South Pole is Spook Country

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Originally posted by CuspTech:
Well, we have about 250 people here during the summer. I'd guess maybe 2/3 are support staff and the other third are "beakers" (as is the Ice slang for grant-funded researchers).

I don't know of lots of violence between personnel down here. If anything happens it's probably between people who've had a bit too much to drink and/or between jilted ex- and current boyfriends.

Claustrophobia is a bigger problem in the winter when there are no flights for 8-9 months, and you are absolutely going to be nowhere but here (and spend most of that time in the dark).

If somebody irks you, it can be hard not to bump into them repeatedly down here. You really have to watch your behavior, since the workplace is the living place is the recreation place.

Anyhow, I'm actually going to be leaving Pole for a bit less than a week in the near future. Another science tech and I are going to head off to the higher and colder Gamburtsev Province, where at 3,500 meters we will be installing an autonomous magnetometer project that is currently here at Pole. It's hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away, and is just out in the Flat White. We're both amazed we'll be getting the opportunity, and it will be great to finally get to go work at a deep field camp.

Take good pictures!!!
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Claustrophobia is a bigger problem in the winter when there are no flights for 8-9 months, and you are absolutely going to be nowhere but here (and spend most of that time in the dark).

What would happen if someone lost it?

Say they had passed all the psychiatric testing but went buggo like Michael Biehn in The Abyss?
Cusp, found this on BoingBoing:

Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica , By Nicholas Johnson
Is it the pristine but harsh frontier where noble scientific missions are accomplished? Or an insane corporate bureaucracy where hundreds of workers are cooped together in hi-tech communes with all the soul of a suburban office park?

Welcome to Big Dead Place, a grunt's eye view of America's Antarctic Program that shatters the well-worn clichés of polar literature. Here the heroic camaraderie and romantic desolation give way to sterile buildings populated by characters like a crazed manager who fills his boots with antifreeze, the greasepaint obsessed worker Boozy the Clown, ghosts that haunt the food freezer, and horny employees who grab rare private moments coupling on the altar in the Chapel of the Snows.

The Foreword is by Eirik Sønneland, who claims the longest unsupported ski trek in the continent's history. Also included is a glossary of Antarctic slang and bureaucratese, and 16 pages of color photographs.


http://feralhouse.com/titles/kulchur/big_dead_place.php

Also excerpts here:http://feralhouse.com/press/bigdeadplace/excerpts.php
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Originally posted by UberDog:
quote:
Claustrophobia is a bigger problem in the winter when there are no flights for 8-9 months, and you are absolutely going to be nowhere but here (and spend most of that time in the dark).

What would happen if someone lost it?

Say they had passed all the psychiatric testing but went buggo like Michael Biehn in The Abyss?


Right, that's why that is a concern for any mission to Mars. That's also why NASA is now funding research on how to detect early signs of depression in astronauts (after the "space love triangle" mess).
I don't know what the protocol for somebody going off the deep end down here is. In the winter it would pose a huge problem, because the population is small enough that there isn't a lot of redundancy in the staffing. We don't really have any padded cell to throw a nut-case into should the need arise.

Somebody was just talking about reading some papers they'd found online about the psychological research done on us polar inhabitants and how that is extrapolated out for long-duration space flight psychological recommendations. I don't know the name of the researcher, but there is apparently one person that has really taken that topic under their wing.

I'll do my best to capture the field camp experience around swinging a pick-ax to get our science cargo installed into the ice sheet.
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Originally posted by psyclone:Right, that's why that is a concern for any mission to Mars. That's also why NASA is now funding research on how to detect early signs of depression in astronauts (after the "space love triangle" mess).


You might have a problem with space if:

You are buying adult diapers for fun.

You are fatasizing about killing you rlover with a butter knife.

You thing the space shuttle is a big penis.

You aren't getting on with HAL.

Your Wookie doesn't growl at you anymore.

You just had dinner with John Hurt.

You think you're better than a Nexus Six.

You get wet when you hear about "the Picard Maneuver."

You're Harlan Ellison.
Yes, it happened. I'm not naming names, especially since I didn't know either of the guys. I don't know the source of the conflict between the two. Yes, people had to work on their holiday, and there was naturally some complaining about that. But I worked as well, as I do every day.

In general, there is not light snow falling here at Pole. We only get ~20 cm of snow per year, and most of the accumulation is due to wind-blown drifting. The temperatures at Pole only got up to around -7F, and have since returned to the -15F to -20F range, which is certainly not anywhere near freezing.
And thank you for your concern ArkanGL.

I have no inclination to get myself kicked off the Ice and out of work whatsoever. Besides, being on-call for fire brigade every day doesn't leave any room for alcoholic beverage consumption, at least in my adherence to policies down here.

I didn't get to read any of the articles about this medevac that showed up in the press before the internet went down, but heard tell about them at lunch yesterday.
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
In general, there is not light snow falling here at Pole. We only get ~20 cm of snow per year, and most of the accumulation is due to wind-blown drifting. The temperatures at Pole only got up to around -7F, and have since returned to the -15F to -20F range, which is certainly not anywhere near freezing.


Funny that. Almost every time I have personal knowledge of the subject of a newspaper (or these days... webpaper? Cyberpaper? Shudder.) article, the article gets something wrong. Often trivial little details like that, but it could almost make one distrust the media. Wink

In this case, I suspect the writer used some reference to the "climate of Antarctica," as if Antarctica was a town and not a continent.
Exactly, Colin. I feel your media-driven pain. Working in the space and science fields I see a whole lot of poor reporting.

Given that most people you talk to when off the Ice tell you to look out for the polar bears and say "hi" to the Eskimoes, I wouldn't say your average person's knowledge of geography, let alone specifics concerning Antarctica, is very accurate. And, yes, a lot of people also assume South Pole means the same thing as Antarctica, but the continent is over twice the size of the contiguous U.S.
quote:
Originally posted by colin:
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
In general, there is not light snow falling here at Pole. We only get ~20 cm of snow per year, and most of the accumulation is due to wind-blown drifting. The temperatures at Pole only got up to around -7F, and have since returned to the -15F to -20F range, which is certainly not anywhere near freezing.


Funny that. Almost every time I have personal knowledge of the subject of a newspaper (or these days... webpaper? Cyberpaper? Shudder.) article, the article gets something wrong. Often trivial little details like that, but it could almost make one distrust the media. Wink

In this case, I suspect the writer used some reference to the "climate of Antarctica," as if Antarctica was a town and not a continent.
Maybe it was more a metaphor for the "psychosocial climate?"

OK, it wasn't, but still, it could have been.

Cusp, as fire brigade commander you were negfligent in not hosing down your coworkers. When I saw Girls Gone Wild: South of the Pole Edition that's what they did.

How you ever going to get your own GGW T-shirt now?
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
Exactly, Colin. I feel your media-driven pain. Working in the space and science fields I see a whole lot of poor reporting.

Given that most people you talk to when off the Ice tell you to look out for the polar bears and say "hi" to the Eskimoes, I wouldn't say your average person's knowledge of geography, let alone specifics concerning Antarctica, is very accurate. And, yes, a lot of people also assume South Pole means the same thing as Antarctica, but the continent is over twice the size of the contiguous U.S.
Do they aske you about the Mountains of Madness and the eldritch horrors therein?
Well, since we don't have any water-driven fire suppression devices, except for the sprinklers in the elevated station, I don't think folks would get as big a kick out of a dry-chemical extinguisher shirt contest. Everybody would just end up looking like a powdered donut.

No questions about the Mountains of Madness and the eldritch horrors therein. Lots of what do you eat, isn't it cold, what do you wear, did you see (dancing) penguins... It's actually fun to talk to kids about down here, and to see what sort of things they are curious about.
Well, we're contracted for 54-hour work weeks, but there's this rider in the contract about "Performs other duties as assigned" that makes pretty much anything game for you to be required to do. I have been averaging between 85 and 90 hours a week, so have almost another regular week's worth of overtime piled atop my contracted basic work week.

In my small amount of free time every day I have tried to get some sleep, but usually not nearly enough. I've been working out a lot to keep in shape for any instance should I have to do a patient extraction from a fire/emergency scene. It's tough work at 11,000 feet, believe me. I've been reading some, usually as I try to wind down before that illusive sleep I mentioned earlier. I have Rosetta Stone software for Russian that I'm trying to study on a regular basis. I also get in what seems to be a ridiculously small amount of socializing with other folks around the station.

In general, at least in the summer here, it can be pretty hectic and non-stop work. I gather that things slow down a lot once we close the station for winter.
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The week before some Star Wars fans, including me, got together and took photos in a jedi robe and wielding a lightsaber. The pics all got photoshopped together, and the organizer is going to try and get it sent in to Star Wars Insider (or some such fan mag).


Nerds conquer Antarctica!

"Next time, you be the back end of the Taunton (sp?) costume!"
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Originally posted by CuspTech:
Let's see, motivations (in no particular order):

Remove myself from the rat race

Add my name to the list of <1,200 people who have spent a winter at SP

See the aurora australis

Feel what -100F is like

Work with science on the Ice

Get good long-duration isolation experience that is applicable to manned spaceflight

Leave the Ice again, find myself in the Antipodes, and get to take another great trip back to my side of the globe

Free room & board

Good food

Good company

Clean air

Why not?


Especially that Aurora Australis part. Yea mon.
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
In general everybody is pretty busy down here. They try to get as much work out of people as possible during the summer while the station is accessible. My schedule is a bit of an exception to the rule, I guess.


THis is also the single best way to keep y'all sane, I think.
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Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
In general everybody is pretty busy down here. They try to get as much work out of people as possible during the summer while the station is accessible. My schedule is a bit of an exception to the rule, I guess.


THis is also the single best way to keep y'all sane, I think.


Kenmeer, you're absolutely right on that account. Probably the biggest warning I got from the outgoing science techs was to keep busy and avoid boredom over the winter at all costs. They said it really was the best way to-as Ice lingo puts it-become "toasty", which doesn't go you or the station community any good.

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