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Antarctic Home Companion?

December 4, 2008 | 19 Comments

Hello Garrison,
Wanted to let you know,that for many of us that work at the South Pole Station, your weekly show, that is steamed in, is one of the things that let us feel like we are still part of world we left behind. PHC is one of those things that keep us tethered to the world we love, but yet, is so far away.

Thanks again,
Dennis D.
ICECUBE project


Summering in the Antarctic, are you, Dennis? I'll bet it is idyllic. I grew up reading about the famous expeditions to the South Pole and the heroism of Amundsen, Shackleton, Byrd, and especially the Scott expedition that died on the return trip, but I'm sure that conditions have improved and you're not huddled in pup tents chewing on half-roasted sled dog haunch. I'd love to come see the station and will do a show for you ABSOLUTELY FREE if you will persuade the authorities to fly me down there. I have a week free in January. A perfect time to get away from the northern tundra. I would need to bring my older brother, the retired engineer in Madison, who craves a trip to the Antarctic, and I would, of course, bring a musician or two. And a small technical crew so that we could record the whole thing for broadcast. I guess we're talking about a 30-hour flight, right? No problem. We can do it. Are there people at the Station who can sing or tell jokes or tell stories? I wouldn't want to do a show that has meteorologists yakking about wind patterns or geologists — geology puts me right to sleep. See what you can do about this. You might need to stage a violent overthrow and take hostages — and if you demand PHC as a condition for their release, I will be on a plane pronto. Roger. Over.


For about a half second, I considered being offended by Garrison's comment about geologists & geology since I'm married to a geologist. But then I realized he's right. Every once in awhile, my husband will get started on some obscure geology topic, immediately getting overly technical, and sliding off into tangents that never return to the main subject. The eyes of every person in the room glaze over, and I have to sweetly, but firmly, tell my husband that he may the only person interested in what he's talking about.

Besides, there's no point in getting offended about anything, as the only person who gets angry over it is you. Being offended only serves to ruin a perfectly good day.

I will donate my technical services for any such broadcasting expedition.

Be sure and take Peter Ostroushko as one of the musicians. I'm sure he would love a trip down south.

Now that would be quite a show! Please can someone make it happen??

Garrison - I teach geology for a living. No outrage here: only surprise that geology has not grabbed you, shaken you, enlightened you. If only I could get you into the mountains here - you might view things differently. I'm a Wisconsin native, a UW-Madison grad, now living and teaching in Ellensburg, Washington. It's time to open your heart to geology, Mr. Keillor! You have good sense otherwise. Thanks for your hard work on all of your literary and entertainment fronts.

P.S. My favorite student evaluation comment from 20 years of teaching geology: Zentner's style is a perfect blend of a high school football coach and Garrison Keillor.


If you're really interested in the scientists at the bottom of the world you should watch Werner Herzog's new movie about this strange, fascinating culture of humans living below us. Encounters at the End of the World. You might love it.

And as the film would have it, there are plenty of musicians already down there for you and your crew.

Hope that helps!

Anyone who is crazy enough to spend time at the south pole more than deserves a free program from Garrison. Better go now before the global warming makes the pole too warm to be tundra.

First I'll just say that geology is endlessly fascinating stuff, if you have a good teacher. Soil layers are what help us identify the various ages (Paleolithic, etc) and there are marked changes between each -- different little fossils, ash samples, leaves, whatever, in each one -- and the layers are the same all over the wide world! I could go on, but the point of my post was to say that I hope our intrepid host is indeed serious and would make this long trek for a special South Pole show. It would make a fabulous videotaped special -- please someone, get on this!

In case your tongue is NOT firmly in your cheek (where it so often IS.....), your people can contact Peter West at the National Science Foundation.

Phone: (703) 292-7761
Room: 1245 S
Organization: OLPA
Title: Public Affairs Specialist

I predict it will be another year before they can accommodate you, but that will give you time to sort out all the logistical issues.

We're rooting for you here at IceCube HQ in Madison.....

As a geologist I take no offense with GK's comment. I learned pretty quickly that most people aren't interested.

Go for it. If they let Ann Curry and the Today show broadcast from there, I'm sure they'd let you do it too. And the South Pole sounds like the perfect place for a Minnesotan--the ultimate winter experience. I'd like to see your winter skills put to the test at the SP.

Hey,can I go?? pleeeaaassseee! I can make a poor attempt at playing the bag pipes or irish flute! Though a Kilt maybe a poor choice for clothing down there. Oh well,geus I'll just have to enjoy the show on the radio infront of my roaring fireplace with a pint of guinness!Merry Christmas!

Geology is the world's first History book, and the ONLY one that doesn't lie or guess at the answers.

Garrison, hate to burst your bubble about the South Pole Station show.. You can't fly in to the South Pole in January. No airplanes at all go there, it is too cold and the engines would freeze. Kind of like Minneapolis St. Paul Airport. They close up in October and shut the people in for six months. They are the people that "winter over". So unless you are willing to parachute in, you better wait until Summer. They open up for the "season" in March.

Dear Mr. Keillor,
You have just not met the right geologists. Maybe you met some lab- or desk-bound practitioner of our science who now does mostly drudge work. Those of us who ascend mountains, tromp through forests and streams, put our noses on outcrops or become intimately familiar with almost-featureless desert plains have an undying passion for the field. Tie our arms to our sides, and we cannot communicate. Geology is wonderful and rewarding detective work about our earth. I think John McPhee captures it best in his series "Annals of the Former World." Dip into that, and perhaps your opinion will shift. But I must stop now and listen to your broadcast!

I volunteer for Expedition Knitter. Silent needles (no klak-klak on the live broadcast), and warm output. Consider...

Can I come too, pleaseeee! I can cook for the crew, especially if you like spicy food; might warm up folks in the cold SP! I have a few degrees in Chemical Engineering, but that would be of no use there. So cooking is all I can offer! On the return trip, drop me off somewhere in Tierra del Fuego, so I can trek up the continent.

M. Siddique, Chevy Chase, MD.

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I've been listening to you since I was a very young child, and take my cue whenever my folks would laugh, I'd laugh too. Now I'm almost thirty, and I laugh on my own (usually).

Just wanted to say thanks for offering such consistently good, comforting and inspiring work. I'm back in school to finish my English degree, hopefully to find work as a journalist. I realize its not art, but at least I'll be writing for a living. And your ability to find beatuy in the small graces of life has shown me what kind of journalist I hope to become.

So, if you'll keep me laughing on occassion, I'll do my best to slog through the next two years. Thanks again for all you do. I enjoy your work.

Going in January during the middle of South Pole summer? I would have thought that a native of Lake Woebegone would want to sample the South Pole when the average temperature is below -40F.

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