We’d had a few frustrating days. The Cape Royds penguin trip hadn’t yet happened and we were in limbo over it; we’d spent entirely too much time mucking around on the Sony website trying to get software that should have come pre-installed on the pretty pretty A7sIIs to download and install, and believe me, trying to do much on the internet at the end of the world is difficultly time-consuming and irritating (I am in Antarctica; I do not want to be waiting for Sony’s website to respond). (By the by, later on we made our own creative non-electronic hack by re-conceiving some things without said software and it’s better this way anyway–art and reenactment being once again all about how you use the limitations.) We had seemed to expend a terrific amount of energy planning X Y or Z only to have it moved or postponed or cancelled. The evil beachball on the screen of my world seemed to be churning, churning. We have a good long time down here, but we have an ambitious project, and I wanted to get more done, more quickly. Also it is light all the time, and the light seems to say, hey, you could get much busier.
That kind of approach doesn’t work down here too well. One has to slow down, to (ahem) chill. And one must cover the window occasionally and sleep. The weather does dictate a lot (like the 6 day delay we had in Christchurch) and there isn’t a dang thing you can do about that, so chill. And use that chill time to do things like figure out how to make a McMurdo latte (coffee from the urn with a dollop of the famous Frosty Boy on top. It grows on one). Or amble downstairs to the library (there is a LIBRARY DOWNSTAIRS in my dorm!) and find a lovely monograph on Frank Hurley, photographer for Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and notorious Photoshopper avant-la-lettre.
So when we heard the Transition (from land to ice, over which vehicles need to move) was all melty and messy and we couldn’t get over it to go scout our soccer game location, we figured the game would get canceled too. More life beachball spinning. Ponting’s film The Great White Silence, and the later sound version, 90° South, feature a soccer game the Terra nova crew play on the sea ice. We wanted badly to remake this scene with GoPros. We met with the kindly folks in the Recreation Department (a good part staffed by likable volunteers). We identified a great place out by Willy field with Erebus in the background and a structure that would stand in for the hut the fellas in the Ponting film emerge from to play. We were all set to go scout, and then the Transition went mucky on us. Since our game date was the next day–Saturday after supper, and it was the last night the bars would be open before the Evolution (which I will explain later–and yes, the names of things sound like we are in some kind of allegorical drama all the time down here), and the Transition was iffy, and the soccer players were mostly contract workers who work really hard and long hours down here with Sunday their only day off, we figured the game would not happen. Maybe 2 people would show and we’d have to bag the whole thing, and there was no way we could do it during the Evolution, so it would be more than a week to reschedule… and then people would be leaving for the winter… dang it. We stuffed some GoPros and batteries into bags and shuffled out, already dejected.
But! The Transition improved, and ten of the loveliest, most fun, goofy, lovely young soccer players showed up at the prearranged meeting place (the bus stop known as DJ or Derelict Junction) and off we went in a van to play soccer on the ice. It was just brilliant. The most gorgeous setting for a soccer game ever in the history of the world, I think. And some pretty darn good players among the folks who came out for the shoot. They played a real game, a joyful game.
A few days later I was on that same ice clinging for dear life to the back of a complete stranger, a man from Idaho who was driving us on a snowmobile it seemed very fast toward Erebus. I had been one of the lucky winners of the “Room with a View” outing that morning (Vince won the afternoon trip). I have no pictures or video except from the destination where we stopped for the view for a half hour–I’ll dig one up and add it later–because I was mostly hanging on for dear life. I elected not to drive (I do not go fast, I’d probably still be out there puttering back) but I do think it was harder to hold on in the back. I hope the nice guy from Idaho’s bruises from where I clenched him are healing. I now have a personal relationship with sastrugi. Exhilarating, to put it mildly. But the ride got a lot easier when I quit fighting it. I’m in Antarctica! Wheeeeee!
There’s a moral lurking here, entirely too obvious. Chill.
Antarctic soccer then and now
Thanks Danny and team!