Winter Over

The seasons are reversed in the other hemisphere. I spent the Antarctic summer there, while everyone in the U.s. was experiencing winter. There is not a lot of difference.

When I arrived in early October the temperatures would dip down as low as 20 below (F), but these did not last long. By Christmas the temperatures were in the mid thirties. Technically there was a sunset (when it was below the horizon), when I arrived, but that only lasted a week, before the sun was up, and the next sunset was not until after I left, (3 am February 21st and then only for shortly more than an hour).  When I arrived at the pole one of the science people had made a point of looking at the temperature recording for the 21st of December and noted that the air temperature had varied less than a 1/2 degree for that day.

When I returned from Siple Dome on New Year's Day, I ran into my boss at Ice Stock. While I had been gone, they had an opening occur for a "winter-over" position in the Field Party Radio Shop (where Bruce worked). Would I be interested??

There had been a couple of other winter over positions earlier in the season that I had said no to, but after thinking about it, had decided I could really use the money, and that I would take one, it another opened. The advantage of the winter position is the money. The pay is the same, but if you work in another country for at least 330 out of any 365 day period, you no longer have to pay income tax to the U.S. Government. Plus working the extended time with no living expenses.

However, there were a few disadvantages. For having four months of continious daylight, means you have to pay for it on the other side, and there will be four months of complete darkness during the winter. Also the last aircraft leaves about the 22nd of February and there is no way on or off the station until the first winter flight sometime in late August. No fresh food, no mail, chance of getting out. You are stuck for the 6 months, and most everyone stays until the "main body" arrives in October.

I said yes, I wanted to winter. The money was driving me. Had little interest otherwise. That started the process of making arrangements to get a short break back to the United States to get ready (Taxes, etc). Everyone who participates in the program has to complete a fairly extensive medical screening in order to travel to the ice at all. The winter overs also have to complete several extra steps. I completed, and passed the psychological test, and was scheduled for the extra blood test, and the new addition a chest x-ray. They had one employee die two seasons ago from pneumonia during the winter. They had attempted to get a plane in to evacuate him, but after several tries he died while it was in the air on the trip that was successful in landing.

Within a week I was starting to have second thoughts. When I found myself counting how many weeks it would be to October 1st, I started to get a little concerned. As I started to realize all the things I was going to miss during the summer (my high school 20th reunion, among others), my doubts grew. About 10 days after I said I would do it, I was in the department heads office, telling him that I couldn't do it. Just too many second thoughts, and not ready for it. Fortunately, even though a lot of the time it runs like the military, it's not, and they can't make anyone stay (at least until the last plane leaves).

So by mid January, my winter over plans were abandoned. The winter over crew consists of a little under 200 people on the base. They try to complete a lot of the construction projects during the winter to avoid the crowds and impacting the research.

Towards the end of January, the temperatures start to drop a little, and those days of 15 degrees (F) reminded the other reason I wasn't really ready to stay. Even though everyone talked of how great the sunsets were on the ice, I wasn't going to be seeing one.

Borrowed Navy Photo

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