I finally managed to get enough sleep last night. This is the first day since coming here that I feel sufficiently rested. So this is a good time for some rambling.
Many of you have asked how we manage to sleep here since it is daylight for 24 hours. We stay in dorms with 2-5 people per room. Once the lights are switched off, the rooms are pitch dark, so it is easy to make the brain think that it is night. Many people work at night and sleep during the day, especially the support staff, who really run this place. Hence, the dorms are marked quiet areas and people are requested to respect their roommates need for sleep.
Our dorm building is the “main” building and has a store, a galley and a hair-cutting salon. We eat food in the galley which is free. The food has much more variety than I expected, including many vegetarian options including occasional fresh fruits and salads and healthy grains like quinoa. Near our dorm building is a wine and coffee bar, a smoking bar and non-smoking bar with foosball and pool tables. It is a strange feeling to be in a dark bar and have a beer and then come out to find that it is DAY outside.
There are strict policies to ensure we are as environmentally non-disturbing as possible. 65% of all waste at McMurdo is recycled, and the rest is shipped off Antarctica for dumping. There are different types of recycling bins for cans, paper, plastic and non-recyclable waste. We are expected to sort our trash and throw it in the appropriate garbage bin. It is requested that two people handle fuel and do not allow any spills. Any spill, however minor, must be reported and will be cleaned up. On the field, we are required to collect all trash, including grey waste, which will be transported to McMurdo at the end of our stay and put through the usual disposal cycle.
Interaction with wildlife is limited to observations only – observe but don’t interact. For example, if a penguin reacts to a human presence in any way the human is expected to back off. Many areas are designated Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) and humans are not allowed to enter those areas unless they receive special permission.
There are many recreational trails for hiking. On some, we are allowed to go for lone hikes. Some require two people to go together. Some require checking-out at the fire house and checking-in after the hike. If a person fails to check-in within 4-5 minutes of his expected check-in time, a search and rescue team is activated in less than 30 minutes to look for the person. We are advised to carry ECW items, water and high calorie foods with us on hikes, and check the weather before leaving.
McMurdo station consumes 6 million gallons of fuel a year. Water is obtained either by desalination of sea water or by melting snow. It is very expensive to produce water and we are requested to shower less and conserve water. is it me or does anyone else see the irony in burning 6 million gallons of fuel a year to sustain a station in the middle of nowhere and yet trying to leave a small footprint on the environment?