Sunday, March 22, 2009


We had a skua-sorting party at the Elephant Barn this week. A little background: in the Antarctic program, all waste gets sorted into different bins. There really isn't a category for "trash"; everything is either food waste, plastic, aluminum cans, etc. The USAP is very good about hauling everything out of here, and getting the most good out of it. If something cannot be recycled, it goes in non-recyclables. A good example would be some paper or plastic that is covered in duct tape. A waste category that only exists here is skua.

A skua is a big, scary grey seagull. They hang around all summer, trying to scrounge food or dead pengies. They are all gone now, but were here till about a week ago. I made the mistake of walking out of the back of the galley with a galley bowl of chow as a "doggie bag" for eating later in my room. The skuas know this drill, and are ready. Twice I was dive bombed by a hungry skua. They know if they fly straight at you, there's a chance that they'll drop your chow, and they can pig out. I don't know the reason the waste category was named after the bird-- maybe the opportunistic nature of the birds.

Skua is the big Antarctic Salvation Army. If I don't want my funky old bathrobe any more, I don't throw it in the trash, I put it in skua. The skua bins are full of clothes, books, room decorations, etc. The waste department collects all the skua and puts it in huge cardboard boxes, called triwalls. They pile up all summer, waiting for bored winter folks to sort the stuff out.

We had the skua sorting party to sift the trash out of the valuable stuff. We threw away tons of rags and funky opened food-- stuff like that. The bonus for attending the skua sorting party is that we get to claim any cool stuff we find. I got a wild shirt, a couple nice towels, and a bunch of fake plants for my room. I'll take some pictures when I get it more decorated.

For those of you that are into words (like me), the skua term is an interesting one. It can be a noun, an adjective, or a verb. "I went down to skua to see if I could skua some tupperware." "I left the back of the galley, carrying my skua tupperware, and was accosted by a skua, right next to the skua bin." "I'm going up to skua central to see if I can skua some previously skua'd plaster skuas." "This isn't a new bathrobe, it's skua."

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