Yearning for Antarctic Adventure

I saw this technical piece written a while back by a guy stationed in Antarctica. The article is more about writing code for a weather monitoring station than a description of life at the station, so you might want to pass on it if you’re not the programming type. Anyway, the author Alex Gough mentions that he is the only computer scientist for 500 miles, and that caught my interest.

I’ve always been fascinated by Antarctica, so Alex’s piece made we wonder how I could trick the government into paying for me to travel there so I could play with penguins and sit through six months of darkness. Yes, I’d really love to do both of those activities.

So, I took a peek at the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic web portal. The site has extensive information on the continent, past and current research projects, and job/volunteer opportunities. There are a number of funded projects, but I was most interested in the Antarctic Artists & Writers Program. That effort offers a unique opportunity to visit Antarctica and “document America’s Antarctic heritage.” A free trip and a chance to enrich the future? Score!

I did a little more research and found that most of the researchers down there tended to get a little stir crazy with heavy emphasis on “crazy.” A few people at McMurdo Station engaged in some Jello wrestling to pass the time. I saw that others joined the 300 Club whose members run naked from a 200F sauna into -100F weather and do a lap around the South Pole. Not only does a participant’s temperature drop 300 degrees, but it happens across all 24 time zones.

I still want to head south and imagine I’m a reincarnated Ernest Shackleton, but until I get that NSF grant, I’ll just have to turn up the A/C and shut the blinds.