Sunday, June 22, 2008

Midwinter Dinner

This last Saturday was one of the biggest events of the year, the Midwinter Dinner. The galley gets all fixed up, and folks drag out their fanciest clothes. The wintersolstice is a big deal-- the days will now start getting longer! It is pitch dark 24/7 now, but in six weeks or so we'll be seeing some pale light on the horizon, and the sun will officially rise on the 19th of August. I did the math and realized that I'm already three weeks past the midpoint of my contract-- time is flying!

Doing better with the insomnia. I had a month with only maybe three good night's sleep, and it was really wearing me down. I went to the doc for some pharmaceutical intervention, and I've been sleeping like a big dog since. Catching up, in fact. I slept all night Saturday night, but still managed a six hour nap on Sunday, followed by another full night. Guess I needed it!

In this week's pictures you can see the galley all dolled up, some friends dining, and some group shots. The bunch of scruffy looking characters is my work group (I'm the guy in the wild celtic shirt-- my tux was at the cleaners).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Polar Plunge, Sleeping

Well, I think I'm starting to get a handle on the insomnia thing... I've cut out naps, and I sit in the light room staring at the lights for twenty minutes or so first thing every morning. I have been sleeping better, and hopefully I'm over the really heinous part of it. Last night I watched a piece on 60 Minutes called the Science of Sleep. It mirrored exactly some of the dificulties I've been having. I've never gone without sleep completely, but a week of four hours a night was leaving me feeling like death. This last Friday and Saturday night I had completely normal, all-night sleep, and I felt like I was about ten feet off the ground the next days.

This last Saturday Scott Base hosted a "Polar Plunge"-- the second one this year. The Kiwis cut a big hole in the sea ice, and rigged up a ladder to get people out. There was quite a good turn-out, some jumping in their birthday suits, and some preferring a swimsuit. I had DA duty that night, past the time for jumping, so I had a good excuse why I couldn't do it. (In the winter, the general population takes turns doing Dining Attendant duty-- basically washing dishes in the galley. It only hits about once a month for each person.) I did show up after my shift in the scullery, but stayed toasty warm and dry. Maybe next year...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ob Hill, Sleep

I didn't think it could get any darker, but we haven't had any moon for the last week or so, and it's like the bottom of a white-painted well. With all the snow on the sea ice and ice shelf, the meager light of stars and planets is reflected, so it never really gets pitch dark. There are a lot of street lights in McMurdo, so there is a lot of light pollution. With all this darkness, I'm finding that my sleep patterns have started to suffer. I have had mild insomnia for most of the time here. I usually go to bed and sleep well for about four hours, toss and turn for a couple of hours, then sleep okay until my alarm goes off. I frequently have spectacular, technicolor dreams during those last couple of sleep hours. I have had some great flying dreams, and some that seem more real than reality. Spooky. Most days I have a hard time making it all the way through without a nap. I haven't read up on the latest research on light depravation, but based on my own experience, I think my body is trying to establish a new cycle. I bet if I had no job or other commitments, and slept when I felt like it, I would sleep for four hours, be up for four hours, sleep for four hours...

We normally have only one-day weekends, but we get a two day weekend on the first weekend of the month. This, thank God, was our two-day weekend. Not a minute too soon. I got up at a descent hour on Saturday morning, and had an urge to go for a hike. I put on my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear, and headed out. I walked down to Scott's Discovery Hut on Hut Point, and then back through town to Ob (Observation) Hill. It was dark, slick, and windy, but I made it to the top. I'm so glad I did that-- it is all too easy to get sucked into the inertia of reading and napping with no exercise on weekends. If any of you find some interesting research on circadian rhythms and light depravation, please pass it on. Thanks,