Question from Sean M:
Do you get paid for your work or are you a volunteer? Do you have any days off? What do you do on your days off?
Many of the scientists here need extra helpers for their research projects. Most of these projects are very specialized and require people who have been studying for many years in their chosen field. Scientists generally do not have a large budget to hire extra field workers. Students from the scientists own universities are taken on as volunteers to help with the research projects. These students will volunteer their time and work hard for the scientists in exchange for hands on experience and education. This works out very well for both groups, and for all of us who benefit from learning more about Antarctica and our world.
Unfortunately I am not a scientist or a student any more so I have to find jobs that will pay me. We work very hard here as the summer season goes by incredibly fast. Since the sun never sets while I am here we can work 24 hours a day. Many departments have 2 shifts one working from 7:30AM until 5:30PM while the other works from 7:30PM until 5:30 AM. We work 6 days a week and most of us get Sundays off to relax.
Our one-day off each week always disappears way to fast. When I first came down I was amazed as to how many activities were available for when we are not working. Inside we have many games to play and videos to watch. We even have our own bowling alley. Its not like the ones back home though. We have to set the pins back up by hand and roll the ball back after each bowl. There is a small gym where we can play basketball, floor hockey, indoor soccer, and volleyball. Personally I like to get outside every day as long as the weather is not too nasty. Near the station we can cross-country ski and hike. A bit further away we can explore the old huts that Scott and Shackelton used on their quest to be the first people to reach the South Pole. One of my favorites is a visit to some ice caves. The icicles and ice crystals are incredibly beautiful. Here are a couple of shots so you can see them also.
Question from Kelsey:
Does Antarctica have whales?
There are indeed a lot of whales that visit Antarctica. The oceans surrounding the continent are full of krill and other foods that many whales depend on as a food source. Currently we do not have any whales near us here in McMurdo. Whales are mammals and need to breathe air to stay alive. As the ocean surrounding our station is currently frozen over the whales have not visited us yet. Later this month 2 icebreakers will be working hard to open up a channel through the ice. This will enable our re-supply ships to reach McMurdo. Penguins, seals and whales also take advantage of this new opening and will swim right up to our station. These pictures were taken last year while on the US Coast Guard Icebreaker, Polar Sea. This year we have a lot of extra ice due to the shifting of an iceberg named B-15, which is currently about the size of Delaware. Normally the icebreaker has to crush through about 30 miles of ice to reach McMurdo. This year the open ocean is 80 miles away. In order to get through all the extra ice the Polar Star will be joined by her sister ship the USCG Polar Star.