This is one of my absolute favorite sayings down here. In fact, I think most of the other jargon is pretty stupid and is just intended to show how smart and experienced some people think they are. Anyway, the saying is usually in a joking context:
"The vanilla side of the icecream machine is broken."
"Well, what do you expect? It's a harsh continent."
"The picture quality of this Bears game is pretty crappy. Why couldn't somebody have sent down a better tape?"
"Shutup. It's a harsh continent."
It's a joke, but it's also a deadly truth. I've been thinking a lot lately about just how harsh it is down here (and, conversely, how easy it is to forget that fact). There's absolutely nowhere else on earth where man's very survival is so dependent on science and technology. Plain and simple, without technology, we'd all be dead down here. First off, we'd freeze to death before long. Well, I guess people have had thick-ass wool and fur coats for a long time, so maybe that's not technology. But take food, for instance. Nothing grows here to forage. There are no animals to kill to eat. All the steak and eggs and whatnot that I eat everyday have to be shipped or flown from New Zealand and then flown to the Pole (incidentally, I just ate breakfast for the third time "today". Man I need to get back to a regular schedule.) Something like 70 percent of all the cargo flights (and there are like 6 a day) carry nothing but fuel for the lights and the heating. It's a little bit like what living on the
A few years ago, the a big ice shelf broke off near McMurdo. The icebreakers that usually clear a path for the resupply cargo vessel didn't think that they were going to make it through, and they were talking about having to abandon McMurdo and the Pole for the winter. Apparently they thought that it was going to take something like five years to recover for a setback like that (over the winter, basically everything would get buried by snow.)
On a side note, I discovered why it's not a good idea to go for a walk at the South Pole wearing Birkenstocks. I almost broke my leg five or six times. I can't wear Birkenstocks?! It's a harsh continent.