A bad Santa in Antarctica had his festive cheer cut short when he was hauled before management over allegations of "inappropriate touching" during the American base's Christmas party.
Santa had been sitting on a decorated snowmobile at McMurdo Station, posing for photographs with revellers which included New Zealanders from the neighbouring Scott Base, when complaints were made.
The bad Santa episode was one of a spate of incidents just before a delegation of high-powered US dignitaries visited Antarctica. The group included members of the US Congress who are influential in setting the United States Antarctic Programme (USAP) budget.
Besides Santa being hauled before the human resources staff at McMurdo, there was an emergency medical evacuation to Christchurch. A Christmas punch-up between two workers at the South Pole left one man with a broken jaw and his attacker sacked and facing possible criminal charges.
Soon after, there was believed to be Antarctica's first car chase -- on Ross Island, where the longest thoroughfare is the 3km shingle road between McMurdo Station and Scott Base -- after a USAP worker suspected of drink-driving in a misappropriated four-wheel-drive van was chased down by the McMurdo fire engine.
She drove past Scott Base and crossed onto the Ross Ice Shelf on a road to the ice runway, where she was intercepted by another fire engine and taken back to a meeting with her supervisor and the McMurdo Station manager.
Within a week of the incidents, a troupe of 10 members of the US Congress passed through Christchurch to McMurdo and on to the South Pole as part of a delegation representing the House Science and Technology Committee. It helps set the budget for the National Science Foundation, which in turn funds the USAP.
- © Fairfax NZ News