Big Dead Place cares about quality. That’s why we cannot guarantee that the advice columnist will be at a particular Antarctic station, hold a particular title, write coherently, or treat you courteously. We cannot guarantee that the columnist will be the same person from week to week, as one’s attention on the ice tends to wander from any activity that doesn’t satisfy some immediate and crude desire. We can only guarantee that your columnist is presently in Antarctica.
To ask a question of a real live Antarctican, email . I will not be answering the questions, but I will forward them to the current correspondents.
How easy is it for a fingie to parlay a summer contract into a year long contract? I am very interested in doing an entire year. Also, I don’t drink. Will this effect me socially? Also, is there a gym with an indoor track or stationary bikes, etc?
Hello again, Mary.
How tolerant are you? If you are going to come to McMurdo, especially as a non-drinker, you will need to come with a healthy reservoir of forbearance and a sense of humor. This place is full of scientists and trades people: two regularly-imbibing groups of people. Will it affect you socially? Of course. It’s affecting you socially wherever you are right now. But, I see the relevant question being whether you are enjoying the consequences of unmitigated sobriety. If you’re happy with a non-drinking lifestyle and the resultant socializing, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to find similar social stimulation here. There are always social activities at which drinking is not the focus, and there are some where you won’t see anyone drinking at all. Plenty of people don’t drink down here, plenty are light drinkers and plenty are heavy drinkers. The groups aren’t socially isolated from each other at all, and, in fact, there’s movement between groups as people’s relationships with the wagon fluctuate. However your social life affects you, the defining trait by which you’re known won’t be that you’re “that person who doesn’t drink”.
So, does this mean that you’re not going to bring down a bottle of 25 year old Ardbeg to share?
If you’re only able to secure a summer contract, let your POC (point of contact) know that you want to winter. When you undergo the battery of medical tests to get PQ’d (physically qualified), try to complete all of the winter medical testing requirements as well as the summer ones. While Medical might not accept the winter-specific test results, you can hang onto them and be that much closer to being PQ’d if something comes through.
Once you arrive on the Ice, the best way to get that winter gig is to get your name and intentions out to as many departments as you can and to demonstrate that you deserve to be hired as well as being qualified to either do or learn the job. A lot of FNGs spend their personal time volunteering at various departments, and that seems to be the most reliable way to wrangle a job. You can’t unequivocally count on that working because, for some jobs, there are more people hankering than there are positions available. HR is currently paying a lot of attention to qualifications, so bear that in mind when you start choosing where to expend your energy. Quite often, there’s a scramble at the end of the summer to fill vacant winter positions, and, when in need, they’re a lot more likely to accept someone lacking a few of the quals. With the reduced staffing of recent years, you might have to apply for winter positions multiple times before anything comes through. Good luck.
There are 3 gyms. The big gym has a basketball/volleyball court & climbing wall, and it’s the site of shit-faced revelry and the annual start-of-the-season-hook-up at Halloween. The aptly named gerbil gym has a bunch of treadmills, stationary cycles, elliptical machines and crowds. The weight room has free weights, punching bags and a variety of nautilus & other machines. There’s a room in another building that has been turned into a bouldering cave… which has been known to be utilized in other ways suited to its privacy and padded floor. There are also a few hiking trails around the station, plenty of road to run on and some areas where you can use the mountain bikes.
Remember, you don’t have to be a drinker to bring down good scotch.
Contract Employee, MAPCON stock # 0423595
What are some items that you wished you had brought after you arrived in Antarctica?
Right now I wish that I had a beer brewing kit, another bottle of 16 year old Lagavulin, a greater selection of wine, a pocket-sized classical Greek dictionary, the electric guitar that didn’t make it onto the last flight with mail, a blender, the copies of my thesis with reviewers’ notes, some cave-aged emmenthaler and a pomegranate.
OK. As those items might not bring saliva rushing into everyone else’s mouths, I’ll write a bit about bringing shit down here in general.
What you bring should be relative to where you’re going to be spending your season, and you’ll want to supplement the basics with what’s important to you. (Do you spend your time knitting? Bring yarn. Jerking-off to Hustler or Alpinist? Bring a few issues.) If you’re living in a tent at a field camp, don’t fill luggage space with an electric alarm clock or shaver when that space could be better utilized (for booze, perhaps). Some camps have buildings with power, and some don’t. If you’re headed to the field, find out as much as you can about the living conditions from someone who’s been to that particular camp. Regardless of your destination, figuring out what’s superfluous is as important as figuring out what you want to have here. Again, you don’t want to waste potential booze space.
On station, dorm rooms are shared in the summer, and some of the spaces are very cramped. You get your own room in the winter, and you can fill it up with shit if you want to. However, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with a lot of possessions down here. At the end of every season, there’s a price to be paid for padding your lair with extra luxuries: you’ve got to find a hidden place to store all of your shit, pack it, move it and then hope that the folks who might come across it in your absence will respect your proprietorship. …or you can pay to mail it all home or get rid it in Skua (part of the waste management system that operates like a free thrift store).
A number of things for which I have belatedly wished over the years are pretty specific to living at McMurdo Station, while other things I’d want anywhere (such a bottle of 25 year old Ardbeg). I asked a few other folks what they were missing down here, too…
- your own items of cold weather gear – if you’ve got tried & true favorites, bring them
- USAP has recently decided not to continue to supply socks, neck gaiters, thermal underwear or sunglasses to people who are deploying. Cheap fuckers – it’s bloody irresponsible.
- Merino wool is a popular choice for its warmth, weight and feel – very wearable, even for days at a time in the field. It’s fucking expensive, though.
- single malt scotches – there’s a great store in Christchurch for these: Whisky Galore
- wines (of better quality & price than what is sold in the station store)
- specialty foods
- shit for cocktail parties (olives, etc.)
- blank journals
- natural health supplements/remedies or personal care items – if you use something that only comes from natural food stores, don’t count on getting it here
- art supplies
- good coffee
- knitting supplies
- headlamps (especially if you’re wintering or are a tradesperson who will be working in confined, dark spaces)
- good sunglasses (not the cheap shit from the corner convenience store)
- sheets – if you want something nicer than standard institutional bedding: Winter-overs can push the beds together in their room to make a king-size bed (the optimist’s set-up… build it, and they will come). Bring sheets if you plan to do this as king sheets aren’t issued.
- iPod or other portable music storage device/player
- sheepskin boots or other slip-on outdoor/indoor footwear
- drugs – prescription, over-the-counter, etc. If you’ve got favorites, bring them.
- outrageous clothing for parties
- external hard drive
- your brand of tampons or a “diva cup”
- your brand of condoms if you’d rather use them than the free ones down here
- custom-fitted earplugs – great for jobs that require them or for light sleepers
- power converter – for the countries through which you’ll be traveling on your way here
- alarm clock
- quality sex toys – if you’re wintering, and your cheap-ass vibrator breaks, you’re fucked… well, you’re on your own…
- hiking boots
- ATM or credit card
- musical instruments (bear in mind that the climate is hell on instruments, so don’t bring anything irreplaceable)
- your own pillow
If you want extra luxuries or libations while you’re down here, the logistics of transportation will require a bit of consideration. Summer people are allowed to carry 75 lbs. of personal gear from Christchurch to McMurdo, and winter-overs are allowed 145 lbs. This weight includes the ~35 lbs. of gear that will be issued to you. There are a few options for getting things to Mactown (or on to field camps or Pole):
- check-in baggage
- This is the way to bring all of your booze down. Pad it well.
- carry-on baggage
- Your carry-on bag has to be pretty small, so utilize the pockets of “Big Red” if you have to. No booze; sadly, you’ll have to give it up if you try to carry it on.
- mail things from the States via USPS or from other countries to the APO address
- recommended for items that might exceed your weight limit on the commercial flights between your point of departure and Christchurch
- Don’t mail stuff that you want right away; while the mail is sometimes fairly quick, you can end up waiting weeks and weeks.
- Don’t mail booze as it will most likely be emptied before it arrives. It’s a sad, sad thing to receive an empty bottle of 20 year old Bowmore.
- “guard mail” items from Christchurch
- It’s free. It’s a great way to send snacks, lotion, extra clothes, etc. Don’t send your booze to the Ice in guard mail because they’ll empty it if they find it. The martini olives and cocktail onions will be fine. Again, don’t send time-sensitive items because this mail comes down with the same frequency as regular mail.
One more note: don’t bring all of the packaging that comes with the shit that you buy. Superfluous packaging will end up having to be sorted into trash bins, then packaged by the Wasties and finally shipped back to the States. It’s a needless waste of resources when it could have been left in the States in the first place.
Contract Employee, MAPCON stock # 0423595
Dear Fucked-Up Winterover,
My son (he’s 6 now) would like to go to Antarctica and be a scientist when he’s an adult and study penguins. After reading a few articles on your site, and as a mother, I am apprehensive to encouraging him in his pursuit. Are there scientists that study the life/habitat of penguins within Antarctica?
When I was six I wanted to be either an astronaut or a hobo. I’m neither now, but that doesn’t mean your rugrat won’t someday study penguins. There are indeed groups of scientists down here during the summer season studying every aspect of penguin life. If you have a family cat you might encourage him to start practicing sneaking up on it, snatching it into a bag and then weighing it. These are skills he will need if he does end up following through on this dream. And if by chance one day he finds out science is not his fancy tell him not to fret. He will still be able to come to Antarctica as a contract worker in a variety of roles.
The fact that your maternal instincts have kicked in and you are worried about him being down here is a good thing. Although there is no need to worry. As long as you raise him to be a strong and honest man that is capable of dealing with bearcat nonsense he will do fine here. And please don’t let this or any other website hinder you from encouraging your son to follow his dreams. Because the day he stops dreaming is the day you end up with a crackhead on your hands. I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.
Thanks for writing and keep up the good parenting.
Dear Fucked-Up Winterover,
I’ve always been curious about women in Antarctica. I know that they are few and far between, but that’s all I’ve heard. During the winters, are you totally womanless? Or are the women husky, scary and gruff?
What if a beautiful woman showed up for the winterover? Would there be fighting? Etc. If you would, give me things that a visiting woman can expect, and should avoid. Antarctica seems a strange place full of isolated men.
I am not a woman.
Antarctica is a strange place, true enough. But to say it is full of isolated men is not completely accurate. This is a place of wondrous beauty, vast landscapes and winterover women. Aesthetically, the women here are a mix just like you’d find in any population. My experience has shown none of them to be scary or gruff. In fact, most of the ladies I’ve met down here have been strong, adventurous, and independent in nature. Ladies that any lad would be lucky to have as a friend and even luckier to have as a lover. Women here, just like anywhere else, avoid hooking up with losers. Avoiding a messy relationship in a town where everyone knows everything about everyone is wise.
As far as what visiting women can expect here, it’s pretty simple. Think of them as the last bottle of booze in a room full of heavy drinkers. The ladies are horribly outnumbered and can expect to be hit on quite a bit. As you might expect, the competition to gain their affection can get fierce. I wish I could tell you stories of the Antarctic Thunderdome where we fight for mates, but alas there is no fighting over the fairer sex. A physical altercation does nothing but get both parties sent home. So, even if you won the fight over the gal, you’d still be sitting on the next plane out while she is getting cozy with the next guy.
What draws folks here is seeing the continent and a job. So, to lose said job and not even get the girl is pretty stupid. (Not to say there aren’t stupid people here, because believe me they are as plentiful as glaciers in these parts.) But men and women alike don’t come to Antarctica looking for love.
I think it is odd you felt the need to mention that you are not a woman.
Thanks for writing,
Hey, your column’s great! What are the chances of a medication-dependent, but otherwise rather successful Narcoleptic getting a job down there? Do you guys get insurance coverage?
Also, less importantly, what kind of dental stuff disqualifies? Unremoved wisdom teeth? Periodontal Disease? Bruxism?
An Otherwise Successful Narcoleptic
Dear Otherwise Successful Narcoleptic,
I feel this company would view you as a liability; a financial time bomb they might as well defuse sooner than later. “If you can work, welcome aboard, if you are unable to work, or we perceive you as not being able to do so, perhaps this is not the best working environment for you”, is a feasible motto for this company. If this seems crass, keep in mind I’ve been privy to how the contract worker is viewed through the eye of this company for a few moons now. Although, being on medication won’t automatically disqualify you. I know plenty of folks here on meds. Cholesterol and illegal drug usage are both big concerns during the PQ process.
Insurance coverage is typical of any large company. The plans are simple and you choose what you want to pay, if any. While you are working here you are covered by workman’s comp, albeit a vague version. It gets a bit hazy on this end due to the fact all employees here work, live, and spend their free time in the same unchanging environment. If you get injured on “your time” things can get dicey.
The dental is rather cut & dry. You need good teeth to come to Antarctica. You are correct: no wisdom teeth. No problems with the teeth whatsoever and grab your parka. Otherwise, fix em or no job. I’m no toothologist, but “bruxism” sounds bad. Bad is not what they are looking for.
In the end this company makes decisions by the seat of their pants, so one can never be sure what they are really thinking. And you are asking a drunk person. That being said, I would encourage you to apply. You never know what can happen with this group. I’m glad you like the column.
I have no intention going there. I’m from a place from which people hardly go anywhere (not jail). It must be pretty dark arround but still I would like to make
- what did you had for breakfast (that is 10 May 2005)
- what is your average daily alchoolemy (mine is 0.7
- do you have tropical (or any) plants in your rooms?
I see no reason for you beeing there, except shooting some SF movies. It’s like being on Mars, not very far from Earth but imposible to get there by car.
On the other hand you have Internet, drinks, cigars, “woman”, things to do, so in a word, life.
Good night fuwo,
I am rarely without words, but you, my friend, have left me stumped. Alas, it is my duty to respond, so I will give it a go:
First off, what the hell is alchoolemy? I attempted to look it up in my official government dictionary, but had no luck. By your use of the word, it looks as if you are asking what is my daily alcohol intake. Hard to put an exact number on it, as it varies each day. For example, the bars and store are closed here on Monday. So that somtimes cuts my intake down considerably that day. Without pre-planning, one can be left thirsting for the sweet booze on Mondays. I’ve found myself in that situation once or twice and it is never pretty. I do most of my heavy boozing on the weekend but, fear not, I manage to work in plenty of weekday boozing too. That being said, on May 10th I didn’t get to eat breakfast because I got too drunk the night before, playing poker, and therefore missed breakfast. Also, there is a bowling league here and games are played on weekdays. On those nights I get rather soused.
As far as having plants in the rooms, there are none. The Antarctic Treaty makes it illegal to transport any plants or animals down here. Plastic plants are abundant though.
This place is like Mars? You do know that I’m on the same planet as you, right? But, yes, one cannot drive here.
You actually made sense in one part of your cryptic question. Making movies is an excellent reason to be here.
As far as your closing statement, that we have “life” here; again, I don’t really know what to say. Are you in prison?
Are all HR personnel viewed as lepers? My background is Accounting and HR; I am crossing my fingers that I can go this October. What can I expect when I am there? Sitting by myself, getting shunned by all, everyone stops talking when I walk into a room? Even if that was the case, it wouldn’t deter me from going. Do many HR people go back year after year?
A Happy HR
*****OFF THE RECORD*****
*Does everyone work a 9-5 or does it change as the sat up time changes?
*2 2-minute showers? How do those with long hair manage? Shaving legs?
*Is it warm within the buildings?
*Seems like from all the journals posted out there, eating is the highlight. Is it because the food is so good or some can’t find better things to do or write about anyway?
*From your articles, it appears that even when you’ re not working, you are
still being supervised.
*How many winterovers are there now?
*I read they tore down the smoking area or bar, can you still smoke inside?
*As much as you complain, are you having the time of your life?
*If you are a winterover, do you have you own room or do you share?
Thanks for your time!!
Dear Happy HR,
It sounds like you don’t care if people treat you as the enemy anyway. That’s a good start and you’ll do fine down here. I’ve personally seen an HR Person get people in trouble for doing something he was doing alongside them. So, to answer your question, like anyone else here you will be treated with respect until you don’t deserve it anymore. Except in your case people will start out wary of you because of your position. Make no mistake, everyone knows where HR loyalty lies. We all know HR will fuck us over long before taking a stand against the company. Thanks for writing, and forgive me for not giving you my name. That would undoubtedly land me in the HR office.
*****JUST FOR THE RECORD*****
*9 to 5? What are you, some kind of French terrorist?
*Two 2-minute showers a week applies only at Pole. At McMurdo you can stretch them. Those with long hair manage by adapting to their environment. Shaving legs.
*Given the range of their materials, the cooks generally make good food. However, for many people in a routine environment, food becomes the most tangible focal point of daily variety, thus the materials the cooks are given soon wear thin, so people bitch about the food a lot.
*Different at each station.
*There are very few places where you can smoke indoors.
*All winterovers have their own room, unless they’re at Palmer, or unless they’re shacking up.
You’re welcome. Feel free to stop by any time if you have more questions. If we can ever be of assistance, don’t hesitate to let us know. Buh-bye.
Dear Fucked Up Summer Person (I guess that’s the proper heading):
My wife and I are both Registered Nurses in Florida. We both have plans on continuing at least to the Masters level (ARNP), and are working on that slowly. In any case we both have talked about one day taking an assignment in Antarctica… I wonder, what are the odds of a couple succeeding in both getting positions for a given summer or winterover? (As I understand spouses are otherwise not welcome)
Also, most of the references to the clinic I see on your site seem a bit Orwellian in their connection with HR and therefore your employment record. Is the perception of the medical staff bad in general? Are they just holed up and bored in the clinic all day, or do they occasionally venture out as well? Any information is greatly appreciated.
Dear Male Nurse,
First of all, good for you and your wife. I hear nursing is a great field to be in if you want to travel around. Now as for you both getting gigs in Antarctica, it might be tough but not impossible. There are something like two people in Medical in the winter and six or eight people in the summer. And there’s two of you so to calculate the odds, let’s see…..Well I’m drunk so you will have to do the math, or ask an Englishman, they like to gamble. But keep in mind, those numbers are estimates.
I don’t like to go in there if I can avoid it. Best case scenario you can expect to get some generic Ibuprofen and an ace bandage, worst case scenario you are fucking fired. The Doctor should be assumed to be a company stooge, and probably graduated in the lower half of their class, otherwise why would they be down here working for chump change. There is no confidentiality; the Doctor is required to report any injury (even recreational injuries) to your boss and probably their boss and their boss’s boss. Your misfortune will surely be talked about at a meeting within days if not hours. After that it is only a matter of time until your injury is investigated and attributed to negligence on the part of you or your supervisor. Since your supervisor is in on the investigation, your fate will be at the mercy of their integrity, and most supervisors are primarily concerned with keeping their jobs, so you can imagine how that investigation will turn out. I have some good friends in Medical but mentioning their kindnesses would only incriminate them and I don’t care to do that.
If you feel strongly about caring for the sick and injured, my advice is to get a job as a janitor down here, pack a big first aid kit, and join the underground EMTs who advise those of us too scared of Raytheon to seek medical attention for a bruised rib or a broken finger.
Thanks for writing.
I might be coming down to winter over. How is the dating scene? Do the scientist chicks dig the firefighters?
Let’s get right to it. The dating scene is happening down here. Almost everybody, including the scientist chicks, is looking to score. But do they dig the firefighters? I would have to say, no, they don’t. For some reason the firefighters have a reputation for being singularly minded and only looking to score, though it’s hard to imagine why.
No, the scientist chicks tend to go for smarter guys with fewer muscles. Don’t worry though, the firefighters clean up with the janitor and dishwasher chicks, and they are usually younger and hotter anyway.
Enjoy your winter.
Alright…..No b.s. I am interested in the place, my only thing is I have a fetish for high heels…..Am i going to fit in, or am i going to suffer?
the man who is heavily into shoes
Alright, Into Shoes, here’s the straight deal:
Unless you develop an appreciation for insulated work boots or Dansko clogs, you will probably feel like a thirsty man in a wide, wide desert. The only heels you are likely to see down here are on the bread board after the 5:30 dinner rush. Your best bet is to pack a bag full of shoes in assorted sizes and hope to god that you meet somebody who is willing to go along with your sick little fetish. Otherwise, dig through all the mixed paper recycling bins; you’re bound to find somebody’s collection of big-bush-high-heel-asian-gang-bang porn to get you through the season.
Hello Fucked-Up Summer Anytartican!
Next february-2005- I come to see you ! That means, if the Russian Kaptain of the Klebnikov and your captain and ice-conditions allow us! After reading some of the stuff on your delicious – gggrr – website, I am looking forward to see it all!! So try to be sober between february 16-22! Tourists pay a lot of money to see your pristine place! In return I’ll bring you some tremendious Belgian beers! Yes, I know how the US thinks about us – a bunch of losers when going to war – but we still make the best beer in the world! You’ll try my Trappistes Rochefort!!
See you soon,
Well Ireen, I never heard of the Fucked-Up Summer Anytartican. I’m not sure if that’s even a real person. Or maybe it means something in Belgian, or Russian. Either way, I’m the one answering your letter, the Fucked-Up Antarctican. Except I’m not sure that’s a word either.
Considering the swill I’ve been drinking lately (old Monteith’s Black tonight) I’d count myself lucky to get a taste of your delicious -gggrr- Belgian beer, but luck may not be on my side. You see, as I write this our icebreaker, the POLAR SEA, sits tied up to the ice pier leaking hydraulic fluid out of one of her propellers. The spill is under control but cannot be fixed by the divers on board so they are waiting for a special tool to be flown down from the states before they can move the ship. It may take weeks. You lot might be losers at war (hey, you said it, not me) but our icebreaker can’t even make a decent margarita these days. So if you hope to see the sights of McMurdo (sober tour guides and all) you better pray that your Captain Klebnikov knows what he is doing, cause he’s probably going to be on his own.
If you do make it in, bring your beer by the Store and find the skinniest woman in there with long dark hair. Give it to her and she’ll make sure it gets to the right people.
Thanks for writing.
Subject: Where are we going, and why are we in this hand basket?
I was wondering about some of the agencies working in the BDP; who are they, what kind of work do they do, and how did they wind up at a place I’d forgotten existed since my high school geography class? What are the benefits of spending time in the BDP? Certainly not sex–I’ve read the FAQ. Financial? The call of rugged individualism? Pending arrest warrants in three states? Please, let me know as soon as your schedule allows.
Thank you for your time.
PA3 Thomas McKenzie
Thanks for being patient Thomas. I would have got to your question earlier but it was kind of a lame one, so I forgot about it for a while, but I’m having trouble sleeping tonight, and I am fucked up, so you’re in luck.
OK. Who are they and what do they do? Let’s see, there’s the NSF. They waste a lot of your tax dollars every year on whimsical research and short-sighted projects of questionable value. There’s Raytheon, which profits from exploiting the inherent flaws in the system, and short changing their employees whenever they can. There’s the New York Air National Guard, who fly around the continent in the C-130s, and Kenn Borek Air, Canadian civilians who fly the Twin Otters. The US Coast Guard putters around the sound in their (usually broken) icebreaker and makes occasional port calls so their sailors can get so drunk that they have trouble walking back to the ship. There are also a couple of subcontractors for the Air Traffic Control and Weather who, from what I can see, don’t do much more than bitch, eat, and smoke cigarettes.
As for the benefits, they are many. Money is a big one. Job security is another. It seems like once you are hired it is almost impossible to get fired, no matter how incompetent you are. And as far as the sex goes, my friend, trust me, there is more than enough to go around for the man who knows how to handle a real woman. A lot of people do come down for the
adventure but don’t let the Antarctic Myth fool you. The USAP wears down rugged individuals on the grindstone of inefficiency, chews them up and spits them out. Raytheon prefers to hire and promote spineless weasels who don’t question company policy. And the compulsory background and credit check would certainly red flag on any arrest warrants pending.
Look, Thomas, that’s about all the time I can waste thinking about this letter tonight. I’m starting to fall asleep here. This is better than valium.
Dear, dear, Fucked-Up,
I’m fucked up, too. My boyfriend just left three days ago to work down at McMurdo, and we’re both all kindsa heartsick about it. It’s his first year down there, and it’s something he’s really wanted to do for a long time, but DAMN five months seems like forever right now. Is there some kind of emergency deployment I could get to be down there with him? Or is that too much like your mommy coming and sitting in the back of your class on your first day at a new school? And also, the night before he left, he mumbled something in his sleep about a “penguin harem.” Should I be concerned?
Dear, dear M,
It’s been about six weeks now since you wrote and I haven’t heard about anyone being fired for sodomizing the wildlife, so I think you’re in the clear there. That is, if he really is down here, if it wasn’t just an elaborate lie he made up to ditch his smothering, over-protective girlfriend. Do you still want me to let you know if a position opens up?
Thanks for writing.
Why does Antarctica have a short summer and a long winter? This question is for an assignment.
Thanks for writing Unknown. This one is simple: we only seem to have a short summer and a long winter. That’s because the National Science Foundation decides when the harsh Winter ends and the productive Summer begins, usually some time in late September or early October. It all depends on budgets, really. And on what kind of schedule they can negotiate with the Air Force to fly us all in here. Summer ends when the cargo ship is unloaded, after which they clear us all out, usually by the end of February. But they’re always looking for a way to come sooner and stay longer. As they grow more ambitious, the “Summer” will slowly be stretched out, and might one day outlast the “Winter”. In reality, Antarctica has four equal and distinct seasons which coincide with the tilting of the earth on its axis as it rotates around the sun. But if the teacher doesn’t trust you on this it might be better to let it drop. Pick your battles; whatever her textbook says is fine.
Keep ‘em coming.
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
Is there any AA, as in Alcoholics Anonymous in Antarctica? I mean, is there any chance in hell for an alcoholic to stay sober there? Thanks.
Alcoholic in Los Angeles
Good question AILA, and in the spirit of temperance I am going to answer this one stone cold sober.
When I first joined “the Program”, as in the United States’ Antarctic Program, back in 1996, there was an Alcoholics Anonymous that met in the McMurdo Chapel on Monday nights, however I have not heard the slightest mention of an AA meeting for many years. There are still plenty of alcoholics on station and they do gather regularly at McMurdo’s three watering holes, except for Monday nights when the bars are closed. Perhaps they figured if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. Those with a taste for the devil juice may also imbibe in their dorm rooms, at hall parties, in smoking lounges after the bars close, and at their workcenters after work—if they’re discreet. And even during work if they’re really discreet. A little Bailey’s ‘non-dairy creamer’ in your morning coffee takes the edge off of last night’s hangover.
People drink A LOT down here. Back when I used to get the numbers e-mailed to me every week the store was selling over $15,000 worth of alcoholic beverages every week. And that didn’t even count the bars. I would speculate that that number has only risen considering that booze (along with most other things) has become more expensive under Raytheon’s management.
Can an alcoholic stay sober down here? Sure, but it depends on the alcoholic. Most of the organized recreational activities in McMurdo take place at a bar. If the party is not at the bar, they bring the bar to the party. If you have a strong will to stay sober and are creative and discaplined enough to make your own fun on a Saturday night, then there is a good chance that you can stay sober. If not, you will soon end up passed out on a couch in someone else’s dorm and wake up with grafitti all over your face.
Still, if you need support and you ask around I am sure you will find a Friend Of Bill or two, but that goes for most any sub-sect of our culture. A few years ago there were enough Model Railroad enthusiasts down here to form a Club. Now there’s a group that ought to remain anonymous.
Thanks for the question. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a buzz to catch.
PS: It has come to my attention that AA meets on Friday nights in the Chapel of the Snows at McMurdo Station.
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
It must take a lot of supplies to keep the station running. How do you guys get everything you need?
Dear You You,
The end of the summer season has arrived and winter draws near. The Original Fucked-Up Summer Person has left McMurdo and is presently getting hammered at a variety of expensive restaurants in Christchurch, New Zealand, so the editor is filling in until the Fucked-Up Winter-Over establishes himself. I am drinking Guinness.
Your question is a timely one, as we recently finished Ship Offload, when the yearly resupply vessel arrives to stock the station for the upcoming year. As you may know, there are no trees here, food can’t be grown, and ore isn’t yet mined. This means that every floorhockey stick, each bag of tortilla chips, and all the paperclips are imported. Almost everything McMurdo and Pole need for the next year of operation is brought by ship. That includes Rolos and urinal cakes.
The location of McMurdo Station was chosen in large part because it is about as far south as a ship can go in the world. Even so, there are complications, such as that McMurdo Sound is covered in sea ice so thick that planes can land on it, even for much of the relatively warm summer. However, once the ice runway has been moved at summer’s end, an icebreaker arrives to cut a channel through the ice, so that the supply vessel can reach McMurdo to offload its cargo and then backload all the solid and hazardous waste that has accumulated from the previous year. (Garbage is Antarctica’s main export by weight.) Around this time the fuel tanker also arrives and brings the millions of gallons of fuel that juice our power plant, planes, trucks, and heavy equipment. In general, that is what happens, but this year was a little different.
First of all, the icebreaker lost a propeller and limped through the ice like a shot dog. Normally wind would clear the channel of broken ice, but the channel scratched out by the lame icebreaker was very narrow, and a pesky gargantuan iceberg north of Ross Island contributed to the congestion. Because of these events, an alternate icebreaker was summoned late in the game from the Arctic, a second-rate polar region where the ice is not as hearty, so no one was sure if the new icebreaker could handle it. The second icebreaker did okay, though the ship’s radar interfered with the local television signal, which drove the McMurdo smoking-lounge crowd to sputter furiously into their vodka.
By this time the weather was starting to cool, and the already thin channel was freezing as soon as the icebreakers cut it. This year’s supply vessel was the American Tern, but around town it became known as “The Chicken of the Sea” because it sat timidly at the ice edge as the icebreakers ran the channel through the ice. Offload was delayed by over a week. Besides the extra cost of over thirty thousand dollars a day for the ship, this year’s Offload expenses also include the cost of the second icebreaker (anyone got a number on this?), and an extra million dollars of fuel for all the increased vessel time. Eventually the supply vessel made it down the channel only to get stuck for a day as ice froze around it. With urgent maneuvering it became unstuck then docked at the ice pier, where Ship Offload proceeded smoothly except for when the captain shut down cargo operations because of some unaccounted for hazardous waste.
The American Tern departed, at which point we found that the entire year’s supply of canned food had not arrived. This was because it had not been purchased. All the purchasing is done in the Denver office, where someone had overlooked one of the tabs in the supply spreadsheet software. The neglected electronic abstraction then thundered down to the end of the planet with no one to stand in its way. As mentioned earlier, agriculture is rare in Antarctica, so most of our food is either frozen or canned. The elimination of canned food thus has culinary and dietary significance. For a community whose farts already smell similar, the coming year’s alignment of stench will be uncanny.
With the supply vessel gone, it was time for the fuel tanker to dock, but it couldn’t get through the ice. The solution? Roll out to the fuel tanker four miles of fuel hose over sea ice that was last week being crushed by an icebreaker. As I write this in late February, managers from McMurdo, Denver, and Washington are barking in teleconferences and midnight meetings. Why? Every year at this time of the season, NSF has warned us, under threat of termination, that we are not to walk or ski on this sea ice because it is unsafe.
But due to present needs, NSF wants to send heavy equipment operators in twenty-ton tractors and a whole herd of Fuellees onto that very ice. It takes literally eighty key-players and a dozen meetings to figure out how to deem “safe” what is traditionally “unsafe”. And should one of the operators go through the ice, as has actually happened a few times in the last fifty years, these meetings also allow for the managers and aspiring managers to collectively target potential scapegoats amongst themselves.
Despite the historical record, none of the Operators are concerned. Nor are the Fuellees. In fact, they would walk or ski on the ice every year if they could, so nor are they afraid to work on it. But obvious to watchers of The Program is that once again the toggle switch of reality has been clicked on to “safe” for a short time in order to resolve a desperate situation, after which the switch will be clicked off and conditions will return to their “unsafe” status. (A few years ago NSF cried to the media and Congress about how “unsafe” was the present Dome at Pole in order to wheedle funding for the New Station. Is the Dome indeed “unsafe”? If so, it’s not talked about at Pole. Click. Unsafe Enough to Alert Congress and the Media. Click. Safe Enough Not to Alert Pole Workers.) Click. Safe. Click. Unsafe.
This is how we get the things we need. Thanks for the question.
Fucked-up Summer Person
If Antarctica is such a cool place, then why doesn’t the NSF just populate McMurdo Base with volunteers? There must be millions of twenty-somethings from the USA who would love to go to Antarctica to look at the penguins and seals and pteropods. That way, all Occupational Health and Safety requirements would not be necessary, and you could go about where you pleased. You could go mountain climbing, ice climbing, cross country skiing and have a great time. You could choose to work a 4-day week. In addition, they would then always be able to afford to give you fresh fruit on top of your salads, and the kitchenhands might be more inclined to chop them up more decoratively, to improve everyone’s state of happiness.
Just an idea
Love from a Kiwi girl
Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Kiwi Girl,
Great idea, unfortunately it will never happen. If you take only one lesson away from this website, please let it be this: Antarctica is not about fun, it’s about work. Your vision of a utopian Antarctic society where people cross-country ski, go hiking, and frolic with the wildlife whenever the mood strikes them is indeed pleasant, but not realistic. The problem with bringing a bunch of wide-eyed volunteers down here is that you wouldn’t then be able to control them with threats of taking their money away. For instance, how motivated do you think the average person would be to wash the dishes of 1,200 other volunteers? Does scrubbing toilets and sorting through trash sound like fun jobs to do for free? Over the years I’ve worked in both the Galley and the Waste department and, believe me, I’m sure nobody would do those jobs for free after a week or two. Another consideration is the cost of getting people down here. Those military flights are quite expensive. After the hypothetical volunteers got here they would undoubtedly work a few days, if any, then quit. The turnover would be ridiculous, and the cost of flying down replacements would easily outweigh any savings from unpaid salaries. As far as the company buying more fresh fruit for the workers with any extra cash lying around, there is as much chance of that happening as me becoming the next station manager. Trust me when I say any extra money would be quickly fired up to the top brass of Raytheon. They would be dining on hundred-dollar-bill salads as we ate yet another meal consisting of frozen food older than half of the station. But I love your idea. Don’t stop dreaming, and thanks for the question.
Fucked-up Summer Person
Yo fucked-up douchebag,
If I am the lead role in a movie in McMurdo, slip and break some ribs during filming, forcing me to seek medical treatment by Dr. Jellyfingers of the greater McMurdo Medical Clinic who does nothing for my abdominal inflictions but inform me that my heart murmur can be compared to ovarian cancer, can I sue [the director]?
Dear Cosmic Bman,
First off, I’m not a douchebag, merely a fucked-up summer person trying to pass on wisdom. Pray tell, what does “Bman” stand for? Blowjob Man perhaps? What type of film were you making at the time of your supposed injury anyway? And to assume you were the lead is a bit ridiculous. As any actor knows, making a movie can be a glorious but dangerous undertaking. Any injury sustained by an actor is part of the price you pay for making art. The director cannot be sued, and whining is frowned upon. Although from the tone of your letter it sounds like whining is your specialty. What were you thinking going to Medical anyway? Everyone knows a chap can go into Medical with a sore finger and end up on the next flight North diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. You should’ve just found a roll of duct tape, taped up your side, and gotten on with the shoot Sally. Next time don’t fall down.
Fucked-up Summer Person
I recently moved to L.A. and was astonished to see my local supermarket selling Newcastle Brown Ale for over $9/six-pack. How much does the average Joe pay for imported ale in Antarctica?
Good question. Make no mistake: booze is definitely part of the Antarctic experience. I myself have been to the ice numerous times and have never seen a penguin close up, but have seen many an empty bottle of booze. Although the average Antarctic Joe doesn’t have as many choices as a fellow shopping for spirits back home, the only store in town sells about four types of beers. Most of the beers offered are of the New Zealand persuasion. The most popular of these seems to be Canterbury Draft, which sells for $5 per six malt friends. This is the common price for all beers. A beer at the bar will cost you $2, as will a cocktail. The store also sells Guinness and Speights. I’ve toured the Speights brewery in New Zealand and can recommend the brew highly. Sierra Nevada was offered one season and was a big hit, though this year’s resupply vessel brought down mainly Coors Light and MGD. The reaction was one of disgust from those that saw the goods as they were unloaded from the ship’s containers. Why someone ordered those beers is a mystery. One theory is that someone is trying to make the station feel “more American” and “like home”. Of course, Antarctica is anything but home, and why drinking crappy beer would make people feel better about being away from home is beyond me. I tend to stick to the hard alcohol, or “sweet booze”, as it is referred to amongst my peers. One can pick up a bottle of Tequila for a mere $9. A bargain, but a dangerous purchase if enjoyed irresponsibly. Bushmills has also found its way into my shopping cart on more than one occasion, and it sells for a fair price of $20 for a big bottle. My advice is to stick with the hard booze and leave the beer for homesick saps. Thanks for writing, and keep tipping back the cold ones.
Fucked-up Summer Person
Is there really a 300-degree club?
Hasn’t Seen A Cold Day In Too Long
Dear Hasn’t Seen A Cold Day In Too Long,
Thanks for the question. Yes indeed there is a 300-degree club. This happens at Pole Station. I have not yet been privileged enough to partake in this activity, but will hopefully get my chance next year. I’ve got a lead on a job for the upcoming contract year. As you may have heard, when the temp is -100 outside they enter the steamy 200F sauna and then bolt naked like crazed hyenas out to the geographical south pole marker for a quick lap. I understand they do wear shoes. Otherwise their feet would stick to the ice.
Fucked-up Summer Person
My wife recently left me for being too middle class. Unfortunately, this was immediately following a move to the Idaho panhandle, ostensibly to be closer to her family. Indeed. I am currently a lonely man contemplating a move. I have been considering Portland, OR; Reno, NV; and Barharbor, ME. Should Antarctica be on my list?
I have a second, unrelated question: are there gun laws down there?
Great question. Definitely move to Maine. I hear it’s a lovely state, and besides that it’s very far from Idaho. Although Reno does offer gambling and hot showgirls. Tough call, but if it were me I’d put some miles between me and the bitch that left me for “being too middle class”. Sorry but you can’t actually move to Antarctica and, to be honest, you wouldn’t want to. Good news though: you can come down here for either 6 or 12 month contracts. I’m not sure what your skills are, but I’m confident there is a job for you here. Here’s what you do: gather up your belongings (after she takes what she wants), get a storage space (you probably won’t need a very big one after she’s done with you), and hit the road. Raytheon Polar Services is the company you need to get in touch with. I believe there is a job fair in Colorado sometime in March or maybe April. You don’t have to go to the job fair, but it does increase your odds of getting a job. Trust me, Antarctica is the place for you. But don’t come looking for love. Not too many ladies this far south. Some say it’s the southernmost sausage party on the planet. It sounds like you might need a break from the fairer sex anyway.
Regarding gun laws in Antarctica: there are none. That’s because there are no guns here. Rumor has it that there is one pistol on station that only the station manager has access to. Believe me, if you knew some of the complete idiots that get hired for that position you too would tremble at the rumor.
Fucked-Up Summer Person
How does time work there? I mean, the closer you get to the actual pole, time zones are practically minutes away, aren’t they? Do you even bother?
I appreciate the question. With 24-hour sunlight in the summer and then 24-hour darkness in the winter, the passing of time is indeed hard to mark. To be technical, we are on Greenwich Mean Time +12:00. We share the same time zone as New Zealand. This makes things easier in regards to flights. The air operations are flown out of Christchurch, NZ, and it helps coordinate things by being on the same time zone. The South Pole follows this practice as well.
Fucked-Up Summer Person
What would happen to a woman who became pregnant at McMurdo? How about if it was the beginning of Winter? Is this touched upon in your contracts?
New York City
Thanks for the question. Just like anywhere else, when you have people working and living together in close quarters, sex is going to happen. So naturally pregnancy is a concern. Is there anything more miraculous and beautiful than the conception of a child? Down here there is, and it’s called work. Back in the states if a woman was to inform her employer that she was pregnant, they would congratulate her, give her a nice card, throw her a party complete with a cake decorated with a pair of frosted cute baby booties, and wish her luck during her maternity leave. If that same knocked-up gal was to approach her McMurdo boss and share that exact joyous news, she would get a pink slip and a seat on the next plane off the continent. Pregnancy when it occurs in Antarctica is considered a health risk. The woman would be treated the same as a person with a broken leg.
Things get tricky when the sun sets for good in the winter. If it is early enough in the winter, say sometime before May, they would try to fly a plane down to medevac the pregnant woman. But, if the pregnancy came to light later in the season, when it’s too cold to land a plane, they would have to wait until early August to fly her out.
NSF and Raytheon try to prevent pregnancies by supplying the community with free condoms. One can pick up said prophylactics at the medical clinic or at various bathrooms on station. This is effective only if these locations are stocked. (Two winters back there was a gentleman who hoarded all the condoms becuase he was traveling to Russia and planned to sell them on the black market.) Women can also get “the pill” from the clinic. A co-worker of mine told me that one year the doctor gave her expired birth control pills. Because of this most girls bring their own supply. It’s not known what would happen to the father of an Antarctic love child. My guess is, besides getting an earful from the gal and high fives from his friends, probably nothing.
Fucked-Up Summer Person
Do you do a lot of research there?
Dear Just Curious,
I work in the Supply department at McMurdo Station, nestled on a volcanic island off the coast of Antarctica. I excel at counting nuts and bolts. I’m sure you’ve read in your local rag or seen on countless television documentaries that Antarctica is a pristine land full of scientists performing valuable research. True, there are some scientists here doing experiments on the atmosphere (or lack thereof), as well as various other types of research, but the bulk of the population is made up of contract laborers. Earlier this week a group of these workers was called in to hand-pick rocks from the dirt road outside the main laboratory because a scientist had stepped on a volcanic rock and stumbled, which is not surprising since the island is composed of volcanic rock. A few days later in front of the same laboratory a scientist in a pickup truck rammed a concrete barrier that protects the main water and sewage lines. Sometimes we feel as if we are watching someone’s little brat kids who are never happy no matter how much candy you feed them. If by research you mean babysitting and doing mindless inventories of often useless supplies, then yes I do a lot of research here.
Fucked Up Summer Person
Dear Fucked-up Summer Person,
Do you celebrate the same holidays in Antarctica as we do in the States?
Dear Holly Day,
Good question. We do in fact celebrate the same holidays. Eventually, that is. If a holiday falls within the work week, which is six days a week, our observance of said holiday will be that following weekend so that work will not be interrupted. For example, on the 28th of November as you dined on turkey, yams, and stuffing, our plates held servings of grilled tilapia, eggplant, and roast Tuscan pork. Not exactly what mom made at home. We will get Christmas day off, but not Labor Day. During the winter we have a Christmas party in July. No one knows why. There are no trees here, so Arbor Day is out, and no nod is given to President’s Day either. Of course, every Saturday night seems like a holiday because Sunday is our day off. Sometimes Sunday is considered a holiday as well. We were told at a recent town meeting that Sunday the 29th is going to be our New Year’s holiday. A manager stood in front of us with a straight face and rewarded us with a holiday on our day off. One might say on the 29th we are celebrating bend over, grab your ankles and Get Fisted day. Lubrication Day is observed on the 30th. Thanks for the question and happy holidays!
Fucked-up Summer Person
[Update: In an unexpected turn of events, NSF at the last moment reinstated a second day off a few days before New Year's, thus Lubrication Day was not observed on the 30th. --Editor]
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
How much of a problem is boredom? Do people really go crazy and have to be locked up?
Great question. Remember when you were a kid and you got stuck at home during a snow day? That is what life here can be like. You can go play outside, but it’s cold, very cold. So, you search around at home for things to do. To fight boredom in these parts people sometime find creative outlets. Some write, while others play music. There is an ample supply of books here, and exercise facilities draw people in as well. Adventurous folks often choose to make short movies. Some of the more popular ways to fill time off tend to be watching videos,
playing video games, or drinking. Booze is always a good way to make even the most mundane of days seem exciting. Recently I heard about a fellow who was challenged to drink a bottle of Tabasco sauce for a sum of 52 greenbacks. Boredom definitely had a hand in that episode. Perhaps booze did as well.
Thankfully, NSF & Raytheon have provided the workers in Antarctica with a 6 day, 10 hour a day work week, therefore eliminating a lot of that pesky free time. You can think of them as a mom that gives her child chores to do on a snow day. A lot of people, due to the long work week find sleeping an excellent way to burn those free hours.
As far as people going crazy from boredom, not a big problem. Someone is more apt to go crazy from the lack of sunlight during a winter or lack of love. Another thing that can drive any sane person over the edge here is trying to keep track of all the insane rules that seem to materialize out of air, or rather a manager’s anus, at any given moment. Thanks for writing. Answering your question helped me fight off boredom for a short spell.
Fucked-Up Not-Bored-At-The-Moment Summer Person
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
What are the racial demographics there? Are there many minorities?
Sugar Land Star
Good question. As near as I can figure, without the aide of an official government census, it’s not exactly the most diverse bunch. Just think of life down here as a Brady Bunch episode with more snow.
Fucked-Up Summer Person
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
Are there any families or children living there? Are there nurseries or schools for the kids? What contact do you have with other international bases? Are there international parties and romance?
Great questions. First off there are no kids in Antarctica. The sole reason being they don’t make good workers. NSF has plenty of adults that act like children to worry about down here as it is. Be certain the NSF isn’t in the business of raising kids and would hate to spend valuable science money on such frivolous things as nurseries or schools. Not to mention a child doesn’t understand the value of money. Therefore, management’s favorite tactic of threatening to take away money in order to gain obedience would be nullified.
Is there anything finer than international romance? Couldn’t tell you. I work at South Pole Station and have exactly zero opportunities to find that elusive international love you speak of. The closest I come to it is spending a night sipping on chilled vodka while looking for Russian brides on the internet.
On the other hand, workers at McMurdo base have much better odds of stumbling into international affairs of the heart. New Zealand has a base a couple of miles away from McMurdo. I’ve worked numerous seasons at McMurdo and, while I haven’t personally been fortunate enough to sample the sexual fruits from the Kiwi base, I assure you some have. Once a week those ever-so-friendly Kiwis open their bar up to the Yanks on “American night”. That is an excellent chance to mingle with those Kiwi neighbors. Throughout the season they also host parties to which everyone is invited. Also, the Kiwis have an open invitation to come over to McMurdo for all functions. So, there is hope to land an international lover while working
at McMurdo. Fear not, international bonds are strengthened with booze at every turn.
Fucked-Up Summer Person
Dear Fucked-Up Winter-Over,
We are a group of friends that host dinners from different countries. My husband and I are hosting a party from Antarctica and would like ideas of the kinds of things you eat and the entertainment and some of the unique cultures. Any input would be appreciated.
If I was going to have an “Antarctic” themed party (which I wouldn’t), I would hope that it was an Italian Antarctic Programme themed party; I hear they eat like kings and drink wine at lunch. But if you are looking for hints on a McMurdo themed party, here’s what I suggest:
First, fill a few chaffing dishes with chicken wings and deep fried mozzarella sticks. Then pour a large bowl of potato chips and set out some dry nachos with the cheapest salsa you can find. Then invite 1000 people whom you live and work with, even the ones you can’t stand, and make sure that about half of them are horny guys and 1/4 of them are un-interested women. Don’t forget to have a lame theme like “Disco Night”, “Redneck Ball”, or “Country Bingo” and encourage everyone to dress up.
Next hire either a classic rock cover band or an inexperienced DJ with one too many Hooty and the Blowfish CDs. To really jazz things up throw in some 16 month-old beer, a slow-ass bartender, and a cheap fog machine.
Oh, here’s a unique culture: at about midnight make all of the couples leave and watch the horny (and drunk) guys circle up around the un-interested women. We call this “The Rut”; it’s better than any Wild Kingdom episode you’ve ever seen. Lastly, time it so that as the guests leave the party they step out, drunk and confused, into the blazing noon sun. That is about a Saturday night in McMurdo.
It’s July, the mailboxes are full, what are my chances of possibly getting there by September? I’m living in Michigan, can’t get to Colorado, don’t know someone who knows someone, not a scientist or engineer, is it even realistic to think that I could work there?
Could you explain Uncle Ray-Ray’s idea of a good candidate? What the hiring process is? Why you keep coming back? I have a master’s degree, but it’s in a social science. What’s the background of some of the support workers there? Could you tell me about the women? Do they have lots of problems with misogyny or harassment? Are the fellas pretty accepting of a different sex? (I heard that ship work for ladies can be pretty difficult.)
What do you enjoy most about your work? Since there’s not a whole lot else to do, a 56-hour work week isn’t so bad, is it? Could you talk about this more?
Do you get to visit the other stations? Am I asking too many questions?
Oh Brother, Twenty Questions, cut back on the coffee or something. I haven’t seen the sun in two months, my brain is being eroded by alcohol, my girlfriend is getting snippy tonight, and now I got you and your hyperactive, can’t-find-a-job panic streak to deal with. Christ on a cracker.
First of all, calm down. Sure, you’re competing with thousands for a shot at the USAP big leagues, but it’s only July and contracts change hands down here faster than a congressman being whisked off to the Dry Valleys in a helicopter. There is ALWAYS a chance of getting down here; my first year I wasn’t hired until Halloween.
I can’t really speak for Uncle Ray-Ray, but it seems like their ideal candidate is someone who is so blinded by the chance to see “Pristine Antarctica” that they are willing to work 54 hours a week for sub-standard pay with no hope for overtime, without the civil rights recognized by the constitution of the United States of America and the protection of OSHA
regulations (while paying State and Federal taxes), and somehow believe that they are being handed the sweet end of the lollypop.
The Hiring Process? Send in as many applications as you can afford to photocopy at the local library. Then call, call, call. 1-800-688-8606. Put it in your speed dial. No one gives a shit about your masters degree here. Can you shovel snow six days a week? Can you mop up puke in the bathrooms? Can you wash crusty old dishes that were in someone’s room all week and they finally brought them to the dish room on Sunday? Wake up. Scientists don’t grovel for work with Raytheon, they grovel for NSF grant money.
The workers here are workers. Miners, loggers, craftsmen-and-women. And college dropouts, trust-fund adventurers, travelers, clueless wanderers, and people addicted to the easy money and the comfort of institutionalization. I often wonder, is the return rate higher here or in American prisons?
If you consider a bunch of awkward, frustrated, Neanderthal guys trying to slow dance with you after last call at the bar “harassment”, then yes there is harassment. If you ever get hired, assuming you are halfway attractive (and that you can keep the annoying questions to a minimum), you will be competing with the other
attractive females for that tiny slice of the McMurdo population: the desirable, and available, male (or female, if that’s your thing).
By the way, Twenty Questions, this is the most exhausting e-mail I have ever answered: my buzz is wearing off. So one last word of advice: if you ever do get hired, you might just find that there is more to do here than you ever imagined. If I could swing it somehow, I could live down here for a year without working an honest day, and still not do all the things I’d like to.
Greetings Generic FUWP,
Exactly what are you all drinking down there? Beer, mixed drinks? What? Could you also spin my way some interesting Antarctic-specific drinks or drinking games. It seems like you guys/gals have a lot of free time to fill sometimes, and you seem to be doing it in VERY intersting ways.
Just picking your brains…
Good question Andrew H. but I’ve got a better one: what the hell are you smoking up there? My good friend and esteemed colleague the Fucked-Up Summer Person answered a very similar question just a few columns ago. Maybe your short term memory isn’t what it used to be? And I don’t know where you got the idea that we are searching out ways to fill our free time…probably reading some NSF publication. After I work 54 hours a week, sleep like 50-some, eat a few meals a day, that leaves me barely enough time to watch a couple movies on the couch and answer your e-mails. If you think that figuring out a way to get the company to give me a non-skid mat for my doorway so I don’t break my neck walking into work is a VERY interesting way to spend my free time, then I guess I can spare a few minutes to answer your e-mail.
At the moment I am drinking Bass Ale. I have them lined up like centuries in my fridge. But I am also partial to scotch, particularly scotch and cream soda and “hot scotchlates”. Another fringe favorite is the Irish Car Bomb: a shot of Bailey’s, with a dash of Bushmills on top, dropped into a glass of Guinness. Drink it real quick before it gets gross.
And then there is an elite group of (so far only) men down here who do more before breakfast than most people do in a month, and when they drink, they drink jet fuel. However, if you don’t have access to 55-gallon barrels of pure alcohol but you still really want to impress your friends with a drinking game from the Antarctic, here’s one: fill a teaspoon with Bombay gin and snort it. Do both nostrils, even if you cry like a baby after the first one. Your friends will all hate you, with good reason.
Dearest Fucked-Up Winter-Over,
I heard a rumor the other day that there is a road being built from McMurdo to the South Pole. Is that true? Why is a road needed?
Dearest Curious Lad,
That was no rumor. Fact, Fact, Fact. They ARE building a road to the South Pole: the first Trans-Antarctic highway. It is about as wide as your average county road and, after several months of construction, just over three miles long. Usually road building goes a little quicker, but the South Pole Traverse had to cross the Shear Zone, where ice flowing off the polar plateau log-jams against Ross Island. Mountaineers, Blasters, and Equipment Operators crossed more than thirty crevasses, some up to 100’ deep and covered by snow bridges forty-feet thick. When a crevasse was detected with radar, the crew would blast away the deceptive snow bridge, fill the slot with snow, and forge on ahead thirty feet or so to the next crevasse.
Why is the road needed? Good question. You might as well ask “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do birds sing?” or “Why am I not writing my congressman about this?” The correct answer is that A Road Is Not Needed. Just like filling ice core drill holes with acetone is not needed, and beheading seals is not needed, and applying for a permit from the US Government so you can walk in the pristine wilderness of the Antarctic is not needed.
Five years ago there were about 160 scheduled flights to the South Pole in the austral summer, and that was when the Navy (not the National Guard, aka Weekend Warriors) were in the cockpit. This year there were over 300. Flights are scheduled, months in advance, for every working day. They don’t plan for snow days. It doesn’t take to long to fall hopelessly behind. Dollars and cents say it is more economic to drag heavy cargo to the south pole with tractors than to fly it there in planes. The congressional committee overseeing the NFS’s budget sends representatives down almost every year to look into things like this. But it must be tough for them to focus on such tiny details when faced with the breathtaking splendor of the pristine Antarctic. I know that my first time down I was overwhelmed just trying to figure out where I was supposed to report to work demolishing buildings. Those congressmen have so much more to worry about: like being on time for their helicopter tours of the Dry Valleys, lavish DV (Distinguished Visitor) receptions, and photo ops at the new South Pole Station.
I hate to tell you Curious Lad, but you should be asking your congressman why is a road to the south pole needed. And if they try and tell you anything other than “strategic presence”, vote for someone else who will give it to you straight.
Dear Fucked-Up Summer Person,
Your advice column is just terrific. In fact, Big Dead Place as a whole is just amazing. It has really touched me. The last couple of days I have been feeling like I needed to make a Big Change. I thought about quitting my job. I considered moving to a brand new town. After reading your column, I feel much better about my life and situation. That is not to say that I look down on you, and think, “Wow, I’m glad I’ve got it better than that!” No. I have read your column and admired the quiet yet strong approach you take to dealing with the adversity in your life. I like your sense of the ludicrous.
I know this isn’t really a question, so maybe I should get a second opinion from you about my life. I mean, who better to ask then a person thousands of miles away who knows absolutely nothing about my circumstances or character? Should I quit my job? Should I leave town? Should I, gulp, make a really big move and sell my comicbook collection?
First of all, Fucked-Up Summer Person is gone. He is mowing the lawn in Denver and getting high with his friends and jerking off, probably ’cause his girlfriend is still here. I am the Fucked-Up Winterover.
David, you got problems. If you are down here and you worship Big Dead Place, that’s understandable. But if you are up in the “real world” where you can choose what you will eat for dinner and call in sick in the morning without fearing that it may cost you a thousand dollars, and you still gain inspiration from BDP, you are leading one sorry life. Should you quit your job? Obviously. Should you leave town? Fuckin’ A right; you must. Should you sell your comic book collection? Hell no, you selfish prick. You are holding something much more valuable than what a swine comic book dealer will pay you. Everyone, no matter how deprived, knows a thirteen-year-old whose life will be changed forever by X-Men 1, or the mutant massacre crossover with New Mutants and Power Pack way back in the eighties. Give the fucking things away, all of them, to one cool little kid you know. Then leave town. Quit your fucking job and go for a gig in Antarctica and find out how the other half lives. Take the bull by the horns and walk off the fucking plank Popeye. As bad as things are down here, at least we are not writing to strangers and asking them what we should do with our lives. You know all this deep down. Sport some sack and make a god damn decision. Jesus.
Dear Fucked-up Winterover,
Just was wondering what the ratio of men to women is during the winter? Do you have a significant other, or do you abstain? Or does the whole population share? (Is it just one big orgy going on down there or what?) And just what type of women are down there during the winter? Buttafaces, or buttabodies? Inquiring minds need to know.
Answers in the order of your questions, Rain Man:
20/80, you’d be amazed.
No…but sometimes, depending on your scene.
Orgies? Mostly in the mind…but not really too often, and mostly on the Down Low.
Fine; 10′s for sure.
Pervert? You don’t even know the half of it.
Dear Fucked-up Winterover,
Do you have an Antarctican language or slang? I’m a foreigner in Berlin and I’ll be damned if they don’t sound like they’re gargling blood at me. It’s cold here too. Are you gargling blood when you talk? What about boobs?
Love from the city of hate,
I have spent some time in Germany and I know what you mean. If you think Berlin is bad, you should head to the southeast. Down there they sound like chickens gargling blood.
Anyway, here in McMurdo, modern English is the standard language, but we do have some local slang. For one thing, almost every work center is abbreviated: MEC, BFC, SSC, MCC, etc., and Christchurch, NZ is shortened to CHCH [pronounced "Cheech"]. Probably everyone¹s least favorite is HR, for Human Resources.
Another bit of slang that comes to mind is the term “boomerang”. This refers to the frequent occurrence of planes reaching the PSR (Point of Safe Return) only to find that the weather in McMurdo is too bad to land, causing the plane to turn around a mere 30 minutes away from McMurdo, suddenly transforming a five-hour-flight to Antarctica into a nine-hour-flight to the exact place you were standing before you took off. Boomerangs also happen for mechanical reasons, which are often a much smaller time commitment, but just as annoying. I¹ve had friends that have boomeranged six times before actually making it to Antarctica.
We also have “The Crud”. Anywhere else this is simply an upper respiratory infection, but here if you sneeze, or have a runny nose, or hack up something the color of an Operation Iraqi Freedom uniform, you’ve got the crud. “Real” doctors in Antarctica actually use this diagnosis.
My favorite slang word is ‘skua’. When you find something useful in the trash, like a lava lamp, a coconut bra, or a pair of 501 jeans with the crotch still intact (the crotch is always the first thing to go, I don¹t know why), you are said to have “skua’d” it. The Skua is a bird that looks like a seagull with big fucking claws. They are the badasses of Antarctic wildlife, known for scavenging. They will dive bomb a human for a slice of garlic bread.
And what about boobs? I can tell you this much, this winter we¹ve got exactly 156 of them in McMurdo (a few more if you count man tits), and thank god for them. There is nothing quite like the sight of two perky nips poking through a carhartt bib. Feel free to send some photos if you like, and we’ll see just how cold it is up there in Berlin. We don’t get to see
the old orbs of pleasure too often down here, but this Friday night is Hooters Night at the non-smoking bar: chicken wings and pale waitresses. Our local rock band Stunt Cock is playing and it’s the hottest ticket in town. Get there early for a good seat.
Thanks for the question and Love from the harsh continent,
Info on amputation, please.
My son went out during a snowstorm and dangled his arm in the swimming pool for thirty seconds. He is 10 years old. Is he qualified to work/live in Antarctica?
PS – I always put an ice cube or 2 in my coffee or else I can’t drink it for like an hour.
What the hell was your son thinking? It’s a fucking snow storm. Stay out of the water. He’s only ten though, so we can’t expect much from him, but you’re his mother, you should know better. First of all, why does your pool have water in it in the winter, shouldn’t you drain it? And what was your response? “Hey Billy, get your arm out of the fucking pool!” No, it was “Where the hell’s my stopwatch?” Lastly, was his arm amputated? Because if so, I am sorry to say that there is very little chance that he will ever see Antarctica as a participant in the United States Antarctic Program. Besides being a shade on the young side, he would have to pass a thorough medical examination before being considered Physically Qualified (PQ’d), and I honestly don’t know the NSF’s policy on amputees in Antarctica. I think his best shot would be some sort of make-a-wish angle where the crippled kid gets to go see a penguin in the wild. NSF would eat that one up, the press would be great.
I am not sure what all this has to do with amputation, but a few months ago I went out to a high-profile seal camp where the researchers attach lights and video cameras to Weddell seals to make Antarctica’s most boring seal videos. Near the camp I found a brutally decapitated seal, blood everywhere. I would have suspected the skuas but there was no sign of a skull. Back at McMurdo, a quick check of the shipping records confirmed one seal head sent to Texas A&M University. The scientists (aka beakers) told me that the night before, the whole gang had sat around the seal hole and dangled their arms in the water to see who could take it the longest. The contest ended in a tie after two brilliant minds went ten minutes with their limbs dangling in icy water.
So if little Billy actually does make it to Antarctica, he is bound to find others with similar interests. And since you don’t seem all that concerned for his well-being, our after work activities (drinking, unprotected sex, and vicious gossiping) won’t concern you and may even be educational for him.
A Fucked-Up Winterover
PS -I don’t drink coffee, but I burn my tongue on hot cocoa all the time, because I’m impatient.
Dear Fucked-Up Winterover,
I have a friend who spent many years in Antarctica who once had a girlfriend in upper management. One night they had an “Ice Before Christ” party & mixed drinks with the ancient core samples taken for research. Apparently this was very elitist ice, and he only had access ‘cos he was fucking management. Ever heard of an “Ice Before Christ” party? Are they really popular & he’s just full of shit?
PS: He said the ice was really dense & wouldn’t easily melt…
I’ve never been to an “ice before Christ” party. But that does not mean that they do not actually exist. In fact, I have heard of people using ice core samples in cocktails at the bar. Apparently the ice sparks when introduced to alcohol and, yes, it is quite dense. I wouldn’t say this type of activity is popular, as the ice core samples are rare and mainly harvested for research. Your friend was lucky to have been involved in such a party. But, with or without the ice cores, parties down here are not to be missed.
Dear Learned Sir,
I wonder if you can help settle a dispute: when recently discussing Antarctic films with a friend, the Susan Sarandon vehicle IceBound came up. We’d like to know how it was being received at the Amundsen-Scott Station. We wonder what the locals think of this bit of cinema? Is it revered in the same way that small towns worship the one resident who makes a splash on, say, Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” page? Or is it ridiculed as a distorted view of what really went on and hence given special screenings before a lubricated audience who can’t help but offer their own dialogue? We’ve not actually seen the film. Is it a typical disease-of-the-week made for TV movie, or is it good?
Thanks for your help with this matter, and, please, keep irritating the weak.
The usual fucked-up winterover has not seen the movie in question, so I’m filling in. For one perspective on Icebound, in the King Haakon VII Review there’s a review of the movie written by Lisa Beal, who wintered with Jerri Nielsen.
First, a little background. Antarcticans are accustomed to publicity; not individually, but on the whole. Every season there are newspaper or TV publicists who come down, recipients of NSF’s Artists and Writers Grant, and National Geographic or Imax film crews. Most people don’t think about Antarctica that much, which makes the place famous. It’s a strange and mysterious distant land, yearly plagued by mediocre journalists. We know that, but we’ve also learned that the images these journalists are eventually going to send back to the homeworld will have little or no collusion with our experience of Antarctica. Some like this aspect of the media because it, as an electrician friend of mine once put it, “makes us rockstars”. Others have become jaded to the same-old stories of “stations full of researchers” and the “immaculate desolate snowscapes” and avoid seeing or reading Antarctic media altogether. Since the glorious press accounts will align with our workerbee reality in only the rarest of instances, the main achievement for many is merely to get on TV or, in the case of dealing with print journalists, to get quoted. Later when we watch or read the stories, we look for people we know, largely ignoring the point of the story itself, unless to heckle it. Many of us enjoy seeing TV blurbs or reading newspaper stories in which we know everyone, even if the context in which they’re presented is mostly fantasy.
That said, I think you might be able to take a good guess at how Icebound is received down here. Those who were there that winter tend to have a stronger response to the movie than those of us who weren’t. Those who know Jerri Nielsen or Big John Penney have a stronger response than those who don’t. For those more distant from the people and events, the movie more quickly falls prey to absolutely ruthless heckling on almost all counts. Some popular attacks are:
The mispronunciation of the word “Skua”.
The scene where the doctor said “Listen, it’s absolutely silent” while standing next to a running aircraft. This is one of the most classic media distortions, and always raises a howl of laughter. No station is ever silent: there’s always the power plant running, at the very least, and are more often than not very noisy places around the clock.
The scene where everyone is drinking whiskey, and someone offers such to the doctor who replies, “No thanks, I’ll just stick with my juice.” Perhaps this scene is accurate, perhaps not, but it seems to imply that the doctor wasn’t much of a drinker. In the world of middle-American drama, the implication is that someone cannot be a hero to soccer moms everywhere, facing breast cancer and potential death at a remote polar outpost while simultaneously drinking like a fish.
A bunch of inside jokes that would take too long to describe, and even then probably wouldn’t be funny.
On the other hand, most people are impressed by how well the movie recreated the interior of the Dome, which looks pretty accurate.
Thanks for writing.
Dear Fucked-Up Winterover,
I think I need help… instead of being content with my lot up here on the sunny and temperate east coast, I’m seriously thinking of spending a large chunk of time on that frozen rock you call home. Well… okay, no, I’ve actually gone beyond the ‘thinking about’ stage and have begun a practical demonstration of my insanity by applying for GA positions (and anything else I’m qualified for) with RPSC. Is there help for me?
If RPSC actually makes motions like they’re going to see fit to drag me down there and deposit me on the rock (McMurdo Station) or the ice (Amundsen-Scott Station), what should I do to be as physically qualified as I can be for the PQ portion of the screening? Should I be finding a walk-in freezer to live in until they call? Should I be running ten miles a day? Should I be building up my alcohol tolerance? Also, how can anyone crazy enough to spend months and months trapped in the antarctic winter possibly pass the psych eval?!
Why would you want to keep grinding out an existence up there on the East coast when fun and adventures await you in Antarctica? And nice work going for the GA job too. Those are some of the best jobs. The galley, not as fun as the GA position, is another excellent entry job.
As far as you physically preparing for the job, you need not worry about that. Most people do the most preparation by “studying” for the drug test. Coming here for the winters is incredible and only the crazy people don’t want to winter. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the psych test is a joke. You would seriously have to be completely crazy not to pass it. Where they weed people out is in the psych interview given during the test. Just answer the questions like you know you should (especially the alcohol-related ones) and all will be good. Living in a walk in freezer may be fun, but completely unnecessary. Your dorm room will most likely be too hot and they provide you with all the warm clothes you’ll ever need. By God why would you want to run ten miles a day? All the stations down here are quite small and you needn’t be bionic to get around. So, don’t kill yourself, you’re not training for the Olympics. If you can walk you’ll be fine.
Building up your booze tolerance is always fun and I can’t tell you not to drink. But again any serious training is unnecessary. If you enjoy the booze then it won’t take you long to build your tolerance to Antarctic standards. Save your cash, booze is cheap here.
Keep your chin up & thanks for the questions,
Dear Fucked-Up Winterover,
I applied at Raytheon for the winterover welder position there and they have not said no, but they have not said yes either. Do they usually stall like this, or is the wait a good thing? Also, if I do get the job should I get my own extreme weather jacket or do they issue those? Also I happen to be a female; are the guys going to get weird after the first three months or are there a lot of other girls there too?
Dear Concerned Hopeful,
I always enjoy receiving questions like the ones you’ve sent. Wanting to know about the community on a social level is key in my opinion. But first the business side of things.
You will rarely hear the word “quick” or the phrase “on top of it” used in the same sentence as “Raytheon”. The hiring process is like taking a road trip in a really slow old car. The trip will be tiring, slow, at times it will make no sense, and it will be often frustrating. But once you reach your destination the trip will be well worth it. Don’t give up hope on the Pinto your hiring experience is currently riding in. By the same token, don’t just sit by the phone hoping for a call either. By all means keep in touch with your contact. They are busy sorting through the many applicants they have to consider, but a call once a week is surely not out of line. Keeping your name fresh in their head is always wise. My second time down I was offered an alternate slot and waited six months for a contract. They will indeed stall, but eventually a decision will be made, so make sure you’re still in the mix when that time comes.
As far as bringing a jacket, don’t bother. Once you land the gig, they will issue you an obscene amount of extreme cold weather gear. True, it’s old, but it will keep you warm. Believe you me it’s no fashion show down here, although over the season everyone’s Carharrts evolve into something unique. Working outside will destroy clothes too, so why trash your own stuff? You will be warm and will mostly like not even wear half of the gear you are required to haul down. The biggest problem with the clothing is trying to find space in your small room to stash it all.
Now to the fun part of your inquiry. It seems that the ratio of guys to girls improves each season, but girls are still most definitely the minority. Hormones are hormones whether you are in a small town in Kansas or at a science support station in Antarctica. Just like up north, you will find guys here that will act like fools around girls. For the record, it won’t take some guys three months to get weird, because they show up here weird, as do some of the ladies. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of normal Joes to meet. But be certain of this: you will be ogled daily and most likely be hit on a lot. My advice is don’t worry about the guys, don’t buy a special coat, and keep bugging them about your job.
Thanks for writing.
Dear F-Up Winterover,
I have one two part question. Well, a two major part, three minor division question. Major part one being 1) there seems to be a high return rate among the population, i) are most of the residents returnees? ii) Is there a limit to consecutive time served on the continent? iii) Are first-timers systematically socially isolated and sitting alone at cafeteria tables, a la high school coming-of-age flicks? 2) If Antarctica really becomes an integral part of your (anyone’s) self-identity, do people ever snap before redeployment and walk off naked into the wilderness never to be seen again, ii) or do the psych evals pretty much screen those dramatic types out of the program? iii) Can you get me into said program?
Doesn’t hurt to try,
Stuck Up North Somewhere
Dear Stuck up North,
Who wouldn’t like a free trip to New Zealand or Chile? Not to mention a job where there is no commute, you have no living expenses, and the booze is cheap. So, yes, once most people get a taste of the ice in their veins they do return. But fear not, first-timers are not treated as lepers nor are they forced to eat alone. Everyone remembers what it was like to be a FNG (fucking new guy) so nobody is ostracized just because it is their first time on the ice. A person is limited to year long contracts and only cut off when deemed medically unsound to return. The psych test is a joke and only administered to those who want to stay the winter, but I suppose it does weed out the occasional psycho. A lot of folks do a year then return for winters only. Winters are the way to go, but it is wise to start with a summer before getting in over your head.
As far as people snapping and wandering into the wilderness, something similar but far less extreme occurs. Down here there is a phenomenon called “cracking” or “going toast”. During the dark winter everyone goes a little stir crazy, but some people lose it more than others. An example of this might be someone that starts to yell at someone else for using their favorite fork or taking their favorite chair in the galley. Or a person just might stop communicating with the rest of the community and basically start to spiral into insanity. When people start to crack they provide much needed entertainment for the rest of us. A friend of mine a few winters back started a “toast list”: a compilation of folks he thought would not fare so well as the winter wore on. For the most part it was accurate and now the toast list is a tradition.
Alas, I can be of no real help to get you into the program. I can offer you this advice: apply, go to the job fair, and constantly bug people for a job. They get a ton of applicants with little to no distinction, so you must be persistent. But once you get your bunny boot in the door you should be able to nurse the Antarctic teat for many moons if you choose to.
Good luck and thanks for the question,
Can you shed any light on the Raytheon policy of not letting potential employees know if they are to be considered for next season’s work until they get their post-season eval? This was told to me as I have been inquiring about a winterover pole position. However, I was offered a winterover [position in McMurdo] four months before end-of-season evals. I have spoken to other departments and they have all their winter employees set already. (Verbally anyway.)
[A manager] told me that if they were to tell the potential candidate whether or not they had the position, that it would lead to lack of productivity and unproffesional behavior, and that they had been burned before. What are your thoughts on this?
I have begged them to tell me so if I do have it, I can take care of things like selling my house (so I can afford to work for this ridiculous salary) or if I don’t have it, than I can start shopping my resume around.
Don’t kid yourself. As a contract employee you are about as important to management as the gum they find on the bottom of their collective office slippers. You can be scraped off, thrown away and replaced at the drop of a hat. Believe me I’ve gone through the same scenario of not knowing if I was going to get the job or not and, yes, it sucked. But basically they have you by the balls, and if you don’t want to play ball by their rules they will find another sap who will, although I believe if you’ve been offered a position, you will probably get the job. Begging for information will do you no good though, so buck up cowboy.
As far as [the manager's] thoughts on what would happen if the company were up front with people, she may have a point. If you knew the company was screwing you, would you be a good employee anymore? Who would? It benefits them to be tight lipped and keep you guessing. Again this does suck, but remember there is a line of people behind you just waiting to take your slot. Even if that slot is unstable and uncertain.
I have been thinking about a job there but I am concerned about two things. 1) I am gay. Is that a death sentence there? 2) I can’t substain from sex, are there any other gays there that anyone knows of?
Great question. Let me start by saying if you are truly unable to abstain from sex, Antarctica is not the place for you. Gay or not, your odds of getting laid here aren’t exactly stellar. So, if you can’t keep the horse in the stable don’t come to these icy pastures. That doesn’t meant there aren’t people here that play for the other team. Think of this place as a small mining town. Plenty of rednecks, but there are still some gay folk running around. Just like anywhere else there are people that will accept your sexual orientation and those who will not. But being gay in Antarctica is definitely not a death sentence. I would recommend working at McMurdo where the population is the biggest of all stations, therefore making your odds better. But, don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a hot bed of sexual action. It is far from that. (Although you will find plenty of guys that love to cross dress here.) Remember though just because a guy like to go south, it doesn’t necessarily mean he likes to “go south”. So, go ahead pack up your leather chaps and head south. You might not get all the action you want, but you will have an adventure.
Thanks for writing,
Fucked up Winterover
Dear F-Up Winterover!
I try to have a nice contact …but nothing happen! Do you have job that much to not have a time for little answer?
So … can you tell me how look your day! How you spend a time in ordinary day!
I like the cut of your jib. First, let me say thanks for your attempts to have a nice contact. Secondly, let me apologize for the lengthy time between your said inquiries and my response time. Please do not take this personally. As you might’ve ascertained from reading this site, we work quite a bit. Our free time is limited. To throw another factor into the mix, currently our availability to get onto the internet has been greatly hampered due to the malfunction of one of our satellite dishes. In order to get online we must stay up late.
Luka, this is your lucky day, as I’ve opted to “burn the midnight oil” this fine eve. So, to answer your first question: What does day look like? My typical day looks busy. As I mentioned before, my days here are spent working for science, supporting it to the best of my ability. As far as how I spend an “ordinary day”, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I work. On my off time I like to read and watch videos.
Thanks again for the the questions.
Hello ! I am very interested in everything there and I need much more information! Do you have several computors there (I mean 3-4 or more )? Do you chat and what program do you use (ICQ,AOL,MMessinger…)? Do I have any chanse to get there by my will?
Hi again Luka,
Currently I’m sitting in a computer lab that contains six machines. There used to be at least six more, but they have been removed to make room for a comfy hammock. Said removed computers were either distributed amongst the community or stored away until the next summer season. The new stations also houses a computer lab, but I don’t know how many computers call that place home. I live in the dome and care little about the details of the new station. As far as “chatting” programs go, I’m not a big fan and choose not to use any of them. No chatting here, just business. I owe you that much I reckon. Just think about it: you wouldn’t want me distracted by instant messages while trying to answer your question, would you?
Do you have a chance to get here by your will? Sorry, no. To get here you must be willing to let that free will go and take any job offered. Then, once your ass is entrenched within the program, you can express that formerly suppressed will and seek a better job.
Good luck with those chat programs,
I recently applied for an internship through my university to work at McMurdo for the summer season. Am I out of my rabid ass mind for wanting to go to Antarctica? Also, when selected, what kind of physical do you have to pass? The normal turn your head and cough or what? Are there any Harley Davidson nuts there? Keep the booze flowin’ and thanks for reading.
Freezer (this is my real nickname… long story)
First of all, with a nickname like Freezer, of course you need to come down here. Secondly, if you applied for a job through your university, that means you must have some sort of scientific background. Therefore you will have a cake job and most likely have the run of the continent whilst you pursue science. Take the job and come south. It will change your life, be assured.
Don’t worry about the physical. Basic stuff, nothing too fancy. Most folks sweat the most over the drug test.
And yes, there are a few folks that love Harleys here. One such fella in McMurdo likes to get drunk and kiss guys at the bar. Another Harley enthusiast also likes to assault guys, but she is a gal.
Come on down and bring your biker attire.
I understand that the ice caps are now increasing in size again, please let me know. There appears to be global cooling here in the USA. In fact, I haven’t seen it this cold for the last 40 years.
To be honest, I haven’t a clue as to what is happening with the ice caps these days. The only thing that I’m certain is increasing in size down here is my liver. Something that has definitely not increased in size is our community. Winter has begun and we are now down to about 75 souls on station. Unfortunately, not many of those souls belong to the fairer sex. Therefore enter our friend booze.
Thanks for writing, and keep warm up there.