Ask A Scientist: Can anyone go to Antarctica?

These questions come from Tracey Rojo’s IB Biology class at Tucker High School in Atlanta, Georgia:

Is it possible to go to Antarctica without being affiliated with a research team at a university? And what do you do for fun?
Yes, it is possible to go to Antarctica even if you are not a researcher. The National Science Foundation contracts out many different types of job opportunities for people to come down and work. There are carpenters, electricians, janitors, dish washers, heavy machinery, fire fighters, etc. and  everyone has the most interesting background stories. We met this one guy, Sven, on the way down who used to be one of the California smokejumpers (forest fire fighters that jump out air planes to control forest fires), but he wasn’t coming down to be a fire fighter… I think he was a heavy equipment operator for the summer.

To be honest there are far more support personnel than science personnel. Most people come down to live and work here for 4-8 months, and I believe 18 months is the limit on the amount time anyone can stay on the ice. There is a minimum age 18 to work down here.

There’s a lot of amazing hikes if you want outdoor stuff and coffee house with theatre libraries, and lounges for indoor fun.

What is your housing like?  What type of meals do you eat?

Housing is a mix of different arrangements.  Some are dorm style, some buildings were left over from the old Navy days, and there are talks of modernizing all the housing soon.

There are three meals a day always at the same time so your body gets sort of trained to get hungry around these times, like it knows it is due for a feeding. An excellent team of chefs prepare different things each day and it is all you can eat.

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