Tonight there is a special presentation about AIMS (yes, another acronym: Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science). Basically McMurdo (along with Palmer) has outgrown itself and the next phase is being designed. The movement has been away from doing research in a lab at the station (collecting specimens and bringing them inside) to studying phenomena in the field, so McMurdo can get leaner and meaner (more efficient) and more focused on supporting field camps. On my way between Crary and 155 today I overheard a clump of folks who had an engineering look about them. They were walking along a pipe and one of them stopped and said, this is where the door will be, and the others stood as if looking through an imaginary door.
If this makeover takes place it will take a very long time, and somehow they have to figure out how to keep research going during the reconstruction. Here’s the website: http://future.usap.gov/
So while we are re-enacting the past, McMurdo is on the cusp of a different kind of future. The plans look…. futuristic, sterile, and devoid of the cultural stuff that has made this place so wonderfully strange. I have no doubt that will stay, however. You can’t keep it down. And one of the very best places to find it in Old McMurdo is the building known as BFC for Berg Field Center, supplier to remote field camps, where yesterday we spent a pleasant afternoon making video portraits of 2 of the wonderful staff repairing Scott tents (the same design as in Scott’s day) and sleeping bags. BFC feels like a great loft apartment crammed full of stuff–only the stuff in this case is tents, ice axes, backpacks, field kitchen supplies, etc. ad infinitum. And lo and behold, on the wall of the BFC were copies of the very photos we were reenacting. BFC is the opposite of the new plans as far as aesthetics go, and as far as soul. But the people are the soul. That has to stay. They are also hard-working and seem to do a lot with what they have, some of it limited. They repair everything they can, and use every bit of their gear well. They are resourceful. They just happen to have a cool loft and a great view over the sound and a giant scrabble board on their floor (and someone recently made them some tiles so they could really play).
Tonight at the same time (and we may be running between them a bit) is the Mardi Gras party at Gallagher’s (and yes today is Wednesday but it’s still Fat Tuesday in the US). We were just finishing helping to decorate the bar when someone came in and said, “penguin in town.” And so there was.