Cleaning After Science in Antarctica, Part IV by Brian Birkenstein


There were lots of opportunities to partake in sports down there. On top of fitness rooms and taking hikes on your own there were many one-off activities or ongoing team sports organized. Some of them I knew about better than others. Sometimes I was semi involved or knew people that were and sometimes I just saw the winners list posted on the recreation board. Two onetime events that I didn’t know much about were the golf match (farthest drive) and the cyclo-cross race. I think I was coming back from Happy Camper when the cyclo-cross race was happening and the golf I ignored, because, well, it’s golf. However there were also those that I knew a little more about.

Bowling (and other) Leagues -it’s a sport, they show it on ESPN.

Back in the early days of McMurdo station they didn’t have women but they had bowling. I suppose when the lanes were first put in they actually were not warped and you could actually bowl a proper game. These days however, the lanes are quite old and not what you would call ideal. The lane on the right always steals strikes from your well thrown ball and the lane on the left usually gives strikes to the undeserving. Or was it the other way around? I can’t really remember which lane was which but they were messed up. I suppose you can’t expect much from an alley that still has manual pin set up, a duty which fell upon volunteers that worked for tips.

It was still fun to have a few rolls though. I usually showed up in my best Lebowski/Dude outfit. I have now mentioned him and the movie more than once and may do it again. If you want to understand the references, stop reading and go watch one of the best films of all time. Then, do yourself a favor, and attend a Lebowski Fest for bowling, costumes, White Russians, trivia and what have you.   I also usually came with a handful of beers but was sometimes industrious enough to make myself a White Russian or two, the beloved beverage of the Dude.

I did join a league that was set up by the Recreation Department. In the beginning I was the team captain but only because I put my name first on the signup sheet. That role tended to rotate between Jesse, Travis and myself. My teammates were Janitors Jesse, Jenny and Travis. I had a few rotating teammates depending on other commitments of the main four. I think I missed one night because I was sick. We were one of the worst teams in the league but we just did it for a little fun. We actually even won a few but our only wins were when the other team didn’t show.   If we ever rolled against anyone, we didn’t even come close. It was something to do one night every other week for a little fun, not to be competitive. Well at least that’s the stance you take when you always lose.

Aside from bowling there were actually many other leagues set up. In fact I think there was something going on just about every week night. I thought about signing up for a few but didn’t have the energy. As far as I can remember, there was darts, soccer (indoor) and I think basketball and volleyball. There may have been more. It’s hard to believe I didn’t even have the energy for darts but I worked long hours and was busy enough.

Ob Hill Up hill

I certainly did not take part in this one. I don’t really enjoy running races, especially when they are ALL up hill. Observation Hill was one of the main landmarks of the station, a prominent hill, overlooking our base. Normally it took about 45 minutes or so to walk to the top, but the Ob Hill UP Hill was a race. I think people could do it in less than ten minutes. Even if I was running I think it would have taken me 45 minutes because of all the pauses I would have had to take for air.

Lead Janitor Peter told me that one year he vowed to go up Ob Hill every day for the season to get some exercise. I think he made it into the 80’s before a twisted ankle kept him from going up again. I don’t think he ever did the race though. Janitor Jared wanted to take part in the uphill race.   He told me he was sure he could win. He had heard the winning time from the year before, and was 100 percent positive he could beat that. He had in fact already beaten it on several trial attempts. After the race, I went to congratulate him but he did not win. Apparently on his trials he had started from the wrong place, misunderstanding what the race’s course was. Who won I’m not sure, but I have a guess. It was most likely Ian, as he won all such things. He was young and fit and you’ll see his name again.