I’m going to Antarctica…again!
(If you haven’t read my About page then you may not realise that I’ve spent quite a bit of time working in Antarctica over the last ten years. And to be completely honest with you, all of these blog posts are a little bit late as I’ve already spent the winter in Antarctica and am almost ready to come home again. I hope that you still enjoy reading about my experience here.)
THE ANTARCTIC TRAGIC
I’m what you would call an Antarctic Tragic. After my first season working on the ice, as we call it, I decided that this was definitely something that I really enjoyed doing, or more specifically, somewhere that I really enjoyed being. I’ve now been south on seven different occasions and still haven’t tired of the experience.
You see, there are two types of people that come back from their first trip down south. The first are those who only make the one trip. They’ve had an amazing experience (hopefully), but they have no desire to go back again. They’ve ticked Antarctica off their bucket list, they have family that they don’t want to leave for that long a period again, or they want to get on with their careers back in Australia.
The second are those we affectionately call the ‘Antarctic Tragics’, myself included. We just can’t get enough of the southern most continent and the ice calls us back time and time again. We love the cold, the wildlife, the spectacular scenery, the small community, the amazing people, the adventure, the isolation, and the harsh, but beautiful environment.
I’ve tried several other careers over the last ten years. Somehow, none of them have lived up to what I’ve experienced in Antarctica and so I keep returning.
SUMMER VS WINTER IN ANTARCTICA
Up until this year, I’ve been what’s known as a ‘summerer’. There are two working seasons in Antarctica – the summer and the winter.
The summer is busy. It’s when a lot of the major science projects and maintenance/building works are done on station. It’s warmer and the weather is more stable, most of the snow has melted, locations of scientific interest are accessible, and many of the antarctic animals are active.
During the winter, at it’s simplest, it’s basically a matter of maintaining the station until the next summer, when the science projects start all over again.
My experiences in Antarctica have, until now, been over the summer period, usually from November until February/March. During this time the station population is usually around 3-4 times the winter population.
My summers have been spent at the Australian Antarctic stations of Casey and Davis. At Casey, the station population often reaches 100 people or more. There’s usually a lot of frenzied activity over the summer – trying to fit all the work and research that needs to be done into those few short months. Often while the weather works against you.
Before you know it, the summer is over and you’re back in Australia. Usually, I’m already planning for the next summer season and filling in the months between with travel. However, there was always the idea in the back of my mind that I still hadn’t ticked a winter off my bucket list.
FINALLY, I’M A WINTERER
Ever since that first summer I spent in Antarctica ten years ago, I’d toyed with the idea that I’d like to do a winter on the ice. However, I was limited in job options. The role I usually performed in summer was specifically needed only in summer. There wasn’t a winter position, unlike many of the other roles.
Fortunately, I realised that there was another role on station for which I had some of the qualifications required. There was still hope! It took a few years and a few rounds of recruiting before I finally managed to get the job, but it did happen.
Ten years after my first voyage south to Antarctica, I’m heading back in one of the coveted wintering expeditioner roles. It’s definitely going to be an experience to write home about! 😉
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I'm currently working in Antarctica, at Casey Station. Follow along as I try to share with you just what that's like.