Meet the locals
Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent research support station in Antarctica likens itself to a Kiwi lodge. Over a season, there could be as many as 300 scientists and support crew passing through, all of who have to be trained for the conditions. For this, there’s a dedicated team of locals who spend either the summer or a full 13 months in Antarctica. It’s their duty to keep Scott Base running on all cylinders. Here are just a few of those dedicated souls.
Chris was one of four trainers keeping visitors safe in the field this season. It’s a role he’s perfect for, having grown up in one of the most isolated areas of New Zealand’s deep south. He also has experience as an outdoor educator and ski patroller, as well as a guide for commercial cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. Although continuous daylight can be a bit tough to get used to, one of Chris’ favourite things to do is get out in the field, taking visitors to different sites including Castle Rock, Cape Royds and Cape Evans. These places often need a bit more than some sturdy boots to get there. Helicopters, snowmobiles and heavy-duty over-snow vehicles called Hagglunds are usually required.
Justin is one of two chefs at Scott Base and has spent three summers in Antarctica. Along with the other chef, he serves three meals a day, seven days a week, as well as morning and afternoon tea. Part of the challenge of being a chef in Antarctica is minimising food waste. This means no bones in meat and eliminating fruits that are heavy in water or have unusable skins. Even fresh herbs or hydroponically grown vegetables are forbidden in case the seeds escape into the environment. Justin talks daily with his partner and 10-year-old daughter, based in Noosa, and loves to head out for big walks, sometimes pitching a tent for an overnight getaway.
Alice discovered that Antarctica New Zealand was after a paramedic when an advertisement was forwarded to her by a friend. Since then, she hasn’t looked back. Alice treats inconveniences such as the flu and small sprains, although she is trained in dealing with frostbite and remote medicine. It’s this expertise that landed her the job - one that she absolutely loves. Some days get so busy that she forgets where she is, but everything is kept in perspective – “then I look outside and go ‘it’s so beautiful, oh my God, I’m in Antarctica!’”. Alice is still currently at Scott Base, having decided to bunker down and be part of the small crew that spends the winter in Antarctica.
After spending 18 months in 35-degree heat as an outdoor educator in New South Wales, Sarah had a fair bit of acclimatising to do when she arrived to -41 degrees in Antarctica. As a domestic, Sarah is a helping hand with everything from cooking to setting up polar haven tents. It gives her a way to be involved with science without needing to be a scientist herself. Sarah has had some unforgettable encounters with the locals, including a waddle of 20 Emperor penguins chilling around the group on a hike to Cape Evans. These are unlike the Adelie penguins, which are “totally like children running around”.