The Nitty Gritty

I expected that people would be curious about the romantic, beautiful, butt-ass-cold aspects of Antarctica and so far, that has been the case. However, there has also been a growing curiosity about the day-to-day living. It’s really none too shabby just yet.

The first week I was here I was in the main building, Bldg 155. The galley, station store and sauna were all located in 155. It was also right across from the clinic. I debated staying there, as it will make getting to the clinic in “Condition 1” a little easier. Condition 1 is epic shit weather. Low to no visibility, very cold and very windy. Condition 1 means you’re really not supposed to leave the building you’re in. Condition 3 is unrestricted movement. It could be -70 with no wind and good visibility and still Con3. But, I opted to switch into a different dorm that has individual sinks and shares a bathroom between two rooms. Whoever was in mine prior to me put a lot of effort into blacking out the lone window. Which I appreciate at this point of the year. The vent blows cold air for some reason and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I’m going to do about that. My new building is about a 5 minute walk to the clinic. Which is 5 minutes too long in -70F. That’s cold.

Currently, clinic hours are 0730-1730 Monday through Saturday, aka “Town Hours.” Most activities shut down on Sundays. ‘Tis the Lords Day. And people need to day drink. We haven’t decided on what winter hours will look like, but likely will be along the lines of 0730-0930, 1300-1500 we will be open. Otherwise you can just page us. Things that need doing in a US hospital are usually sorted by an entire team of folks. Radiologist read the Xrays that radiology tech takes. Phlebotomists draw the blood that the lab tech puts into the machine. Down here, it’s Ken and I. I shoot my own Xrays, draw my own labs. There are consults available, but it means filling out a request, emailing that to Texas and waiting. We can send pictures with a phone, ipad, etc of weird derm stuff and ask for a consult. Xrays have about a day turn around for a radiologist read. But until then, it’s all on Ken and I. Gonna be a steep learning curve. Then there’s also laundry, equipment checks, taking out the trash etc etc. Two people to run the whole clinic. During the hours we’re not “open” I’ll be off doing something else. One of my projects is weather.

I’m an alpinist and being an alpinist means I’m very reliant on accurate weather interpretation. Which I am no good at. Bad weather can turn a weekend mountain trip into an “epic” or a “suffer fest,” both of which I would prefer to avoid. So, to that end, I made friends with out weather forecaster and am we are sorting the when/where for weekly weather interpretation lessons.  There’s also the gyms. All three of them. Two are pretty close to the clinic, so should work out pretty well for me. The climbing gym is about 5 minutes from the clinic and 7 from my dorm.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner all have plenty of options. Food outside normal breakfast, lunch, dinner times is basically perfect drunk food. Fresh pizzas are available pretty much round the clock and the waffle maker is always ready to go. Pizza and waffles. Anytime. Ain’t so bad.

The bar has darts and music equipment. People start bands down here for something to do. Pretty high end drum set, so I may start playing again. The other bar, which is now a “lounge” doesn’t serve booze anymore, but has tables set up for playing cards. The bar bar also has free video games. One has about every video game from when I was a kid. I’m not a big gamer, but it’s been fun. And there’s only two or three buttons needed for most of them.

Sundays are open. After brunch of course. So yesterday I hiked up to Castle Rock yesterday. It’s about a 7 mile loop with a scramble to the top of Castle Rock proper. We are not allowed to climb the rock once winter officially hits, but the loop stays open year round, or at least year round when it’s Con3. It’s mostly snow and ice. I spied a few areas that may develop some ice climbing potential, so I’m keeping a close eye on that. From the top of Castle Rock, you’ve got an amazing view of Mt Erebus and where the sea ice meets the open water. My watch read 23F yesterday and it was inside my down jacket. So basically 23F INSIDE my jacket. Which, somehow, wasn’t all that bad. Hard to imagine folks doing it 100 years ago in wool sweaters and empty bellies. Word from the Firehouse when we checked back in was that we were the only team that made it yesterday. The handful of others opted not to go to Castle Rock because it was too cold. It’s Antarctica! What did they expect???


So that’s basically the nitty gritty. I’m fed. It’s warm enough indoors. There’s a gym and a library. Winter is definitely coming (first sunset since October was two days ago), so we’ll see how it all shakes out.


(There’s a link on the bottom of the home page to sign up for email notifications of new posts if you want. I’m working with the maestro, Dave, to make it more obvious)


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