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.



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.
Stationary biking Bob

Biking to nowhere


Boomerang flight


Hello frequent fliers,
We’re on day three of delays and cancellations to fly to Antarctica from New Zealand, but were given the green light for a 4AM departure. So we packed up our bags at 1AM and shuttled to the airport to start the process. First a check-in, then a weigh-in and sit and wait for the bus to take us to the Kiwi C-130 cargo plane. After 40 minutes on the bus we finally boarded and sat in cramped cargo seats for another 30 minutes.
The engines started and by 4:30 we were on our way for the 8 hour flight. I napped, watched a few movies and made a few trips to the back of the plane to the urinal inside a tent like structure. It was looking promising as we approached the point of no return where there is not enough fuel to make it back so we would be committed to land at McMurdo. Suddenly the captain came on and in some unintelligible, garbled static told us we were turning around, so with no choice but to sit for another 5 hours we hunkered down for the slog back to Christchurch in what is referred to as a boomerang flight.
We touched down around 2:30 in the afternoon, tired and famished. Back on the vans, and back to the hotel to shower and crash for some real sleep. Basically we flew 10 hours to nowhere at some cost in the hundreds of thousands with a light breakfast to hold us over.
Back at the hotel I indulged in another delicious lamb shank dinner with real silverware, and we were just informed that we will not be attempting to fly again tonight, so it’s off to bed in a while to wait and see what tomorrow will bring.
Have a good day and stay tuned for the continuing saga of go or no-go to the Ice.
Boomerang Bob

Real silverware at the Breakfree

Toni combines ping pong and ballet


Iron cuisine

Set-up for toast

Greetings stay at homers,
Inspired by a story shared by my hotel mates about a chef in a similar hotel quarantine for 2 weeks in Asia, I’ve employed the hair drier and iron to add some heat to leftovers. I acquired some aluminum foil from the kitchen crew under the ruse of wrapping up leftovers, and so far have enjoyed some nicely browned toast and reheated Kung Pao chicken and rice without setting off the smoke alarm or sprinkler heads in my room, which was a total measure of success.
A real chef in our group took it one step further and made a mouth watering grilled cheese sandwich, which I may try closer to our departure date to lessen the risk of having my wares confiscated prematurely, but in a tone of inquiry and adventure, “What could go wrong?”
In days filled with mind numbing hours to fill, the creative process can run wild, and who knows what could be accomplished if the steaming tea pot is employed as well. I’ve still got 48 hours to go, so feel free to send suggestions and I’ll see what passes my strict adherence to the rules.
Creative cooking Bob

Toast from the iron


Reheating chicken and rice

A neighbor’s grilled
cheese masterpiece

Quarantine cast of characters

Hola future Vaxers,
As we round the corner on our isolation timeline and are in our final week, I thought I’d share some insights into the personalities of the people tasked with making our stay more bearable, or not in some cases.
Someone from the “wellness” team calls every few days to banally ask how we are doing and if they could do anything to make our stay more comfortable. I repeatedly ask for real silverware and a ping pong table and always get the same reply of “No, I’m sorry” in the Glenda the good witch tone, knowing that the manual they are provided has a cover of unicorns and fairies but inside is just a single sheet that has one line that says in 250 font “Tell the sniveling weasels NO to everything!” in a pleasant manner.
Most of the Kiwi yard guards are cheery and smile under their masks as we walk lemming like in circles but one stands out who surely graduated with honors from the prestigious but less well known Auschwitz Charm School. She’s always threatening to revoke our outside privileges if we don’t stay 2 meters apart which leads me to think she gets a bonus pot of gruel at the end of the month for her exemplary discipline and adherence to the rules. She must have a bloodhound like sense that can detect deviants like my buddy Dylan and me who inch closer in conversation as we exit her field of vision.
Lastly some nameless, faceless demolition worker in a room next to mine is busy most afternoons alternating between hammering, scraping or applying a belt sander to the wall in an effort to either remodel the whole place or tunnel his way to freedom.
Just 5 more days of living the dream and then we either fly south to the frozen promised land or transfer to another hotel that promises to be less restrictive. Hope your viral load is low and your spirits are high.
Banal Bob

Joyless cereal bars

Hi cardboard fans,
      Just when you thought food couldn’t get any more dull, dry and tasteless, my breakfast included a recycled cardboard tub of cereal bars made of overcooked, compressed paper shards. They didn’t even make it to the “save for later” space on the dresser, but got pitched in the rubbish bag destined for the landfill. It would be interesting to attach a tracking device to see if even the scavengers of the dump would be enticed to sample these vegan inspired cardboard replicas.
       I know some of you think I just have too much time on my hands, which of course is true, but this one really took the imagination of a prison chef in Hades to combine floor scraps in the wastewater plant into these  mouth drying rectangles of fecal chips.
     Lunch also included a brightly wrapped sample labeled “Chewy Muesli Bar” (which seemed redundant) for anyone that didn’t get enough fiber with the breakfast coal flakes. I now imagine dinner might provide more in the form of  something uniquely inspired like a salad of wood splinters and shavings over dried fish scales and cactus needles for that extra colon boost that we all crave.
    Hope your meals are flavorful and colorful, and as for me all this is balanced out by the joy of my little princess turning 28 today!
   Dry humored Bob

Cutlery Quandary

Hi foodies,
      Our Christchurch Novotel food has been better than expected, like the fresh grilled fish with hollandaise sauce, asparagus, potatoes, salad and fruit for dinner last night, but we’re given flimsy wooden utensils to eat with. I’d really prefer some metal cutlery and have requested it through both guest services and a “wellness” representative only to be told it is not possible. I tried pointing out that we have real spoons for our tea so why not the real thing for the food too? Perhaps it’s a safety issue and they’re unwilling to tell me I’m on suicide watch, so plan B is to buy a set from the grocery store that delivers and hope it gets past the security checkpoint.
        In other defiant news, during our sexual harassment and assault presentation by the HR department this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that 2\3rds of the examples they used had a character named Bob as the errant protagonist. Since we were allowed to use a chat feature to ask questions I wrote asking if perhaps the lady providing the program had a bad relationship in the past with someone named Bob, in an obvious attempt at humor. That comment was met with a reply by someone who said I needed to take the material seriously and only ask appropriate questions. I restrained myself by thinking but not writing back “lighten up, you twit”, and found out later it was the head of the Antarctic program that had sent the note. No doubt that will result in another demerit on my file by the department that I should have known doesn’t have a sense of humor.
           Two weeks to go and then I should be heading further south with one bag that includes 16 pickleball paddles, 2 dozen balls and a portable net that were all donated by folks from my hometown Piles Peak Pickleball Association. The equipment will be a great upgrade for both McMurdo and the South Pole and I hope to put it to good use and then leave it behind for the winter crew.
        Hope you are staying safe and healthy.
Harassed Bob
                           Popsicle stick cutlery