Staff at McMurdo are eligible to go on what are called “boondoggles,” which are trips outside of the station meant to boost morale. They often serve a practical purpose as well, as a boondoggle may involve helping a work center with a job that requires some extra hands.
In early November I got to go on a boondoggle to Cape Reynolds, about 350 miles north of McMurdo, at the end of David Glacier. This is the site of one of many emergency fuel caches placed throughout Antarctica. Myself, another boondoggler, and two fuels staff or “fuelies” flew in an eight-seat Twin Otter airplane to this fuel cache. I helped move metal drums of fuel, handed the fuelies their tools as needed, drilled holes in the ice, and replaced flags that had gotten faded and frayed in the intense sun and wind.
The trip was such a privilege. Flying over the continent and seeing mountains and glaciers completely untouched by human activity made me feel like I was inside a nature documentary.
The only part of the trip I didn’t enjoy was having to use a pee bottle with no shelter in zero-degree, 30-below windchill weather. When you do work in the “deep field” away from stations with plumbing or a camp with an an outhouse of some kind, you have to bring a pee bottle and use that!
All part of the Antarctica experience 🙂