The difference in how we live down here to normal peoples existence is not that great, there’s a range of small things we do differently to the rest of the world that probably stand out as being a little quirky but I’ll try and explain what those things are and why.
Showers – We’re allowed three times three minute showers a week, the problem with that is that it takes a minute and twenty seconds for the temperature in the shower to stabilize enough to get in, you don’t get long….The water supply here is generated over the summer by collecting and filtering from a tarn of ice melt water at the back of the station, we store hundreds of thousands of litres of water, all of which must be available quickly in the event of a fire – During winter we must look after our supply in a heated pump house, we have thirty minutes to respond if the power goes out as the water will freeze.
Static Electricity – Antarctica is the driest place on earth, all moisture is frozen and static electricity cannot dissipate in the air, walking down a corridor and then touching a metal surface will usually result in a massive ‘zap’ and some Tourette’s of one form or another – The place that gets us all best is the stainless steel sink in the mess, that thing is nasty!
Vehicles – We have a range of different vehicles on station, some are now put in storage for the winter but the utes must be parked with the handbrake off because the handbrakes will freeze ‘on’ if left, you must also park them with the rear of the vehicle into wind as the ‘blizz’ buildup under a bonnet can cause problems. blizz is just fine powder and is micro thin – It can get into any spaces in the same way water can….You do not want to leave a vehicle’s window open overnight or you will be handed a shovel in the morning and told to find the gearstick…
Food – The last orange was eaten this weekend, that’s the last of the fresh fruit until November. We do have our own hydroponics building where we grow our own salad and this is maintained by all of us on a weekly roster where we go and look after all our happy plants…(Adam talks to them a bit too much…) – We also have our own breadmaker which is my nemesis…I love the smell of warm bread but I’m also aware of the carb content in bread…Meh!
Fort Knox – This is where the alcohol is kept locked away, every Friday after work it gets opened for half an hour and we all make a mad dash to get our allowance and return to the bar to unwind after the week. 1630hrs on a Friday is the best time to ask anyone for something you need as everyone is in an extremely good mood. We also brew our own beer on station which is a big group effort once every few months – The quality of the beer is actually pretty good but can sometimes vary in strength as some have found much to their detriment.
ERT Roster – Given that we have exactly 21 people on station we have the luxury of having three rotating ERT (Emergency Response Teams) – Each week a select group of people will stay on station in standby mode ready to respond to a fire or search and rescue of others. they remain sober 24/7, they have their fire equipment ready and in position, they have a survival pack in place ready to leave the building within 10 mins so they can support and rescue in the field for a self sufficient 24 hours. there is monthly training on both SAR and Fire to keep people up to speed.
Hydration – We are always dehydrated, again the air contains no moisture so you have to drink lots of water to keep on top of it or you get dried out, sadly one of the conversations is around how bad our ‘blood bogies’ are in the morning – the more blood boogers, the worse you are…
Gloves, Hat, Radio, Sunscreen – If I leave the building without any of the afore mentioned items I will likely be in trouble within about 5 mins, I’ll usually notice within a millisecond of opening the door that I’ve forgot my hat or gloves and go back in to get them however, without my radio I’m out of contact with people and without my sunscreen I’ll get burnt in about 30 mins if the sun is out – Zero ozone down here, very fierce burning if it gets to you – you also need to put sunscreen around and inside your nostrils as the sun reflects off the snow and back up your nose, that’s where I start to burn first.
Penguins – I have to remind myself every time a penguin runs up to me (Because they do, they don’t fear you) that whilst I’m waiting for them to go away so I can continue walking that I am getting an experience that someone would pay tens of thousands of dollars for. We are not allowed to approach them so if they run at you from the direction in which you’re travelling you just sit, wait for them to check you out and then slowly stand up and leave.. They are the oddest of characters, not that bright and rather smelly when living in a colony.
Pee and Poo – When out in the hills we pee in orange bottles and poo in bags, we bring them back to station and dispose of them there, nothing is left out in the environment. Seeing someone coming back from a few days walking you would be wise not to accept a black bag that they offer you as it will likely contain a ‘king kong’s finger”.. Any offers of orange bottles containing ‘lucozade’ should also be avoided.
Navigation – Compass deviation down here is massive, Mag North is 77 degrees west of True North, get that messed up in your calculations and you’ll know about it very quickly I can assure you. Visual reference is very quickly lost when up on the glaciers too, we have strict waypoint lines to follow to avoid falling down any slots (crevasses).
Going for a walk – Something I take for granted back home is my own time to be able to put on a pack, head to the hills and have some time for myself – Here we must travel with someone else at all times, which makes sense I know but it can be limiting, especially if you want to get out for a weekends walking and nobody else does.
Mobile Phones – Mine has sat in a drawer since I’ve got here, it has wireless access but that is it – We have become very dependent on technology to stay in touch, too a degree I’d say too much, not one person here walks around with their head down ignoring you because they’re looking at their phone, an all too common sight on the streets of most cities these days.
Money – So, I bought $500 cash with me….I’ve just checked my wallet and guess what…I still have most of it here. We live in a cashless society, we have nothing to buy and nothing to sell, it reminds me of days past on expeditions or on outdoor education center’s where everyone earnt the same and nobody was more or less important than anyone else, it’s a nice way to live, money is not important, who you are, how you act and how you help others is more important than money – Something modern society could take a lesson from 🙂
Till next time