Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Year's Eves

I would never dream about celebrating my New Year's Eve at the South Pole, even in my wildest dream, before coming to Antarctica this time. On the departure day for Patriot Hills, I asked Nick Luis, one of the owners of ALE, what would be the chance of us being stuck at the South Pole until New Year. He was not too amused, "Are you hoping for bad weather?". Of course not but I want to know the odds and my chance to be at the South pole for New Year celebration. To be clear, my goal was anything but a celebration at the pole.

Anyway, as you all know, we reached to the South Pole on New Year's eve New Zealand timezone (Dec 30 Chilean time).

That "night", it was so cold, -40 with windchill. Despite the bitter cold, a few of us, some women from the Commonwealth group, Andy and I went to the ceremonial pole. There were about 8 people already there. Those were the people who work at the station. We joined them, making a circle around the steel ball. This is no Time Square so no ball dropping at the strike of midnight. It is a steel ball that is attached to a pole permanently.

We mingled and chatted in the cold. The guys from stations were really impressed at our expeditions, especially the women team. We did not have a countdown, for some reason. We were busy chatting and forgot to do the countdown. Bummer. But when we realized it was midnight, we all said Happy New Year" and shook hands, with our gloves and mittens on. Some hugging too. After about 10 mins, we dispersed and back to our tents.

That was our New Year celebration at the South Pole - ubercold, no party, sans alcohol, very few people, and no countdown. Yet it was special. Not too many people have been at the South Pole, few of them have been at the South pole at the turn of the year, and among that, even fewer skied there in time for the midnight. I felt very privileged.

The new year did not end there. The Twin Otters came picked us up at the pole on Dec 31 Chilean time (New Year day New Zealand). By the time we got to Thiels for refueling, it was "midnight" again. As the aircraft took off, we had our champagne with the wish for a happy new year yet again. Celebrate twice has always a dream, and twice in Antarctica is even more surreal. And I was in that surrealism.

Today is Lunar New Year's day. Happy the Year of the Tiger, to those to celebrate it.

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