Archive for the ‘Antarctica’ Category

Another Brief Update

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

I’m writing from Ontario, California, where the parking lot of the Denny’s nearby is full on a Saturday night.

  • I did not apply for work in Antarctica this year. I want to be home for a while. (Even as I enter my second week of a six week road trip…)
  • I’m headed next to Albuquerque for a 5-day panchakarma treatment at the Auyervedic Institute.
  • Still not sure who I am voting for. (If you want the correct English, I think it would be this: Still not sure for whom I am voting.)
  • Today, this very day, I saw for the first time the Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon video “I’m fuckin’ Matt Damon.” I must be getting old.
  • I’m really enjoying life these days, except for being a little run down. There’s so much to do, who has time to sleep?

Antarctica Update: Standby

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Well, things couldn’t be better. I accepted an offer as an Alternate. I passed my medical and dental qualifications (PQ), my background check (marching in a few protests didn’t mess me up), and all the other stuff they do.
Getting past all these hurdles is great news. Although it doesn’t make sense for me to go to the ice this year, I am much closer to going when it does make sense.

Day Trip to Denver

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

My 12-hour trip to Denver was certainly not ecologically justified. There’s no way to justify it, but I went anyway. I am applying again to work in Antarctica.
On Friday, April 13, I flew from San Jose to Denver for the Polar Services Job Fair. I had already applied for the job I wanted, Computer Tech, plus a couple of other backup positions. The purpose of going to the job fair this year seemed to me to prove my level of interest in the job and in working in Antarctica. I learned what I needed to know last year at the same fair.
A light, non-sticking snow was falling in Denver when I arrived. I made my way, with some difficulty founded on bad directions, to the suburban Centennial building. I talked with the people I needed to, including some people for backup positions, hung around a bit, then headed back to the airport. I caught an earlier flight back to San Jose and that was that.
The job would be working for Raytheon, who is the contractor for the services for the National Science Foundation. Raytheon’s not exactly in alignment with my values, but the world is not a simple place.

Polar Services Job Fair – 2006

Monday, April 10th, 2006

I learned a lot attending the Polar Services Job Fair:
- Income in Antarctica is taxable.
-Dishwashers & Dining Room Attendants have it pretty hard.
-The community is tight, like the backpacking community: some people who had worked on the ice before came to the job fair like former hikers go to the ADZPCTKO. It’s a way to get a fix, to see old friends, and be with other wierdos just just like me. Or in my case, just like I want to be.

I drove from South-Central Denver to nowhere, otherwise known as Centennial, a horrible place where nothing is at human scale. Falling snow contributed grey dreariness of the place.
This was my second job fair. This time, I really wanted a job. When I had first conceived of working in Antarctica, I thought, “Hell, I’ll wash dishes if I have to. I just want to go.” It became less true as I discovered that I could use other skills, like my computer skills, to get paid to have an adventure. Then the perfect job came across my inbox: Computer Tech. It’s what I do now with only one stretch. An easy-to-learn stretch.

I made my way past the orientation to the IT desk. I’d heard that line at the Polar Services Job Fair could be 2 hours long. My early arrival and specialized skill saved me a wait. I heard nothing but good news. I grew encouraged and got a great reality check: It’s definitely possible that I could be working in Antarctica this season.

People who go to Antarctica fall into two distinct camps: Grantees and everybody else. Grantees are the raison d’être for everybody else. Any country’s presence in Antarctica can be, by treaty, only for scientific purposes. The US presence is through the National Science Foundation, which generates grantees. Everybody else is there in support of the NSF. It seems it’s pretty much a one to one ratio.

The US has three main places (bases? outposts? stations?) on the southern-most continent: McMurdo, Pole Station, and Palmer. McMurdo is a small town and the point of embarkation for other destinations. It sits on the edge of the continent near where many early explorers started: the Ross Sea. In season (October-February) McMurdo has around 1200 people. The Pole Station is at the geographic south pole, and in season has about 250 people. Palmer is much smaller with about 80 people in season. Palmer is on the Antarctic Peninsula, the long part that reaches toward South America. All three are occupied year-round, but the numbers during the long winter drop significantly.

I had assumed as a first-timer and by numbers that if I got a job, it would be at McMurdo. Not the case. I could get a Pole assignment. I’m not sure what I think of that, but my adventurous side is very excited.

The IT hiring process:
-Apply online for job
-Get a phone interview
- In-person interview
-Offer
-PQ
OK John, I was with you until PQ.
This process and the whole Antarctic experince is full of acronyms.
Physical qualifications are a broad set of exams and reviews, both medical and dental.

All this will be happening while I’m on the trail, so it should be interesting.

More to come…