[Note to young readers: somewhat adult themes below. Try not to embarrass your parents, okay?]

Okay, feeling better. The arm, but mostly my psyche. It’s impressive how much a little thing like that brought me down. In a culture that values the robust and resourceful, you can’t help but feel a little stigma at being hurt. Yes, you can explain it away, but beneath the gentle ribbing there’s a serious current. It is, as the saying goes, a F*ing Harsh Continent. It doesn’t tolerate incompetence or error, and if you got hurt, well, maybe you weren’t quick enough. Or maybe you took a risk you shouldn’t have.

Regardless, it’s good to have the sling off.

Anyhow, there are a million things I still need to write up: New Year’s eve, the whole weekend, the beginning of the end, and the evocatively named “Season of Pain”.

(photo by Rickey Gates)

New Years Eve is going to be hard to write about – it was a goofy, joyful, fundamentally indescribable thing. Sketch? About 40 of us USAP Polies descended on the folks out in Tourist Camp. Chocolate, snacks and unlabeled bottles of “holy water” (Gisli: “It must be holy – look, it doesn’t freeze!”) appeared out of tents and parkas and nowhere in particular, producing a veritable stone soup party of “things brought from home”.

(photo by Rickey Gates)

The Icelanders were playing Rolling Stones (yes, Eden – “Hot Rocks”), blaring it from the open doors of their massive trucks, and we were dancing. Not dancing with anyone in particular – not that painful boy-scoping-out-girl-scoping-out-boy scripted social ritual that we all know so well. No, we were just dancing, with anyone, with anything. With the Brits, and with the Austrians and Germans and Icelanders. With the midnight sun spinning around above us, and with the two miles of ice beneath our feet. Clomping about in our bunny boots and ECW gear, tripping, falling over and getting up to dance some more. Because we could. Because we’d found ourselves here, a motley collection of strangers whose improbable paths met in this improbable place: at the bottom of the world on the last day of the year. We knew there was something magic about that, and we wanted to celebrate it, in any way we could.

(photo by Rickey Gates)

Approaching midnight (if such a concept had any real meaning here) Tony Martin, the operational director of the Race to the Bottom of the World, produced a tray of Sambuca and Drambuie shot glasses along bowls of mixed nuts, as casually as if he were hosting a little get-together in his backyard. The man does know how to throw a party, even if he has to haul the entire thing overland from the coast.

Chris (Ice Cube) and Claudia (German
 ski team) – photo by Rickey Gates

We counted down the final seconds and shrieked and whistled and screamed. We hugged and kissed and tackled each other in the snow.** And then we got up and danced some more.

No, I don’t think I’m going to try to capture that one – I just don’t think I can do it justice.

Moving the Pole on New Years
 Day (photo by Mark Eisinger)

And there’ve been so many other things, too. The next morning, on New Year’s day, with the “Moving of The Pole”. We all formed a semi-circle, and passed the pole marker for 2011 hand-to-hand from the old location to the new one.

Then the Station party that evening, for “Near Year’s Eve”. Who would have guessed that out of a population of 230, we’d field three bands? Our band, “Cold Shoulder”, was on first, a mix of sweet, sad romantic tunes crooned by Trudy, Elissa and Joselyn, and irreverent goofiness led by me and Mark. Felt like we hit the groove. Everyone hit a groove – us, “Cold Dead Polie” (the Grateful Dead cover band) and “The Relics” (good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll). As Megan evocatively summed it up the next morning, “No, you guys didn’t get laid. But you got a lot of other people laid. That counts for something.”

Cold Shoulder (photo by Rickey Gates)

Paddy Douglas and Joel Wagner
of Cold Dead Polie (photo, not
surprisingly, by Rickey Gates)


I guess that’ll have to do for a hasty catch-up. Now it’s time to try and get some sleep if I can. Someone appears to have assigned a D7R to run back and forth just outside our Jamesway tonight. (Rhetorical question: does a massive, diesel snorting, steel-treaded-clanking Jamesway-shaking 25-ton bulldozer really need one of those “beeep beeep beeep” backup warning horns?)  He’s been at it for a couple of hours, pushing the snow around, and the earplugs aren’t doing a damned bit of good. Revenge of the Night Shift, I suppose.

** Note: kissing exposed metal surfaces, such as the temple piece of a companions’ sunglasses, at -20F is not recommended.

Almost all pictures here, by the way, courtesy of Rickey Gates, fastest man at the bottom of the world, photographer of the incredible, and author of

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