Saturday, December 31, 2005
posted 12/31/2005 07:30:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

It is a long weekend!

Yay! Slept in until about noon on Friday, ate lunch, called people back in the states, had dinner, then went out and partied with the rest of the station until late. It was a Friday before a two day weekend for most people, and Molly's birthday to boot! Was really nice to chat with some family type people for the first time in a while, should try and make time to do that more often. Had a good time out as well; played a lot of airhockey, had some fun conversations, and listened to some good live music at the coffee house. Nice day!

Today, I slept in again (but not as late,) had brunch with some friends, then ended up going on a hike with them out to Castle Rock. Had a good time, we did an out-and-back from McMurdo out to the top of Castle Rock and back. Neat views, nearly perfect weather, good times! Kish brought a little backpacking guitar with him, and since Sky was also along, we had 2/3s of one of McMurdo's best bands (Ja Chant) with us on top of the rock! Sky and Kish threw a little impromptu concert that was really neat, then it got a little breezy and therefore cold, so we headed back to McMurdo and dinner! At the coffee house right now getting a little caffeine in my system, then will be off to celebrate new years shortly!

Castle Rock is on the right, Erebus in the background. You can see silhouettes of a couple people on top of Castle rock for perspectiveDave and Sky climbing up Castle Rock. Nice little scramble to the top!
Castle rock on the right, Erebus in the backgroundDave and Sky climbing Castle Rock

Q:What kind of wildlife do you have down there?
-Joyce E (through mom)

A:Not much animal life at all other than people down here. Just a lot of volcanic rock and ice. The most common animal here is the skua (not positive, but I believe we have South Polar Skuas specifically.) Skuas are a lot like big, bold, aggressive seagulls. Most people down here don't like skuas very much, but I personally think they're pretty impressive animals. That said, I haven't been divebombed by one yet. They like to steal people's food by flying right at a persons head, which usually scares the person into dropping their food onto the ground, where the skua will then grab it and fly away. Other times, they just cut to the chase and swoop right down onto what you're carrying to grab it and take it away. I've had a skua steal a frisbee and fly with it for a little bit until it realized that the frisbee wasn't food.

We also have Weddell Seals and Leopard Seals, which I suppose are interesting animals, but really from what I can tell they're just big furry balls of fat that occasionally pop out of cracks in the ice to lay nearly motionless on the ice.

There are occasionally penguins around, but they're not too common. We've got two varieties in this neck of the woods; the more common Adelie, and the relatively rare Emperor Penguin. I've never seen an Adelie, but was lucky enough to see an Emperor up close and personal on my first week down here. There are plenty people who have been down here for several seasons and never seen an Emperor penguin, so I was really lucky to run across that one on sea ice training last October.

Finally, there's stuff that lives only in the water. We've got some fish, a lot of single cell thingies, killer whales, and other swimmy animals. I've not seen any of these so far, and really don't know exactly what's there so I can't comment much on them. For pretty much the entire time I've been here in McMurdo, the water has had a thick crust of ice on top, but with the warmer weather and the icebreaker in town, there will soon be a lot more water visible, so I'm hoping to see some new wildlife!

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