South Pole Diaries 2001/02



Sunday 13th January

From John Storey.....

Photo by: Jon Lawrence Sunday is definitely the day of rest in McMurdo, and it is very quiet. In fact, when I got up this morning it was -3 C and I was thinking that the place was almost as dead as Canberra on a Sunday. However, this judgment turned out to be too harsh. Breakfast was accompanied by a Janis Joplin album played very loudly, there were waffles and maple syrup, and I realised that there was still life here somewhere.

In truth, most people were either sleeping off the night before (Saturday is party night) or preparing for the great race - the annual 7.5 km Scott's Hut race. This is the major sporting event of the McMurdo calendar - it is to this place what the Melbourne Cup is to Melbourne.

When I arrived at the start line in front of the chapel Duane was already doing his warm-up and stretching exercises. Wilfred Walsh soon arrived and it became clear that the UNSW team was going to be a force to be reckoned with. We pinned our numbers onto our T-shirts and looked extremely professional.

At 11 am the starter read out the course instructions and waved us away. Running on the unmade roads of coarse rocks and gravel was a bit awkward at first, but at least the Terrabus and the Deltas were safely out of the way. Running down hill turns out to be lot easier than running up hill. In the end Wilfred and Duane did us proud by finishing well up the field, in about 34 minutes. I staggered in around 7 minutes later - a personal best and, I'm quite convinced, much faster than the Weddell seals could have done it.

The official results are not yet out, and we'll have to see if there are any protests against the Diamox users, as I see that it is one of the drugs banned from professional sport.

Photo by: Jon Lawrence Diamox is a drug used to counteract glaucoma, epilepsy, and a whole host of other things including altitude sickness. Some people swear by it, and a good fraction of the folk traveling to South Pole are already taking it in anticipation (it takes a little while to act). Other people point to the side effects which, like many drugs, can include death, but more commonly are just an unpleasant tingling sensation in your tingly bits, and a change of taste (for the worse) of carbonated beverages. The effect on the taste of McMurdo coffee has yet to be documented. Today (as you might have guessed) I made the mistake of looking up Diamox on the web. Its actions appear to be extremely complex and varied and the conclusion I came to was that below 5000 m it's a bit of a waste of time. I may have changed my mind by this time tomorrow.

Tonight we did another "bag-drag", and have been told to check in tomorrow (Monday) at 6:45 am for our flight to the Pole.



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