Sunday, January 06, 2008


A lot of people down here have a lot of strong opinions about what is and is not working down here. Others just have a strict view of fairness. This past week, that flared up when a couple distinguished visitors (DVs) came to visit. I'm not sure who the entire party was, but it included Bob Inglis from the 4th district of South Carolina and Brian Baird from Washington's 3rd District.

A bust of Admieral Byrd on the back of the Chalet.

DVs get to stay in Hut 10 which is a small version of your house back home. They have a private, kitchen, bathroom, etc. The regular dorms have none of these amenities. Other people also make their own beds and take out their garbage. If you were coming to visit would you want to see how the people who make it all work actually live or have it a little cushier? If we didn't have DVs, we might not have Hut 10 at all for all I know. It is great that we do have it though because when they aren't using it, the base fortunately makes it accessible to us for small gatherings. This coming week we are holding a dinner for Annie Farris' 40th birthday there. She is one of the best people down here. So much good energy and so much to share with others.

When DVs come down, they usually to flown to the best places to truly see Antarctica. These include the Dry Valleys, the South Pole, the Cape Royds penguin colony, among many other great spots. Most people down here see one or none of those places their entire season. There are people who have been here for a few years who haven't been to any of those places. You only get to go if you have work to do or if you get lucky enough to do a morale trip. I can see where people get grumpy, but at the same time if we don't show the DVs our best, then they may not push so hard to keep funding for this place. It's politics, same as always.

The Dry Valleys that never freeze in Antarctica. Just 40 miles away physically, but much farther when it comes to getting a chance to go there.

The reason it flared up this week was that DVs don't always attend Happy Camper school or the Outdoor Safety Lecture, which we need to be able to go outside and recreate. However, one DV was allowed to go out hiking without anyway. Not only does that put him at risk, it puts our Search & Rescue team at risk who would need to go after him. Another reason for flare up was that a DVs son who happens to be here got to go to South Pole outside of the normal channels - essentially resulting in the favoritism that they put in a system to avoid. I know some people are even reluctant to talk about the fabulous trips they get to take because other people get jealous.

Happy Camper school where anyone who could be stranded on the continent learns to fend for themselves using just their survival bags.

Personally, I can see why people get irritated, but it is what it is. We knew what we signed for before we came here. Everything else is just a bonus. In the following picture, I'm not sure if the bag is that of a DV or just happens to be brand new. The jaded folks I talked to suggested that the DVs would all have brand new Big Reds and bags. The bags and jackets I saw matched this description, but it also could have been by chance.

The issued bag of a DV (left) vs my bag (right)


  1. We love your blog! A no nonsense report from Antarctica with beautiful pictures - and the problem with the "DVs" is not just going on down there, right?
    We are actually some of those "DVs" as we are 'cruising' Antarctica right now and get to see penguins tomorrow and already have been at the South Pole. But you have to come over and check it out - it is NOT quiet what you might think!
    Do you mind if we include you and link to your blog?
    Karl and Ruis

  2. Wow - what a fabulous blog - i think you may get invaded by cat bloggers now, two of our main characters from the Cat Blogosphere are in your part of the world and are spreading the word:)

    i thought that was who you referring to when i read your first paragraph!

  3. We've just discovered your blog through Karl and Ruis. We are finding it very interesting,particularly the Fata Morganas, and the photos are great.

  4. We love your blog! We being Momo, a cat and her SS (secretary-slave). SS was briefly in your part of the world many years ago in a Soviet research vessel but never actually lived there like you do, although she had friends who did.

  5. You guys need to come back in for a visit. I'm pretty sure cats would be very well recieved on base these days. Perhaps, you can catch a ride on one of the cruise ships that will be down in late January or early February. -Brody

  6. Ah, politics and the necessary evil of pandering to the people that sign the checks. Don't sweat it, Brody. Same thing occurs every where else in the world. Antarctica wouldn't be any different.

    By "big reds" I'm assuming you're talking about their jackets, etc? So does everyone that come to Antarctica for the first time stand out like a newb on purpose? I think I'd bring a more weathered looking jacket if I were to visit. Don't know where I'm going to find cold weather around these parts, though.

  7. Aaron,
    If you come to work here, you don't need to provide your own cold weather gear. They provide it for you in the form of ECW (extreme cold weather) gear. That includes the Big Red jacket.

    Few people own a jacket like that back home because you would never need it so they just use what they are given instead of wasting their money on something that they can be given. However, they have their own jackets for when the weather is a little warmer and then they don't look like a new guy as much.

    During the colder parts of the season when almost everyone is wearing their Big Red, you have to learn to recognize people by their gait.