Life in Antarctica

Since I arrived down here, friends and family back home have asked a lot of questions about the more mundane aspects of Antarctic life. Having now been South for a bit over a week, I feel slightly better qualified to answer them. So:

My bedroom

What is the base like? Rothera itself is a small peninsula off the Eastern side of Adelaide Island, which is itself just off the Western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The base consists of around 10 decent-sized buildings, including an aircraft hangar, living space, accommodation, science labs etc. The base is split in half by the gravel runway, and has got pretty good views of the mountains and the sea on several sides. It consists of buildings of various different vintages, but the accommodation and living blocks are relatively new and smart.

What is the weather like? We are currently in the unsettled Antarctic springtime, which means the occasional stunning day of blue skies and sunshine, but with some decent snow fall coming down fairly regularly. The daytime temperature has mostly been between zero and -10 degrees, but the real biting cold comes from the wind, which regularly tops 30-40 knots at this time of year. The most surprising thing about the weather is how quickly it can change, and how easy it would be to get caught out by it!

What is the accommodation like? I have a small, smart (although increasingly untidy) ensuite room that I share with Scott, one of the new Rothera Field Assistants. The room has a bunk-bed, a desk, a wardrobe and no room for much else. However, it is pretty much used only for sleeping as there is plenty of living-space elsewhere on base.

What is work like?I am being kept pretty busy with the IT and Comms. At this time of year we have a lot of aircraft transiting through Rothera and deeper into Antarctica, so there is a lot of flight-following and air-ground comms to be done. At the same time, the base is slowly filling up for the summer, with lots of people needing help to get their computers up and running. We also have a couple of large antennas that were damaged by the harsh winter weather need to be fixed as soon as we can find the time. During the short summer season, everyone digs in to ensure that no decent-weather days are wasted, and that all of the science that needs to get done is done! This means working some long hours when the job demands it.

Fixing one of our HF antennas

How do you pass your leisure time? During the summer we work pretty hard, but for those few hours off there’s actually a fair bit to do at Rothera. When the weather’s OK, there’s plenty of skiing, walking, climbing etc to get you off base, and occasionally the diving boats will take us on tour. Indoors, there’s a decent-sized gym and a small bouldering wall. There’s also a well stocked library, TV room, computers, plus a craft room, dark room etc. There’s also always room for a bit of fancy dress when time allows…

Dressing up for Halloween

What’s the food like? In a word, brilliant. We have a full-time chef who is vital for keeping morale high! During the summer, we get enough flights in to restock us with fresh fruit and veg. During the winter this dwindles as the supply is cut off, but the chef still does an amazing job with frozen and dried food.

Feel free to pipe up if you have any other burning questions!

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