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March 28, 2006

Styly car

I wanted to share with you how flashy and aerodynamic my car became overnight.

Pretty cool, eh?

Okay, maybe it was just wind and snow.

But still pretty cool, eh?

Posted by beth at 2:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

Eight Below

Okay. Where do I start? And watch out--once I get started I just might not stop.

Right. It's Disney, and it's not a true story ("Inspired by..." it said in the opening credits, or, as a friend of mine put it, it's 'based a fictional account of a true story'), so I can expect it to be simple and inaccurate. But still.

Reading this doesn't mean you can't like it, but just don't take an impression of how things work in the U.S. Antarctic Program from it.

~The Facts and Follies, According to Beth~

1) This is a major buzz-kill, but THERE ARE NO DOGS IN ANTARCTICA. Hard to stomache, I know. Far as I could tell, the story took place in quite modern times (Burton tee-shirt, "Dude," and such). Yet an addition to the Antarctic Treaty (treaty between nations with interests in Antarctica) in 1984 bans dogs from the continent because of a fear that the dogs could transmit distemper to the seals. The New Zealand program at Scott Base (near McMurdo) pulled the last of their dogs out in 1986. The Brittish held out until the bitter end, and pulled out in 1993, the latest time allowed by the treaty. To my knowledge (which could be wrong on this one), the U.S. Antarctic Program has never used dogs. [Turns out we did, briefly, in the late '50s. Check out the comment posted by Bernie Gunn, below.]

2) I've read a review or two stating that there would be less and more darkness, respectively, during the summer (January) and winter (July) scenes. Understatement. There would be NO darkness in January and NO light in July. Sorry dogs.

3) At this latitude in the winter, the dogs would be *very* hard-pressed to find anything edible, except, as in the one scene, in food stashes left by people. If the dogs had stumbled upon an emperor penguin (March of the Penguins type) rookery, they would have been set. Emperors *do* live on land through the winter. But the nearest emperor penguin rookery is pretty far from where the dogs were, on the other side of Ross Island, and I guess having the dogs kill penguins wouldn't have gone over so well... (Although they could have eaten carcasses of the ones that died on their journey to or from the sea... that could have worked maybe.) In the true story from which this was inspired, 2 out of 9 dogs apparently did survive a winter. I haven't read up to say for sure, but I think that those dogs were at a significantly higher latitude, probably on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is a different animal. So to speak. The climate is much warmer and there is more plant and animal life, including actual vegetation.

4) The bar they met up in in Christchurch, New Zealand, wasn't actually Bailey's--I've been there. (I know, lame, but I couldn't resist. I could be wrong, too, but it didn't *look* like Bailey's. And I should know. I've had Irish car bombs there. In fact, my friend Shawn and I had to tell them how to make them.) And no way are there people there trying to find a cheap ride south in the winter. Not even in the summer. That's just not what happens.

5) Just so you know--yes, Antarctica really IS that stunning. But this was filmed in Canada, Greenland, and Norway. Also stunning places. I don't know if the footage of Mt. Melbourne was actually Mt. Melbourne--I haven't been there. The McMurdo footage (McMurdo General Hospital) was obtained from a group that was down on the ice several years ago shooting a documentary on underwater life (Norbert Wu Productions--see Under Antarctic Ice (shoot, is that what it's called?). It's great.).

6) Nobody from the USAP summers in Astoria. Okay, just kidding.

7) Out of curisosity--why did our hero's patch on his jacket say Canada? And what was that outline on it--Australia?

8) Those were some pretty lame chains holding the dogs.

9) Back to Antarctic facts. The depiction of how NSF (National Science Foundation) operates was misleading. Jack (dog guy) would have known there was no way to get down to the area before McMurdo opened again for the summer--not via NSF, anyway, not even with a high-powered scientist making the calls. Nuh-uh. The program is much too strict for that. The logistics are intensive. Icebreakers (ships which break the sea ice) only head south through McMurdo Sound once a year, in late December / early January, to break a channel for the supply vessels. This is a very expensive undertaking.

10) There are no, or at least very few, leopard seals in McMurdo Sound. Watch out for those guys on the other side of the continent. McMurdo Sound is home to Weddell seals, which are big blobs of cuddly disinterest. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they are big, and they are in general pretty mild-mannered.

11) The National Science award ceremony. Have you even seen a group of scientists? Have you even seen a group of scientists in *formal wear*? Yeah, whatever, Disney. Not likely.

Okay, I have some other things, but I'll leave it at that. Feel free to comment. And yes, I did enjoy the movie. Kind of. There was that simple part... So I'll say I liked some parts of the movie. Yeah, yeah, I teared up a time or two. The dogs were impressive.

Posted by beth at 10:37 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 9, 2006


It's been a while since I've updated the blog, so I'm going to jot a few notes about now before going back to post some pictures of recent adventures.

I'm sitting at home with newly-white world outside, the snow still coming down. I've come home a bit early and wasted no time in setting up my computer and heating up leftovers from last night's dinner out. Indian food. Radio's on. Last week, my coworker (and friend), Nicole, and I headed down to Socorro, New Mexico to lead an introductory short course/training in GPS survey methods. I spent one day in the field and then another day up in Albuquerque with my Antarctica friend Nate afterwards. All was more or less good, but I was glad to get home. And I'm glad to be home.

[Nate's nine-year-old puppers, Papas, in motion. The name is potatoes, in Spanish. She is one big potato. A big, fat, sweet, soft, lovely pit bull / chocolate lab mix.]

I have some *quite* exciting travels coming up, so stay tuned. I guess the really good stuff doesn't start until June, but who knows. I'm sure there will be some little adventures before then.

Posted by beth at 12:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack