We are coming towards the end of the Winter. The sun is getting close to rising again. Meal time discussions have shifted from whatever the next event is to post-ice plans. Winter is followed by “Winfly”, which will see a tripling of the population and ultimately by “Main Body,” which will see a population explosion. Main Body is summer.
Winter-overs are becoming noticeably more “burnt” with each passing day. The pauses between words are lengthening, while vocabularies are shortening. People, more than just “losing it” are admitting to “losing it.” The energy brought by the 20 or 30 new people on the last flight is a premonition of things to come. Summer is vibrant. People are energetic. And tan. We are none of those things. But anyone is more tan than those of us who have spent the winter on the ice. Even the pastiest of my Irish cousins are more tan than I am. Winter-only opportunities are shutting down. October is right around the corner.
I won’t be here to witness it. I’m leaving my little ice-community early. Initially, my contract was until October, at which point I had planned on traveling for a bit. Africa was to be my 7th continent. But it will have to wait. I’m leaving the ice early because I have accepted another position and will need some time off ice to recuperate. In October, when I should be getting off the ice, I’ll be getting back on the ice. I have agreed to work at Amundsen-Scott station – the South Pole (“Pole”), about 850 miles from here and 9,000ft above sea level. It is the land of one sunrise and one sunset per year. I’ve been told to expect temperatures in the -60F range when I’m first on station – and that doesn’t factor in wind chill. Why would anyone want to go to Pole?
During most summer seasons, medical at Pole is one physician. I am, obviously, not a physician. But a few weeks ago, I got an email from the program director asking if I would spend the summer at Pole. Funding for an additional provider had been procured and they wanted me. How was the program able to come by the additional funding?
With a little help from NASA.
NASA wants to conduct research at Pole for the manned Mars mission. So I will be providing medical care to the “Polies” as well as facilitating NASA research. In the future, we will put a person on Mars. And I will have helped to get them there.
South Pole. NASA. Mars.
I feel like that should answer any questions about why I would want to go to such a harsh environment.
South Pole. NASA. Mars.
I’ll be back in the States by September.