The Finer Points of Shoveling

There's a lot of snow in Antarctica. It comes from the sky, it blows around, it compacts, melts, and freezes. And inevitably, it ends up in places you don't want it to be. There is a huge amount of heavy equipment at McMurdo that has the sole job of moving snow to more convenient locations, but many things can't be plowed or cleared with a loader. And for those situations, we have the old faithful, ever-functional shovel. There's always shoveling to be done. Stars outside your dorm have some death ramp 2000 action going on? Shovel them out! Can't open a door? Shovel it out! And if you're a fuelie, all your small pumps need to be dug out. All our hoses need to be dug out (and we have miles of them). We do a lot of shoveling, and so I've learned a lot of lessons about shoveling. Here's some of the standouts:

  • There are lots of shovels here. They live in the places then need to be shoveled a lot.

The coffee house drifts in a lot. You can tell by the three shovels that live outside the door.

  • That being said, the one time you don't bring a shovel with you, there won't be one where you're going.
  • Shovel with your legs, not your back.
  • If you're shoveling in a hole, kneel. The load is all on your arms and shoulders, but it prevents you from using your back and ends up being way more comfortable than standing.
  • If it hurts now, it'll hurt a lot more in eight hours. Take it easy.
  • Shovel smart, not hard. If you can, break off large chunks of snow and pick them up with your hands. You can move a lot of snow in not a lot of time that way.
  • Plastic shovels are the physical embodiment of everything that is wrong in the world.

That pump and all its hoses used to be buried.

  • Try to put things where thy'll be less likely to drift in so you don't have to shovel as much.
  • Never underestimate the capacity of a few fuelies with shovels.
  • Stretch. Tomorrow you will be thankful.
  • Dress in layers. Even when it's far below zero, you'll be working up a sweat. And the last thing you want to do in the extreme cold is sweat.
  • Take it easy. If you're down here, you'll be shoveling for a long time and there's always more snow. Don't rush and you won't get hurt.

I find shoveling here to be quite enjoyable. Unlike clearing sidewalks back home, there's a sense of accomplishment when I look back at what I spent the day doing and see equipment looking back at me or a gigantic trench higher than my head.  It's also serving to get me back in shape after sitting around in college for a while. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have hoses to find.

Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin

Machinist, Welder, Driver, Adventurer, Mechanic, Always smells like something flammable.