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4 November, 2001

Life at McMurdo Station

Temperature: -11° C (12° F)

Wind speed: 7 knots

Wind Chill: -19° C (-1° F)

Sunday is a day off for most people. It is spent doing laundry, reading, or other recreational activities. Now that I’ve been here a week, I feel much more adjusted to the routine of McMurdo life. I have been getting a lot of email messages about what it is like in town, so I thought this would be a good time to describe the culture and daily life. Anyone here other than a National Science Foundation employee or a scientist is an employee of for Raytheon Polar Services. This is the company that is in charge of keeping the town running, making sure the scientists have what they need, and arranging travel in and out of town. Numerous people quit their jobs in the states and come work for Raytheon just to come to Antarctica. Everyone has a story to tell. For instance, I met a woman pharmacist who quit her job and is now doing janitorial duties here in town. It is worth it to her to just be here. Another woman is a chemist in the states and is now an administrative assistant. Their sense of adventure calls them to the continent. The station is a community of adults who work together to achieve one goal: to study various aspects of the continent to better understand its influence on our world.

The station reminds me of a small college campus. We sleep in dormitories with 2 people to a room and share a communal bathroom. Our meals are prepared in a cafeteria, called the galley. The food ranges from ok to very good. It is typical food that you would have. Breakfast consists of a choice of cereals, eggs, pancakes, and a variety of juices. We have a choice at lunch between deli sandwiches, soup, and a hot entry. Dinners are also typical of what we would normally eat and there are usually two choices. So far we’ve had barbeque chicken, lasagna, barbeque ribs, fried fish, and roast beef. Everyday there are fresh salads and fruits available (“freshies” in McMurdo lingo). I am taking great advantage of the freshies while I can because they won’t be here much longer. Soon, the air force will have to start using smaller planes and there won’t be as much room on them for fresh vegetables. We will take a supply with us on the traverse, but they won’t last too long.

Recreational activities are organized by Raytheon and are very important to keeping up moral. There is a small office of people just for this purpose. They recently organized a Halloween party, and they organize outings to the ice caves also. There is a gym here that has numerous exercise classes, volleyball games, bowling, and basketball games. A coffeehouse is available for evening get-togethers, and one night it sponsored a wine- tasting party. We can also rent cross-country skis and do a little exploring on our own. Every Thursday evening we are invited to go down to Scott Base, New Zealand’s counterpart to McMurdo. They have a much smaller station, and we are only allowed to go by invitation, otherwise we would run them over with people.

The community is very interested in what research is taking place, and lectures by the scientists occur about three times/week. Tonight someone is presenting his work on suiting penguins up with camcorders to record their underwater activity. Tomorrow night is the 2nd lecture in a series of 8 that will discuss the exploration history of Antarctica. I am parcticularly interested in going to this since I haven’t delved much into that aspect of the continent. On Friday evening, Cobi will discuss the ITASE expedition that I will be going on.

Other facilities here include a sauna (can you believe it?), an infirmary, a small store that is stocked with snacks, souvenirs, and videos for rent; a post office; and a fire department. There are no McDonald’s or other restaurants.

Home sweet home: my dormatory.

McMurdo fire station.

Chapel in the Snow overlooking McMurdo Sound.


The galley: lots of good food.

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