It is hard to believe that I have been here for nearly two weeks already. We all seem to be settling into our jobs and the pace of life at Scott Base. We have become familiar with the layout of the place and no longer turn in the wrong direction when moving from one building to another. It’s hard to describe what the base is like. From afar, it stands proud with its infamous ‘Chelsea green’ paint job perched on a peninsula. Inside it’s a little retro in places but functional. Long corridors link each of the buildings, making it feel like one big building. As we all live, breath, eat and work in this place there are spaces set aside for work but there are also spaces for recreation. We have a gym, bouldering wall, movie theatre, library, arts and crafts space and a sitting/ reading room just off the dining hall. The accommodation is shared bedrooms, which might come as a surprise to some people. The rooms are compact, maybe 2 by 3 meters, but comfortable. Typically, each room accommodates two people. They have bunk beds, a series of draws, a few shelves and a wardrobe. It’s tight but it all fits.
Above: Scott Base with its view of the ocean. Below: View of Scott Base out of the window
Life here has its similarities to home but it also has some stark differences. For one, it takes about fifteen minutes to gear up and go outside for an extended period of time. The extreme weather boots take a couple of minutes to put on alone. But the gear is needed when it’s -30 degrees Celsius outside. Another notable difference is the static electricity. It is really dry down here which, unfortunately, means lots of static electricity. I probably can’t count on my fingers the number of times a day I am zapped. In order to try reduce the big zaps you end up touching the metal strips on the walls every now and then. It can be a little torturous sometimes when you feel like it’s going to be a big one. The vacuum cleaner has to be one of the worse things for giving you large shocks. However, the most important time to remember to discharge yourself is before touching electronics else you might fry them. With the dryness also comes the need to drink lots of water. Juice, tea, plain water it doesn’t matter just keep drinking at every moment you get. On the topic of water, water conservation is also something that you have to think about. All water on Scott Base comes from sea water. The sea water goes through a reverse osmosis treatment plant, which is a really cool process but energetically expensive and there are limitations to how much the plant can produce. Perhaps one of the more pleasant differences about base life is the food. We have two amazing chiefs that produce really delicious food, which is fantastic, you never have to cook for yourself but some serious self-control is needed if you are not aiming to gain weight. Personally, I haven’t found it too challenging to adjust to these differences. For me, the biggest adjustment has been the amount of effort you have to put in to going outdoors but this will get less as the summer moves on and the days warm.
Above: Sunrise. Below: Sunset.
So, what does a typical day look like for me at Scott Base? My job itself is fairly straight forward, its physical but we have a good routine and the days pass quickly. My working day starts at 8am. After our morning meeting, we tidy up the dining hall then are into cleaning all the bathrooms, these get a full scrub down every day. That usually takes us most of the morning. After this is done the dining hall gets a full scrub down and then it’s on to our other weekly and daily tasks. These tasks might involve vacuuming hall ways, dusting etc, pretty much what you would expect. Work finishes at 5pm and dinner is at 6pm so this small window of time I often use to catch up with emails etc. After dinner there has been a range of things I keep myself occupied with. One more regular activities I engage in is bouldering on our small but adequate wall. Other activities over the past couple of weeks have included listening to a talk by one of our American neighbors about living in the Artic, visiting our American neighbors over the hill and even aroura hunting. Unfortunately, the aroura window didn’t last very long. We lose about 15 minutes of darkness a day, that’s an hour in four days! It’s no longer truly dark in the night and before long we will be in 24-hour sunlight.
Above: Kiwis enjoying the view from McMurdo. Below: Sunset from McMurdo
On our days off we are free to do as we please, for the most. Currently, we are not allowed to venture away from base without a field guide and outside around base we must have a buddy. This won’t last however. After we have done our field training this week we will be free at last. On my first day off I did the pressure ridges walk. The pressure ridges are formations in the sea ice caused by the rising and falling of tides and movement of water underneath. It is pretty cool to think that you are walking on the ocean. This might change over summer and what is now a white mass could disappear, it depends on the year. Yesterday was my second day off since arriving. While I feel like I should have been enjoying the outdoors instead I utilized the movie room. I have been very busy over the last couple of weeks and had something going on every evening so I thought this was a good opportunity to rest up, the season is only going to get busier. All in all, I am very much enjoying my time here so far. I love the social aspect of the base and consider myself lucky to be calling it home for the next little while.
View of Mt Erebus from preasure ridges
Mt Erebus lit up by the evening sun