WE'RE HERE! We've landed, we're (partially) settled, and we've almost stopped hyperventilating at all the beautiful, blinding white surrounding us.
We're already a couple weeks into settling in here, and as I had worried, internet access is what one might call...limited. Think of a normal home's bandwidth shared by four or five people. It's frustrating when the internet slows or your Netflix is constantly buffering, right? So consider sharing that same amount of bandwidth with 850 other people. A bit of a struggle, I'd say. So sadly, these updates will be few and far between. But! We have the time now so let me fill you in on what I've been up to and how everything works!
I live and work at McMurdo Station, which as I said earlier, is one of three US stations on the continent of Antarctica. There are two other: Palmer station which is located near(ish) the coast of Chile and is a bit warmer and has more wildlife and a much smaller staff. The third is the South Pole station located just about 100 feet from the geographical south pole. It is freezing no matter the season and is also a very small staff as opposed to McMurdo. Where I work is a station of about 850-1000 people (depending on how many scientists, visiting dignitaries, etc. are passing through) and I will be working during the Austral summer. You may think that because we're in Antarctica it must be freezing all the time! But in reality, the temperature sits generally around the mid-to-high 20s and because it's so dry here, it actually is much more comfortable than the temperature would have you believe. It's not uncommon at all to see people wandering around the station in a t-shirt or a pair of shorts! At McMurdo, we all work under the large umbrella of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and are here solely to support the scientists' and their work. During the austral summer there are about ten field camps located throughout the continent, with their home base at McMurdo. Their work ranges from deep core drilling to collecting samples in various valleys to deploying long duration balloons (LDBs) that remotely send cosmic information back to the camp to intimate the universe's true beginnings. Very humbling and crazily interesting stuff.
As I mentioned before, I am a steward and my hunch was correct: I split my time between being part of a small janitorial staff and working in the galley (aka the kitchen). I've had a hard time really relishing the work that we do, but the people, the sights and of course, the science, make it well worth the hard work. And it is very hard work! A normal work week is six days, 10 hours a day. To those scoffing at my mere 60 hours - don't worry - I once worked 75+ hours a week at three different jobs and it was nowhere near as exhausting as one week here; it's the real deal. On our days off so far, we've basically been relegated to bed just trying to catch up on sleep and regain the energy spent throughout the week. I feel confident as the season goes on that we'll be more energetic and active with our down time but we have to allow our bodies to adjust to this bizarre climate and sleep and water are the only things that help! Also, one fantastically, wonderfully, huge perk to working in the summer is there is 24 hours of daylight! It's bright and sunny all day, (almost) every day and though I thought it would take some getting used to, I don't miss the night at all! I may be singing a different tune in a month or so but right now I love that even at 3 am after watching a movie in the darkened coffee house I can walk outside and have to shield my eyes from the sunlight.
Anyhow, I'll stop chattering and show you some photos! That's the point, right? So, although we've spent almost all of our time off in bed watching movies, we did manage to go on a little trek with a new friend, Hannah, up Observation Hill (lovingly and cleverly shortened to ObHill). It's within McMurdo base limits and it's a large hill that takes about a half hour to climb but the vantage point is spectacular.
It was a quick jaunt up and an even quicker jaunt down as we basically just slid on our butts down the snow-covered mountain! You'll notice I have nothing but a sweater and some jeans on - it truly is really beautiful weather! Our small hike was a great intro into Antarctica and I couldn't be more excited for the next adventures we embark upon.