An MSNBC reporter invited to the deadly continent by NSF to report on Global Warming has an Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Origins of Llanos-watch

The reporter of this juicy article from MSNBC.com highlights the sort of whimpering correspondent NSF gets when they keep sucking up to the big media to fob their glorious science stories.

In the article titled, "Tough start to long journey to Antarctica", reporter Miguel Llanos whines about these things:

*His NSF escort didn't PQ, so Llanos and his photographer friend were unable to have someone "help us through any other bureaucratic hurdles"

*There was no in-flight video on the C-17 from Christchurch to McMurdo

*The interior of the C-17 didn't "help establish a comfort zone"

*After he landed he had to get on the Terra Bus right away, rather than standing around in the middle of the airfield

*The parka and boots felt like a "full-body straightjacket"

*He had to go to a housing briefing upon arriving in McMurdo

*His roommate snores

*And, after only a few hours on the ice, he's already feeling dizzy from the "long exposure to daylight"

To Mr. Llanos:

1) Most people don't get personal NSF escorts. Only journalists, and others from cushy offices who might cry if they don't get one.

2) C-17s are military aircraft. They sometimes go into combat zones packed with soldiers ready to kill the bad people. They're not going to show videos. And they're not built to "help establish a comfort zone" which, by the way, is really superb HR-speak. Maybe you'll fit in after all. Did you call the Firehouse to report your roommate for snoring yet?

3) Airfields are busy places. You're not supposed to just stand around in the middle of them.

4) When it's -100F and you're spending much of the day outside, the parka and boots are your friend. You're like a diver bitching that he has to wear an oxygen tank.

5) So you've been on the ice a couple of hours and you're dizzy from exposure to sunlight? May I tell you a story? Thanks. It's a "human interest" story about a guy named Douglas Mawson. Much like you, he had a tough start when he came to Antarctica for adventure. Much like you, he was a very long way from Redmond, Washington when things started to go sour. Much like you, he was exposed to constant sunlight. Unlike you, his companion fell into a deep crevasse with most of their food, his other companion went mad and bit off his own finger, then Mawson ate all his dogs and crawled hundreds of miles back to base to get stuck wintering with a crewmember so insane they had to lock him in a closet. The end.

6) Unlike all these other points, I sympathize with you about all the inane briefings and the PQ incompetence. I really do. It's a nightmare. Medical loses everything. One day someone will open a drawer and find a decade worth of all the lost urine samples and x-rays. And all rational people would trade places with Mawson to avoid another Safety or All-Hands Meeting. Please tell the world of the cruelty ravaged upon Antarcticans.


Send him to Happy Camper, show him a penguin or two, he'll fall in line and start eating from your hand again. They always do.

To Y'all:

If you got any good Llanos-sightings, send 'em on in: nick AT bigdeadplace.com


  • At 4:40 AM, Brent said…

    Something that all of you at Antartica may not realize is your extreme point of view. For those of us who have never been there, we wouldn't know any of the details he is describing(ie: that you have to go to Antartica on a military plane)so cut him a little slack! Maybe you will find he has more to add to your group if you give him some time to adapt......

  • At 5:55 AM, Mike D. said…

    Bravo! I read the MSNBC article, and had to laugh. Such hardship. What a load! As a scientist who routinely conducts research in Alaska during the winter, I have at least some concept of operating in cold wilderness. My environment is not as routinely extreme as Antartica (maybe a day or so of difficulty instead of a season), but we have to deal with a threat that you are just starting to appreciate: the completely unprepared tourists (masquerading as "reporters", "adventurers", "supporters") that become paralyzed and irrational by the realization that it is still possible to be killed by Mother Nature.

  • At 7:11 AM, lonn said…

    It is like reading the journal of a Victorian-era British explorer where the "primitives" and their backward ways are descibed. Except, in this version we get to hear the other side: just how ridiculous the observer appears to the indigenous!

  • At 7:59 AM, Anthony Kendall said…

    Please don't forget that you are there because of the funding generosity of the governments of the United States and other countries. PR is important to any publicly-funded science program, especially one spending many millions of dollars. Given that, I'm sure even you acknowledge the necessity of Llanos' visit.

    That said, cut him some slack. His article is not nearly as pathetic as your little website dedicated to ridiculing him! You represent the scientists and technicians down there, and you are doing a pretty poor job with this.

    After his week's stay, he'll probably look back at that first article and laugh at it. You, on the other hand, are likely to look back with rue and regret at your childish mini-blog.

  • At 9:11 AM, RedRaider said…

    My gosh, did you take 8th grade English, or what? Llano is using something called humor, maybe even sarcasm. He's setting a picture, a tone, you might say. It's a wonderful little tool people who can write will use from time to time.

    How stupid are you? Oh, wait. You willingly live on Antarctica to peform "critical research" on...ice. News flash, global warming will somehow kill us all someday. Thanks for your time, though, Mr. Super Smart Scientist.

  • At 10:31 AM, Patrick M, Air Force retiree said…

    Poor journalist, my heart bleeds for him. :=) Back in 1987 I was stationed at an Air Force base on a VERY small Aleution island called Shemya. We were a scant 120 miles from the Kamchatka peninsula and our mission was to detect incoming ICBM missiles from this Russian peninsula. We had a few other missions but that is on a need to know basis. Shemya was nothing but a wind blown, treeless island where it snowed sideways and the only entertainment we had was to brave the cold and watch the poor blue foxes that were left their by Russians MANY years ago. After many years of innerbreeding they all had some bizarre formed leg, ear, etc. I realize that Shemya is not like Antartica, although some might argue with this, but the fact remains I lived an entire year of my life on this God forsaken wasteland. When I left Shemya I left with some of the best memories of my life. Take the time to involve yourself with this rare environment and build bonds that will last a lifetime. Even today part of me still wishes I could once again visit my Antartica.

    Sign me as an Air Force retiree missing the comraderie.

  • At 10:48 AM, iknowcars said…

    I've read the MSNBC article, and found it to be very interesting with lots of information about Antarctica written by a none-scientist.
    It seems to me one could learn a whole lot about a complicated and mysterious subject written by a story teller versus learning about the same subject from a text book written by a scientist.
    I think Llanos is doing a good job and I look forward to learn more from his trip to Antarctica.

  • At 11:15 AM, David said…

    Sure it's whining to all hundred of you who spend a season on Antarctica. For the rest of us who never gave a lot of thought to what you do besides communing with penguins. If he's inaccurate, sure let us know, but I never really gave much thought until now just what it takes to get to your research station, and since my reaction would be a lot closer to Llanos' than to yours I don't think he's a whiner (that's his job, to let us back home know his impressions) but I do realize that you're some hearty folks.

  • At 12:33 PM, Stephanie said…

    I have to agree with the majority of the posters here. Llanos is a "normal" person going there to report back to other "normal" people living here. He's not suppose to be a macho antartic scientist. He's a reporter, and he hasn't spent years there, like some of you have. He's spent a couple of days. Give him a break. I, for one, give him all the support in the world. There's no way anyone who has never been there could possibly imagine the conditions. I don't consider him whining at all. He's telling the truth. Its cold, and to him (and us normal readers) its almost unbareable. Its something you learn to get use to. For the scientists there studying, you have had the time to adjust to those conditions. I'm sure that even you can remember your first days in that place, and I bet you weren't as macho as you are trying to sound now. Dont criticize him...just help him to enjoy his week there as much as possible. Its a once in a lifetime experience for him. Don't ruin it, help to make it even better, so that when he comes home and one day down the road tells his grandkids about it, he will also be able to tell them how wonderful and helpful the scienetist there were and how you enhanced his experience, instead of what nasty, critcal jerks you are being now.

  • At 12:34 PM, Stephanie said…

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 1:23 PM, Mike D. said…

    For those of you who haven't gotten it, Llanos' "crime" is NOT the fact that he was bothered by the med checks, paperwork, relentless inspecting, detecting, and rejecting (to paraphrase Arlo) in order to get to McMurdo. It is the fact that he was surprised by it and did not (and does not) appear to appreciate WHY all that was necessary. In other words, he appears not to have done any research and preparation for his trip and in failing to do so, trivializes the experience and the efforts of the people he has been assigned to report back on. Perhaps I am wrong, he did prepare and is intentionally writing a fish-out-of-water story, but I doubt it. Seen it too many times, and bailed out too many people whose hubris far exceeded their common sense.

  • At 1:32 PM, Patrick said…

    Dudes, I think Lonn is high, eh?

  • At 1:42 PM, Dan said…

    I just read through the comments on Llanos-watch, and must say most of those who commented did not pick up on the humor and "Antarctic Welcome" that was being extended to Mr. Llanos by the people on station. I'm glad Mr. Llanos seems to have understood, and included it in his article!

  • At 2:22 PM, sandwichgirl said…

    anyone who would like to learn about the community of mcmurdo station or any station in antarctica should go to www.google.com, and type "antarctica" "blogs". you will find over 3 million results.

    i wondered what llanos had to complain about. baggage delay is always a drag, but that is the commercial airlines' fault, not the program's. furthermore, the c-17 is an amazing aircraft, and the flight is undeniably exciting. sure, it's not fluffy and there are no window seats, however many people are even given the opportunity to go up on the flight deck as the plane approaches the continent, and the crew is friendly. his flight had 60 passengers which is about 1/2 full, and holmes had plenty of room to stretch out. and even plug in his laptop and watch his own movies.
    mcmurdo station is not small. it's not 100 scientists huddled around a tent stewing shoes for protein. there are over 1000 of us here, and many are support staff. we clean toilets, wash dishes, shovel snow, and make this place happen, all in the name of adventure, science, and antarctica. it is a community, and to most of us, it is home. we do the best with what we have. it is like someone coming to your house and telling you straight up that you are unorganized and it does not suit your needs. you don't come to antarctica to be needy. we do not have your brand of toilet paper.

    that being said, and upon reading llanos' second article, i think he is a total champion for accepting our gentle ridicule of him and looking at his own woe with humor. we have internet here, and we are not stupid. when something is publicly posted such as his article, we are all on it and it spreads through town like the crud. it was the number one topic of conversation yesterday, and many opinions were made about it. we all go through some minute hardship upon arriving here, and true, it is a bit much to digest. llanos is a fng*, and props to him for taking it mcmurdo-style.

    but if andy hugs you, you know you are one of us.

    *fng - look it up in any antarctic blog.

  • At 4:01 PM, Ana Bell Marquez said…

    Todos, dejen a mi tio en paz. Mi tio es muy chistoso. He funny man

  • At 4:52 PM, snowbigdeal said…

    Boy, some of you "Antarticans" seem pretty touchy! Cabin fever getting to you? Personally, I found the first article to be quite entertaining. Llanos has a quick, engaging wit.

    Here are some things to think about: It's almost summer in Antartica - the temperature today was about the same as it was in Redmond on the day he left, 26 degrees. There are people loading chairlifts 45 minutes away from Redmond who are enduring more harsh, uncomfortable conditions everyday than most of the crew at McMurdo! You are not an indigenous people, as one blogger intimated - you are completely dependent on the outside world.

    Your work is important and I'm happy to support you with my taxes but please remember that the work of the jounalist is important also, as is the work of the congressmen that are mocked and treated with contempt elsewhere on this blog. Without their support you'd be driving a truck in Kansas or measuring the ice in Minnesota.

    That said, cut him a little slack and you'll learn to love him like we all do here Seattle.

  • At 7:26 PM, Matthew Homola said…

    Right on, you tell that weenie from msnbc!

  • At 7:56 AM, FGCUtriGirl said…

    I think he'll learn to appreciate where he is soon. But if not, I say they stick him on a small research vessel for a week. Then his feelings about the Antarctic field station might change a bit.

  • At 9:15 AM, rregene@yahoo.com said…

    What he is describing is the SNAFU. Although it comes across as whining about everything, I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. No marshmallows in his hot choclate at the plushy ski resort or a broken Nintendo, is probably the limits of any extreme conditions he has ever had to deal with. -lol-. I was in the Air Force for 12 years and was in the tropics, above the Arctic Circle and in the desert and everything he describes is accurate. The difference is that, in the military, you quickly realize that everyone around you has experienced the same thing. He should get someone to review his writing before he posts it, as well as learn to be objective, rather than subjective, in his writing. Simple presentation can change a negative observation like *The parka and boots felt like a "full-body straightjacket" into a positive description that still indicates that the G.I. issue clothing isn't North Face or Marmot.

    That one sentence could have been a lot more entertaining if phrased along the lines of: "we all experienced first hand what the old phrase "Government Issue" meant as we were taken to a warehouse area and issued two bright orange (who said the government doesn't have fashion sense?) duffels full of clothing. We then spent the next two hours trying everything on and exchanging the worst of the lot. They end result was that I looked like the Michelin man and felt like I had a full body strait jacket on. I quickly realized that I was glad for this opportunity since I wouldn't purchase something as basic as a pair of jeans without trying them on and these clothes were going to keep me alive in one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet: my dorm room with it's government issued snoring room mate. At least I think it was snoring - they may have been conducting seismic testing".

    That's not very polished but I think it gets my point across. The author seems to be writing stream of consciousness and, to a generation that has never known any real hardship, these "minor" things are what first strike him. His observations are what a young readership would identify with since that is the shared background (or lack thereof) they share. I would suggest you make him read some Hemingway or some of the old books by English explorers who ventured into Africa, or better yet - the great explorer, Shackleton. A lot of these can be found in the Boone and Crockett online bookstore. He may become a fine journalist yet, so be merciless on him but cut him some slack occasionally. Having him join the 260 club would help (bake him in a 200 degree sauna for 1/2 hour, then throw him, nude, into a snow drift and leave him outside for awhile).

    Personally, I would give my eye teeth to spend a summer working at McMurdo; If only I had a skill they needed. Sigh.

  • At 4:22 PM, ayelvington said…

    I'm a former USCG Loran tech with time on Johnston Atoll, Attu, St. Paul, and CONUS. One thing the isolated areas had in common is that a plane of people brought a plane of sniffles. I'm sure the C-17 had someone with a cold, so blame any runny noses on the reporter and shower him with love and attention!

    Yes, I would love to spend a year on the ice also, but I already got the "I've been overseas and got divorced" t-shirt. Let the young folks have stories to tell.

  • At 5:56 PM, bran said…

    Ive been to the Ice twice. I worked in cargo and on the airfield. I never understood the reason as to why folks, especially the new folks, cant pause and just breathe in the beauty of Antarctica, a place theyve never been to and maybe will never go to again. The crusty old folks who've been on Ice many times seem to have forgotten the absolute beauty and amazement one feels at the moment you get off the plane. I told my new friends, to ignore the people screaming to get on the bus. Pause. Breathe it all it. Look around! ENJOY!!! Then, get on the bus.

  • At 8:03 AM, Handyman said…

    I find this all very amusing. First, most of the bloggers do not know that Mr. Llanos has a limited size for most articles. He has to try to get his views across in a limited space.

    This sounds like the classice story of three blind men describing an elephant after each touched a different part. Most of the residents of the station are in the vast minority of the population. There are not many that have had the experience of flying in any kind of military aircraft. They have seen movies but never sat their butts on the webbing and bounced around. Ever notice that there are no seat cushions that can be used as flotation devices? Imagine what he could have said after he went through the crash survival course!!! (I was once on a C-47 that flew into Denver over 7 tornadoes. The wings were flapping so much that it looked like it was a bird flying!!!) Things like having an LCD screen in the back of the comfy seat in front of you is the only reference most travelers have. The idea of no comfy seats, no in-flight movie and no drink service cart is alien to most people. He did NOT say this was the exception just for him, everyone rides in the same kind of plane there and back.

    The griping about being PQ's brought the point home that there is not instant access to medical care and brought back to mind the story of the physician who had to start her own chemotherapy for cancer because it was impossible to get her out in the dead of winter.

    For most people, the coldest it gets is a few degrees below zero. The clothes you wear for this is minimal compared to what you need there. The comparison he gave was to emphasis this point without pointing out the things I have.

    His whole article was like Alice falling into Wonderland or Dorothy talking to Toto - "We are not in Kansas anymore"

  • At 11:38 AM, bags said…

    Wow, impressively narrow out-look Nick, you have to only think of your point of view, great job. Llanos has to explain his first impressions to millions of readers, and keep their interest in updates, better job. Nick, you are informative but negitive, no fun. Llanos may be called a whiner or worse, but he takes it all in good humor and can admit it. Getting prepaired and cleared for a job ASSIGNMENT is unknown to most of us, getting to the bottom of the world is impossible for MOST of us. Gleaming a little light on the prossess is a good thing. Those tourists from the media or from the government keep us paying (or not) for your reasons for being there. Think that person you whined about when your funding (or you) are cut from the budget. Llanos can be your best friend (keeping us informed in a positive light and letting us know what may make life easier down there) or a nightmare (you have all you need and the budget can be cut). Nick, your selfrightous whining about the interloper in your midst is even more of a reason for some one else on the list to be sent next year. Reporters are use to negitive attitudes, tax-payers are not. Buy the man a beer and mellow out.

  • At 11:39 AM, Trebor said…

    This all feels too much like high school. Somehow a bunch of misfits from all over the world decided to move to a tent in the middle of a huge ice cube. Every once in a while we send in someone to check on them and make sure they are not molesting the penguins and trying to eat each other. That person then encounters a sort of reverse high school culture. In this case, there are no jocks, nerds, Goth, cheerleaders or teachers.
    We have mostly nerds who now have to fill every role.
    Keep in mind they have chosen to remove themselves from regular society and go create their own, anyone who comes in, needs to abide by their rules of conduct. Picture your high school overtaken by the audio visual club and the science teachers. They now have all the jocks cleaning the bathrooms and mopping the cafeteria. The cheerleaders are now cooking lunch and making everyone's bed. Total culture shock.
    Now we have a total outsider who hasn’t had time to infiltrate this society. He has to report back to civilization all his findings on a very public forum while trying to not upset these creatures. Throw in cabin fever, freezing temperatures and total darkness or permanent light depending on the season and try to imagine acting normal under these circumstances.

  • At 6:14 PM, bob said…


    Sounds like the people in Antartica have a god complex.

    Exactly who is paying for your stay in Antartica? The US
    taxpayers? How do the taxpayers decide that their funds
    are not being wasted?

    I don't remember my fireman or policeman being so arrogant?
    If they were, they would be videotaped and replaced!

    If i were head of the Congressional committee funding the NSF,
    reading this web page would raise some questions in my mind.
    What is going on down there? Why are they afraid of
    newspaper reporting?

    Why are they trying to intimidate this reporter?

    Maybe for a few years we should eliminate the NSF budget for
    Antartica and then let new researchers down there who can be
    more civil. Interdisplinary research requires cooperation and
    civility. Maybe time to get rid of all the arrogant people by
    closing down Antartica for a few years and letting new people
    start anew on the ice.

    Think about how your comments and "high school" blog looks to the world.

    My highway potholes need fixed and the potholes need taxdollars. Why are we
    wasting dollars in Antartica? Maybe we don't need Antartica. Maybe you
    all need this reporter much more than he needs you. I don't ever remember
    anybody at NASA being so arrogant to a member of the press.

    Maybe time for a new set of support crew in Antartica.

    Just some thoughts you might consider!

  • At 7:28 AM, xluthienx said…

    As someone who has never been to such an extreme climate, and probably never will, I found Llanos' account interesting, if not amusing. Understand, most westerners haven't a clue as to what life is like in a place such as the Antarctic. Llanos, in order to properly do his job, had to explain, in great detail, the things he experienced on his journey - most of which the majoirty of westerners will never experience, nor could we ever conceive, but seem like common sense to anyone who has been living in that particular location long enough.

    To harp on Llanos for his observations would be similar to westerners mocking a shaman from a far off, remote land, who has never seen or experienced modern civilization, for getting all upset because every time he tries to get from one end of land to another, these huge, fast moving objects rush by him....almost knocking him out of the way.

    All it takes is a little common sense to understand why this logic does not work. That is, unless we wish to beat our chests in some primitive, alpha show of how macho we are.

    Also, a lot of the observations Llanos made were done with sarcasm, you know....humor? Is the whether so frigid in Antarctica that those living there have been left incapable of conceiving the concept of humor? Has ever last ounce been frozen out of people?

  • At 8:02 AM, xluthienx said…

    Also, I would like to point out that I have nothing but respect for the scientists and staff braving the elements in order to aid in research to better our world. Indeed, they should be commended. I think there's misunderstanding on both sides, and although the criticism directed at Llanos was a bit harsh, if not misguided, I don't agree with the people who have called these people "outcasts, misfits and abnormal." If no one ever strayed from the "norm," our society would still be living in the dark ages, for it is those people who stray from the norm who, in turn, create, invent...and bring the world to new levels of evolution. If no one had gone against the grain, we would not have electricity, airplanes....or even medical science. Remember that.

    Thank you.


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