Another week is going by and I have still not been able to catch up on e-mails. Hopefully, I will be able to work on that tomorrow/today. Right now I am sitting as Troy and I wait to do our GA duties for the day. A schedule is working out. Today would be Friday. Mondays and Fridays I am a GA which so far means following Lance around and then finding a department that needs some grunt work done. Right now it is a beautiful 16 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside so we are going to be doing inventory. This is what I got to do on Monday with little warning and we FROZE. Imagine counting little plastic cups and syringes in 20 degree weather. Earlier, I had been so hot that I had traded out my work boots for my trusty hiking boots. At one time Troy and I stopped to do push-ups in order to warm up.
I have been getting a lot of questions about Antarctica, namely from one un-named professor. I printed them out and I am trying to find the answers. I thought that others might be curious about the same things so I will do my best to answer a few now. It saves me from having to think over my week.
What is the power source?
Not a good question to start with because I don’t know much. I know there is a power plant, that 3 generators power McMurdo and that there are massive tanks holding the diesel fuel. Those same huge containers that I have seen down south. They remind me of gigantic above ground swimming pools.
What about fires?
There is a complete fire crew down here with trucks and everything. There is insulated fire hydrants, fire alarms. You can dial 911 in an emergency, there is always a doctor on call and they have a real ambulance as well. Right now they are recruiting people for mass cusualty drills. If 4 people get injured at the same time the medical facility is overwhelmed. I might get to learn first aid. In fact, I just got to talk to the doctor and he says that they hope to train people to give IVs. Awesome. I told him about my dream to learn to give stitches, the computer room laughed at me.
What sort of science research is going on during the winter?
I’m sure there is weather reading and regular stuff like that but for the most part there is nothing. The winter people are just here to preserve the base during the time that no transportation is available. We’re all basically caretakers. This is also the time for improvements and changes. Sometimes there are construction projects but I don’t think there are much this year. This is also the time for supply to do their inventory.
What sort of winter sports and acitivities are there?
Well, there is a 3 person department that is here just to entertain the other workers. Bowling leagues have already started signing up, soon there will be dodgeball and volleyball leagues as well. There is also open basketball but I don’t know if teams are formed. We had a poker ternament this week, Troy came in second. I had my first yoga class, I helped organize the craft room, there’s women’s crafting circles, lots of knitting gets done, you can rent cross country skis and snowboards. It sounds like there is some snowboarding on Ob Hill although it’s against the rules. They don’t like people doing dangerous things. Right now Ob Hill looks scary to snowboard, it’s really steep and all volcanic gravel. There’s some hikes but you have to sign up, have someone with, bring a radio, leave a foot plan, and have completed a winter safety class. I found out that one of the hikes I did this week I was supposed to sign out for. Oops.
Does anyone get Seasonal Affective Disorder or Cabin Fever down there in the winter?
GOOD QUESTION. Answer:Everybody. Funny thing too, we newbies just learned about the “Toast List” this week. It’s an ongoing little speculation of who’s getting burned out, who’s going to go over the edge first and what-not. It sounds like everyone gets affected but you don’t really realize the extent of it until Winfly when the wave of new normal people arrive. They call the syndrome “the winter stare”. Where you just sort of lose ambition, lose focus and stare off like a zombie. Everybody is like that. I am curious to see this. REC is setting up a sun room to help combat that. It’s a place with full spectrum light, lots of color and they will even bring in some plants from the green house. They are also looking for volanteers to be peer counselars. It’s sort of strange to have the people you work with be your friends and mentors and customers.
I’ve noticed a couple more things that make this distinctly like no other place, there are no plants anywhere, not on desks, no palm fronds, no vines, no vases of flowers. They are around but they are all fake which seems more of a reminder that there are no plants. Most outside doors have freezer door handles or some sort of levered latch and I think it’s really neat that no matter how small the building is it will have an enclosed entry way which is always unlocked. I love the idea of a storm suddenly coming up so strong and so bad that you have to duck into the nearest doorway to wait it out. They tell you that that happens too.
This week we started out GA duties. I got to see more of McMurdo, see people at their jobs instead of handing me their dirty plates. Troy and I happen to have both of our GA days together, we unloaded the food order for the kitchen on Monday and on Friday we helped supply with inventory. I already told you about that. There is a computer system, Mapcon of something. Absolutely every supply is assigned a number, is placed somewhere and then it is documented in the computer system where they are. It’s really neat to see it in action. The down side is that every item has to have it’s number written on it by someone and once a year somene has to go and make sure the stuff is where Mapcon says it is. All right, I’m distracted. I am going to go and hopefully I will write again soon. I was trying to figure out how to put pictures on my blog. Emily is going to help me with that some time. You can see how long the shadows are getting. We’ve had some great weather and some not so nice stuff. For the first part of the week the windchill was always at least -30 below. Yesterday it was 16 with no wind and we thought it was beautiful. Talk to you later.