Antarctica for fun and not profit?

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    Hi all,

    Like a lot of people, I’m interested in a job with RPSC for the experience. I’m almost 30, with a pretty stable and high paying job in IT, but I’m at the point where I need to get something like this out of the way before settling down.

    Can anyone comment on the best jobs with RPSC that allows for the most fun/experience/exploration? Low paying is fine, as I don’t have much job experience outside of IT.

    Also, on the social aspect, are people working there keeping pretty much to themselves or can I expect some reasonable amount of friendship and camaraderie? What’s the breakdown of the age groups working there?

    Reading about living in the dormitories brings back memories of college. Any difference or similarities people care to point out?

    As far as communications back home… What is that like? I’m in a long term relationship, and I can already imagine how hard it would be. What are the odds of couples being able to get a job in the same season?


    The jobs that offer the most of what you want in a job would be field jobs.Also the radio jobs. People who fly around the place setting up repeaters on mountaintops. It sounds like not what you have experience in.There some digital repeaters and things set up. You may have some IT experience in that area.
    However, for most jobs, if you go down thinking that the work is going to be the excitement, you will be disappointed. Your fun will be off work. While it’s a rather unsafe place, with lots of snow covered crevasses, there are safe trails marked out all over the place. During the early summer before the sea ice thins too much, there are trails and roads that go out onto the frozen ocean. In some places the big weddell seals come up out of the cracks. The penguins are elusive. If you are the kind of person who sits in a warm building and waits for someone who has been hiking to come back and tell you their are penguins on the trails, they will be long gone by the time you get out there.

    The real secret is to get out all the time on your time off. The weather is drastically different from the start of the season to the end. The scenery changes with warmth and the experience changes as well. Going for your first hike at minus 20 or 30 in full ecw gear and with a view of the Transantarctic mountains is a pretty memorable experience. Doing it later in the season at 40 above zero is just as amazing in different ways.

    All this is enhanced by the fact that there is 24 hour daylight the whole summer season. If you have energy after working a 9 hour day, then by all means go for it. To a limited degree, the station also offers trips. Mostly my lottery, you may get a helo or snow mobile trip. Most won’t, but if you come back a few years your odds increase.

    As to best jobs. You will hae to have experience in whatever you do. The lowest paying jobs with best chance of getting out to a field camp would be the GA jobs. General Assistants. No experience needed, Very low pay, They gleefully do all the nastiest work on station, but also at field camps. Not everyone gets out to a field camp. You may be chipping away at frozen urine, but you could be at one of the most desolate remote places on earth. If you do, you will get training on how to live warmly in a tent in the worst of conditions. Since they don’t require experience. GA positions get lots of applications for the 20 or 30 ga jobs around. All the construction work centers have GAs as well. They probably won’t fly around the continent, but you never know, sometimes it happens.

    If you do get a GA position, go into it thinking you will be Mcmurdo the whole time. If you get out, it’s a bonus. Remember not everyone gets out.

    Dining Assistant would be the worst jobs on station. You are working when everyone else is off, but it’s one of the better ways to get your foot in the door for the next season.

    You will have more friendship than you know what to do with. Your first year, every night of the week you will likely have to choose from multiple opportunities to get together with groups of friends. Just like college, there are lots of parties. Unlike college, this is a work camp. The fastest way to lose your job and get shipped home is to get drunk and disorderly. They frown more and more each year on unresponsible drinking. You are expected to be and adult.
    With so much to choose from, you may find that unless you tell your friends NO, you will have no time to yourself.

    The age range will average in the upper 30s, but we have people from 18 all the way up to 80. Whatever your age, you will find people to hang with.

    McMurdo attracts an ecclectic group. If you are not a world traveller coming into the program, you probably at least have a hunch that it’s something you would find fun to do. If you listen to the people there, by the end of your first year, you should have enough info to give traveling a good go.
    The dorm life is dorm life. Your first year, you may find yourself in a four person room. It can suck if you don’t get along or if you are on different shifts. Your room in that case is just a place to sleep. Some first year people will get a 2 person room. Its a lot better. In your following years, you get to pick your roommates. Life gets a lot better when roommates respect each other. This is probably a lot like college days. Freshman year, unknown roommates, Senior year, good friends.

    Lots of couples come down together. Both have to apply and both have to be accepted. If you get hired, let them know, maybe your hiring manager has some pull. Maybe not. It’s worth asking.

    Phone calls are cheap. Get a renewable phone card. The calls are routed to Denver so the calls are like a call in the states. I use a 3 cent a minute card. Call home 3 nights a week and talk for an hour to my wife.3 cents a minute for an hour is not much. Take photos, send info home, get photos from home. Short little youtube style videos that don’t hog bandwith are very nice as well. It’s not the best, but five months go by fast. No skype allowed unfortunately.

    The IT pipeline used to be what amounted to a single DSL line shared by hundreds of people. Slow. In recent years they have had an upgrade and is considerably faster, but we still have too many people accessing at once, hence the limits on big downloads and streaming. It’s auto regulated now somehow. You may know how all this works as an IT person. You log on a site and it comes up instantly. You try to download something big and the web robots spot it and slow your link down to nothing. Downloads don’t work well.
    Hope this helps


    Yeah, what Mike said. 😎

    Here’s my .02:

    @cdong wrote:

    Can anyone comment on the best jobs with RPSC that allows for the most fun/experience/exploration? Low paying is fine, as I don’t have much job experience outside of IT.

    I suggest you stick with IT, if that’s all you know. The competition for skilled jobs, such as IT, is a lot lower than for the unskilled positions. Plus you’d make a lot more money and have about the same chance at boondoggles (the Ice word for fun trips off station) as most other people.

    @cdong wrote:

    I’m in a long term relationship, and I can already imagine how hard it would be. What are the odds of couples being able to get a job in the same season?

    Yes, couples can come down together, I’ve done it too. But as Mike pointed out, you are usually are hired independently.

    New people to the hiring process occasionally have the notion that couples have some sort of advantage, as if management is looking for pairs. The truth is quite the opposite — if you are hired as a couple and one fails the physical, the company may lose both employees because the other may no longer want to go. So it’s most often done individually, and if you’re both hired, well goodie.

    A strong note of caution: before attempting to bring a partner to the Ice, make sure your relationship is rock solid. If you think leaving a mate at home can be bad for a relationship, that’s nothing compared to the pressure of being on the Ice together. Many couples enjoy their time together there, others find out the hard way it was a bad mistake. YMMV.

    Been There

    And based on a few years of experience in the program the advise these two provided is spot on. You will not get any better!


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