“The Clock”, as it is known, is more than powdercoated steel, double-strength glass, brushed and clear-coated aluminum, laser-cut acrylic, and electro-magnetic transformers. The neon timepiece chimes the death toll for McMurdo’s military aesthetic while cheerfully welcoming the new federal/corporate aesthetic that has displaced it. The US Navy left the USAP in 1998, and the steadily-climbing NSF budget in recent years has allowed dingy old facilities like the mess-hall style Galley to be revamped into something resembling a federal building food court. In McMurdo the reign of brown and green buildings is out, the rise of beige and off-white is in. Plans are in the works for a suburb station at South Pole. A route to the South Pole is presently being constructed. Though intended to improve the USAP supply-line to Pole, it will peripherally encourage even the weakest tagalongs from the upper class to ski their way to notoriety at cocktail parties with their stories of a (crevasse-free) expedition to the South Pole. The march of progress continues on all fronts. The Clock has been discussed at all lunchtables in shades of like and dislike and, in any case, is an illuminating sign of the times.
Who approached you about making the clock?
Raytheon Polar Services, they found me on the web. [www.lumichron.com]
What were their instructions or requests?
None, other than they wanted a large illuminated clock.
Were they involved in the design?
No, fortunately. I sometimes work best when customers leave it completely open.
What was your inspiration for the design of the clock?
Well, the case is one of our standard cases for which my design inspiration is a Waring Blender that sits beside my desk, built in 1936 and works great. Raytheon was very open about what to put on the dial, so for me it was an open palette! I wanted to use something nautical, as I found the Shackleton story amazing — I recently finished reading about it.
Did you read the Shackleton story after you were asked to make the clock? Did the Shackleton story form your first impression of Antarctica?
I read Shackleton before Raytheon contacted me. It was my second impression of Antarctica. The first was the film The Thing, where some frozen space alien is discovered and thawed out and takes the shape of a host, be it a dog, human, etc., and wreaks havoc on the station. Really wild film! Seeing the pictures of your cafeteria, it looks like it’s a lot more plush than the movie. The story of Shackleton was the second and final impression. Have you guys come across any frozen aliens??
No, not quite, but in the summer of 2000-01 one of the scientists began telling people that aliens were going to come down from the sky and visit him in the dirt lot between Building 155 (where the clock now hangs) and the Medical building. He told people this encounter would take place on Thursday. That Thursday he arrived to wait for the aliens. The townsfolk arrived also, furnishing alien antennae on their heads, alien masks, and other extraterrestrial paraphernalia. National Science Foundation managers also arrived to the contact zone, to escort the scientist to captivity until he could be properly abducted the next day. (By airplane.) Have you ever been to Antarctica?
No, but I would love to visit! When the company called about the brightness problem and wanted to know how to dim the clock, I thought that would be my opportunity to do a service call, but… we had to settle on some more parts and a wiring diagram.
In the galley where the clock resides, there are several paintings of Antarctic landscape. Each of these paintings has a secret flourish: a small M&M candy painted into each painting. Does the clock have any secret artistic flourishes?
No, I’m sorry, I forgot to include anything of that nature. Wish I did!
That’s okay. There’s still room for legends. Did any strange events occur during the making of the clock?
Well, the fact that someone thought it would look cool (no pun intended) and it got there in one piece is pretty amazing. I’ll have to think some more.
Where are some of your other clocks? Anywhere famous?
Well, yours is about as famous as I think it’ll get! One of mine is featured right now on a Perkin’s commercial.
There are Perkin’s restaurants in Denver. Since Raytheon is based in Denver, and someone in the Denver office ordered the clock, some in McMurdo believe the clock purchase is influenced by Denver dining habits as regards decor. Do you have any accounts in the Denver area, specifically restaurants? Like Bennigan’s, Chilli’s, TJ Maxx’s, Rock Bottom Brewery, or other popular restaurants?
Perhaps Denny’s. We did a national plan for their re-models into “Denny’s Diner”. Also two clocks in Rosie’s Diners in Denver.
Did Raytheon show you pictures of the station, or of the environment in which the clock would be placed?
No, they didn’t show anything, just told me it was going into a cafeteria.
View and order Ian Macartney’s clocks at www.lumichron.com. Small replicas of The Clock in the McMurdo Galley are available by special order.