November 20, 2016
The temperature soared over the couple of days to the low 20s Fahrenheit and some snow started to melt in the warmer spots at McMurdo. Worries of tracking volcanic mud into the dorms were quickly forgotten as the temperature dropped and the snow arrived yesterday. The station is hunkered down today with a condition known as “Flat White.” This describes little to no visibility as the station is submerged in the total whiteness of fog and snow. It is also useful to know that if you order a “Flat White” in a New Zealand restaurant, you get a nice cappuccino.
Regardless of the weather, there are usually too many good choices of things to do at McMurdo. Science lectures are booked for Wednesdays and Sundays and are always packed. I spoke this week on the translation of numerical data sets into music and the room was filled with scientists and support staff ready to sing and laugh. Maris captured me in a quick sketch. Since then, I have brainstormed with scientists of all types about representing their work with sound. They grab me in the galley or the hall way with ideas of recording and composing scientific sounds. I look forward to Sunday’s lecture on laser mapping of the Ross Ice Shelf. Before that it was gigantic sea spiders. So cool. At every lecture, I see PhDs and grad students sitting beside machinists, cooks and janitors.
Similarly, there is plenty of music in this community of 900ish souls. I played a concert at the coffeehouse last night. I was competing against a rock n’ roll show held in the mechanic’s garage and a techno-pop, dance band at Galaghers Bar. That doesn’t even take into account all the dormitory room concerts featuring the many guitar players and singers of McMurdo.
With the exception of the Artist and Writers Fellowship that brought me here, the National Science Foundation funds scientific work. That being said, I am a very small part of the busy musical landscape here. Music emerges each day as just another essential part of life in this remote outpost along with food, shelter and warmth.