On Special Assignment

Feb 22, 2013 12:43 PM by Suzanne Philippus - MTN News

Northwest Montanans travel to Antarctica

BOZEMAN - Some Montanans find a way to have summer all year round, but their second summer may not be what a lot of people would expect.

These Montanans have traveled to the bottom of the world for their second summer.

Trash, like all other support services at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, is serious business and many Montanans work for contractors who keep operations running smoothly.

"All of the waste material has to be removed from the continent, according to the treaty," George Ryan of Bozeman explained.

Serving as the primary logistics hub, McMurdo is an Ellis Island of sorts. Most polar participants must come through McMurdo once they arrive on the continent.

During its peak during the summer, which is runs from October through February, roughly 1,200 people have spent time at this former naval air facility. Those 1,200 people provide a variety of services.

"We're wiring up this ceiling grid to make sure it's all level, and whatnot," Eric Kroeger of Libby said.

"I work with the heavy equipment operators, the shuttle drivers, or the people that are supplying the tents and the cook gear," explained Julie Raines of Whitefish.

Because McMurdo is located on volcanic lava rock, the wind and dirt take its toll on heavy equipment needed for general operations and to operate remote field camp sites.

"Cold operations is hard on equipment, because it makes it harder to start it, so it's harder on the batteries and the starters and the electrical systems. And, then the cold weather also changes the durability of the steel. Steel becomes more brittle at cold temperatures so it breaks easy and so you see a lot of failures here," Will Beyer of Kalispell said.

Montana citizens like to work in Antarctica for a variety of reasons.

"I came down and I needed winter work and I also play a lot of music and there's a pretty good music scene down here," Kroeger said.

"The people you meet. You meet people from all over the world," Dale Hill of Belgrade said of why he moved here.

"There's so many different things," Rob Edwards of Bozeman said. "There's adventure. There's just being able to come to a place like this, which is, like no other place on the globe."

Many of these workers share an enthusiasm for returning to Antarctica year after year.

Several Montana State University scientists recently returned from the summer research season in Antarctica. MTN reporter Suzanne Philippus was on special assignment and shares a rare glimpse of what takes place at the bottom of the world.


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