Commodore Blacknuts

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the Hash House Harriers and Hash Names which are are almost universally generated by terrible embarrassing events. It is time to discuss how I got mine as it is damn hard to embarrass me as I have a cultivated lack of shame that lets me have ADVENTURE!

In case you didn’t know this, Antarctica is cold.  You are given good expedition grade clothing to wear in a bazillion different layers to keep warm.  However, it all doesn’t count for shit when the wind starts blowing or you’ve been sitting still in an unheated vehicle for a half hour.  The cold seeps in through the extremities first.  Toes and fingers go numb and no amount of beating them on things will get feeling back in them until you go inside to warmth.  I had my feet go numb up to the ankle when we were putting the skiway flags back up.

However, there is a product at sporting goods stores that sells for a buck a piece that we used to grab and fill our gloves and boots with by the handfuls called HotHands (Incidentally, this became the Hash House Harriers name of one of the telecom techs…but that’s another story).  They are “air activated” according to the packaging and this is true.  They do have some limitations however:

  1. You are not to put them directly to skin because they “get too hot”.  This never happened.  Something else did, but I’ll get back to that.  Also, intervening layers of clothing keeps that warm away from you, so slap those bad dogs as close to you as possible.
  2. The chemical reaction requires air.  When you stuff them into nicely sealed boots and gloves with no air gaps so they keep in the heat, the reaction stops leaving you with gloves and boots full of uncomfortable rocky packets.
  3. The chemical reaction depends on ambient temperature.  When it drops past a certain point, the reaction just stops.  I believe that -90F is where I observed that they stopped working.  This is a temperature where you’d really like them to keep going.  Perhaps they did keep going but it was so damn cold I didn’t notice.

Anyway, other extremities get cold too. When we took the skiway flags down in February at -54F, I had frosty nuts from 6 hours of playing outside and that was totally uncool. Fast forward to September, when it was -92F and windy. I decided to stuff a handful of these things down my pants in the interest of maximum comfort for putting the flags back up.

When we stopped for snacks at the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory (MAPO) and to use the 55 gallon pee barrel (a remote urinal, only the main station is plumbed, and don’t miss the funnel or you get to clean up with a chisel), I zipped down looking forward to ultimate relief. I was rather shocked to see the black stained crotch before me.  Considering this is what dead flesh from severe frostbite looks like, and that I was looking at my crotch, my panic was understandable.

Luckily, it was just carbon and/or pyrite dust, a byproduct of the reaction. Everything was and remains fine.

My scream of panic, however, was noted by others who rushed to see what was wrong. This situation was dumb enough that there was no point in lying. And this is how I earned my Hash name Commodore Blacknuts.