SEARCH
« Car crashes into US Embassy gates in South Korea's capital | Main | 192 people missing in aftermath of Guatemala volcano eruption »
Wednesday
Jun062018

LGBT group putting final touches on Pride Month fete at Antarctica's McMurdo Station

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Pride Month will be celebrated all the way in Antarctica this weekend, thanks to the party-planning efforts of the LGBT community at the American research center there.

Although Antarctica is currently experiencing complete darkness 24 hours a day, residents at McMurdo Station are planning a celebration for Saturday, Shawn Waldron, a food-services worker there, told ABC News.

"We're not so concerned with who is and isn't part of the LGBT community, though, and we make it clear our events are open to all," his colleague, Evan Townsend, added. "We're more interested in the environment, making sure there's a space where people feel comfortable enough to express themselves and have fun."

Waldron, 37, of St. Paul, Minnesota, said while the details surrounding the Pride Celebration are still being hashed out, it would feature music, dancing and games.

In April, Waldron, Townsend and other members of the LBGT community at McMurdo Station caught the world's attention when they shared a picture of themselves standing outside in Antarctica with the pride flag.

The station is located on the coast of the southern tip of Ross Island, about 2,415 miles south of Christchurch and about 850 miles from the South Pole.

Townsend, 26, of Missouri, told ABC News that he'd brought the flag to the station with an initial plan to snap a picture of himself and then send the photo to friends back in the U.S.

But, he said, after he spoke with Waldron and others about his plan, the plan expanded to include other members of the LGBT community living at the station.

Townsend described the group at McMurdo as a "small, integrated part" of the larger research station community.

Waldron said that among the 133 people based at McMurdo, around 10 people identified themselves as LBGT. He described the photo as "a personal statement."

"It is a small but friendly group of people," Waldron said. "All of us have different backgrounds and experiences."

The picture was taken about three days before the last sunset of the season, Waldron said. The sun will not rise again until August, he said.

"It can be a challenge but the night sky is amazing and the Auroras have been active," Waldron said.

Both Waldron and Townsend said the workers at McMurdo had been accepting and positive since the picture went public.

"People have gone out of their way to let us know how much they support what we're doing. Colleagues on station and people who have worked here in the past have been sharing the articles, often adding their own encouraging message," Townsend said.

Waldron told ABC News recently that he'd worked at McMurdo Station since February. Waldron, who has a background in health care, said he'd volunteered with the medical clinic at the station as well and had been hired as a nurse administrator for the summer season. He will be in Antarctica, he said, till February 2019.

Townsend, who also is a bartender and manages the recreational craft room, said that it was his second season at McMurdo and that he'd been there since mid-January.

Waldron said he hoped that people were inspired after seeing the photo and hearing about the LGBT community in Antartica.

"I want people to realize that no matter who you are, no matter your background, if you want something out of life go for it," he said. "Life is too short and too exciting to not live life to its fullest."

Townsend also clarified that it would be wrong to classify Saturday's planned event as a "first" for the LGBT community in Antarctica.

"There have been dozens, possibly hundreds, of openly LGBT people on station in the last few decades, many of whom have hosted their own queer events," he said.

"LGBT people everywhere raise our flag for the same reason the early Antarctic explorers raised theirs -- as proof we have challenged the limits which others told us we could never overcome. I hope when people see the photo, they'll be reminded that LGBT people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate. We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world," Townsend said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio