Menorah Under the Sea is a different kind of picture book than you’d expect — and not just because it’s about Hanukkah. At first I couldn’t make up my mind whether to read it to my daughter or put it on my coffee table and show it off to friends. Right now, I’m doing both, and both are working out pretty well.
This gorgeous book tells a simple story: Dr. David Ginsburg is a marine biologist who traveled to McMurdo Station, the United States’ main base of operations in Antarctica, to do research on sea urchin reproduction (more below). His visit happened to overlap with Hanukkah. And, while he was there, he let some sea urchins in on the fun. Below, check out the book on Google Books (the paper version is much glossier, and much prettier, than your computer screen), and then scroll below to read our interview with Dr. Ginsburg.
(And just in case you’re keeping track: Dr. Ginsburg isn’t the only Jew ever to breech the South Pole. Last Rosh Hashanah, we spoke to Dr. Don Shuwarger, a Jewish doctor who spent the New Year in Antarctica.)
MJL: How many people live at McMurdo? I thought it’d be a small base, but it looks in the book like a whole town.
Dr. Ginsburg: The number of people at McMurdo depends on the time of year. During the winter the base is essentially cut off from visitors for 6 months. Only about 150 people remain on-station during this time. The first flights to return to McMurdo begin in late August/early September (technically, still winter) and bump the population up by 150-plus people. The next big round of flights (arriving almost daily at this point) begin in early October (known as main body), and this is when McMurdo’s population really ramps up…by December and January, more than 1000 people are on-station (scientists, support staff, military, etc.). By late February or early March, all main body people have left and the base operates on a quasi-skeleton crew for the winter. Very, very, very rarely do scientists stay at McMurdo for the winter season.