Are you interested in working at South Pole?

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
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Trip End Feb 17, 2009


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Where I stayed
Franklin's Tower, Deadhouse clusterfuck

Flag of United States  , California
Monday, December 15, 2008

Life changed for the better in late November.  I had been out for the eventing with friends from the dead house clusterfuck, a charmingly dilapidated block off University Ave in Palo Alto where I rented a room from my aging hippie landlord.  The owner of the houses is rumored to have been behind the Grateful Dead dancing bears, and plays a mean game of HORSE, and had allowed me to paint my room with a school of giant squid.

I clomped upstairs to check email, fueled by two-buck-chuck, California's finest affordable wine, and was met with a one-liner: 

Hi Mesa,

Are you interested in working at South Pole station as a Steward (dishwasher/janitor) until mid February?

Thanks,
James Brown

 I had applied for just about every entry level job in Antarctica the year before through Raytheon, which is the current contracting company running all science support operations in Antarctica. This involved lots and lots of forms.  Before Raytheon hires an employee, candidates have to undergo a full physical and various medical tests to make sure they are in fit shape to work in the harsh elements.  Then phone interviews, background check, and of course beating out the many other applicants to the position.  Attending the Raytheon Polar Services job fair, and applying online as soon as the website opens in mid-winter greatly help one's chances.

  Eventually I had settled on an Alternate for the General Assistant position, a job only open to first-year ice workers.  The "GA" is shuffled from department to department, helping with any work that needs to be done, from carpentry, to machine shop work, to data entry or even janitorial work.  I had been assured that as one of 12 alternates out of over 3,000 applicants, I had a very good chance of landing a position.  This had been an over-generous estimation however, and I had given up my dream of Antarctica months before.  

Now I would be a Steward for NANA, which is really a fancy word for dishwasher.  NANA is the subcontracting company which runs all the food and cleaning services in Antarctica.  I had originally cut off my applications with them to sign on as a GA alternate, and though I had heard dish washing in Antarctica can be horrible, a person can do anything for a few months, right?  Plus it was the South Pole, a place most people have to work multiple seasons in Antarctica to visit, let alone be stationed at. What could I say?  Yes. 

This is an account of my season in Antarctica, life at the South Pole, a bit of history, a bit of lore, and some strange and interesting people and culture.  Welcome to the worst place on earth...
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