacier a few days ago, which was wonderful. I also made another trip out to Castle Rock, up Ob hill behind the clinic and continue to be the guy to beat on the ping pong and pickleball court. The food is still delicious and plentiful and avoiding the dessert table is near impossible when it’s covered with home made truffles, cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies.
     The evening activities this weekend include a modern art themed event that encourages all the creative minds on the base to come up with interesting and sometimes bizarre exhibits, and this evening is a Freak Show with music for those that want to dress up. I’ll show up more as a voyeur than participant just to see folks strut their stuff in odd outfits. Last weeks marathon was a fun event that I volunteered to drive people around instead of running in the face biting wind, and there was a lot of limping around the next day that people wore as a badge of honor. To round it out I’ve done some time in the galley washing pots and pans, and even a little baking to keep my cooking skills up. The dental schedule continues to be filled, and I took out a few wisdom teeth yesterday to balance out the cleanings and fillings that are more common. Also had time to write a new edition of the Scallion to poke fun at the admin folks.
    Cohort 5 is in New Zealand and is supposed to fly here in 10 days after their managed isolation is complete, so we’ll start a new round of masks and distancing once they arrive. If it all goes well I’ll fly to the South Pole with the new medical folks to give them some dental training and then figure out my date to return home. Until then I’d love to hear some news from your homes and hope you are well. Attached is another addition of the Scallion to see how much I can insult the administrators before they throw me off the island.
Cheers,
Back to baking Bob

Brunch truffles

Pickleball in the gym

Hike to Castle Rock in bright sunshine

Ob Hill rises 850 feet above the town

 

 

Brunch and music

Ice Stock provided 6 hours of music and dance

The Scallion 25

Hi New Year hopefuls,
     We’re in the middle of a heavenly 2 day weekend to start 2021, and so far it’s been pretty upbeat. Yesterday I got to play some pickleball with friends as well as feast on an amazing brunch where duck and chicken cordon bleu were featured along with sushi tuna and cheese platters. The desserts were tempting too, but I’d already had enough and got a great nap in before the annual music festival known as Ice Stock was under way. There were a half dozen bands over a six hour period set up on a stage outside, and the weather cooperated with sunny skies and light winds to keep it in the mid 20’s, which brought out the shorts on some folks. One real highlight was a synchronized dance group that performed a high energy routine to rounding applause. Six varieties of grilled brats were on hand to picnic for dinner at the concert so the day finished with everyone happy and satiated from the food and music. So while it is often said that Antarctica is a harsh continent you can see that we’re not suffering too much down here for the time being.
      The base did a Level Red drill the other day, which means a patient tested positive for Covid-19 and our medical group got on the phones to do contact tracing to see how it would spread in a real case scenario. It became obvious after an hour that in a setting such as this with everyone in close contact, the whole place would be infected in short order. Fortunately it was just a drill, and we are blessedly virus free for now and hopefully for the foreseeable future.
     Today I woke up hoping to hike but the 30-40 mph winds discouraged our group from heading out, so it looks like indoor activities for a while. I got inspired to write an edition of the Scallion, which I’ve attached to this email. I hope 2021 is starting off well for you too.
Cheers,
Bob in virus free paradise

Scott’s 1902 Discovery Hut with McMurdo in the background

The dance routine at Ice Stock

Garrett serves up duck breast with a raspberry sauce

Sushi and cheese platter for brunch

 

 

Handshakes and hugs are back in style

4 Adelie penguins on the ice near the base

Hi social distancers,
        No Covid here, so the base went Level Green two days ago and it’s smiles, hugs and handshakes all around. It took a while to remember it was OK to sit with friends, gather in crowds and leave the masks at home. All the managed isolation has paid off, and one of the unexpected benefits has been the absence of the “crud”, the inescapable lingering cold and cough that has plagued the population in years past, but has not been here this time. No runny noses or missed days of work because of fatigue and malaise, which leaves the medical team sitting around with no sick people calling in for treatment, but a probable blueprint for the future. Of course it doesn’t affect the dental schedule, and within a few days of putting up the weekly sign up sheet for exams and cleanings it gets filled with folks happy to see the dentist.
      The party at the Waste Barn last night had a few hundred people packed to the walls with standing room only for the music and skits, and ended with a wedding presided by a fellow that claimed “By the powers vested in me by absolutely no one, I now pronounce you man and wife!” It was a great way to end the day after an afternoon hike with a buddy that was rewarded with my first penguins of the season, along with some seals basking on the ice in the 24 hour sunshine. The next sunset is February 20th, so we’ve got 7 more weeks of daylight, at which time I’ll probably be on my way home.
      Today is New Year’s eve since we’re a day ahead of most of you, but the big celebration known as Ice Stock is scheduled two days from now on Saturday as part of a 2 day weekend celebration of music and food. Probably more hiking, pickleball and ping pong for me around the events to keep the pants from feeling too tight. Hope your year ends on a high note too.
Cheers,
  Socializing Bob

Party at the Waste Barn

Weddell seals near the New Zealand base called Scott Base

Sheet metal skier sculpture near the Castle Rock hike

Meeting in our medical office

 

 

The cost of fame

Ping Pong poster

Hi racquet fans,
     The other day I stopped by the rec (recreation) office to say hi to Kelly, the lady who has been running the events around the base for a number of years. I had noticed a ping pong tournament sheet that was halfway finished so wanted to know if it was possible to get into the mix. She said the tournament had kind of petered out and no one had played in over a month, so she would make a new one with me included, which sounded good. The next day I noticed a poster of ping pong paddles as well as a TV ad that said “Bob is back- can you beat him?” around the base with a message to sign up at the rec office. The end result is all the trash talking players are now avoiding me and it’s been hard to find any games. Hopefully at some point that will die down and some competitors will show up at the table in the lounge above the galley, which is our dining area.
     Kelly did give me 2 nights/week for pickleball, and it officially starts this evening. I’ve already heard from a number of folks who said they plan to come so I’m hopeful it will be a good turnout for some doubles. Of course if anyone wants to challenge me to some singles I’d feel obligated to set the record straight with no qualms.
     In dental news, we’ve settled on a new flossing motivational campaign with a poster on the ceiling of the dental room. After some debate it was decided to skip the fake blood dripping on the patient from the teeth of the seal and just go with the visual. My schedule has been filled all week with some fillings and lots of cleanings, so free dental services are still a hot item.
     Tomorrow evening the base goes to Level Green, which means no masks or any restrictions, like life used to be. It’s what we’ve been waiting for and we get to stay that way until the next plane arrives in about a month at which point we go back to level yellow for a week. Some of you have sent me news about Covid in Antarctica, which unfortunately referenced an outbreak at the Chilean base from a supply ship. Fortunately that base is thousands of miles away and poses no risk to any other outposts, so we are blissfully isolated from that issue.
     Hope 2021 brings in a better new year.
Poster boy Bob

Flossing poster

 

Open sea past the sea ice

Frozen Ross Sea looking at the mainland

Ski landing in Antarctica for the holidays

Landing on skis on the glacier

Greetings northerners,

     A lot of luck and clear skies brought our LC-130 skiing to a landing on the glacial runway of McMurdo last Tuesday evening around 6PM. It was a great relief after over 4 weeks of hotel isolation. Our cohort of 18 loaded into Ivan the Terribus, a 40 passenger aging wheeled snow vehicle designed for everything but comfort for the trip to the base. Five minutes later we were stuck and spinning multiple wheels from a combination of fresh snow and warm weather. The call went out for a tow, and a friendly bulldozer showed up in front 10 minutes later and pulled us to firmer ground for the 30 minute ride to town.

    We checked in, got our room keys and I dumped my bags in a room that looked like the same one as last year, but without a roommate, and headed for the galley for some pizza. Dinner and a shower was all I needed to head to bed by 11.

    I spent the first day getting the dental office in shape and started seeing patients before we were rewarded with a 2 day holiday. Hiking and pickleball were top priorities, so I secured the gym for 2 nights a week for pickleball with the rec department. Christmas eve was the first possibility, and one energetic young man showed up to play. He left a bit dejected after failing to beat the old guy but I told him how wonderful it was to run around and sweat a little for the first time in over a month if it was any consolation. I’m hoping some more will show up tomorrow evening to get a group of regular players to burn off all the good food the galley has been serving, especially the pies and tarts.

     Yesterday I hiked up to Castle Rock and climbed to the top with Shawn the doc in 15 degree wind chill, which my burning thighs reminded throughout the rest of the afternoon, but it was worth it. Today it’s been pretty quiet and I’ll probably take a stroll down to the water to check for penguins after lunch.

     Hope your holidays are quiet and your waistlines are stable.

Cheers,

Bob

Flying along in the LC-130- masks removed for eating and drinking only

Emergency shelter on the hike to Castle Rock

Climbing to the top of Castle Rock

A skua trying to figure out how to get into the food waste bin

 

Fly and Bike to nowhere!

Cohort 4 in managed isolation in New Zealand

Hi transport fans,

     After our ill fated 10 hour flight that returned to the same airport last week I figured I might as well duplicate the futile effort of movement on the previously disdainful stationary bike in the workout room. So each afternoon I prop my tablet in the holder and watch a movie for an hour while I pedal to nowhere, satisfied at least that I’m getting some exercise to counteract the most sedentary time in my lifetime as we head into week 5 of our managed isolation.
       This mornings flight was cancelled at the convenient time of 4:20 AM with a startling phone call. It at least saved us the brain damage of packing up everything and checking out of the hotel before pointlessly driving out to the airport. Our group is devolving into sleeping late, overeating and wearing the same outfit everyday as we sink into a routine of blandness.
     Some comic relief was provided last night by a creative soul making hats out of our meal covering aluminum foil prior to watching a movie about a marooned astronaut on the moon, which buoyed our spirits that we weren’t “that guy!”
      There’s hope that the weather may clear at McMurdo later in the week so send some sunshine our way. Until then we remain in lockdown in what feels like the Twilight Zone.
Cheers,
Stationary biking Bob

Biking to nowhere