Saturday, 3 December 2016

Day Four: Sunday 4 December

Brunch and Fam trips

Sunday is a day off for Scott Base staff, and often there's a “fam trip” (which stands for "familiarisation trip", but "family trip" works quite well too!) This is a day trip out somewhere, usually announced on the noticeboard outside the kitchen/dining room for people to sign up to. That's what we're doing later today.

Scott Base sleeps about 80 people, but in summer there are people passing through all the time – coming for short visits, or staying for a few nights on the way to their science base out on the ice. At the moment, it’s pretty full. There’s a huge amount of organisation goes into managing all the people coming and going.
It’s a very social place. Everyone eats together in the canteen, and the eating arrangements are described as being like a “catered backpackers” – the food is amazing, but you line up to do your own dishes afterwards, and if the trays are full when you get to the top of the line, you take your turn to put the dishes through the steriliser, wait through the 90 second cycle and put them away. People take turns on the dishwashing roster and the bar roster. There’s even a coffee machine, for you to make your own coffee! All the food takes a long journey to get there, so people are very conscious about not wasting anything.

Every Saturday at 3.15pm, there’s a meeting in the canteen for all staff to get together and talk about what’s happening on base. It’s also very noticeable that people aren’t glued to cellphones and digital devices – maybe because of the limited connectivity, but also because it’s a place that encourages you to engage with each other and with the environment, not with personal technology. When you sit down for a meal, everyone is dressed casually and the person next to you could be a scientist, a staff member, a politician, a DV (distinguished visitor), a writer or an artist - it's a very "levelling" atmosphere.
The main building consists of a series of interconnected huts, linked by corridors and stairways. It’s about 400m from end to end, and to start with (even sometimes now) I just couldn’t get the directions straight, and was constantly getting lost, or heading confidently in totally the wrong direction. The corridor walls are lined with big framed photos of NZ scenes and science posters of work that has been done down here, and there are lots of windows, so you can be walking along thinking of something else, and then you suddenly look out the window at blue sky and white ice, and remember where you are.
Every morning, there’s a voiceover giving the weather details and news of the day, usually some quirky item from NZ. Today it’s minus 4 degrees, sunny, but there’s a wind blowing that will make it feel more like minus 21 degrees, and the news was about the crashed McLaren supercar on the Queenstown-Glenorchy road. 
Sunday is most people’s day off, and there’s a big Sunday brunch at 10am, featuring make-your-own waffles as well as a cooked breakfast. After that, we’re heading out for our "fam trip” to Castle Rock!

No comments:

Post a Comment