If you aren’t Facebook friends with me or don’t spend much time on Facebook (good job!), you may not have heard my big news:
I have accepted a winter contract. This means that I will be here until early October, 2018. I will be living in Antarctica for an entire year.
This didn’t come 100 percent out of the blue, but it did come 99 percent out of the blue. Here’s how it went down:
Way back in late October I decided to apply for the position of Broadcast Engineer, which at McMurdo, means the person who handles the radio and TV infrastructure. The summer season position has been held by the same person for years, but the winter season position rotates through several folks. I spoke with the hiring manager from GHG, the contracting company that handles all IT and comms at McMurdo, and he suggested I apply.
I looked at the position description, submitted my application even though the job looked beyond my current abilities, and then promptly forgot about it, since I figured that would be the last I would ever hear about that job.
Then, at the end of December, I had an interview for the job and was offered what’s known as an “alternate” contract. Unlike a primary contract, which basically means “you have the job, here’s your plane ticket,” an alternate contract means you fill out a bunch of paperwork, go home and go about your life, but be on standby to deploy if the primary backs out, doesn’t physically qualify, or leaves the job mid-season for any number of reasons.
I was thrilled to be an alternate. I had the validation that I was good enough to do the job if the primary had to bail, but meant I could still leave Antarctica, eat a salad, see a kangaroo, get some things taken care of back home, yada yada yada.
Five days ago the IT and comms manager emailed me to say the primary had to back out, and asked me if I would like the primary position.
And that’s how it went down.
Now I’m entering a whole new level of “part of me.”
Part of me is thrilled that I GET PAID TO DO BROADCASTING IN ANTARCTICA AND LEARN NEW RADIO SKILLS AND LEARN HOW TO DO TV STUFF AND LEARN HOW DEFENSE MEDIA AND AFRTS WORK AND DO MORE BROADCAST MANAGEMENT AND MAYBE DO A FEW TASKS FOR THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AND DID I MENTION THAT ASSUMING I DO A HALFWAY DECENT JOB THIS WILL ROCKET MY CAREER AS A BROADCASTER TO HEIGHTS I NEVER IMAGINED AND COULD POSSIBLY BE THE BEST CAREER MOVE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Part of me is terrified. Feels horribly underprepared. Knows that if I could just have *one* month back home to recuperate and prepare myself, I would feel so much better about doing this. I could get a bunch of merino wool undies, eat a ton of fresh veggies, and buy a camera to take decent aurora pictures. My aurora pictures are gonna be really shitty.
Telling my mom the news was the hardest part. She sounded so happy when she answered the phone, and I felt like a monster for pulling the rug out from under her and telling her I would be away from home for a full year. I didn’t realize how much I missed my family until I told her I was gonna do it. I also went through a short grieving period for the next summer season, as I really had my heart set on coming back next summer and doing all the things again. But the Antarctic Support Contract lets you work in Antarctica for up to 14 months in a row, and then you are required to take a break for (I believe) 48 days before you can come back. So no summer contract for me next year.
As an antidote to feeling freaked out/wondering if I’m crazy/feeling like a horrible daughter/having to miss Icestock and all the other fun summer things next year, everyone I’ve talked with who’s done a winter here has raved about how awesome McMurdo is in the winter.
You have a population of about 150-200 people. You get your own room. You get wifi and faster Internet. The workload is lighter. There’s a UV light room and a hot tub you can use. You get to know people even better since there are so few of you. And you get to know the folks at Scott Base since there’s only about 12 of them that stay over the winter.
I am looking forward to having more access to the band room and maybe learning to play the banjo and saxophone. I’ll have the craft room, free DVD rental, and tons of books from the library. Three gyms so I can get in shape. More space to do fun, weird activities with my 150 other crazy Antarcticans. The editor of the Antarctic Sun recruited me to write monthly station updates. I’ll have my 54-hour-per-week job and and the learning curve that will come with it to keep me busy.
So assuming I survive this new job and life in a place where the average high in August is -10 before wind chill and there’s 24-hour darkness for four months, you all will see me sometime in October. By then I expect to be a feral, sun-starved maniac who has made a bunch more friends, gotten really buff in the gym, and learned how to play the sax. Maybe.
Also, I really will try to blog more, Skype, and generally stay in touch more than I have the summer.