Churchill, When Everyone Else Goes To Sleep

November 9, 2010 – November 10, 2010

I have some work to do tonight, but I will never get away with sitting in “the lab.” The late-night kitchen crew – there are a few regulars year to year, along with some newbies – is in the kitchen/dining room, drinking. This helps explain why several people insisted on calling the “Dining Car” on the train, “the Bar.”

The late night kitchen gathering has been an annual tradition since long before I joined this trip. Every night, after the evening lecture, 99% of the group goes to sleep to rest up for the adventures of the next day. The other 1% head into the kitchen to share stories and. . . drink.

I’m not drinking currently, nor was I drinking last year, but this does not excuse my absence from the kitchen pow wows each evening. If I am found anywhere other than the kitchen after 9pm, somebody comes to coerce me to join them. Coercion may be an understatement since compliance is mandatory. One of the reasons I love this tradition is that another biologist, Rupert Pilkington, leads a course here during the same time we’re in town and I always enjoy hearing his perspectives. Rupert works and travels around the world and is an exceptional storyteller. He’ll tell you about walking from the couch to the refrigerator: the story will take 40-minutes, and at least 8 fascinating encounters or experiences will take place between the couch and the refrigerator. You don’t want to miss Rupert’s stories. He’s also very knowledgeable about bears and world issues in general, and has the real-world experience to validate it.

Topics covered so far (it’s just after 1:00am) include:

• The health benefits of Blue M&Ms (this was Beth, not Rupert)
• Variances in the health systems of America, the UK, and Canada
• American politics (this was a very short conversation)
• Testing math skills by calculating how many bottles of wine are remaining among the group after the first night in Churchill
• Stories about traveling around the world
• Exploitation of polar bears
• Spirit Bears (White black bear)
• Sneaking alcohol on the train
• The many ways Rupert Pilkington earned his title as Shannon’s “Second Most-Useless Friend”
• Solutions re: Polar bear hunting

As you can see, everything from the serious to the silly is covered, often in great detail, until people can no longer keep their eyes open. . . or, until it’s time for the next day of polar bear observation to officially begin.

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