Daily life at Scott Base
December 4, 2013

December 4th, 2013

After the madness of my first few days in Antarctica it was time to settle into a rhythm and find out what a typical week is like living and working down on the ice.

7:00am: Wake up, shower, breakfast. Opening the small shutter in the room is a rude shock to the system as bright white light floods the room. I am staying in a bunk room with Phil a penguin expert, down for the annual penguin census, and Jason a helicopter pilot who is flying the NZ helicopter to support science in the field. 

8:00am: Engineers meeting in the briefing room. Here everyone discusses their work plans for the day and any safety concerns are raised. There are no doctors at Scott Base and there are only a few over at McMurdo with basic facilities, so you really don’t want any serious accidents to occur!      

Work hours 8:00am-5:00pm: This week I have been shadowing the engineers around base as they go about their days. I have been learning how Scott Base runs and have probably seen more of the base now then most of the people living here! As I walk around the base I can’t help but stop and stare out of the windows up at Mt Erebus, across to White Island or down to the seals mooching around the pressure ridges. One thing you learn pretty quickly down here is to discharge your static! The dry atmosphere causes a build-up of static just by walking around, so to avoid a nasty shock you touch the metal poles as you walk down the corridor. Alternatively you can high five someone walking in the opposite direction to give them a shock however most people are too wise to fall for this one! 

10:00am/12:00pm: Morning tea/Lunch. The food at morning tea (or smoko as it is called) and lunch is ridiculously nice as this is one good opportunity the cooks have to recreate last nights leftovers into something else. Food waste is a massive issue as it all has to be sent back to NZ so they try to minimise this as much as possible.

5:00pm: This is when the exploring can begin! My room is only 50m from my office so I can shoot out for a run as far as Discovery hut and Arrival heights and still be back for dinner. I am in a team from Scott Base entered in the Race to the Pole! There are 5 of us in the team and between us we have to cover the distance to the South Pole which is about ~1200km! There are some great trails around so it’s nice to get out and about! The competition is organised over at McMurdo and rumour has it the winning team (1st to cover the distance) gets a trip to the South Pole!

6:00pm: Dinner time. Bobby and Tracy in the kitchen do an amazing job of keeping the base well fed and sometimes over fed! When choosing a plate for meals there are a bunch of really small plates and for the first few days I was confused as to why you would want them but it soon became clear that they were useful for two reasons: Firstly trying to reduce food waste by not taking too much at a time and secondly the food is so good people have to limit what they eat!

7:00pm: There seems to be something going on almost every night and the options for recreation are huge whether or not the weather is alright. From running/walking the extensive Ross Island trail system to playing football over at McMurdo to watching a movie to going for a cross country ski there is so much to do! On Tuesday nights they run talks in the bar where scientists get a chance to present what they are working on. This week Dr Wolfgang Rack from the University of Canterbury was explaining the work they are doing measuring the sea ice thickness in the Ross Sea. Interesting stuff! Wednesday nights is indoor football over at McMurdo and this time we won! Keeping tradition we followed the victory with ice creams and a celebratory beer at the bar on our return.

Bedtime: It sure does take some getting used to, telling yourself it’s time to go to bed when it is bright and sunny outside. However, once the shutter on the window is closed the room is nice and dark and after the long days it’s not hard to fall asleep at all.


Hamish Laing

Hamish Laing

BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador 2013