Antarctica Dispatch

Journal of my Antarctic experience working to support the United States Antarctic Program.

VA Tech


I don't think I need to repeat the news information on this horrible incident. I remember back to 1999 when I was working for US West in downtown Denver when the Columbine shooting took place. There were some people at work from that area so it was a bit difficult for people to be productive.

Now this thing happened. Wow! Probably many reactions here were, "Well I'm glad I'm down here, away from all that craziness". However, Antarctica has had its share of craziness. Years ago at the Russian Vostok station, one of the men killed another over chess, one of the galley staff here at McMurdo attacked a co-worker with a hammer, which some attribute to 'Polar Madness'. I guess that's why we don't have guns down here.

Probably the worst part of this whole tragedy is the mind-numbing news programs that talk about nothing. About our only reprieve is we get BBC which puts a different spin on things than the US centric MSNBC, CNN, & FOX.



I opened my dorm door to find the Easter Bunny visited me and left a bag of goodies! In fact every door had a bag in front of it. How thoughful of someone. It just goes to show you what kind of a community you're in.

Among the festivities were Church services and egg coloring, in this case one of the bald guys here got his head colored as an Easter Egg.

I spoke with my Dad who mentioned there was snow back home in Texas. Amazing! Well here's what it looked like outside.

Dish Pit


I thought my days as a substitute Dining Attendant (DA) were numbered after leaving the South Pole. You'll probably find the most educated people working as DAs or janitors down here. There's not much work for people with a PhD in Literature in Antarctica, so if they want to experience it by working down here then sometimes the most unsatisfying jobs are about the only way to get a foot in the door. Here's one site I found about one person's experience as a DA - Antarctica Diary.

Don't get me wrong, someone has to clean the pots, pans, dishes, etc. I did it last year. Because of it's size McMurdo has more DAs and janitors, but this year with the reduced population to save $$, we only have 2 janitors and 1 'Lead' DA so everyone's taking a 4 hour rotation in the 'dish pit' every month. This is much better than at the Pole where we were assigned the whole day, but then wisely divided our shifts with other people so it wouldn't be so long.

At the Pole it was expected that everyone helped with cleaning the station and working in the dish room. For some it was a day off of their regular work, but if something went wrong with the Network, there was only one person to fix it - me. After a grueling day in the Dish Pit, I was physically exhausted. I'd be hard pressed to do it day in and day out. One guy during the summer down here made a video for the Film Festival. It showed someone waking up, dressing, going to work in the dish room, going back back to the room, undressing, and going to bed. Quite sad.

Still I think it helps us all appreciate what it takes to feed us, and in that sense makes us a bit equal. Some people would say it's an expensive waste of human resources such as having a medical doctor doing dishes.

Here's the job posting for this marvelous position:

Dining Room Attendant

Raytheon Polar Services – Experience Antarctica

Seeking a unique adventure as well as employment? How would you like to be one of the few people on the planet to have the opportunity to live and work at or near the geographic South Pole? Raytheon Polar Services is the primary contractor for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) U.S. Antarctic Program. We are currently looking for Dining Room Attendants to deploy to McMurdo, South Pole or Palmer Antarctic research stations for various periods of time.


Responsible for providing customer service and performing duties that support efforts to produce and serve high quality food.

Displays a commitment to providing exceptional customer service, as outlined by the Supervisor, Food Service.

Performs daily tasking in an efficient and thorough manner, as instructed by Dining Room Attendant, Lead.

Stocks/replenishes all ancillary food items and non-food items, as detailed by tasking sheet, during and between meal hours; monitor quantities of items used and adjust stock levels according to usage.

Responsible for preparing and chilling sufficient beverages and frozen dessert mixes to support usage by the community.

Coordinates with Cooks to ensure timely transfer and scraping of dirty pots to pot-washing area.

Able to work in a team unit composed of diverse personalities.

Displays self-motivation in physically challenging and atypical work environment.

Performs other duties as required.


Education: A minimum of a High school education or equivalent.

Experience: A minimum of six months food service waitstaff and/or bussing.

Ice Radio


One of the nice things we have down here is radio, real radio. We've got two official stations: 93.9 FM & 104.5 FM, which are affiliates of the Armed Forces Network. A few of us 'happy campers' put on radio shows. Brian (a.k.a. 'Moose') and Matt host a show Saturday nights called 'Redneck Radio'. Don't ask me why they called it that, but its becoming an institution.

The whole setup is pretty archaic. The control board is old and must have a short in it because when you try to 'queue' a song the background leaks through the speakers. Instead of mp3 files on a computer we've got shelves of CDs along with vinyl records believe it or not!

Still it's cool to have something like this. I'm even considering taking up the opportunity to DJ myself.

Why are we down here...oh yeah...Science.


Every once in a while there's something to remind me what it is that I'm doing down here. Yes it's a job, and a Network Engineer is a Network Engineer almost anywhere else, but I was out at a remote site today bringing a Cisco switch online when I noticed the following label on a piece of equipment.

At the South Pole (a.k.a. 'Pole') the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has a buried monitoring station 8 km away from the station to listen for nuclear explosions. Seeing this notice made me realize again what the heck I'm doing down here - supporting the further pursuit of science. It's easy to forget that at times. Some days it's just the 'grind', but then you remember why the United States government has a presence on this cold, remote piece of rock.

Sandwich anyone?


Life down here is a bit surreal. During the hustle and bustle of summer you'll see people wearing clown wigs around, grass skirts, 70's retro clothes, etc. Thank God there are a few of those 'free-spirits' around else life might be too boring down here.

Take for instance Allie, otherwise known as 'Sandwich'. She carries around a 'Peter Pan' lunch box she picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents everywhere she goes. No she's not weird, just setting herself apart I guess.

Note 'ears' on hat

This is her first winter down at McMurdo, but she's done two previous summers. Check out her site, read her journal to get a different 'spin' on things, and write her a note.