Two nights ago the Today Show did its second "Live Broadcast" from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Anchorwoman Ann Curry was reporting on the United States Antarctic Program, as well as about life in Antarctica. Though the program appeared in the U.S. on Tuesday morning, it was the wee hours of Wednesday morning here in McMurdo. At this particular filming, McMurdo residents were welcome to come with signs and send greetings and messages to the folks back home.
We were asked not to arrive before 2:00 am. Kate, Louise and I never went to bed. We worked until about midnight, and then we found cardboard and made signs to hold up. Unlike my art supplies back home, the Crary Laboratory is quite barren of creative materials. By midnight, the Craft Shop had long since closed, and I had to make do with just a few markers and scrap cardboard. But I persevered, and came up with two signs back to back: one to my family, and one to the students of Ann Arbor Public Schools who have been following along on my ANDRILL journey. I would be prepared if the camera looked my way!
I wondered about how many people would show up at 2:00 am on a cold, windy night in Antarctica. Few would be as crazy as I was...I figured maybe 20 or 30 would appear. However, by 2:02 the hordes of people approaching the "Chalet" (the administrative offices for the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program) proved my estimate to be far off. I greatly underestimated the heartiness of the McMurdo Community. I would guess that 120 people showed up - nearly 10% of the McMurdo population - to freeze for an hour in order to wave to the folks back home!
It was a festive, chatty crowd, and we responded well to Ann Curry and crew who told us when to cheer and wave, and when to stand silently behind, with nothing but the noise of our teeth chattering. Ann Curry and her crew all got their directions from the New York office, and they would pass them on to us.
By 2:40 the first segment was over . Ann said we could go home to bed (or back to work for those people on night shift), or we could come inside the chalet and warm up – and then come out for the second segment in 20 minutes. I opted to stay. I welcomed the opportunity to warm up and hobnob with the NBC folks. In 15 minutes, having started to thaw, I went back outside. People were gathering around a small band which was going to play a number on the next segment. I grabbed my sign and joined them. This time I was up front – and held my sign proudly in front of me: I had a lot of people to say hello to! When the band played, I welcomed the chance to swing and dance and get the blood moving through my body. Every few seconds I turned my sign around hoping that both my family and Ann Arbor Public Schools would see my messages. It was a short dance, but a very spirited one!
When the music stopped, the party was over. By now the temperature was well below zero, and the time was close to 3:30 am. Sign still in hand, I bid goodnight to Ann and walked through the 3:30 am daylight to my dorm, climbed into bed, and shivered myself to sleep.
By morning I had 17 emails from friends and colleagues telling me that they had seen me on National TV. “You were the one in the red parka!”
Of course, everyone was the one in the red parka. Including Ann! But a few of you DID see my sign, one side or the other, dancing with the band. That was me sending my best wishes from Antarctica!
All for now. Over and out.