Polar Services Job Fair – 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…

One Response to “Polar Services Job Fair – 2006”

  1. Cupcake says:

    I never followed up. I got an interview for an Alternate position. I had the interview from a ratty hotel room in New Mexico while starting my 2005 CDT hike. I found out later that I did not get the Alternate position.