Stilettos, skimpy shorts de rigueur on the ice

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:04 26/12/2012

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It's Christmas Day as I write this, and although it's only my third day in Antarctica, it feels like I have already been here a week.

I landed on the Ice on Sunday, after three days of weather delays - just in time for Christmas dinner.

The festive season came early at Scott Base, including a visit from Santa, as Monday and Christmas Day were a rare two days off for staff.

The base's two chefs did an incredible job of preparing an amazing spread of food - as good as you'd get anywhere at home.

There are about 50 people here at the moment, mostly staff and some scientists, and they've all made me feel completely welcome.

I'm still in a bit of a daze, coming to terms with where I am and the constant daylight.

I've been up late both nights so far, midnight and 1am, and people keep asking me if I'm waiting for it to get dark before going to bed - and if so, then I probably shouldn't.

I welcomed the arrival of Christmas Day in the small bar at Scott Base, with sunlight glaring through the windows as the clock struck midnight.

I've been to McMurdo Station twice already, about 3 kilometres away, once to get some free stuff from Skua Central, a sort of free op shop for discarded items, named after a species of birds - scavengers, like me - that live down here.

I found an all-American plaid shirt, size XL, which I thought made a good souvenir and I have been wearing it ever since.

It's a different world at McMurdo, like an American town plonked on the Ice, with big vehicles, bars with televisions playing American football and cross-dressing barmen serving Fat Tire beer.

We returned to McMurdo on Christmas Eve for the station's annual alternative art exhibition, inside the carpenters' workshop.

There was a giant wooden hamster wheel outside for those who were game enough to try it out, and a room covered wall-to-wall in aluminum and mirrors.

I saw a man wearing rainbow-coloured crocheted shorts, of the skimpy variety, and sculpture of a rat-like polar bear riding a bicycle.

I met some moustached air force boys, and saw a woman walking outside in stilettos. It was bizarre, like a post-apocalyptic civilisation. Anything goes.

The annual Ob Hill Up Hill race was held on Monday, a run up Observation Hill near McMurdo Station.

So there I was, a day after landing on the Ice, running - well, walking - up a 230-metre hill with Kiwis and Americans.

The air was so cool and dry, it hurt my throat and chest. You start to cool down rapidly when you stop.

Antarctica is like an alternate reality, an escape, with no cellphones, no malls, no cars - just white, white and more white.

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I've been going mad with my camera, snapping away, and am heading out to the Scott Base skifield this afternoon.

They're cranking up the rope tow, so I'll be skiing in Antarctica on Christmas Day and feeling like a very, very lucky girl.

- The Nelson Mail

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