I am off to work in Antarctica again! In 4 days! The last few days have been crazy preparing for 5 months away from civilisation. My home will be Scott Base, a New Zealand research station sitting on the frozen shores of McMurdo Sound, 3500km south of New Zealand.
Currently the forecast on arrival day is -35℃. Just 7 days ago I was in Tonga enjoying the tropical sun!
In this post I am going to try to answer some of the questions you are thinking right now….like WHY I am going to live in a freezer, and the HOW, WHERE, WHEN questions.
Scott Base is located on the bottom of Ross Island, just 3km from USA’s McMurdo Station. It is 3500 km south of New Zealand and 1350 km from the South Pole.
First of all, how is this possible? Well I have been lucky enough to be offered a job with Antarctica New Zealand who runs Scott Base. It has been my dream job for a long time! In March I applied online at the Antarctic NZ website. A month later I got a reply thanking me for the application and informing me that they wouldn’t be hiring me this year. No surprise…. In May I got an email asking for an interview for a standby position. I had the interview in June, on Skype, while I was at home at Gorge River. Then at the end of July I was offered the standby position but still didn’t really think it would come to anything. Finally on the 31st of August I received an email that basically said… “What’s the earliest you can be in Christchurch??” Before I could answer my Tongan SIM card decided to stop working for a day….I couldn’t even reply!
I hitched a ride off Nomuka Iki, a tropical desert island that was my home for July and August and headed for New Zealand. After 36 hours of travelling time I met my sister Robin in Queenstown and we flew out to Gorge River for 2 hours to see Mum and Dad. This will be the last chance to see them for 5 months! Next morning, half asleep and jetlagged I arrived in Christchurch to start work!
So I will be in Antarctica from the 20th of September until the 22nd of February. About 35 staff go down to Scott Base for the 5 months and just a few very keen people stay on for the crazy dark Antarctic winter.
Previously I had the chance to work in Antarctica on an expedition ship. That takes 8 days in the Southern Ocean to get there. This time I get to fly! All the flights to Scott Base go from Christchurch. I will be flying on an Airbus A319 plane and it will take 5 hours. The plane can only take about 50 passengers because it has extra fuel tanks to fly all the way to the ice. Where do we land?? On the Pegasus Ice Runway. I can’t wait for the feeling of touching down on the ice!
This year the staff on the first 2 flights down will be restricted to just 11kg of baggage. We have to wear all of our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing on the flight. Why? Because there is no heated terminal and we step off the plane to be met by -35℃ conditions! Brrrr!
Antarctic New Zealand have kitted me out in a full set of clothing designed to withstand anything Antarctica will throw at me. The clothing list includes 4 warm jackets, 11 pairs of gloves, 3 pairs of boots and much more.
My home will be Scott Base. Started in the late 1950s, it is now home to around 80 people in the summer months and just 12-14 in the winter. It is a series of buildings connected by tunnels so you don’t have to go outside! Super important! Inside it is warm and dry. Actually, did you know Antarctica is the driest place on earth and static electricity can be super annoying? You must ground yourself before touching your phone or camera.
We have internet connection via satellite, but because of the band width there is no YouTube or Skype. No Wifi either; just the base computers. Luckily I will be able to post lots of photos on my @wildkiwiadventurer Facebook page and a friend back in New Zealand is going to post my pictures on Instagram for me. (No Wifi=no Instagram you see.)
What about food? As you have probably guessed there is no food grown in Antarctica so everything is flown in from Christchurch. The base has two fully qualified chefs and the biggest challenge is fresh food. Sometimes when there hasn’t been a flight for a while there just won’t be any. But that’s just one of the hardships that makes it interesting!
My job?? I am a Field Training Instructor. There are 4 of us in total and we work alongside two people who are Field Support. Our main job is to train the scientists and other people who come down to Scott Base on how to survive in Antarctica. Apparently we will be taking them to a campsite 3km from the base and camping a few nights with them on the ice while teaching these skills. Once the scientists have been trained they go off into the field to do their studies. If they are still not competent, one of the field trainers may go with them to support them in the harsh Antarctic environment.
I will also be a member of the local Search and Rescue team and will be a helping hand for anything going on around the base or in the field.
I have been lucky enough to work in Antarctica three times already. It is my favourite place and the most beautiful place on Earth. No words can properly describe it. The vastness is overwhelming. It is almost perfectly untouched by man. Everywhere there is snow, ice and rock.
And yes there are PENGUINS! If Antarctica is famous for one thing it is these amazing, clumsy little animals that somehow survive in the harshest conditions on earth. And OMG! they are cute!
I am really hoping to see the Aurora Australis in late September. I am not sure if it is possible but we shall see. Imagine the whole sky in curtains of green shimmering waves….
One word: COLD. It is forecast to be between -33 and -42℃ on the day we will arrive. However it’s not always that cold. In the middle of summer it can be relatively warm; perhaps above 0℃. I have seen people wearing T-shirts in Antarctica, but rarely.
The wind is always a factor too. Scott Base can be prone to a very cold catabatic wind that flows off the high polar plateau that can be strong and cold. With the wind-chill factor temperatures can plummet well below the actual reading.
I hope that answers a few questions about my upcoming work in Antarctica and what my next crazy adventure really is! As mentioned above, the internet connection is slower down there. However, I will do my best to make regular posts, especially by email.
This is my third trip to Antarctica. You can read about my last trip here.
If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to my blog on the right hand side of the page. I have a friend who will help me with my Instagram and I’m going to make some awesome videos to post on my @wildkiwiadventurer Youtube channel when I return in February. Those who are subscribed will go into the draw for a postcard from the bottom of the world! I can’t wait! … Bring it on!!