Author Topic: Anyone worked in Antarctica?  (Read 15290 times)

Kriegsspiel

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Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« on: June 27, 2015, 07:42:38 PM »
Please relate your experiences.

nirvines88

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2015, 08:37:53 PM »
This guy did.



It didn't end too well.

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2015, 08:44:07 PM »
I did.  Several seasons.  What do you want to know about?
« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 12:47:00 AM by sol »

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2015, 09:09:11 PM »
  • Which station did you work at?
  • Did you work for the Gov or a private company?
  • What are the living conditions?
  • How's the internet down there?
  • Did you get special/hardship compensation for living there? (probably relates to public/private work)
  • What 'kinds' of people work there? What kind of personalities? What's the vibe?
  • What companies do they work for?
  • Differences between the 'seasons' of working there?
  • Difficulty of being hired?
  • What did you do there?
  • Describe the relationship and level of interaction between the researchers and the support personnel.
  • If you are familiar with S&R, please describe the personnel involved and missions you know of
  • Were you familiar with the resupply system? Can you describe it?

I might come up with some more, but if you can answer those I'd be much obliged.

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2015, 10:21:42 PM »
  • Which station did you work at?

Technically I worked at a remote field camp on the west Antarctic ice sheet that doesn't exist anymore, and didn't exist before we landed there.  But I also spent a fair bit of time (months) in McMurdo.  And visited Scott Base a lot, because they had the best parties.

  • Did you work for the Gov or a private company?

I'm a scientist.  I went as a university employee, but the project was ultimately funded by NSF.  Lots of people work as support staff with no scientific background, though.

  • What are the living conditions?

At camp, living quarters were three-person dome tents, but each person got one to themselves.  We also had two Jamesways set up, big army surplus tent/buiding things built with fabric walls over arches over wooden floors.  One for cooking/dining and the other for basecamp science support. 

McMurdo is kind of a weird cross between a mining town and a military base.  There are large buildings that sort of resemble the crappiest Motel 6 you can image, if the government built them.  Plus communal areas like dining halls and a couple of bars, and lots of specialized buildings for the various support groups that need to be there.  Fuelies, mechanics, S&R, flight ops, hardware/maintenance, etc.   They each get their own building.

  • How's the internet down there?

At field camps, usually nonexistent.  We had satellite uplink for about 40 minutes per day while one bird was above the horizon.  Otherwise nada.

At McMurdo, it's entirely adequate for comms but don't count on netflix or ebay sniping.

  • Did you get special/hardship compensation for living there? (probably relates to public/private work)

I got paid a scientist's wage, but nothing special.  On the bright side, you can't exactly jog down to the mall to blow your paycheck so it's all there waiting for you when you get back.

  • What 'kinds' of people work there? What kind of personalities? What's the vibe?

Oh man, the number of jokes about this question continues to grow.  Know any good jokes about the types of people who move to Alaska?  Similar.  Jokes about people who sell everything and go full time RVing?  Similar. 

They say you go the first time for the adventure, the second time for the paycheck, and the next 20 times because you no longer fit in anywhere else.

Aside from the scientists and the senior management, McMurdo is a young person's town.  Lots of active 20 somethings with trade skills, many of whom don't even maintain a permanent residence in the States.  They'll work four or five months a year on the ice, then travel the rest of the year in places like Bali, Fiji, or Thailand where the living is cheap.  Permanent vagabonds.

With that many young folks thrown together in isolation, there's a lot of energy.  A lot of sex.  Some drugs.  The bar scene was active.  There was a cray-cray music festival for solstice.  It definitely has that small town feel to it, though, like if you don't know the right people then you don't get invited to anything cool.  Everyone knows everyone else.  Major community events are things like the Coasties showing up on one of their icebreakers (fresh meat!) or a cargo resupply arrival.

  • What companies do they work for?

NSF contracts out all of the logistics, or at least they did when I was working there.  Back then it was called Raytheon Polar Services, but I think the contract went Lockheed at the last contract call.  This company, whoever it is that year, employees basically everyone who's not military (mostly National Guard) or a scientist.

  • Differences between the 'seasons' of working there?

I only worked the Antarctic summer seasons, which was roughly November to February, plus or minus a few weeks.  The people who winter over are a whole different crew.  They look at the summer staff in the same way that the summer staff looks at folks back home in front of their televisions.  Fucking amateurs.

Winters are rough.  It's always dark.  You can't stay outside very long.  I hear the people who do well there in the winter are folks who like to spend a lot of time alone, or can thrive in an environment where everyone is boinking everyone else.

  • Difficulty of being hired?

My job interview was five minutes and three questions, asked of my by a professor at my University.  But he already knew me and my work, and I think in that case the fact that I had heard about his research and actively sought him out to find out how I could get there answered many of the questions he might have otherwise asked.

I've heard that the support jobs are much harder to get, just because the pool of applicants is so much bigger.  I got hired because there weren't a lot of strapping young men with the right science background just hanging around asking to go to Antarctica.  For 19 year old kids with no skills, who want to get a job as a GA (general assistant aka underpaid gopher) the list of applicants is long, for very few spots.  Getting on as an electrician or carpenter is a bit easier, if you're good.  I don't know how the National Guard determines who goes.

  • What did you do there?

Science stuff I'd rather not talk about, lest I totally blow my cover.

  • Describe the relationship and level of interaction between the researchers and the support personnel.

That really depends on where you are.  At the field camps, it's VERY close.  There are only a handful of you out there together, with nothing to do, so you spend a lot of time with all of them.  A small field camp might have a few scientists, a GM and a cook.  A big one might also have an assistant cook and two mechanics.

At McMurdo things are normally a little more segregated.  The support staff are based there all season and a lot of the scientists are effectively transients, coming through at the beginning and end of the season.  Even the scientists who stay in McMurdo all season have their own building, so they wouldn't normally mingle with the support staff without seeking them out, which is easy to do. 

Scientists were called Beakers (like the muppet), sometimes affectionately and sometimes derisively.  The support staff all have names based on their jobs, and they mostly spend their time with other people who have the same job.

But crossing those boundaries was pretty easy, especially for romantic or sexual reasons.  It's a small pool, but it's a pool full of very interesting people who are all very far from home, if they even have one.

  • If you are familiar with S&R, please describe the personnel involved and missions you know of

Ugh.   When I was there the S&R program had a bad rap for being very cliquish, like the lady in charge only hired people she knew personally, or wanted to know personally/romantically.  They were technically fine, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Plus they all looked alike.

There have been a number of well-documented rescue missions in Antarctica, all of which you can read about on the web.  They're a lot more rare now than they were back in the 70s and 80s, as the rules are more strict and the equipment is better. 

These days, most of the S&R missions are like some scientist in the dry valleys has a medical or equipment problem, he radios for help, and they send two guys with med training on a helo to check him out on the flight back.  There's not much crevasse rescue work anymore.  The primary duty of the S&R folks seems to be to train the scientists who will be going out on their own, and then administering the logistical side of their oversight.

  • Were you familiar with the resupply system? Can you describe it?

Cargo ships at least once per year, after the icebreakers come.  Everything else was transported by National Guard aircraft, mostly through Christchurch.  They mostly flew C-130 Hercules, (technically LC-130s, with the skis you strap onto the wheels while in flight) but also the occasional Starlifter or other big flying truck.  The used Twin Otters and helos to shuttle to and from the Dry Valleys or other relatively close camps.

Most of the equipment is there, and stays there.  They tend to send replacement parts and tools, rather than replacement equipment, just because it's expensive to move something like a tractor down there.  Virtually everything in McMurdo has been rewelded or otherwise patched numerous times.

The consummables are mostly dry and canned goods.  Keeping stuff frozen is easy, so meat isn't a problem.  Fresh vegetables are at a premium because they have to be flown in since they don't last long enough to make the trip by boat.  There was a small greenhouse, but it didn't grow anywhere near enough to feed the base so it was mostly a hobby project and nice place to hang out and read a book.
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okits

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2015, 10:38:56 PM »
Well, sol, you've reached a whole other level of cool in my mind!

Kriegsspiel, no hints about the circumstances prompting you to ask?

LeRainDrop

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2015, 11:02:02 PM »
Well, sol, you've reached a whole other level of cool in my mind!
Seriously badass.

Exflyboy

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2015, 11:43:48 PM »
Sounds like a great place to get laid.. a lot!...hahahah

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2015, 12:48:16 AM »
Well, sol, you've reached a whole other level of cool in my mind!

Most of the time I was there, it was actually colder back home than where I was.  Antarctic summer was up near freezing almost every day.  It wasn't so balmy back home in January.

BlueHouse

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2015, 02:11:39 AM »
Antarctica documnetary is now streaming on Netflix. Would love Sol's take on how accurate it is.

okits

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2015, 06:57:25 AM »
Sounds like a great place to get laid.. a lot!...hahahah

Agree!  But limited population so I imagine you get what you get once you're there, with regards to attractiveness of partners and your own appeal relative to competitors.  If there's a high male-female imbalance it would be a great environment if your sex is in short supply!

Paul der Krake

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2015, 07:14:22 AM »
If lots of sex is what you're after, this can be achieved by finding a small group of like minded people far away enough from home living in an artificially restricted location.

The Olympic village is a famous example. Skiing instructors in mountain resorts too. Aid missions abroad. College towns.

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2015, 05:37:51 PM »
Antarctica documnetary is now streaming on Netflix. Would love Sol's take on how accurate it is.

I also happened upon this documentary on Netflix today after reading this thread.  Sol, I loved reading about your experiences so much, and so had to watch the documentary when I found it.  I'm feeling like it would be such a life changing experience to do something like this!   Thanks for sharing and also I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the documentary if you've seen it (or want to watch it).

BlueHouse

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2015, 05:48:56 PM »
Sounds like a great place to get laid.. a lot!...hahahah

Agree!  But limited population so I imagine you get what you get once you're there, with regards to attractiveness of partners and your own appeal relative to competitors.  If there's a high male-female imbalance it would be a great environment if your sex is in short supply!

A quote from the documentary:
Quote
The odds are good, but the goods are odd.

CommonCents

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2015, 06:05:19 PM »
  • Which station did you work at?
  • Did you work for the Gov or a private company?
  • What are the living conditions?
  • How's the internet down there?
  • Did you get special/hardship compensation for living there? (probably relates to public/private work)
  • What 'kinds' of people work there? What kind of personalities? What's the vibe?
  • What companies do they work for?
  • Differences between the 'seasons' of working there?
  • Difficulty of being hired?
  • What did you do there?
  • Describe the relationship and level of interaction between the researchers and the support personnel.
  • If you are familiar with S&R, please describe the personnel involved and missions you know of
  • Were you familiar with the resupply system? Can you describe it?

I might come up with some more, but if you can answer those I'd be much obliged.

A good friend worked as a paramedic down there.  As a paramedic, they can only fly people in for part of the year while the ice is strong enough to hold the weight of the plane.  So some people would regularly worked there for 6 months out of the year (and go back to the states/where-ever for the other part of the year).

She made some very good close friends.  It was apparently somewhat isolated.   The fro-yo had only two flavors.  Apparently very hard to get some things like milk, so once the paramedics (who are required to meet each plane) made a sign in the snow reading "Got Milk?"  The pilots were amused and brought them fresh milk the next run.

It makes for interesting interview conversation fodder now, and she thinks helped her get a very large law school scholarship.

Clearly I don't have much of the answers you're seeking but if want to narrow down your questions to one or two, I'm happy to ask her for more information. 
« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 09:23:26 AM by CommonCents »

Exflyboy

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2015, 08:43:49 PM »
Sounds like a great place to get laid.. a lot!...hahahah

Agree!  But limited population so I imagine you get what you get once you're there, with regards to attractiveness of partners and your own appeal relative to competitors.  If there's a high male-female imbalance it would be a great environment if your sex is in short supply!

A quote from the documentary:
Quote
The odds are good, but the goods are odd.

That's funny...:)

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2015, 10:05:52 PM »
Agree!  But limited population so I imagine you get what you get once you're there, with regards to attractiveness of partners and your own appeal relative to competitors.  If there's a high male-female imbalance it would be a great environment if your sex is in short supply!

Having spent more than my fair share of time in such places, I don't really recommend it.  In my case it's always been too few women and too many men, so I can't speak to the reverse ratio problem, but in the cases I have seen, most people are unhappy.

Most of the men go unpartnered, and are lonely.  The women have no trouble pairing off with pretty much anybody they want to, which also isn't so good for them.  Too many options.  Too much temptation.  If your relationship sours, you have a waiting list for his replacement five minutes later and that doesn't give you time to reflect, to grieve, to heal.  You don't even need to break it off, just start something new without telling him, he'll figure it out.  I've seen too many otherwise wonderful women in these environments make the mistake of confusing love with sex, emotional fulfillment with sexual gratification.  You can't replace one with the other.  It's not healthy for anyone involved.

We even had a chart for overall population happiness as a function of gender ratio.  An all-male environment can maintain a relatively high level of happiness, because they all accept there will be no women available for dating and they get on with their lives.  Add one woman to that mix and the population happiness tends to go down, in part because that one woman probably isn't thrilled with her situation.  Total happiness drops from there and reaches a minimum somewhere around 25 or 30% female, enough that women seem prevalent but most men still end up single and frustrated.  Maximum happiness is at about 50/50.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 10:10:06 PM by sol »

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2015, 10:08:27 PM »
Antarctica documnetary is now streaming on Netflix. Would love Sol's take on how accurate it is.

More than half the movie is about winter-overs, and I won't pretend to understand those freaks.

But the first bit and the last bit seemed familiar.  Looks like Ivan the Terrabus is still up and running, and McM hasn't changed much.  A few new buildings since I was there.  All of the personal-issue gear (boots, coats, bags, clothes) looks identical to what I had.

I thought the documentary presented a pretty romanticized view of the experience, like what you'd tell your parents about it.  Yes it is beautiful, and there's a real sense of history, and yes the people are interesting and the work can be arduous.  But there are some darker sides to it that they didn't really address, like what happens if you really just can't get along with somebody on base, or worse yet at a field camp?  Ever had a falling-out with somebody so bad that you stopped talking to them?  That can't happen there. You'll be face to face every day, like it or not, and it's a guaranteed certainty that there are some people on base who just don't like some other people on base.  Can't stand them.  Can't be in the same room with them.  Like a high school clique gone wrong, people end up taking sides and that can divide the whole group into factions. 

The isolation and solitude are also a stretch for some people.  Even before I went to Antarctica, I always thought I would kind of enjoy spending a few years in prison.  Like my life all through high school and college was always go go go high stress, deadlines and objectives and missions and meetings and accomplishments and awards, and by the end I was pretty damn ready to just do nothing for a while but sleep in and read books.  Maybe listen to music, work on some solitary hobbies, be free of responsibilities and expectations.  A few months of down time on the ice provides a place to decompress from all of that, and it helped me get some perspective on my life, but not everyone reacts well to introspection.  There have been suicides, for example, and a variety of violent crimes up to and including assault and murder.  Alcohol abuse is common.  Marital infidelity is almost a given.  I saw clear cases of both depression and manic-depression.  Most everyone has some sort of benign sleep disorder. McMurdo has a jail, and a chapel, and a therapist, and a whole bunch of annoyingly formal bureaucracy, and they all see regular use.  The military people are somewhat segregated, which sometimes leads to conflicts.  Shit breaks all the time, and sometimes it can't be fixed and you just have to live without.  Not everyone is good at their job.  The pay is generally pretty crappy, given the hours you work.

So it's not all pretty skies and good friends, like the movie suggests.  The work is hard and the conditions are demanding.  I thought it sort of glossed over the negative parts, which is maybe to be expected from a long-time resident trying to make a buck with a documentary.

JLR

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2015, 12:33:07 AM »
Wow, Sol. It all sounds so interesting (all facets). Thanks for sharing.

It is funny you mentioning the thought of a few years in prison - the one person I know who has worked in Antarctica also chose to spend a short time in jail rather than pay a small fine (around $1000?? Related to his car??) as he thought it would be interesting to see what jail was like, and there was his chance. :)

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #19 on: June 29, 2015, 10:43:39 AM »
Sol, do you have to have your appendix taken out before you go there?

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2015, 10:46:56 AM »
Sol, do you have to have your appendix taken out before you go there?

No, but I was required to have had my wisdom teeth removed.  Dental issues can be a real problem down there.

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #21 on: June 29, 2015, 10:54:40 AM »
Sol, do you have to have your appendix taken out before you go there?

No, but I was required to have had my wisdom teeth removed.  Dental issues can be a real problem down there.
I can imagine!  Wouldn't it just suck to get an abcess or something?

DeepEllumStache

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2015, 04:44:01 PM »
chief penguin pooper scooper

I now feel the distinct urge to find a way to use this title in my life despite the inherent smelliness of it.

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #23 on: June 30, 2015, 07:56:33 AM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE

forummm

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #24 on: June 30, 2015, 08:18:31 AM »
I definitely want to visit. I've been planning to for years. But I don't need to work there.

I think the cheapest way to visit is to take a cruise on a huge boat from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula, and seeing some South American cities too. The (much) more expensive route is to leave from Christchurch or Ushuaia on a much smaller boat and see much more of the Antarctic. I don't think there's any way for a tourist to stay on the continent itself.

deborah

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #25 on: June 30, 2015, 01:12:04 PM »
There are one day return flights from Hobart (Tasmania - Australia) that you can take. This is where most of the Australian Antarctic territory stuff comes from.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #26 on: June 30, 2015, 02:59:05 PM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE

It's not too late to change, just apply to jobs in Antarctica! Bonus points: you don't have to be FI to work there either, I checked the rules.

puglogic

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2015, 08:23:40 PM »
I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled too!   And a fascinating psych exam, questions like:

True or false:   I have always wanted to be a flower arranger

A very cool experience (I was at McMurdo with the civilian contractor at the time, two decades ago, and Scott Base STILL had the best parties)  but I got it out of my system and wouldn't go back.  But sure fun while it lasted, and the photos I took still make me shake my head.  A beautiful place.  And we staged out of Christchurch, which I loved.

What would be your reasons for going, Kriegsspiel?


sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #28 on: June 30, 2015, 08:25:16 PM »
What would be your reasons for going, Kriegsspiel?

I don't think he's going, I think he's writing a novel about it and we're his background research.

Dicey

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #29 on: July 01, 2015, 12:43:46 AM »
What would be your reasons for going, Kriegsspiel?

I don't think he's going, I think he's writing a novel about it and we're his background research.
Bwahaha, Sol. If that's the case, he hit the goldmine with your experiences and writing skills. Perhaps you can get a ghostwriting credit...
Seriously, thanks for sharing. What a good read! I hate to be cold, so reading of your adventures is as close as I ever want to get. Brrrr!

LeRainDrop

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #30 on: July 01, 2015, 02:39:32 AM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE
Ditto.  The funny thing is that I actually dislike the cold -- even moved from New England to the South in large part for that reason -- yet after reading Sol's account, I spent hours searching around about opportunities in Antarctica.  Of course, then I realized that I instead could be dreaming of any number of foreign adventures. . . . Must put plans into action!

forummm

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #31 on: July 01, 2015, 05:54:36 AM »
Is there anything that a short-term visitor should do on the continent? Partly I want to visit because I like going to extremes. Partly because I want to visit all 7 continents. And partly because it's cool. I also like glaciers and ice. And it would be good to see it before it melts (although I probably have some time).

As a scientist, I would be interested in working there. But I'm not really that kind of scientist, and I'm not sure I'd want to stay there that long.

Do you have to poop outside? I thought I saw something about poopsicles.

There are one day return flights from Hobart (Tasmania - Australia) that you can take. This is where most of the Australian Antarctic territory stuff comes from.

Good to know, thanks.

partgypsy

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #32 on: July 01, 2015, 06:41:09 AM »
I think this is interesting. If I was a 20 something person, I can understand the appeal. I'm someone who can deal with solitude and also dealing with a small number of people for long hours (graduate school in a particular lab). But then again I don't like extreme physical discomfort, so maybe not.

I am intrigued because it sounds the closest to on Earth, being on a space mission. Maybe the same personalities would do well on either.

Fuman

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #33 on: July 01, 2015, 07:13:45 AM »
With poop...you have some options.

McMurdo (McM) has a full-scale sewage treatment plant.  There's toilets there just like anyplace else.  McM is where "the sewer meets the sea". 

When you are working in field camps there are a couple of options.  In some places a hot water drill is used to bore a hole into the ice and then a portable outhouse is placed on top.  When it comes time to roll-up the camp, the outhouse travels back to McM and the hole is filled with ice and snow.  In other areas, you poop into a bag and save it - it travels out with you.  The poop is shipped off continent for disposal.

While traversing to the South Pole, you would obviously not want to leave a 1,000 mile trail of piss and shit behind you.  Especially since you depend upon gathering ice along the way for drinking water.  On the South Pole Traverse there's what is called a "rocket toilet".  This is a propane powered poop incinerator.  You need to be sure to empty the ashes every day though!  It not, you  won't get a clean burn and then the ash clean-up becomes especially unpleasant.  The ashes are saved and shipped off continent.  You pee into a bottle or a funnel and this is stored in a 55 gallon drum (a U-Barrel) which, of course, freezes in transit.  The drum is saved and shipped off continent.

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #34 on: July 01, 2015, 07:33:58 AM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE

It's not too late to change, just apply to jobs in Antarctica! Bonus points: you don't have to be FI to work there either, I checked the rules.
And check out  http://www.coolworks.com/  they have some fun and unusual jobs and often list Antarctic jobs. Also sites like Indeed and Monster list Antarctic jobs as does the NSF for research/science and some support jobs. It's (usually) never too late or you're too old to change directions and do things you are interested in.
You're right, both of you. But it would be hard to leave my high paying job with benefits I have currently.  Still, it entices me.......

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #35 on: July 01, 2015, 07:36:19 AM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE
Ditto.  The funny thing is that I actually dislike the cold -- even moved from New England to the South in large part for that reason -- yet after reading Sol's account, I spent hours searching around about opportunities in Antarctica.  Of course, then I realized that I instead could be dreaming of any number of foreign adventures. . . . Must put plans into action!
Glad I'm not the only one!!  I mentioned it to a guy at work, and he asked if I am starting a mid-life crisis.  Maybe I am.  Doesn't feel like a crisis though.  Just continued increasing awareness of how I, along with so many, continue on in a main-stream lifestyle and career. 

3Mer

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #36 on: July 01, 2015, 07:39:54 AM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE

It's not too late to change, just apply to jobs in Antarctica! Bonus points: you don't have to be FI to work there either, I checked the rules.
And check out  http://www.coolworks.com/  they have some fun and unusual jobs and often list Antarctic jobs. Also sites like Indeed and Monster list Antarctic jobs as does the NSF for research/science and some support jobs. It's (usually) never too late or you're too old to change directions and do things you are interested in.
You're right, both of you. But it would be hard to leave my high paying job with benefits I have currently.  Still, it entices me.......
Sometimes I wonder what I would all do after FIRE anyway.  Now I have something to add to the list. 

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #37 on: July 01, 2015, 03:06:35 PM »
What would be your reasons for going, Kriegsspiel?

I don't think he's going, I think he's writing a novel about it and we're his background research.

Hah! My novel DOES involve glaciers, but on the other end of the world. I am applying for a job in Antarctica... so I still might not be going.


puglogic

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #38 on: July 01, 2015, 04:58:40 PM »
Hope you get it, Kriegsspiel.  It's somethin' else.

okits

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #39 on: July 01, 2015, 07:43:11 PM »
After hearing Sol's experiences and watching the documentary, I can't stop thinking about going to Antarctica.  And even beyond that, in general just feeling remorse that I have such a main-stream job and life.  More incentive to achieve FIRE
Ditto.  The funny thing is that I actually dislike the cold -- even moved from New England to the South in large part for that reason -- yet after reading Sol's account, I spent hours searching around about opportunities in Antarctica.  Of course, then I realized that I instead could be dreaming of any number of foreign adventures. . . . Must put plans into action!
Glad I'm not the only one!!  I mentioned it to a guy at work, and he asked if I am starting a mid-life crisis.  Maybe I am.  Doesn't feel like a crisis though.  Just continued increasing awareness of how I, along with so many, continue on in a main-stream lifestyle and career.

Yeah, this totally gives me fantasies of working abroad.  We'll see how I feel in two decades, when I have the freedom of an empty nester!

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #40 on: July 01, 2015, 07:58:59 PM »
Do you have to poop outside? I thought I saw something about poopsicles.

That depends on what you mean by "outside".  If you meant "do you get to poop in a heated room" then the answer is only in McMurdo or one of the other "permanent" bases.  The accommodations usually have shared bathrooms, more like a college dorm than a hotel.

At field camps, we used these portable JP-8 powered yellow heaters to melt a hole in the snow.  They're designed for keeping engines warm, but they basically turn fuel into forced hot air, so you just point the hose at the ground and away you go.  The portable outhouse mentioned above goes over the hole and is trapezoid shaped.  Poop freezes promptly so there is no smell.  After 10 people poop in it for a few months, you get a really impressive poop stalagmite growing up from the bottom of the hole, so we kept an old broom handle in the outhouse to knock it over every few days.  That thing was like 15 feet tall at one point. 

I wouldn't be surprised if poop is captured and flown off the ice sheet these days, the way it is in the dry valleys, as the environmental regs have probably improved.  My poop is still frozen into the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and will be for there for hundreds of thousands of years.  (maybe I should put that in my obituary?)

Pee is a different story.  To prevent yellow snow from showing up all over camp, you put a pee flag in one spot and everyone pees there.  You know how when you pee in the snow it melts a little hole?  Imagine a whole bunch of people peeing on that spot for months.  Eventually you get a 10 foot wide yellow funnel shaped depression, deep and narrow in the middle but wide and shallow at the edges, mostly from wind whipping your stream around.  Like a yellow version of a movie black hole.

At night, you pee in a pee bottle in your tent.  Women usually used #10 coffee cans and then emptied into the pee bottle, unless they were seasoned veterans and just used the bottle straight up.  In the morning you empty your pee bottle out at the pee flag.  This process is sufficiently complicated that hilarity ensues with some regularity.   After one particularly inebriated night to celebrate the end of the season, I got up in the morning, got dressed, and started the walk over to the mess tent for breakfast.  About the time I arrived, one of my feet started to feel damp.  By the time I had food and the night started coming back to me in glimpses, I realized I had at some point filled my boot with pee, which had frozen, and was now thawing into my socks due to body heat.  Please don't ask me why I put pee in a boot, I still don't know.

Ah to be young again.

Fuman

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #41 on: July 01, 2015, 11:05:17 PM »
Ahhh yes - the pee flags.  That was a simpler time.  Now you (are supposed to) save the pee in a bottle or drum for transport out. 

And hilarity always ensues whenever some poor soul mixes up their "out bottle" with their "in bottle"!

McMurdo has a rather elaborate utility system.  Since the rocky ground is frozen solid, all water, sewer and fire suppression lines are above ground.  Poopsicles occur in town (McM) when a sewage line breeches and the effluent freezes.  They can be disgustingly colorful...and that always make me glad that I'm not a plumber!  Which reminds me of an old joke that carpenters like to tell...

There are four things that you need to know to be a plumber:
1.  Stink goes up.
2.  Shit goes down.
3.  Payday is on Friday.
4.  Don't lick your fingers!

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #42 on: July 01, 2015, 11:30:04 PM »
Ahhh yes - the pee flags.  That was a simpler time.  Now you (are supposed to) save the pee in a bottle or drum for transport out. 

I sort of figured that the rules were more strict in more sensitive places, but out in the middle of the ice sheet they were pretty lax.  We left significant amounts of equipment frozen in place out there, that's probably not approved procedure anymore either.

Quote
McMurdo has a rather elaborate utility system.  Since the rocky ground is frozen solid, all water, sewer and fire suppression lines are above ground.  Poopsicles occur in town (McM) when a sewage line breeches and the effluent freezes.

You mentioned the sewage treatment plant, which was only a glimmer in the NSF's eye when I was there.  Back then there was still an open pipe to McMurdo Sound that dumped untreated sewage into the Antarctic ocean.  Some semi-famous folks took an underwater videocamera diving and filmed the outfall, and then showed the footage to the resident in the dining hall while I was there.  Gross chunks.

clifp

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #43 on: July 02, 2015, 12:10:25 AM »
Many years ago I was the first internet for a girl I meet on match.com.  It turns out she had spent a couple of season in Antarctica,which I thought was pretty cool. After reading the thread I think is even cooler.  Anyway she told me that meeting somebody via match.com was way scarier that going to Antarctica.  I don't understand woman.

forummm

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #44 on: July 02, 2015, 07:41:23 AM »
I grew up in warm climates, so I don't know much about living in the extreme cold. Do you just get used to it?

And you don't get frost bite on important parts while relieving yourself in unheated shacks?

When you're out in the field, is there any bathing or hand washing?

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #45 on: July 02, 2015, 08:31:45 AM »
I grew up in warm climates, so I don't know much about living in the extreme cold. Do you just get used to it?

And you don't get frost bite on important parts while relieving yourself in unheated shacks?

Yes, you get used to it.  It's just as hard to adjust back afterwards.  New Zealand feels like Louisiana when you get back.

My only bits that got any hint of frostbite were my earlobes.

Quote
When you're out in the field, is there any bathing or hand washing?

Liquid water is kind of at a premium, since you have to burn fuel to melt it right before you use it.  There's no big tank of it sitting around because it would freeze.

We had a little shower stall, not big enough to reach your feet in.  You had to spend about 30 minutes shoveling snow into a melt tank to make enough hot water for a navy shower.  Most people did this chore VERY infrequently.  Same deal for doing laundry.

But this is less of a hardship than it sounds like.  You never get sweaty and sticky in the cold, so it's not like you ever wake up feeling like you're in desperate need of a shower.  The worst part for me was not washing my hair for weeks on end.  When you wear a hat all day every day, it gets pretty trampled down and gross.  My second season, I just shaved my head bald to avoid that problem.

forummm

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #46 on: July 02, 2015, 08:41:47 AM »
I guess if you rarely get wet or change your clothes much, it's easier to stay warm.

The logistics of showering sound rough. You probably need to get every drop of water off you (hard when you can't reach your feet) so you don't freeze when you get out. And then you have a frozen towel to get dry somehow.

Some of the core areas have a lot of bloodflow (unlike earlobes and noses) so maybe that partially explains why they keep from getting damaged.

Do you jack up your caloric intake? I read that some of the people who trek to the poles eat sticks of butter for extra calories. But they are also getting more exercise too.

alice76

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #47 on: July 02, 2015, 02:11:37 PM »
My husband spent a field season there 7 years ago as a scientist. Everything Sol has said rings true of his experience. It takes a certain type. My husband would go back in a heartbeat (if we didn't have 2 kids now), but he loved the field and McMurdo for different reasons. He's geegarioud and is a good go to guy with experience maintaining camp, cooking professionally and doing blue collar work in addition to the science. I think the experience played to this flexibility.

puglogic

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #48 on: July 03, 2015, 03:02:48 PM »

You mentioned the sewage treatment plant, which was only a glimmer in the NSF's eye when I was there.  Back then there was still an open pipe to McMurdo Sound that dumped untreated sewage into the Antarctic ocean.  Some semi-famous folks took an underwater videocamera diving and filmed the outfall, and then showed the footage to the resident in the dining hall while I was there.  Gross chunks.

Ditto here.  I actually have photos of the sewage treatment building interior, back when they claimed there was sewage treatment going on, but there really wasn't.  Locked building.  The pictures show the sewage pipes, which came in one side of the building and went out the opposite side, untouched.  And, separately,  a photo of a large, heavy-duty canister strapped to a pallet with the tag "Sr-90". Amazing.  So glad they finally got their act together.

sol

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Re: Anyone worked in Antarctica?
« Reply #49 on: July 05, 2015, 10:54:04 PM »
The pictures show the sewage pipes, which came in one side of the building and went out the opposite side, untouched.  And, separately,  a photo of a large, heavy-duty canister strapped to a pallet with the tag "Sr-90". Amazing.

Share with us?

To help grease the skids, here's a picture of Adeli penguins I took between McMurdo and Cape Royds.