The following blog will be a diary of my 5 months spent in Antarctica. My brother, Mike, and I are heading south for the winter to work as air traffic controllers. We will be on the ice from October thru February.
My interest in the poles of the earth began numerous years ago when a friend lent me The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Cherry-Garrard was a member of Englishman Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to Antarctica from 1910 to 1913. Scott’s goals were to be the first to reach the South Pole and also to conduct as much scientific research as possible. Roald Amundsen (a Norwegian) beat Scott to the pole by about a month and returned safely. Scott and four of his companions perished, mostly due to starvation and bad weather, on their trek back to McMurdo Sound. The Worst Journey in the World is a fascinating read I would recommend to anyone interested in Antarctica. It has been “acclaimed as the greatest true adventure story ever written.” (Quoted from Wikepedia)
I have since read accounts about other early polar explorers – Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen and Ernest Shackelton to name a few. So, when Mike approached me with the idea of going to Antarctica for a few months, I was all ears. We looked into what type of jobs we might be qualified for (janitor, dishwasher, etc.). The job prospects didn’t look very encouraging.
Eventually, we learned that they have air traffic controllers stationed at McMurdo Sound during the austral summer. This was perfect! (We both recently retired from the FAA – being controllers for our careers.) We went through a fairly lengthy application process, which included background checks, physicals, and a two-week training school. In the end, we jumped through all the hoops and passed all the tests. The two of us, along with a handful of coworkers will soon be traveling to Antarctica.
Mike and I leave the States on September 26th. Out initial destination is Christchurch, New Zealand where we will be assigned our ECW (extreme cold weather) gear to use while on the ice.
Our scheduled arrival date at McMurdo Station is October 1. I have been told that the sun will not set while we are down there. This is a little disappointing, as I was hoping to see the southern lights. But, on the bright side, the temperatures won’t be as frigid. I hope to get a good look at the stars of the southern hemisphere while in New Zealand.
The average temperature at McMurdo in October is minus 2 degrees F. Average temperature in December and January are in the mid twenties. There is a huge difference of temperatures at McMurdo versus the South Pole. The average temperature at the South Pole in October is minus 58 degrees F.