Mechanics at work - © International Polar Foundation

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Being an Antarctic Operator

Being in Antarctica for four months, you get to see and do amazing things. Sometimes, you even think you are on another planet! But behind the scenes, there are an awful lot of daily tasks people rarely talk about, but which keep the whole station running.

Mechanics & the Rest of Us

Antarctica puts vehicles and equipment under heavy stress and our team has a lot of work on its plate. Between maintaining the various vehicles and repairing broken pieces of equipment, mechanics perform small miracles every day. Without them, scientific work could not take place and logistical operations would grind to a halt.

Everybody also chips in with a hundred daily tasks among which:

  • Repairing the tents,
  • Cleaning the camp and the surroundings of the station after work,
  • Sorting out waste,
  • Preparing the waste containers to be taken to the coast so that they are ready to be shipped to Cape Town next year,
  • Reparing the sledges,
  • Refueling the various vehicles,
  • Maintenance or installation of scientific instruments,
  • Maintenance of the windmills.

There is also managing a 30-person team: technical meetings, flight logistics, following the helicopter operations and providing radio support, security procedures, guiding the scientists in the field, etc.

Don't get me wrong, we also get to do some pretty unique things, like finding a way to position and anchor containers so they can resist the 200km/h winds we sometimes get during winter. Believe me, such winds can move a container weighting several tons like a box of matches. We did a few tests last year and came up with a system that prevents what we call "container drift". The containers won't go anywhere this winter!

Polar Science & "Zero Emission"

Thanks to the dedication of the whole team, the station is running at 100% and fulfills its role as a support platform for scientific activities. As an operator, we are really proud to do our part to make polar science possible.

The "zero emission" systems are also running like clockwork and we get messages from companies wanting to be involved in the project as well as good feedback from scientists doing their research here.

Author: Alain Hubert

Picture: Mechanics at work - © International Polar Foundation

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