Or, as it’s referred to amongst my community of co-workers ‘the ice’. We classify our lives according to what we do ‘on ice’ versus or ‘off-ice’ time. Our ‘ice friends’ vs our regular friends. This isn’t out of feeling special but rather the difficulty of trying to explain to any rational person what we do ‘down there’ and why we keep going back.
My first trip south was in 2011. I had gotten the idea to apply to the research station after living in New Zealand and running into numerous ice folks. I signed a contract to work at the South Pole. I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. I presumed that the summertime average temp of -20 with early-season being -40 they meant Celsius, not Fahrenheit. I was wrong. This was the first of many assumptions I had to break once I faced the reality on the ground.
I had always thought I would try out one season, maybe two and move on. Almost 10 years later I am packing up my life for large chunks at a time to work 54+ hours a week, get 1 day off, and perhaps most importantly relinquishing control over my food, hobbies, and well- everything! The only explanation for this insanity is love. Indeed I have fallen in love with the continent it’s people and the challenge. Challenge brings growth and my time in Antarctica has been a huge tool in my growth.
I’ve worked as a
Diesel Mechanic’s grease monkey
Field Safety Coordinator
This is my current position. It is a cross between a traditional mountaineer guiding scientist, outdoor educator teaching field safety and survival, and SAR team. This year I also took on the role of being the point of contact for the sea ice. Which means I help create safe traveling routes for the scientist to get to their data collection sites. The sea ice is dynamic, moving, and cracking as temperatures and swell change. All of this work perfectly melds my skillsets together. it’s very gratifying.
I look forward to what growth this particular season will bring. I will be gone for 3 months. The COVID pandemic has put some incredible constraints on the US Antarctic program. Science is severely stunted; station population has dropped to ¼ of normal and we have a rigorous testing and isolation time period before and on ice to keep the continent COVID free.
The reward of jumping through all these hoops is that the community stays safe and I get one more chance to enjoy the place and people I love.
*want to know more- I love talking about Antarctica- ask me a question here!