Expedition Report from William Cassidy

Nov. 28, 1998, Saturday: Patriot Hills Camp

A severe blizzard has descended upon us, with very high winds and lots of falling snow. Unfortunately for some -- those who had never before been to 80°South -- the Chileans had planned an initiation ceremony. The two camp residents who had had the most Antarctic experience, Professor Victor Villanueva and I, were invited to be part of the ceremony. The camp personnel had been busy for a couple of weeks, digging an undersnow chamber in which to store material from one year to the next. They had connected this room to the room containing the "toilet from hell" which I have reported upon earlier, by means of a lengthy tunnel. The participants gathered in the kitchen tent and were ordered to strip down to their long johns and boots. The two presiding "judges" (Victor and I) huddled partway along the tunnel, which was lit with some candles. The initiates had to run through the blizzard and descend to the newly dug snow cave; thence along the tunnel to where Victor and I stood, holding empty plastic 2-liter bottles, which are pretty large but weigh next to nothing. Victor mumbled something to them, I shouted "Antarctica accepts you!" and we both beat on their backs with the bottles, sending them further along the tunnel to the next station, where they were given a shot of pisco to drink. Then they had to climb out at the other end and run back to the kitchen tent, through the blizzard, into the teeth of the wind, in their long johns. Afterward, Victor and I struggled back to the kitchen tent, not in the least envying those who had made the run in their underwear. The scene in the kitchen tent was pandemonium, with people struggling into their outer clothing, shouting, laughing, and in general showing every sign of great animation. Then we had the best meal of our entire Antarctic experience. Now go to that part of the web page containing photographs of the expedition participants; imagine them in their underwear and boots, running through the blizzard, wishing that they were anywhere but there. Get the picture??