Merry Christmas — McMurdo Style

Merry Christmas — McMurdo Style

Last night was the Christmas Eve dinner in McMurdo, and the chefs outdid themselves.  It was a feast!  Here’s what it looked like in the galley last night!


The gingerbread scene shown above won first prize in the contest here in McMurdo!




Here is Bob, our station dentist.  He gets involved in so many activities around town!  He was carving our Beef Wellington.


My plate full of lobster tail, prime rib, Beef Welllington, vegetables, duck pate, smoked salmon and more!  Yes we still had to use the blue trays and blue glasses! 


Here are a few of our yummy desserts!



After dinner I went to the Chapel of the Snows for one of three Christmas services offered on Christmas Eve (2) or Christmas Day (1).  This chapel is a non-denominational Christian church located right here in McMurdo. It is the southernmost religious building in the world.  There are regular Catholic and Protestant services each week and during the Austral Summer (our summer in the southern hemisphere) the chapel is staffed by chaplains who rotate through McMurdo for several months.  The chapel also hosts other faith groups and meetings.  Chapel of the Snows holds about 63 people.

The Christmas Eve service was lovely and Susan and I each did one of the readings.  Being able to sing traditional songs and hear the Christmas message made it feel more like home.  It was great to meet Chaplain Dan Hornok and Father Michael Smith, along with Sal, who is Commander of the Flying Squadron of the Air National Guard unit currently on duty here in McMurdo.


It is a pretty little building, with a beautiful stained glass window facing McMurdo Sound.  The chapel sits on the edge of town, with the glaciers, valleys, and mountains of the Transantarctic Mountains in the background. 


Look at the top part of the stained glass window.  It’s a map of Antarctica!


The original Chapel of the Snows burned down in 1978, and the chapel and its contents were completely destroyed.  Originally there wasn’t even a plan for a place of worship and services were held in the mess hall.  The chaplain and Seabee volunteers took it upon themselves to use leftover construction materials from around the McMurdo Station area to build a sort of Quonset hut with a small steeple on top.

I found this photo (from Joe Hawkins) of the original chapel, dated November 1965. 


The current chapel was dedicated in 1989.  The anchors in front of the church are a reminder of the U.S. Navy’s “Deep Freeze” operations here in the McMurdo area.  Unfortunately, many artifacts from the Navy’s Deep Freeze years were lost in the fire that destroyed the original chapel in 1978.

Last night the light was perfect through the stained glass window and I could see Mt. Discovery in the distance across McMurdo Sound.



This morning I opened my stocking from Josh and his family.  Josh is one of my fourth graders at Husmann.  Thanks for those fleece socks and the Peanut Butter M & M’s!  I also opened my gifts from my husband, Chris, and some cards that have found their way to me here at McMurdo Station.  I had gifts to give some friends here in McMurdo, and it was nice to sit with all the WISSARD’s last night at dinner.  It’s a different type of Christmas than I’m used to, but a good one.  I’m missing my family and friends back home right now!  It’s hard to be away for special holidays. 

I walked out to Hut Point today and saw about 50+ Weddell Seals, lounging on the ice.  They have come up through a huge crack in the sea ice that shifted this past few days. 


Overall, it’s been a quiet Christmas Day.  I received a message from a friend that really inspired me. She had been out on a hike near her home in Montana and saw wolf tracks in the snow.  She described the natural setting perfectly and it makes me long for the Rocky Mountains and other special places where I’ve enjoyed hiking and the natural world so often in the past year and in years gone by.  Pat wrote:

“And so, in this season of coming light, when many faiths acknowledge the presence of miracles, I hold tight to the knowledge that each of us, every day, is living a miracle. It’s ours to appreciate, to do with as we may. It is enough. I wish you peace and acceptance of the changes that are sure to come, to be yours in the coming year.”

I appreciate those words, because I know how lucky I am to be in a place as incredible as Antarctica.   I know that I’m helping others learn more about this special place, and I hope you will continue to follow my blogs into the New Year as we prepare for the traverse and our big push for the science and discovery at Lake Whillans.  What a gift to explore this southernmost region of our planet.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing today, enjoy the time with your family and friends.  I wish you Happy Holidays and all the best.


21 responses to “Merry Christmas — McMurdo Style

  1. *Christmas at Meserve Glacier, Antarctic*

    It was late December, the year 1968. My partner, Dave Toogood, and I lived alone in a tent in Victoria Valley where we often went weeks without company. Now we had walked through Bull Pass 20 plus miles to Meserve Glacier in Wright Valley. Two Kiwis had driven a 1916 Ferguson tractor from Lake Vanda to join us and the two residents who lived at the Meserve Hut.

    We were at Meserve several days helping with jobs. As I was the only one with real glacier experience, my services were needed to place a weather station on tp of Meserve Glacier and to help initiate the project drilling through Meserve Glacier. We cut a channel up the side of the Glacier and installed ladders. Next we hand carried the weather station on to the glacier.

    Once on the glacier, we cut a large platform on which to set the drill rig. I remember there was an old Wyoming oil field worker who later came in to run the drill but he knew nothing of ice and glaciers. A helicopter was used to bring in the drill to the platform. Since there was no more room, we had to set the 16-foot boxes of drill pipe higher on the glacier and belay them down to the rig. That is a great story in and of itself.

    Next I joined the Kiwis and we used the tractor to haul fuel-loaded sledges over the Wilson Piedmont Glacier down into Wright Valley. We had to cut a ramp down the glacier face into Wright valley with our ice aces.

    When the 24th of December rolled around, dinner fixings look bleak. There were canned foods and dried items but no fresh food items.

    In my time off, I had explored Meserve Glacier. At one point nearly on a straight line between the Hut and the closest point of the glacier I found a triangular hole perpendicular into the glacier. The hole was shaped like an isosceles triangle with the vertical side downhill on the glacier. The total height of the tunnel was no more than 30 inches tall. As I peered in, the tunnel appeared to extended as far I could and appeared to get bigger.

    Having gone through college at the University of Wyoming Outing Club caving with the cavers, I decided to explore the tunnel. Laying on my side I slithered in about four feet and then the tunnel opened up so I could stand up. The original tunnel appeared to have been about three or four-foot wide and seven-foot tall. The passage was full of hoar frost crystals, each several inches in size.

    Where the tunnel ran perpendicular to the flow of the glacier, the upstream wall sloped over to the downhill side creating a small triangular passage. There were side passages running upstream into the glacier. These passages were not collapsed and remained about three foot by seven foot.

    Exploring the side passages, I found some crates. Opening them I found packages of heavily wrapped small chickens. There were eight, one for each of us. To this day, I do not know who left the chickens.

    Christmas dinner consisted of a small sized chicken for each person. We said thanks for great comradeship and a chicken Christmas dinner.

    Thank night, I walked outside. Even though it was 24 hours of daylight, the full moon shown brightly above. A feeling of aloneness settled over me. The next nearest people to the seven of us were in McMurdo having their own Christmas dinner. We were alone and alone I watched the moon. My thoughts were with three others like wise men of old they too were on a journey.

    The three folks were far more alone than us. It was December 24,1968 and for the first time in the history of mankind, humans were circling the moon. Theirs was a preparatory flight in training for the upcoming flight that would land on the moon.

    Yes, it was our remote Christmas but that night we were not the remotest of mankind.

    That was 44 Christmases ago. I would love to get back there.

    Jim Halfpenny

    Dec. 24, 2012[image: Inline image 2]

    [image: Inline image 3]

    [image: Inline image 4]

    [image: Inline image 1]

  2. Merry Christmas. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos and history about the chapel. It was inspiring and moving. god bless you on this joyous and blessed day.

    Love, Kathy and Steve

    • HI April and Steve! Now I have to do another whole blog post on polar bears and penguins because I posted that crazy photo! It’s coming your way soon….thanks to Jim Halfpenny! xo

  3. You guys sure know how to celebrate the season! Blessings and peace from sunny Florida. Spent the morning at the beach!

    • Hi Ann….Sounds like YOU are having a nice vacation in Florida. We are at sea level here, but no beach! Well, maybe when the ice breaks out and we can see the water in McMurdo Sound I can kind of call the edge of town a beach! Have fun and Happy New Year!

  4. Shared your wonderful story and pictures of Xmas eve with my family as we enjoyed our Christmas dinner. I had many Christmases at sea on Antarctic voyages with the comradeship of like minded and dedicated folk. McMurdo is obviously on a very different scale but the sharing and caring is the same. But we can continue enjoying our holiday break – it will be back to work for you.

    • You are so right, Gordon! And, also right that we don’t really get a break, it was back to work as usual on Christmas Day; for those working on packing up the drill/test site, and for me working on education and outreach. We don’t really get a day off until the season ends for our project. We have to take advantage of the time we have here for the science and outreach. You keep enjoying your vacation! 🙂

  5. Hi Mrs Trummel! Mackenzie and Family here. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! and hope you have a great Christmas filled with joy and happiness. can’t wait til February to give you your Christmas present.
    Merry Christmas!!
    Love – the Eisemans

    • Hi Mackenzie and all of the Eisemans! A late wish for Christmas but an early one for a Happy New Year! I was very busy interviewing people and posting blogs the past few days, so I have not had time to write back to comments. THANKS for your message and I miss you so much and miss being at school teaching you, Mackenzie! February will roll around in no time, and I’ll be back at Husmann. 🙂 Stay in touch! Love, Mrs. Trummel

  6. Hi Mrs.Trummel! It’s me Josh! That dinner must have been very good! William is jealous that you got prime rib! How did you like the presents we gave you? Thank you for the book and red pen! I had lost one! Gary Paulson is a great author and I can’t wait to read the book you gave me! I’ll be keeping up on your blogs! Hope you discover something new! Your Student, Josh

    • Hi Josh,
      The dinner was really good! Best one yet! I hope you read in the blog about your present…I gave you and your family a “shout out” in this blog! THANKS for thinking of such great stuff to send me…..those socks are going to be perfect for when I’m camping in the tent on an ice shelf for 2+ weeks! I’m glad you like the Gary Paulson book I gave you…he is a great author. Enjoy! Happy New Year! 🙂 Keep writing me!

  7. Hi Mrs. Trummel,
    We’re just catching up on your posts and want to wish you a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Your Christmas dinner sounded delicious – we had prime rib, too! Jules was glad you weren’t served the beef knuckles that we saw boxed up in your previous post. 😉 Julia noticed right away that they served Buche de Noel for dessert! Julia’s aunt also made one for our Christmas dessert. Glad you felt a little bit of “home” attending the Christmas service. We were surprised to see that the chapel has stained glass – even in Antartica!
    We are all gearing up to return to school Monday after a very nice break. Julia says thank you very much for the book! Can’t wait to see you in February!

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