Saturday, July 22, 2017

The South Pole Winter Games

I put this post together about a week and a half ago, but things got a little busy, so I got a little distracted and am just now getting it up. Hopefully, it isn't too late to be interesting!

The South Pole is one of the most isolated places in the world... especially during the long winter season. I have talked some in the past about the things we do to keep ourselves occupied here. We read, play games, play musical instruments, study. and hang out in our free time. We have had a handful of classes on astronomy, ham radio, and even now a programming class. We celebrate holidays like back home, and even a few holidays that are unique to the South Pole or Antarctica in general. I say all that to say that last week, we had an amazing time here on station. It started on July 3rd with the opening of the South Pole Winter Games. Over the course of the week, there were all sorts of competitions and tournaments many members of the station competed in for actual medals.  Sure, the gold medal isn't really made of gold, but the medals were put together by our machinist on station, and etched with "SPWG" as a reminder of the challenges endured and overcome over this glorious week of competition!

There were many "traditional" types of games including:

  • Vertical Tower (Beer can) Sprint (Something like 80 steps at -70F in full cold weather gear)
  • Individual Sled Pull (From the geographic pole to the ceremonial.. 150 yards?)
  • Group Sled Pull (From the geographic pole to the ceremonial.. 150 yards?)
  • Treadmill 10k (one guy did this in full fire gear... I have no idea why)
  • Volleyball

A few less traditional games:

  • Ping Pong
  • Eight ball

And a few games that were a little more on the nerdy side of things:

  • Settler's of Catan
  • Supreme Commander
  • Rubick's Cube
  • Photography Contest (for pictures taken during the games)

Being the amazing athlete that I am... not, I only participated in volleyball and the Rubick's Cube competition. I only joined in volleyball as kind of a joke. The station physician's assistant and I decided to put together a team that would play just for fun and with absolutely no hope of winning. In all honesty, neither one of us really cared that much about it, and we figured we could find a third person for our team who was the same. Sadly for him, that person ended up being Martin. He was there when we formed the team, and I don't think he realized how little Catherine or I really cared about the game, but he wanted to join us. I think he would have done much better with a team that cared more, but he was a good sport, and I think all three of us had fun. I just want to caution you, if you see any supposed pictures of me in the tournament with pigtails and my shirt tied up over my belly, they are all fake.  Don't look at them. We don't need those kinds of fake pictures of me being absolutely ridiculous making their way around the interwebs! At any rate, the volleyball tournament went as I expected for us... we lost miserably, but we had some great fun during the game.

Most of the games took place throughout the week in evenings after the people on station finished with their daily work.  There were a few games on Sunday after the opening ceremonies and a few games on the last Sunday before the closing ceremony. In fact both of the competitions I participated in were on the last day. The volleyball tournament and the Rubick's Cube. As I said, we lost the volleyball tournament pretty bad.  The Rubick's Cube competition went much better. If you haven't figured it out, I am a bit of a nerd.  As a nerd, when I got on station last year, I thought to myself, "Now that I have some free time, what can I learn to do that would really impress the ladies?" The solution was obvious! It was time to learn the Rubick's Cube! I know, ladies, I just get more and more impressive with every passing day. Anyway, over the last several months, it has become a mindless thing I do with my hands just to pass time time when watching videos or watching the detector. I have a cube that I have solved over and over again.  So, when this competition was announced, I thought I might actually have a chance at a medal. Unfortunately, there is another guy on station who has been solving cubes much longer than I have, and he even taught me the first few steps on how to solve a Rubick's cube.  Suffice it to say that in general, he is faster than I am. That being said, sometimes you get lucky. On the last day of the games, right before the closing ceremonies, we had the Rubick's cube competition. I went first, convinced that I was in line for a silver medal. I took the cube, and got on the platform in front of about half the station and went to work as fast as I could. I ended up solving the cube in 1 minute and 3 seconds!  Not bad.  They then took the cube and mixed it up again, and handed it to Ryan, the sure favorite for gold. He stepped up on to the podium and quickly started to work the cube, but something happened! He made a mistake! It's not that uncommon to get a little distracted or to mix things up when trying to solve a Rubick's Cub; it just slows you down a bit, and he ended up falling just far enough behind that he finished in something like 1 minute 16 seconds! Somehow, things had come together, and now I was one of the lucky few to win a gold medal at the amazing South Pole Winter Games! A third person took the stand and I think had a time of a little over 10 minutes, but that is still pretty impressive to me given that a year ago I had no idea how to solve a Rubick's Cube at all.

After all the main competitions were over and we had passed out most of the medals, we finished with the photo contest. Applicants submitted a set of three photos. Adam ended up winning with a couple of amazing pictures and one that was truly glorious and magnificent, and I hope it never makes it to the Internet. I mean not because it was me looking and acting ridiculous or anything... Then the ceremony ended with the national anthem played on the electric guitar a la Jimi Hendrix. It turned out to be a really fun day.  Annnnnnd then there was an Acopian power supply failure out at the ICL and I had to go out and fix it.  You'd think that now that I am a South Pole Winter Games gold medal winner, I wouldn't have to deal with such trivial things, but alas, it is a harsh continent! So am I supposed to go to Disney World when I get home now?  Do they have special accommodations for gold medalists like me?

Below are a few pictures I was able to pull together. I hope you enjoy!

I won gold in the Rubik's Cube competition!

Here I am with my fancy new gold medal!

The medals before they were distributed

The IceCube Lab in the Moonlight!