Triumvirate of kickass

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.

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3 thoughts on “Triumvirate of kickass

  1. Ah, Chris. And I thought you couldn’t get any crazier! Silly me.
    But in truth, it is men like you who make advances in knowledge possible. If everyone was in their right mind, we’d still be living in caves. I am very proud of you and your willingness to go where few ever go. Like your dad, there are no limits except those we impose on ourselves. Congratulations! And I hope to see you in September, and raise a glass in your honor!

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  2. Hi, Chris. I just read the article about you in Jesuit Today magazine. I’m an ex-83 from Dallas Jesuit, having attended 9th and 10th grade there. Great piece on your adventure – I hope you have had the chance to read it too. It sounds like we have a few things in common, Jesuit being one of them. I am a Navy Undersea Medical Officer (MD) and am currently a serving member of the Medical Review Panel for the National Science Foundation’s Polar Programs. I visited McMurdo and South Pole in January 2015 on behalf of the NSF to conduct a site visit and make recommendations. Glad to see there will be a PA at South Pole this summer. Congrats on your selection. I just got back from a visit to Greenland Summit Station on a similar mission, and we had a NASA representative with us. The Mars mission is a fascinating challenge and you will indeed be helping to make that happen with your support this coming season. I’m sure you were involved remotely with the MEDEVACs from South Pole. We were following that situation closely too. A great accomplishment to safely extract those two personnel. There’s always the chance for excitement anywhere in Antarctica. I hope to be joining the team again this Fall for a site visit over to Palmer Station to finish the Trifecta. We will not be heading to the Pole again from there though. Sorry we won’t get to meet. Glad to see Jesuit grads out doing great things and making a difference. Have a great rest of your winter-over and good luck this ‘summer’. – v/r, Ted Waters

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