“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”
I’ve been getting a lot of requests for info on how to get hired for a position in Antarctica this coming season, and I have great news for you: Bill Spindler has very nicely compiled a page of links with all the subcontractors.
Check out the whole post here: http://www.southpolestation.com/trivia/ncs/jobs.html
If you’ve read anything at all about the hiring, you probably understand that Lockheed Martin is the main contractor, and there are a bunch of subcontractors for different departments. What that means is that there isn’t a streamlined collection of all jobs on one webpage; this is not necessarily a step down though. If you applied through Raytheon during the last contract, you will remember that their webpage kind of sucked. And by “kind of sucked,” I mean that it made you want to gouge out your eyes with a shovel.
I can’t speak to how the application process is on most of these sites: the one I applied through was pretty easy. If you’ve already applied, let us know how the experience was for you in the comments section.
Here is the abbreviated link list, with companies hiring for on-ice positions. If you have any confusion about what to do or how to apply after you get to a website or why you would even want to go to Antarctica in the first place, just back up a minute and go to Bill Spindler’s website.
Lockheed Martin: Program Management and Integration, Site Management, Functional Area Leadership, Technical Management & Administration (TM&A), Science and Technical Project Services (S&TPS), Information Technology and Communications (IT&C), Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) and Transportation and Logistics (T&L)
PAE: Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), Transportation and Logistics (T&L).
GHG: On-site Information Technology and Communications (IT&C).
University of Texas Medical Branch: Medical Services
Best Recycling: Waste
Gana-A’Yoo: Food Services, Housing & Janitorial Services, Retail & Postal Services.
Deven is behind the lens again–check out these stunning photos from the end of the summer season and vessel offload.
The icebreaker vessel comes in at the end of the summer and is the main way cargo for all departments gets onto the continent. The lovely ship is full of all kinds of incoming cargo, from ramen noodles, beer and condoms to turbochargers and hydraulic hoses. The logistics folks (Cargo and Materials) are responsible for offloading and basically warehousing the cargo; at the beginning of the next summer, South Pole’s cargo gets packed up and sent in. This means the supply chain is really long: it takes a year or two for normal cargo to arrive at Pole.
The thing I love about these photos is how well they illustrate the different personalities of the sea ice: marbled and fractured and chunky and smooth.
If you want to see some amazing aurora photos from the same photographer, check out this post.
I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who prays, but if you are, maybe say one for these folks.
Three Canadians are missing on a Twin Otter flight that was going from South Pole to Terra Nova Bay, an Italian base on the coast. Their plane went down and the emergency locator beacon has been activated but bad weather is making the rescue search difficult.
Living in a heated station in Antarctica makes it easy sometimes to forget that it is still a pretty dangerous place to be. I hope these guys are safe.
The wreckage of this flight has been located, and memorials are being held around the continent. Rachel, one of my very best friends from Pole, wrote some poignant words about the tragedy:
Such sad news for the Antarctic family…it might be hard for many people to understand, but the continent is like one big family. I often feel like the world could truly learn a lot from Antarctica. All the stations seem to experience the same things…to get to station is always a long flight or a long boat ride, we all live in cramped quarters, we all have to deal with extreme temperatures and learning to work in the cold, we conserve water and recycle everything, eat three year old expired food, we are all here for research, which is often shared amongst nations, most research being performed at any one station is usually a collaborated effort among many, most stations medical and fire is volunteer, and during the winter we share a film festival were we can relate to each video, because they always represent the many similarities that we all go thru instead of the differences.
We are connected in so many great ways that I won’t be able to do it justice, but one of the other ways we are connected is in sadness. When a helicopter went down a couple years ago at another base, an American C-17 was just departing McM and immediately diverted to search for survivors. There was no “bureaucracy” to figure out who would pay for it, or if it was allowed. It just happened. When a fire broke out at a base on the Antarctic peninsula, research ships from other nations immediately came to get the survivors. When the fire happened last year, I was in the midst of fire school before heading to Palmer. We were all stunned. The reality that that could be “us” was overwhelming. While at Palmer I was on the fire team. In that fire the two people that died were on their fire team that had gone back into the fire to try and shut stuff off to prevent further damage to the station. When this plane went missing two days ago, it again reminds me how we are all connected. Kenn Borek Air flys twin otters and baslers for many countries here on the continent. Their pilots are the last people we see at Pole before winter starts and the first ones we see to start summer. I don’t know if I have ever met them personally, but it doesn’t matter…they were part of the Antarctic family and their loss will be felt across the continent. The pilots at KBA have flown to some if not the most remote places in the world. They have landed in places never touched before by humans…they have rescued people from the South Pole where the temps were so cold their skis froze to the ground, and they bring us freshies. On their first flight to Pole each spring, they always bring freshies. I don’t even like most freshies, but it is such a kind gesture when they know it has been about 8 months since we last tasted a banana.
So keep their families in your thoughts tonight…I’m sure most “Antarcticans” will do the same.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.
-Richard Blanco, from “One Today”
The sun is setting on 2012. Thanks for sharing it with me, for reading the blog and stumbling along with me through this tough and rather unpredictable year. Here are some words I’ve been thinking a lot about:
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” -Pema Chödrön
Happy new year. I hope you have a lovely evening, and be safe.
One step at a time is good walking.
- Chinese proverb
It snowed last week. Pretty, soft snow that stuck to the trees and cars and sidewalks, wet and melty and cold and peaceful.
Sometimes I can only take things one step at a time. Eight months ago, “one step at a time” was very purposeful, keenly directed, survival-mode walking. Get a job. Get a home. Get a car. Process. Grieve. Calm down. Breathe. Don’t forget to eat food sometimes. Once every few days, put on clean socks and get out of the apartment.
Things these days are a little more erratic and all over the map. Some days I feel so hopeful and have so many ideas, and I write really well and I run really hard and I feel so good that I think I’m maybe better off in some ways than I was a year ago. Some days I feel frustrated and sad. Some days I long so deeply for the life I left behind that it makes my teeth hurt. One step at a time means something different now. Go to work. Write poetry. Have fancy cocktails at fancy bars with girlfriends. Register for another creative writing class next semester. Cry and eat Nutella straight out of the jar. Walk around the icy lake drinking a latte, watching birds and talking with a great friend, dreaming about the future. Buy hiking boots for a trip that I haven’t even started planning yet.
My imagination of what the future will be, my 5-year “plan,” the fantasizing about travel and backpacking in Europe and going back to Antarctica and getting hired to work for a travel magazine, it’s going to my head. I find myself making plans that are loosely structured around things that I have no good reason to believe will ever happen. I guess that’s the point of dreaming though, right? What’s your 5-year dream plan?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all food-bloggy on you here (I’ll leave that to the pros) but I want to share what I had for brunch this weekend. My lovely roommate and I hosted for a party of eight, and the main dish was aebeskiver (Danish spherical pancakes: aebleskiver is Danish for “super delicious decadent amazing fluffy snack breakfast” or something like that).
You make them in a special cast iron pan that has seven hemispherical dents in it. The way they’re formed is by putting the batter in one of the dents, letting it fry up, and turning it before it cooks all the way through. The older and more seasoned your pan is, the better they turn–I’ve had my pan for 5+ years and it is just starting to get fully seasoned. You can put things inside of them when you turn them, like apples or chocolate chips, but I normally don’t. I think they’re delicious plain. We topped them with brown sugar and butter, Nutella, homemade jam, and powdered sugar.
We also made a winter pear salad (smittenkitchen.com, speaking of the pros) with figs, turkish apricots, bosc pears, apples and an anise vanilla bean sauce, and had organic coop breakfast sausages, mimosas, lots of coffee, and board games. We didn’t eat the board games though, we just played them.
One thing I’m really grateful for right now is this opportunity to develop the relationships I have here in the Twin Cities–I get to spend a lot more time with people who I was only previously seeing between deployments…just getting the time to devote to regular dinners, brunches, fancy birthday cocktails at restaurants I’ve never been to, and walks around the lakes in November. Life isn’t so bad, hey?
About 6 months ago, I was looking at my blog’s stats and I noticed that one of the hits I’d gotten was from a google search for “rainbow Obama riding a unicorn” or something completely ridiculous like that. I’m not sure why that linked to a little blog about Antarctica, but whatever, I take what I can get. And then, this showed up in my RSS feed this morning:
It all makes so much sense!
They say we should never meet our heroes.
When we see our heroes for who they are, they mostly fail to live up to our expectations. They are, like us, flawed humans who make mistakes and fuck things up and hurt the people they love on accident or sometimes on purpose. They are, like us, people who say things they sometimes don’t mean and sometimes things they do mean, things they mean so much that it exposes a bone of truth so raw and ugly and scary that we wish we’d never said them in the first place. This beastly truth should make them less eternal, less ideal, less honorable, less heroic.
But what if it doesn’t? And what if our heroes present themselves from the beginning as so human that we can’t even construct that illusion around them? What if they’re so painfully honest that we can’t pretend?
About a year and a half ago, I happened across an article posted online by an acquaintance called “DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #64: Tiny Beautiful Things.” It is a letter to the author’s self in her early twenties, prompted by a reader, and it is powerfully written, specific and moving. Please don’t trust me on this, go read it yourself. You won’t regret it.
“#64: Tiny Beautiful Things” has been a defining article, a crucial set of rules, an unofficial manifesto in which all the details don’t apply to me but the core values do. Sugar wrote anonymous, beautiful and wretchedly truthful articles. She wrote about death and love and fear and sex, about writing and courage and and the people who we become when we think no one else is paying attention. She wrote about trusting yourself. About living out what you already know to be true, that “you must trust your truest truth, even though there are other truths running alongside it.”*
Dear Sugar provided me with answers for questions that hadn’t even formed yet; questions I still haven’t parsed. Something about that article in particular pulled a thread out from inside me, started an unraveling, an emotional and lovely and terrifying thing.
To herself and to her readers, Sugar said, “You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
I read this before I knew my partner would break up with me. I was someone he loved; he was, in this moment, simply someone who wanted to change the terms of this one particular relationship. I thought about this as I processed it; as I processed my own advice to friends who were also considering leaving their partners and I told them, “be brave enough to break your own heart,” and I meant it. And then all of a sudden I was on the other end of it. With the clarity of eight months’ time now since the breakup, I can tell you that this paragraph gave me something. It didn’t make me understand my own situation more than I already did, but it gave me something to hold on to, another truth to face, another thread to pull. That perspective made things more bearable. “You are not a terrible person.” Like I was saying it directly to him.
In February this year, Dear Sugar came out as Cheryl Strayed, an author I’d never heard of. Part of me was terrified to find out who she was, because being a real person with a real name and a real face would ruin the Sugar mystique. Part of me really wanted to know, because I wanted to gorge myself on her work, to devour every word she had written. In April I read her novel, Torch, a piece of autobiographical fiction about cancer, about her mother’s death. In May I read Wild, her memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail a few years after her mother had died and her marriage had fallen apart at her own hands. I looked up every essay I could find online, and I read them all. In July, Tiny Beautiful Things came out as a collection, a physical book I could hold in my hands, a bound volume of Sugar.
And last night, she came to speak at Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul. I requested the night off from work months ago, because I needed to be there, to see her, to hear what her real voice sounded like and the cadence with which she read her own words. It was so odd, in the beginning, the mix of feeling this real devotion to a stranger who wasn’t a stranger, the din of bar patrons chatting, the weird desperation we feel when we want a drink from the waitress and can’t get her attention. The dizziness, the red wine warmth and fuzziness of the whole situation, the odd lighting and bad sound. It felt like swimming, or like it wasn’t real. They say we should never meet our heroes.
The discussion moderator said something important. He said to her, “You make me want to be a better person. You make me feel like it’s okay that I’m not.” I agree with him.
It was intense, sharing the experience with all these other people, people who said “awww” in all the right places, as a chorus of emotional voyeurs. It was a stark difference between that and when Sugar was anonymous and I had this private relationship with her, reading at my laptop, connecting with her veiled but very naked and vulnerable self. And I felt like no one was looking. Like I shared something with her that no one else knew about.
Part of me wonders if Sugar can ever come back, now that she’s been unveiled, identified. Someone at the reading last night asked this, and Strayed said yes, she can and she will. She told us that she always wrote with the knowledge that she would one day put her name on Sugar’s words, that being Cheryl was not any different from being Sugar. “I was never anonymous to myself,” she said.
The last thing she said while onstage was about the importance of finding solace in the wilderness—whether that wilderness is the PCT or the banks of the Mississippi River. She is right.
And for me, that also extends to the wilderness of the unknown territory of yourself. It felt like she was saying to me, you must find solace in the trees and roots and shadows and animal noises and the sweet and rotting and bodyish smells of your own unknown forest. She once wrote, “walk without a stick into the darkest woods.”**
And here I am. I’m standing at the edge of the forest. I’m leaving my stick behind, but I am bringing a book.
Walk with me?