Christmas at WAIS

December 27th, 2009
WAIS Divide Camp at 79.47°S latitude, 112.06°W longitude – high on the West
Antarctic Ice Sheet Plateau.
Holidays – Why They Might Need To Be Special
In the days leading up to Christmas, I was a bit ambivalent about
celebrating; it seemed remote and abstract. I was enjoying the lack of
commercialism that is unavoidable in the US. At the same time, I was
experiencing more homesickness than I expected. Getting short emails from
family and friends in Seattle made me misty eyed.
The reality is that we are a group of 44 mostly strangers who must share
tight quarters similar to an armada out at sea, with sporadic and
unpredictable access to land. Everybody’s work is demanding and requires
constant vigilance to stay warm and healthy. I am not sure why, but it
creates an intensity that heightens emotions. “Herc” (LC-17) flights bring
in treasured mail from home, but those flights are often delayed or
canceled. Expectations must be kept in check because disappointments are
felt more strongly.
We all miss our families and many people in camp crave the familiarity of
holidays. It is a tradition from the Heroic age of polar exploration to take
time out from routine to celebrate and mark special times. Hanukkah was
observed the week before and the chefs planned a big feast for Christmas
night. Almost everybody had the day off and dressed for the occasion,
gathering in the Galley at 5pm for appetizers. This segued into a fabulous
meal including fresh salad and vegetables.
“Freshies” are a rare treat out here; almost everything we eat is frozen.
The food is kept in a big room dug into the snow. I visited this room today
after digging the door out from a drift. The ceiling is covered with a
filigree of hoar crystals, plates that shimmer even in the dim light from the
door like sugared plums.


  1. Mom and Dad on December 28, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Sounds like a great Christmas with a special group. We really appreciate this and other messages on your blog, and specially your call yesterday.

    Love you, Mom and Dad

  2. Al Bastin on December 29, 2009 at 12:36 am

    We are enjoying so much your beautifully written blogs. We are amazed at all you are doing. Tomorrow night your Mom and Dad, Clint & Dawn, Herb,Lisa and of course sweet Kate will join Ruthie ande me fo a meal at Feast Restaurant in Decatur. When you and Paul are here, we would love to take you. Love, Al & Ruthi

  3. Nancy Perry on December 30, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    In reading this I realize how much I miss being with family at Christmas. We had a great small celebration in VA, but I miss the chaos that is our entire family. I am so grateful that you are doing okay down there, I was really worried about you in the cold. It sounds like they take good care of you and all of the training that you went through paid off. I love you and look forward to seeing you, maybe in the spring.
    LY, Nancy

  4. Barbara Robertson on January 2, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Anna, your writing is wonderful! I can imagine everything and am really looking forward to seeing your images and the art you will create in the near future.

  5. Mom and Dad on January 5, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Fascinating trip for you and all of us from your so thoughtful writing and pictures. great gifts from South Pole and cannot wait for more info.