Sunday, 9 January, 2000
South Pole Station
There is an Antarctic millenium expedition going on right now which consists of a crossing of the continent in vehicles called ‘snowbugs’. It is being carried out by several rich Americans, a few Spaniards, and a couple of crazy Russians. One of the Russians is a former cosmonaut that was aboard MIR for a time. One is a very respected orthodox priest. The cosmonaut was the first man to fly a hot air balloon over the north pole. Now he is the first to fly over the south pole. That happened last night. I feel that sort of pioneering is right up there with the first to stick one’s finger up one’s ass at the pole (I plan to be the first), but it gives you some idea of their lunacy.
I just spent about an hour with these folks, talking about their expedition, attending a Russian orthodox mass at the ceremonial pole, and being run over by one of the snowbugs. First of all, they are all nuts. They are all very rich and they are tramping all over the world trying to tempt fate everywhere they go. Some of their group has been left behind because there was not enough room in the bugs. They are in the process of retrieving them as we speak. They are about to drive to Patriot Hills without any spare parts for their cars. If they break down, they will surely die. The snowbugs kind of look like dune buggies, but they have six wheels that are made out of innertubes. Their purpose is for crossing crevasses. I asked them if they worked. They said they did not know. They will find out soon I guess. One of the passengers is a French cameraman that is filming their exploits for a Discovery channel documentary. In all there are five bugs and thirty tires. The crew seems very exhausted, very frostbitten, and a bit deranged.
After our discussion, the priest held mass at the pole. It was very bizarre. During the Christmas events here we made a giant Easter Island head out of ice. The priest was very disturbed by the sculpture. He felt it was pagan in nature and did not want to hold a mass in its presence. We explained that it was only for fun and that we did not worship it. He was wary however.
His mass at the north pole was something less of a success. The Russians there were very upset with him for placing a cross on the ice, feeling that the ice would flow into the water. Placing a cross in water is a very bad omen apparently. Now at the south pole he had a giant pagan head to contend with. It seems this man’s ‘extreme masses’ just can’t win.
The next event for the day was something of a monster truck show. Because the snowbugs have innertubes for tires, they are very light. And because these characters like to do such extreme things, it makes perfect sense that they would eventually run over each other with the vehicles. A few of us were fortunate enough to be invited to participate. I can now say that I am one of the first people to be run over by a car at the south pole. I should probably get a plaque or something.