Antarctic Research and Life on the Continent

A gorgeous summer morning in December, in Antarctica, it could get as warm as minus 25. But a gale-force wind blowing across a two mile thick ice field extending in every direction may create a wind chill which will freeze your eyelids. There is not other location that has a climate this harsh.

It would be hard to find a job that is more desolate and important as the United State’s permanent scientific outpost located here. Until recently, only approved researchers could set food in Antarctica. However, in recent years this has changed. Wealthy tourists and adventurers can charter flights that will bring them to this desolate location.

However, there’s not a lot out there right now. Often there isn’t a live creature to be seen for thousands of miles. However, there are people who long to visit the Pole just to have this rare experience and be able to say that they were that and that they did that.

The concept that this scientific outpost is a tourist draw, isn’t something that the scientists and others conducting work here feel comfortable with. The cranes and bulldozers that noisily work to continue to enhance the outpost, don’t exactly make for a relaxing getaway. This is even more true when visitors show up during research season. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to prevent it.

There is no nation that claims ownership of any part of Antarctica. However, this landmass which is larger than Mexico and the U.S. put together is protected by treaties signed by 43 nations. Even during the eight, pitch black, months of winter, the U.S. has three big stations that are staffed year round. It is understood that anyone that makes it as far as 90 degrees south of latitude needs to be assisted, whether are invited guests or not.

Because visitors usually have little education on the area and have no idea they are 10,000 feet high, they are not encourage to visit. The thrill seekers flock to the icy spot nonetheless, and subsequently need assistance to deal with their dehydration, altitude sickness, and extreme cold.

In 1975 the sleeping quarters of the dome held thirty-three men. This has grown to two hundred men and women who presently occupy every available bed. Prefabricated bunkhouses made of plywood, canvas and plastic can now be seen stretching down the glacier and carry the nickname of Summer Camp.

Similar to many camps, there is no limit to the amount of water used at Summer Camp. While fresh water is plentiful, hot water for showering is not. Fuel costs around $ 12.00 dollars per gallon so it makes things we take for granted a definite luxury. If you want to use the communal bathroom you have to make a slippery and teeth-rattling journey over the ice and through the cold. The temperature doesn’t change much even when the sun is blazing at 3 a.m.

Military escorts were assigned to Antarctica’s first female researchers. Today, however, women comprise fully one-third of the summer crew and are treated as equals. The Pole, it seems, doesn’t discriminate, and treats all who visit with equal cruelty.

According to studies it take workers in extremely cold conditions three times longer to complete even a simple task. This is because the brain’s chemistry reduces the hormones you need for problem solving and increases those needed for physical activity. In the months of winter, conditions become more arduous.

The middle of February marks the last time you will see an aircraft for the winter. A team of twenty-eight winter-overs remains for the ensuing six months. It will not be until October that the sun will once again make an appearance and the planes will return.

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