Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why are we here and what do most of us do?

Why are we here?
We are here to help support scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as dictated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via the United States Antarctica Program (USAP). The current list of science projects for this year can be found at . To spare you the technical jargon, I’ve compiled the following abbreviated list:

  • Global Warming
  • Climate Change
  • Atmospheric research
  • Penguin and Seal ecology
  • Astronomy, Astrophysics
  • Ocean currents
  • Seismic studies
  • Biodiversity studies in relation to climate change
  • Ice flow movement and fluctuations
  • Transantarctic Expedition
  • Ice Dynamics
  • Biology
  • Meteorological
  • Microbial ecology
  • Volcanic studies
  • Heliospheric and solar studies

What do we do?
McMurdo base can hold up 1,200 people. We currently number around 800. I believe we have two flights coming in next week that should dramatically increase our current population. When we get the entire main body of people for the summer season across the continent, our break down should be as follows:

  • 298 - NANA (Food, Recreation, Custodial, Housing)
  • 400 - Facilities, Engineering, Maintenance, & Construction
  • 8 – Environmental and Safety
  • 2 – Finance
  • 3 – Human Resources
  • 30 – Medical
  • 74 – Information Technology
  • 200 – Logistics (Cargo)
  • 470 – Operations (Fleet Maintenance, Mechanics)
  • 105 – Science Support (Field Guides, Marine Techs, Lab Techs, etc.)

All of these people support the 717 scientists who will work in McMurdo, South Pole, or Palmer stations from October through February. They won’t all be living here at once. Some will come for the entire season. Some will only be here for six weeks. Only certain individuals directly support the scientists. Because of that, there is a pretty big split between the two groups. To bridge those gaps, they have weekly science lectures to educate the support staff about what research is going on. Personally, I think I have only met one group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic who are studying altitude effects on sleep and injuries.

Last night, we were celebrating Meghan’s last night in town before she deploys to her field site, Black Island, for the summer. (John and Cecilia, Meghan is the one you fed your fabulous veggie burgers to my last night in town.) Black Island can hold up to fifteen people but normally only has a permanent body of two. Meghan is the cook. I believe the other person is a station manager. They’ll take a 24 minute ride on a Huey helicopter to get over there.

We started out at the bowling alley. Yes, there is bowling in Antarctica. I have no idea what the logistics or cost were to set up a bowling alley down here, but we have it and have it in Cosmic Bowling style.

Cosmic Bowling.

The bowling alley is only open during certain hours because it requires a manual reset of the pins. If it was good enough for Roy Munson, then I guess I’ll call it good enough for me. It is definitely weird to see someone’s legs pop down after you throw every ball. Mke sure to never confuse the legs for pins.

Hally’s striped socks getting ready to set up the pins.

There was one pin resetter for each lane and they moved amazingly quick to get everything ready. In addition to having their regular jobs, these people get paid extra and collect tips for setting up the pins on what should be their nights off. At the end of the night, they were even nice enough to stay an extra few minutes to let us finish up the tenth frame. I broke 100. Kevin destroyed everyone and almost got two turkeys. He was on fire.

Hally, said like Sally, setting the pins back into place and her co-worker in the background waiting for pins to be knocked down.

After bowling, we headed over to The Coffee House, which is a non-smoking wine bar. They only serve wine and hard alcohol, no beer. For beer, you have to head over to one of the other two bars. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and the only bar I’ll spend time in at the station.

The Coffee House

While at the Coffee House, I adamantly explained the benefits of Tim Tam Slams (thank you, Lindsey). It took a while to convince people to go get hot cocoa when they felt they should have been putting down alcoholic drinks. Finally, they relented and got to enjoy this taste Australian version of American smores. Basically, take a chocolate covered wafer cookie, bite the corners off, suck the hot chocolate through the wafer, and when you taste the hot chocolate, throw it all in your mouth to enjoy the chocolate mushy goodness.

Me, adamantly explaining the benefits of the Tim Tam Slam

Meghan sucking up the hot chocolate in her second Tim Tam Slam.

Meghan enjoying the chocolaty mushy goodness.

Finally, around 11:30 the Coffee House closed up and we said are goodbyes to Meghan.

On my way home, I took these two pictures. Keep in mind this is 11:30pm.

Outside of the Cardio Gym with the sun peaking out above it at 11:30pm.

Overlooking the power plant and Ice Runway at 11:30pm.


  1. I tried the tim tam slam last night with just those chocolate sugar wafers...not so much. kinda dissapointing.

  2. Tricia told us that you are supposed to do the Tim Tam slams with milk. I think hot chocolate sounds a lot more fun. Thanks for the tip :)

  3. I loved the Tim Tam slam when I was in Oz. I just got caught up on the blog, Brody. Sounds amazing so far.