"Great God, this is an awful place!" ...Robert F. Scott
What are you, nuts?"
That's basically how conversation go whenever the subject of my adventures in lands far south begin.
People often ask me, "what the hell ever possessed you to go to Antarctica?" The answer is both simple and somewhat obvious plus there's a bit more to it than just that.
I suffer from a major case of "ants in my pants", an inability to sit still for very long. Having spent basically my whole life traveling and moving about, one can almost guarantee Antarctica was a logical choice for me. After all, at age six I came to America, at age 9 we moved houses, at age 12 we moved again, at age 16 once more, at age 19 I joined the Air Force and moved 8 more times in 26 years. I've been to Brazil, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Andorra, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. Go on, tell me. What's missing? Yep, the South Pacific/Antarctica and Africa. OK, Russia, China, India, too, but give me time!
So about a year or so post retirement I'm cruising the internet and spot something about Antarctica. I set the bookmark aside. After my Pacific Coast bicycle trip in late 1998 I was in the mood for something to do in 1999. Browsing, browsing, browsing, mucking about aimlessly. Seeking an adventure.
Then I get an email in January 1999 from a friend who had a strange looking email address. I thought, "Hmmm, where the hell is he now?" So I wrote back asking same. He responded—Antarctica! "What the hell?" I think. So I email him asking if I could call. He says, no can do, Inbound phone calls are restricted. So he calls me. I'm hooked! I dig out that bookmark (yes, I still had it), find out there's a job fair in April in Denver, book a flight and got hired several weeks later as a warehouse supervisor.
Now, for those of you interested in possible employment in Antarctica, check out www.polar.org
Also, take a few minutes and continue reading to get a feel for what to expect. What you will read will be part personal observations detailing day-to-day life intermingled with snippets of information that help you determine how things work down there.
To begin with, if interested in employment, you will need to fill out an application. Also send a resume and cover letter to HR. If you know the department you want to work in, try and find out who runs it and call them at least once a week after they've received your paperwork. If you wait for them to call you then opportunity may pass you by. Remember, thousands of people want to work there. Have a skill. Have an interest. Be persistent.
Let's say you apply (no real need to go to the job fair as I was involved in hiring during a summer stint in Denver and many folks had just faxed or emailed their info to us.)
So then you get a phone call and are selected for the first phase of "weeding out." Congrats!
The company requires a complete physical the comprehensiveness of which is determined by one's age. The older you are the more bodily orifices need to poked and prodded. Full dental workups are also required. Once determined to be PQ'd (physically qualified) the company provides the traveler with airline tickets to Christchurch, New Zealand (you keep the frequent flyer miles.) In Christchurch, lodgings are provided for which you pay out of the daily stipend you receive.
While in Christchurch, orientations are given as well as a wheelbarrow full of Arctic gear (mittens, gloves, boots, socks, long underwear, fleece jackets, parkas, hats, etc.) Any delays in Christchurch result in more per diem which, unless you insist on staying in 1st class hotels, easily covers lodging and food.
On Ice, housing, laundry, and meals are provided. Out of pocket expenses? Drinks at bars, souvenirs on station, additional toiletry type items, etc. More to follow later so stay with me.
My other motivations to go to Antarctica? Well, since I'd asked if bikes were allowed to be shipped over and was told they could be rented at the Recreation Center, I knew I'd be among the few in the world who could ever claim to have cycled in Antarctica
So, ready? Here we go: (Be forewarned. The following is taken from journals I keep on my adventures. I am not a "writer" in the sense that the story flows as a narrative written in the third person. What you will find is that the style may jump around a bit and you will obviously be able to tell where I've lifted straight from the journals and where I've inserted more current information. You'll also see that I "rant" a lot. Sorry, that's just how it goes. Stay with me and I think you will enjoy reading it.) Also, throughout the journal you will find links to other articles dealing with science "stuff" which I've put on a separate science page. Links at the tops and bottoms of most pages can take you directly there if you do not feel like hunting for them throughout the journals.
Copyright: Vilmar F. Tavares 2005