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Check out the Web site for McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research
December 5, 2000 -- The folks who come to Antarctica come here for adventure. This is the frontier – the limits of civilization. I’ve talked to more than one person who was inspired to make the trip after reading the story of Ernest Shackleton’s heroic adventure in 1915 with the sailing ship the Endurance. (He rescued his crew, which was stranded in Antarctica, by crossing
800 miles of ocean in an open boat.) But the main port
of entry, McMurdo Station, is a rude shock for many. They arrive to find a town of about 85 buildings and large lots of construction containers and material. Many large oil tanks dot the hills
behind the base.
The Internet has made a huge difference in the degree of isolation people experience around here. There’s a high-speed connection, so people can read their hometown newspapers online and keep up on
everything. (Of course, many people around here are
grateful to be away from the never ending story of the
presidential election.) E-mail also keeps people in
touch with their friends back home, and there’s always
News on the base is controlled by the folks who run
the town. That means rumors are a favorite way of
spreading information around here. Just before I got
into town, the rumor spread that a UFO was going to
land on Antarctica. I found a
funny poster circulating locally that shows a huge UFO
hovering over McMurdo. The official word is one young
man here got a bit disoriented down here and had come
up with the notion of an impending UFO encounter. He
was put on a plane back to New Zealand.
There are regular reminders that this isn’t simply a college
campus. We awoke the other day to an extended blackout
in the main building, which houses the cafeteria and
many dorm rooms. Electricians had to shut off power to
the building the following evening. The flyer warning
of the power shutdown in some ways typifies the spirit
of McMurdo. It says, "The Sparkies present… The Little
Blackout." People are down here to have a good time.
And they do.
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