Monday, January 23, 2012

Travelogue, snow mobiling, radio show

Ok, dear readers-- as promised, my travelogue is out of the way, and I now can get back to keeping you at least somewhat abreast of life down here in the very deep South. Here are a few of the images from my travelogue, offered mostly so you can see that I do actually have a decent justification for not posting lately:

All told, I made about 20 illustrations, and it made me realize that I want to make more. Like.... maybe a hundred more. I might be working on this one for a while.

But back to the matter at hand. Antarctica! I figure it's probably due time for a bit of a geography lesson. This place is disorienting for a number of reasons. The most obvious is the inherent ridiculousness of getting to physically be on this continent, but McMurdo is also extremely confusing in terms of its orientation with the rest of Antarctica. So here is Antarctica. You can see McMurdo written in red near the bottom:

And here is the where I live. McMurdo is located on Ross Island, a 950 square mile island formed by four volcanoes:
Living on an island is very confusing, because much of the "land" that I can see (and sometimes ride snowmobiles over!) is, in fact, frozen ocean, and when I look off at distant volcanoes, I am actually looking AWAY from the actual land mass of the continent.

Ross Island is effectively connected to the rest of the continent by means of a permanent ice sheet, but by technical definition, McMurdo is not actually located on the Antarctic continent. This amuses me to no end, because it means that all the people who have come down here simply to check Antarctica off their list of traveling to all seven continents are not actually accomplishing their goal.

I have to say that I have been somewhat surprised by how many people down here seem to be in it just to say that they've been, rather than to actually engage with this place. Going into this, I had this expectation that the people who come down to work in Antarctica would all be inquisitive adventurers, drawn by the romance of the frozen frontier and the allure of a landscape that is one of the last true bastions of wildness. Documentaries like Encounters at the End of the World perpetuate this notion, and it's been a bit disillusioning to instead discover that most people come down here and do everything in their power to distract themselves from thinking about where they are.

I worry sometimes that I'm becoming a terrible elitist, because I so often find myself wandering around looking at other people and wondering, "You're here, but what are you getting out of it?"

Anyways, back to my initial discussion of Antarctic geography. I drew a comic to provide a basic overview of Antarctica and McMurdo's location on the continent:

You know what I've found to be the best method for getting a handle on the geography down here? Riding a snowmobile across the ice shelf, because then you don't care in the slightest which cardinal direction you're facing. The powers that be occasionally issue morale trips, which, because nothing down here can be called by a normal descriptive title, are called Boondoggles. A while back I got to participate in a Boondoggle called Room With a View, which involves snowmobiling across the frozen Ross Sea.

We started off by piling into a Pisten Bully, one of the many silly looking vehicles down here. Check out the fantastic 80's-fabulous font and color choice on the vehicle name. We keep it classy in Antarctica. Wish I'd taken a picture of the interior seat upholstery...
We then made our way to our faithful steeds. 
 And drove off into the distance. I don't know about everyone else, but I was totally living out some sort of post-apocalyptic desert (because Antarctica is technically a desert, after all) fantasy in my head. 
 We stopped for lunch at the base of Mount Erebus. And because a huge part of the Antarctic experience involves wearing not nearly enough clothes for the climate (you don't need to wear pants if you're only dashing 20 yards between the station's two bars, right?), it seemed like the right thing to do to strip down to bunny boots and underwear and frolick merrily off into the distance. By which I mean the flag line, because we are expressly forbidden to ever cross flags due to the dangers of crevasse fields.
On the way back we worked to flag the route, which was ridiculously fun. We loaded up our snowmobiles with flags, and took turns leapfrogging and driving them into the ground. I appropriately amended my post apocalyptic desert fantasy to include jousting.
 So. Much. Fun. My morale was definitely boosted by the end of the trip. 
I've mentioned at various points that I've been doing a radio show down here, and I figure it's high time I elaborate on this, as it's more or less the highlight of my week.

Every week I pick a theme (a la This American Life), and then spend more time than I have delving through the beautiful chaos of the vinyl room. M first show was songs about home. Yes, it has taken me three months to get around to posting a playlist, but better late than never, right? Hopefully I'll start getting these up more regularly. Themes since then have included science, poor life decisions, sleep, drinking, sundays and more...

Poor Life Decisions: HOME
1. Lou Reed- Talk a Walk on the Wild Side
2. Emerson Lake and Palmer- Show Me the Way to Go Home

16. The Nashville Guitars at Home- The Green Green Grass of Home (can't find it online)
17. Jo and Broadway- Anyplace I Hang My Hat is Home
I couldn't find the version I played, but here's Sammy Davis singing it. 


  1. I love your illustrations! Really clever and funny.

    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed you mammoth painting, will be in touch about further under the bed stuff soon.

  2. Love the travelogue images! I was cracking up over reverse puberty and your Chinese and British legs.

    1. Thanks Amber! I have a lot more still to draw... So many funny things happened on that trip. We'll have to grab drinks and discuss travels back in the northwest.

  3. I love your pictures. Antarctica is one of the coolest place in the world and if you can't brook your self in cold weather , you must drink any hard drinks. I really want to share this article with my friends.
    Antarctica Holidays

    1. Thanks for all the nice comments! I'm looking forward to having time to draw everything I want to once I'm back home next month.