August in Antarctica Gets Warm Reception

August in Antarctica Gets Warm Reception

People flock to Richard Byrd Library’s 55th Anniversary Celebration.

A young boy grins while his mother experiments with the blubber glove.

A young boy grins while his mother experiments with the blubber glove. Eleanor Lamb

The Richard Byrd Library recently held a warm celebration for the Antarctic explorer for whom it was named.

The library’s 55th anniversary celebration brought community members together to learn more about Byrd and the South Pole, and to appreciate the great impact the explorer had on the nation. The first of the two celebratory components was a talk by author Guy Guthridge, who was avidly received by a group of more than 115 adults. Guthridge discussed the life and legacy of Byrd, and explained his extraordinary expeditions in the South Pole.

“Byrd was always a very hands on guy. It’s amazing what he did,” said Guthridge. “The achievements of our country in the Antarctic is a world success story.”


Two young boys write postcards to Antarctica. The cards will be mailed back to their home addresses with the Antarctic postage stamp.

The anniversary celerateion was not just geared for adults, though. On Saturday, Aug. 10, the library held a family day, which allowed children to experience all sorts of aspects of the South Pole, from how penguins insulate themselves with blubber to how explorers dress for the freezing cold. The Friends of Richard Byrd Library volunteers manned various stations throughout the library’s meeting room that showed off some aspect of the South Pole. One of the most popular stations was where children could try on the Antarctic snow gear and admire themselves in a mirror.

“[My kids] love Arctic stuff and geography. It’s really hands on and fun. Much better than video games,” said Patty McCarthy of Alexandria.

McCarthy’s children are not the only ones who have enjoyed learning about the South Pole. Many of the kids who flocked there appreciated seeing the aspects of Antarctica they loved brought to life.


A brother and sister grin from penguin cut-outs at Richard Byrd Library’s 55th Anniversary Celebration.

“It’s a good educational opportunity. It’s hands on and [kids] get to talk to people who know about this kind of stuff,” said Tom Smith, a father from Springfield. “My daughter’s in the Summer Reading Program and has been reading about the Antarctic.”

The volunteers who worked the stations enjoyed demonstrating the real-life nature of their activities as much as the kids enjoyed experiencing them. Beverly Clemsen, a volunteer with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, was one of three women working the blubber glove station. In that activity, kids placed one hand in a normal plastic bag and one in a plastic bag layered with lard. Then, they submerged both hands into an icy tub of water to feel how the insulated bag kept their one hand warm while the normal bag caused their other hand to chill.

“It’s amazing what a little touch of reality can do,” said Clemsen. “The amazement on their faces [is great].”


Del. Vivian Watts (D-39) and Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), attendees of Guy Guthridge’s talk at the Richard Byrd Library, stand in penguin cut-outs.

Another popular area was the fake snow station. Two volunteers monitored two large bins of fake snow, which could be molded but was not cold. Kids played with toy penguins that were in the snow and sculpted shapes with the powdery substance.

“I like the fake snow because it’s like real snow. I also like the flag, because you can draw penguins. I made a print with my thumb,” said 9-year-old Jeb Cui.

Kids were not the only ones who were thrilled with the displays. As the volunteers working the snow bins noticed, parents pressed their kids hands into the snow and played with them. They relished the South Pole experience the library brought to their fingertips.

“The parents are enjoying it as much as their children,” said Shirley Edwards, a volunteer with the Upper Pohick Community League. “It’s turned into a family activity.”