Stickers, Icebreakers, TV Shows, and the Air National Guard…oh, and an Interview


Someone on Reddit sent me a free sticker from McMurdo. Super fun. It’s the cover image for this post!

I have a new pal at McMurdo! His name is Fernando. We began talking because I listed a tent (okay, a rather large tent) for sale on Instagram and he messaged me stating he was interested but wouldn’t be back stateside until late February. Low and behold – he was currently living in Antarctica! If you want to know more about his adventures, he has a blog here. The internet has been slow this year so he said he hasn’t posted much but he does in years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

Knowledge / Research Update

I’ve been following the Antarctica Reddit boards religiously. Here’s what I’ve learned recently:

  • McMurdo internet is 17.5 mbps down and 9.5 mbps up
    • That’s the bandwidth for the entire station
    • Yes, for over 1000 people
    • … wonder there’s no streaming allowed and people complain about posting photos on their blogs
  • The Polar Star, the heavy icebreaker that comes to visit each year, is soon to be out of commission. This will have dire consequences on the Antarctic program if we don’t wither build a new one or contract out to the Russians.
    • It was supposed to be retired 10 years ago.
    • There was a second icebreaker but it died…. so now we only have this one shitty one
    • The Russians have 40+ icebreakers
    • “A 2016 Congressional Research Service report called for six new icebreakers, three medium and three heavy, in order to carry out mission needs. At one point, the Coast Guard had as many as eight icebreakers before they started breaking down over the years. If Congress doesn’t allocate funds for new heavy icebreakers before 2020, the country could see itself without a vessel that can clear channels in the Arctic. It also means McMurdo research station would be without its main resupply ship.” source
    • It could cost $1B to build one icebreaker and could take a few years to design and then 10 years to build… meaning even if we started now we might now have one before The Polar Star has to retire for good
  • To ship items to Antarctica costs the same as domestic (it’s like shipping to Colorado) because it’s an APO address.
    • Letters can usually always get through on the planes but packages are shipped from NZ on a “space available” basis. If weather has been bad and flights have been cancelled for a bit then packages can sit for a few weeks before making it over to the ice.
  • Fox is currently working on a new show called “Thin Ice” about an NSF employee who takes a job in Antarctica among “a group of brilliant misfits”. Speculation states that once this show hits the air (this fall) that McMurdo will be flooded with applications.
    • I HAVE to get a job this year. Competition is going to raise.
    • Fudge.
    • Also, I can’t wait to watch it!
  • The first year it’s recommended to accept all ECW gear. In following years you can deny the parts you want to use your own gear for.
  • If animals are on the runway then a plane can’t land – there aren’t fences around them like there are in the US.
    • It’s against the Antarctic Treaty to disturb animals. However, there are people in base that are trained/allowed to “convince and herd” animals off the runway without touching them.
    • There have been a flights delayed from taking off because wildlife was on the runway.
  • If I bring my DSLR I should get a telephoto lens if budget allows. (spoiler alert: it didn’t)
  • USAP participants are subject to rules about accepting payment for personal activities on the ice, and about how they publicize their experiences.
  • I don’t actually have to worry about having sides on my sunglasses – normal ones will work fine as long as they’re 100% UV.
    • Also I should avoid metal frames.
    • They recommend orange or yellow tints
  • McMurdo now receives flights once a month in the winter but this will be stopping next year most likely due to budget cuts.
  • The McMurdo greenhouse and the bowling alley no longer exist.
  • The NFL is a thing, with caveats.
    • Reddit says “For McMurdo: During the regular season it’s a long-shot. They broadcast a Thursday night game, three Sunday games (early/mid/night), and MNF. There’s a SportsCenter broadcast here as well so you can at least catch highlights. Playoffs all get broadcasted, but as zewdwvu pointed out, you’ll likely be working during the broadcast since US Sunday is our Monday. If so you’re pretty much out of luck without a way to record.”
    • McMurdo gets the Armed Forces Network TV stations and radio station
  • Humidifiers are issued, there are enough for every room during a winter-over. The penguin shaped ones are the best.
  • I should bring actual pseudoephedrine as they often run out of it in the winter and only have “crappy” phenylephrin
  • The Air National Guard is responsible for flying in and out of Antarctica for the US Antarctic Program, and they have their own dorms. They are probably the only military in McMurdo, and also I believe they tend to rotate in and out pretty quickly.
    • It’s the New York Air National Guard, the 109th
    • Very few officers outside of the Air Crew deploy to Antarctica
    • If you want to go to the ice you should look into jobs in MXS, Supply, Aerial Port, or Life Support
    • Most of the guard are there for two week rotations and a few stationed for longer periods (i.e. half of the summer season)
  • Someone wrote a book about life at the South Pole. It has a website here.

Okay, Okay, Demeter… what about the job front?

I like to keep this blog somewhat current but at the moment I’m just kind of playing the waiting game. There’s not much going on in the hiring world except “wait and see”.


As I was writing this I received an email.

Talk about timing.

I have an interview with PAE!

What’s the position?

Carpenter Apprentice

Performs hands-on carpentry tasks on maintenance and construction projects as needed in Antarctica.

GENERAL DUTIES (not all inclusive):

  • Maintains a safe workplace program and ensures safety is the highest priority in the work place.
  • Performs rough framing and finish carpentry utilizing a variety of materials and tools.
  • Advises Supervisor on job progress and material requirements.
  • Assists Carpenters with various carpentry tasks.
  • Complies with all Environmental Safety and Health and Quality Assurance requirements and goals.
  • Performs construction related tasks in and around undeveloped and remote areas as well as in adverse conditions.
  • Maintains and updates inventory records and materials usage.
  • Coordinates materials and support from other departments.
  • Performs tasks requiring repeated heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, digging, hauling, standing, walking, kneeling, stooping and squatting.
  • Works outside on various job sites in extreme cold weather conditions as required.
  • Performs other duties as required.

I’m so excited. Fernando told me the carpenters apprentices often get the chance to travel a lot too which is awesome. They often visit the top of the volcano (Mt. Erebus) or all the different field camps, etc.

My only concern is that all my “carpentry” experience comes from contract work with my father since I was a young child and working at Home Depot… though if that’s enough for them then heck to the yes.

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