As I reflect back on my time in Antarctica, I keep thinking of all the amazing support staff that made my entire experience so amazing. For every scientist here, there are 5 more hard-working and super helpful people making that science happen.
I want to highlight some of the individuals here that don't get nearly enough praise for the work they do. Of course, most of these people kept avoiding my pictures so I will do my best to show you the amazing work they do!
The South Pole IT Department
Posting online every day from the South Pole is no easy feat. We only have internet when the satellites are visible above us, which is only about 8 hours a day. While I've been here, we've had internet from 2am-11am. Additionally, the bandwidth is pretty low so it takes about 10 times longer to load web pages, upload pictures, etc.
Christian, Luis, Kevin, and Paul have been amazing at getting me connected, helping me figure out tips and tricks, and setting up the live Zoom call! I seriously would have been lost without them.
I absolutely love food. And being down here, meal times are a major morale boost physically, and emotionally as we all gather to hang out. The staff here have been INCREDIBLE. We've eaten such creative and gourmet dishes from pad Thai, to Moroccan shrimp, to flank steak - just to name a few. Plus, fresh bread and desserts which is no easy feat at 10,700ft of elevation.
I got to know Zeke, Jen, and John and gosh was I grateful for them. Each day I looked forward to meal time and I was never disappointed. Not. Once.
Cargo, PowerPlant, Fuels, Vehicle Maintenance
So many people work to keep our station running - from the people who load and unload cargo, to the people who keep our vehicles and station running - there's so much we don't see on a day-to-day basis. Especially since a lot of these people work night shifts to make sure the station stays in tip-top shape! Courtney in cargo was the BEST making sure our stuff got where it needed, and even sent me home with some coveted "do not freeze" stickers which I'm so excited about. And Luis from the power plant is an AMAZING photographer and shared some great tips with me!
Due to the Antarctic Treaty, all waste must be shipped off the continent. This includes trash, recycling, chemical waste, and human waste! I met Claire on our way to McMurdo Station and the work she does is incredible! Plus, her job isn't over when she leaves Antarctica. All the waste arrives in California, where it must be disposed of by her team as well.
Clothing Distribution Center
I met Gary at the CDC(abbreviation) Clothing Distribution Center (or Centre as they spell it in New Zealand) to get my gear before even coming to Antarctica! He was super amazing at getting us what we needed - and showing me coats from the 80's that still used REAL coyote fur. Even though he's never been to Antarctica, Gary helps us with joy!
Okay the med teams are amazing. They do so much with so little and a ton of pressure! A lot could go wrong without them. Luckily, I have been super healthy while here! All I've needed were some blister bandaids after that strenuous 15 mile Castle Rock Loop. :D
George the Doctor is a super cool person! He has been to all three U.S. Stations and even spent a winter at Palmer Station. I loved hearing his stories of all the wildlife they see out there on the Peninsula!
And Aram made our endless COVID testing actually exciting. He was amazing to talk to and it turns out we even have mutual friends! The world is so so so small.
I met Graham and Tag while walking around McMurdo one night (it was 2am and I had no idea I had been out that long!) They are helicopter mechanics who work nights so the helicopters are operational when the scientists fly out the next morning! Even for all the people I meet during the day, there are whole hosts of crews I never get to interact with because they work a different schedule!
Power Plant and Water Plant Operations
Ivan works in the power plant, and Tom runs the desalination plant at McMurdo Station making sure all 1000 people (and New Zealand's Scott Base!) have power and water. The work they do is SO important and they were even kind enough to take time out of their busy work days to show me around! It was so cool to see the inner-workings of the station.
Opportunity is everywhere
The thing that sticks out to me from talking to and meeting all these people is everyone's sense of adventure. Every single person who told me their story mentioned that they were just going about their life when they decided they needed something different, and they wanted a change. It's so amazing to be able to bond with people of different ages, from different countries and ways of life, all over a shared sense of adventure and excitement! I am so grateful for each and every person I encountered, and I am holding them all with me. Quite literally!