“What do you do for fun during your time off in Antarctica?? Isn’t it too cold to go recreate outside??”
This is a question (roughly) that I get asked quite frequently when I talk about what it’s like living in Antarctica for extended periods of time. The best answers to that question are pretty vague: like “Sometimes” and “It depends.” Once the Austral summer is in full swing, the weather can actually be quite nice. Any winter/snow sport enthusiast would agree when I say that a beautiful winter day spent outside can be just as amazing as a beautiful summer day. I think what constitutes “nice” weather is a subjective topic of conversation. My perfect summer day, for example, is a sunny 72ºF day with scattered clouds — not particularly beach-going weather, many would argue, but then again I’m not particularly a beach-going individual. So, come summertime in Antarctica, Miss Beverly and I actually enjoy spending quite a bit of time recreating outdoors, doing things like hiking the trails around the Hut Point peninsula and Ob Hill, walking over the hill to visit our Kiwi neighbors at Scott Base, or pretending to run in circles around station. A big advantage that we have for recreating here in Antarctica is that, come the Austral summer, the sun doesn’t set! There are 24 hours of daylight! Spending time outside in the evening is just as wonderful as spending time outside in the early or late morning!
That being said, sometimes the weather is not quite as welcoming for spending time outdoors. The winds can pick up and blow through station at upwards of 100 mph! And the temperature can very quickly drop back into the single and negative digits (in ºF). For those days, there are many options available to the community for indoor (what I will hereafter refer to as “climate-controlled”) recreation, rather than outdoor (“climate out of control”) recreation. I thought I would dedicate a post to highlighting the Climate-Controlled Recreation options (i.e. indoor recreation facilities) that are available. I should note that I am excluding from this list the two bars on station, the coffee house, and other similar socialization environments to focus on the spaces where people go for active mind and body exercise, not just for socializing with the community.
Housed in the Lounge space of one of our dormitory buildings (“Dorm 208”), the McMurdo Library has over 8,000 books available for the community. They also have nearly 2000 copies of e-books for e-readers, a large collection of puzzles, and it provides a quiet space for everybody’s enjoyment. On occasion, we play quiet board games with friends here, or simply go sit at a couch and enjoy a little bit of reading.
Yes. We have a Band Room! It is located on the floor level of the station’s Beverage Warehouse (Building 121). It is open for community use, but only outside of “town work hours” (7:30am – 5:30pm), and can be reserved in 1-hour blocks. Along with the band room space, there are a plethora of musical instruments available for check-our from the station’s Recreation Department, including guitars, ukeleles, banjos, a tuba (that’s right, a tuba!), keyboards, drum sets, bongo drums, and many others.
CARDIO (“GERBIL”) GYM
The cardio gym (affectionately known as the Gerbil Gym) is located in an old isolated single-story hut building (built in 1960). The equipment available to the community includes stair climbers, treadmills, stationary/spin bicycles, cross-trainers, rowing machines, and even punching and speed boxing bags in a separate stretching room.
The Big Gym is is the largest gymnasium facility on station, and it is housed in an old insulated Quonset hut constructed in 1959. It is right next to our Helicopter Hangar and pad. It includes a full-size indoor volleyball court, an undersized basketball court, and can also support soccer, dodgeball, and exercise classes. In addition, there is a rock-climbing wall. Pretty cool! Because of the large space, this facility also doubles as the preferred venue for certain community social events, like the famous Halloween Party and the occasional McMurdo Prom.
This facility offers various types of training equipment including free weights, machine weights, and many other weight-lifting accessories.
MULTI-PURPOSE FITNESS ROOM
Last but not least is a multi-purpose Fitness Room. This is the newest addition to recreational spaces on station, and actually took the space that the McMurdo Library once occupied. The Fitness Room is located adjacent to the Weight Room, accessed through the same entryway above. Among the activities that take place in here are the fitness class “Hardcore Abs with Bev” (that’s right, Beverly teaches a 1/2-hour core and abs class in which she tortures poor individuals by making them repeatedly fold their bodies in ways they didn’t think their bodies could possibly fold while also making them discover all the weird muscles in hidden places that you never knew you had until they became painfully sore for days on end because you started showing up to her class… we’re a pretty dedicated group of followers, if you ask me!), yoga, P90X (an even more evil fitness class), and Just Dance (a video game that forces you to move more than just your fingers).
So there you have it. We have plenty of options for staying inside. Needless to say, this community of Antarcticans is never bored! So the next time you wonder what we are doing for fun during our free time in Antarctica, just picture us enjoying one of the many spaces listed above.