What it isn’t good for…

by wonderfullyrich on October 27, 2005

There’s a song for which the title alludes me contains a chorus of "What it isn’t good for, absolutely nothing."  As confusing as that is (is it a positive or a negative?) it’s an apted description of the feeling of McMurdo at some points. 

It’s 7 am here and sunny outside, although now the sun literally just circles the sky rather then sets.  The high is likely to be a high of 20 and clear with little wind and I think it’s going to be a fairly nice McMurdo spring day.  However, when you wake up, go to the shower at 6:50, and remember that somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 all the hot water drain on to peoples bodies and all your left with is barely lukewarm water that feels like a cold shower it’s not a good start.

The thing is that there’s a constant irony about this place that one never really steps out of.  On the one hand you wake up and you realize your in Antarctica, the last of two frontiers on earth (the other being the ocean) and your amazed by it.  On the other hand you realize the people that are running it are inept by bureaucracy and governmental worker ethics.  Most of the big 3 story dorms are something like a million dollars a piece when the total is added up, and they hold something like 150 people each.  Yet apparently we spent all that money overcoming the environment, or so they’d like us to believe.  The top floors are constantly hot and require a fan like a hot summer day, and the first floor requires a space heater just to keep warm.

On the one hand I’m amazed that we have such a permanent station built for science and admire that it’s been built as well as it has, and then I remember how mis-managed aspects of this place really are and I’m amazed good science and good work is allowed to get done with all the idiotic rules we follow. 

I don’t have answers, and I’m just a newbie down here still, so I’m not saying that I could do this better then anyone, but big questions exist.  When you see a station like Scott base that’s as well engineered as it is, as homey as it is, and has the science capacity that it does, while being as small as it is, comparisons are bound to happen.

I’ve been trying to give people at home a sense of what this place is like and this is one aspect that is talked about often around here.  If not directly then as a result of this irony.  I’m never going to be able to give all of McMurdo’s secrets away because we live in a beautiful place and only direct experience can claim a secret like that. Say for instance the view from Ob Hill or the fun of waiting for the penguins to arrive, but maybe I can show you it’s a weird continent as much as it’s a harsh continent.


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