Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Antarctica TMI: My penguin toilet-training mission & visit to Port Lockroy

"And what did you learn from your recent trip to Antarctica?" someone asked me the other day. I learned that penguin colonies smell really bad and that penguins have no indoor plumbing. So I dealt with this problem as best I could -- rented a penguin costume, made a toilet-training video for penguins and posted it on YouTube. It was the least I could do.

"And how did that work out? Are penguins now using the potty-chair regularly or at least wearing diapers?" Who knows! And I'm not about to go back down there to find out. It's COLD in Antarctica! After spending time in to Antarctica, I'll never feel cold here in Berkeley again -- no matter how many hail-storms we have and no matter how bad climate change hits the Bay Area.

PS: Here's my penguin toilet-training video. Penguins, listen up!

PPS: Speaking of climate change, apparently the Berkeley Bowl produce market is not selling tomatoes any more -- or at least not very many. You used to be able to walk into the Bowl's vegetable section and find bunches of shelves and bins filled with tomatoes. But not any more. Not since the big freeze of 2010-2011. Now they only gots a few shelves devoted to selling big reds and Romas, and the price of cherry tomatoes from Mexico is now $3.69 a basket.

Between the price of gas now hitting four dollars a gallon, the various ice sheets hitting our tomato supply line and our deficit hitting new highs due to the cost of our new "war" on Libya, it's apparently time to resign ourselves to the price of stuff that we need going up -- and up and up. But who the freak can make spaghetti without tomatoes?

But if America actually really is seriously broke and has as huge a deficit as the governor of Wisconsin and Rush Limbaugh claim that we do, then America could never afford to continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan -- let alone up and bomb Libya. Lord knows that bomber fuel ain't cheap!

PPPS: While down in Antarctica I also stopped at Port Lockroy, which used to be a British intelligence-gathering radio outpost during World War II, but is now a museum and gift shop. And I have the bumper-stickers, calendars, post cards, T-shirts and key chains to prove it. Sorry, but they were all out of refrigerator magnets.

Imagine six or eight Brits huddled in a flimsy wood hut for several years, trying to spy on enemy battleships and U-boats that might try to sneak through the Drake Passage -- and you've pretty much got the idea of what Port Lockroy was like. Talk about your last outpost of Empire!

It was interesting to see how the old British spies lived back in the day -- the place was completely preserved right down to its tin bathtub, radio room, bunk beds, boxes of Marmite stored in the pantry and pin-up drawings of Diana Dors on the dorm wall, painted back in the early 1950s. I guess that the spies liked it there so much that they decided to stay on after the war? No accounting for tastes.

Anyway, the hut's major attraction was this huge vintage-1943 radio called The Beastie, which was one of the largest radios in the world at that time. I took lots of photos. Here they all are, in a fabulous new YouTube slide show exclusive:

PPPPS: While at Port Lockroy, I also mailed a post card to my three-year-old granddaughter Mena. However, I've been back home in Berkeley for almost a month now and the freaking post card still hasn't been delivered.