I'm taking a break from racing things for a while to take advantage of an incredible opportunity.
I've been offered a job as a mechanic with the US Antarctic Program. At the south freaking pole. I'm supposed to facilitate science by fixing the science vehicles that the scientists use to science in. Or something like that. In any case, I leave Chicago is ten days. My goal is twofold: I have to fix stuff at the pole (because it's my job) and I am also going to attempt to document my travel to and from the pole, as well as my time there (because it's THE SOUTH FREAKING POLE).
Provided I can get both cameras and network connections to work down there, I should have regular updates. But first, a few questions I've been asked a lot recently.
What are you actually doing down there?
I work in facilities maintenance and fueling. My primary jobs are to work on light-duty vehicles (such as snowmobiles and small trucks) and to transfer fuel between planes, the station, and other tanks. My job also includes some records-keeping and other facilities maintenance. I've been told that I'll be doing many other jobs as needed, since budget cuts have stretched the crews pretty thin down there.
How many people live at the pole?
I'll be down for the austral summer season, which is when the antarctic population is largest. There will probably be a total of 150 people living at Amundsen-Scott station at the pole. In the winter, only 40ish people stay to maintain the facilities.
Summer? What does that mean for the weather?
Since Antarctica is so far south, it basically has only one day and one night each year. The summer is the daytime, and lasts about four months. In the summer, average temperatures will be around -45ºF, with a nearly-constant wind of 10-15kt. The highest temperature ever recorded at the pole was 7.5ºF, but getting positive temperatures is exceptionally rare. Still, it beats regularly breaking -100ºF in winter.
Can you bring back a penguin?
Antarctica is a surprisingly huge continent, and it does actually support many different ecosystems. Unfortunately for penguin-lovers, nothing lives at the south pole that wasn't flown in on a LC-130. Sorry.
How do you get a job in Antarctica?
You can actually go on the USAP Jobs Portal to browse and apply for jobs. Even the low-level positions are very competitive, but it;s certainly worth applying if you've ever had an inkling of desire to go way, way south.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment or shoot me an email. I'm looking forward to experiencing the bottom of the world and sharing as much as I can.
And maybe racing something down at the pole.