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What It's Like To Live And Work On An Antarctic Research Base

Updated December 3, 2019 42.4k views14 items
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Antarctica has been a captivating subject for scientists since the continent was discovered in the early 1800s. Despite Antarctica's freezing temperatures, disorienting sunlight hours, and complete isolation from the rest of humanity, researchers continue to flock to the South Pole for answers. But what do scientists study in Antarctica?

Scientists study weather, wildlife, and geology on the southernmost continent. For these brave researchers, living and working in Antarctica has its obvious appeals. But there are some difficult parts about living in the literal Antarctic tundra, and none of it involves hunting down a shape-shifting creature picking off your crew one by one with a blowtorch. 

An Antarctic research base is like home to scientists, but just like in The Thing, living in Antarctica can make you feel like you're losing it. 

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  • There’s Satellite-Generated Broadband And Phone Service - But Very Little For Personal Use

    Not everyone on Antarctic bases entertains themselves with computer games like R.J. MacReady in The Thing. In fact, despite all of the advances in technology, scientists in Antarctica are left out to dry when it comes to personal internet and phone access. The National Science Foundation forbids researchers from using internet or other communication devices for personal use if the activity interferes with work:

    Unless explicitly authorized, individuals do not have permission to disrupt any information system or network infrastructure. Individuals found to be in violation of this prohibition may be subject to appropriate administrative sanctions, civil liability or... [prosecution].

    Skype, streaming services like YouTube, and other online activities that eat up broadband are not allowed. Still, that hasn't stopped some researchers from finding ways around this law, such as forming underground gaming communities

  • You Make Your Own Breakfast, But A Chef Takes Care Of The Rest

    In the mornings, most researchers and temporary residents of Antarctica are in charge of preparing their own breakfast. Folks who work the closing shift are typically in charge of making bread or pastries for the next morning, as well. 

    When it comes to the other meals, a chef usually takes care of everyone with dried and cured foods brought along for the duration of the stay. 

    “You have to use what you've got in the store - frozen stuff, tinned stuff, and, if you're really desperate, the dried stuff,” Alan Sherwood, a chef at the Rothera Base in Antarctica, told Reuters.

    Antarctic delicacies like seal brain and penguin breast were served to staff in the early 20th century. As wildlife protection laws came into play, chefs started relying more on packaged foods. 

  • It Might Be A Bit Like College

    Working at a larger research base in Antarctica probably feels a lot like living in a college dorm, minus some of the antics. Big research bases, like the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, have large communal spaces for both work and relaxation.

    Amudsen-Scott has a screening room and popcorn machine for movie nights, a gym, laundry facilities, and cozy but livable rooms. Shared spaces for work include labs, work stations, and a greenhouse. 

  • Booze, Coffee, And Movies Are Available - But No More Bowling

    Photo: Lewenwhc77 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Activities are limited by Antarctica's frigid temperatures and small living quarters. Still, researchers in Antarctica find ways to entertain themselves in their small, mining town-like communities. At McMurdo Station, the largest research station in Antarctica, residents spend their leisure time socializing in a coffee shop, going to the local watering hole, and catching movies.

    This station used to have a bowling alley with special stuffed animal penguins as pins. Unfortunately, due to wear and tear, the alley was torn down in 2009.