Skip to content


Hello again. It’s Friday night here, December 2nd. “How is it December already?” Says everyone in the states. I’m happy it’s December. I have 73 work days left. I get one day off a week, and the other 6, I work 10 hours a day. Working that long doesn’t bother me, mind you, it’s just the type of work I have to do that is proving to be very difficult to get through a week worth – let alone 4 months worth. So my day off is Friday…today…and on my day off, every week, I volunteer and bartend. Yes, I end up working more on my day off. Bartending, as you know, has been something I’ve done for a number of years. It’s super easy here, and I enjoy it a lot. There are a few decent craft beers, some watery chuggable cheap beers, and liquor. No wine at this point because it just came in on a recent flight, but the mixed drinks we make are like…rum and coke…or jack and coke…or gin and tonic. If someone ordered an Old Fashioned, they’d probably be laughed out of the bar – or thrown to the seals as a meal. These are townie bars and I love them. I’ll be working Fridays until “vessel” which is the time at which giant ships bring in all different types of supplies for the base to live off of and use for the next YEAR. At that time, as well, they shut down all alcohol sales on base – in the store and at the bars – so I won’t be bartending for at least a long time…if not until the end of my contract – in February.

That said, every Friday, I’ve tried to find places to volunteer. I’ve been told by basically everyone who’s been down here that if I want to come back next year in a different job than in the galley, that I need to volunteer at places and have people get to know me. As my friend, Hank, always says – I’m “a slow burn, not a firework.” Meaning: I’m not the guy who walks into a room and everyone loves right off the bat, but I’m the guy who a number of people end up loving after getting to know me for a while. I’m okay with it – but sometimes it’d be better to be a firework. So far, I’ve volunteered at Science Cargo, SPoT, and Central Supply multiple times. 
Science cargo is in charge of the cargo that is shipped to various field camps, or South Pole, or back to the states. Evidently the other day they packed a bunch of explosives, for example. That’s most likely for a team that’s either clearing a path, or working in a place where they need to blow stuff up in the name of Science. They can ship everything from toilet paper to ice cores that are thousands of years old. I’ve enjoyed helping there a lot, and have volunteered a few times – and will do that again. It’s a great group of people, they seem to actually appreciate my help, and I like that I’m starting to learn some of their processes. 
SPoT is the South Pole Overland Traverse team, and they are in charge of bringing fuel from here at McMurdo to the South Pole via an overland route. It’s over 1,000 miles from here to there, and they have two teams take 9 giant caterpillar tractors that drag 24,000 gallons of fuel each over the ice and mountains to the pole multiple times throughout the season. I’ve helped there a couple times, and it was cool as shit because I helped them drag these super slick giant yoga mat-looking things to the back of this tractor…there were 8 of those – two deep by four wide – being pulled by a modified trailer-looking-thing. Then, we dragged these huge kevlar rubbery bladders onto those mats. We strapped them down all over the place, and then fuel people (“fuelies”) filled them up. Each one carries 3,000 gallons of fuel, multiplied by 8 bladders equals 24,000 pounds. The picture attached to this post is of me laying on top of one of the full bladders, in front of Mt. Erebus (in the background). I really liked that and would love to try and get in there as well. I really want to go to Pole and the crew were a bunch of nuts, which I jive with well.
Then, for the last two Fridays, I volunteered at what’s called “Central Supply.” Like it sounds, Central Supply is in charge of supplying every work center / department on base. Last Friday, I was in the “arm” of the department that was in charge of sending alcohol out either to field camps, or to the retail store, etc. Then today, I went to the VMF, which is the Vehicle Maintenance Facility, where we supply all the spare parts or replacement parts to all of the vehicles on base. This place was a trip, they had every o-ring, bolt, wire, harness, switch, tire, battery, tube, connector, etc, that could be in any of the machines or buildings on base and it’s all in this database and they have multiple warehouses worth of storage. I liked both this and last Friday a lot because it kind of worked my analytical brain along with giving me the satisfaction of starting and finishing a job.
All of these places would be cool as shit to work in next year, so I’m hoping to keep volunteering so I find the right place for me. And if you’re surprised by me saying that I’d like to be here again next year – join the club! I wouldn’t come back if I had to be in the galley, but if I’m offered an opportunity to come back in a different capacity, I’d take it. Through volunteering, and talking with some of my new friends here, I’m able to see the possibility of loving it here. I just can’t see that through my job. So these opportunities to see other departments – who are on normal “town hours” (generally 7:30a – 5:30p whereas we have four shifts in the galley – 5a to 3p, 10a to 8p, 10:45a to 8:45p, and 8:30p to 6:30a) and they work Monday through Saturday and they have Sunday off. Sundays here we do a huge brunch with a giant cheese plate and tasty food as a kind of tradition that the people really like. Plus, there are tours and talks and games and activities that happen for people on town hours that we aren’t really able to participate in if we’re working in the galley.
All of that to say, I’m thankful that I got down here so that I can see the potential of this place. I’ve started making some friends and exploring more of what life down here could look like. But two months in, I’m ready to start planning my travel which will happen after being here, along with really looking forward to being back in Idaho for the summer. What a vastly different life experience I’ve had here versus what I had in Idaho. 
Anywho, that’s about it for tonight. If you have any questions or comments, let me know! Thanks for reading and staying in the loop with what I’m up to. I appreciate it very much.

5 thoughts on “Volunteering”

  1. Great post, really vivid snapshot of life down there. Going back again? I can see it. Glad to hear Idaho #2 is on the table. Keep grinding in the galley!

  2. Ice Man,

    Look at you, makin new friends and kicking ass. Hell yeah! Sending good vibes from “wintery” los angeles 🙂 Have a beer for me!

  3. Well, a bunch of the questions I asked in my email, just got answered in reading this update (should have read the update first, then typed the email). It sounds like you are down to just 90 days left (a little less actually)! Enjoy what is left. I am happy you get to come home to Idaho in the Spring. I bet after seeing nothing but WHITE for 6 months, will help you to appreciate the beauty of the Great West in March!

Comments are closed.