Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm back!

It's been a while since I've written a blog post. One of the downsides to being a janitor is that I don't get a chance to get online during the day.

My body feels quite a bit different down here. Because of the cold, my muscles are a lot stiffer than they normally are, even when I've been inside for several hours. We have a fifteen-minute stretch break every morning as part of our work schedule specifically to avoid muscle injuries. Some of the more common types of injuries come from muscles being pulled because people are used to being able to move in certain ways that they can no longer do down here.

Also, I'm finding that my energy level for being social has dropped. It's not that I don't want to see people at all, but hanging out with others seems to take a lot more energy out of me here. It's as if my body has gone into a sort of semi-hibernation mode, and it's unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I'm hoping that I'll feel a bit more energized as it warms up (relatively speaking). We had a high of nine degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. That's the warmest it's been since I got here and boy did it feel good. :) Never thought nine degrees would feel so fantastic.

The sun is staying up longer and longer each day. By the time I'm in bed by 10pm, twilight is still visible and the suns already up when I get up at 6:30am. In less than a month, the sun will be up permanently. I'm excited about it since I love sunlight, but the folks who've been here before say that it can be a bit disruptive to one's sleep schedule and that it's really strange to leave the bar at midnight and step into full sunlight. It'll be interesting, that's for sure.

So, I promised more photos and then my external hard drive went bonkers on me. I managed to have one of the IT guys fix it and he recovered all my files, but they're completely out of order and I haven't found the photos yet, so I promise photos as soon as I find them. I've ordered another hard drive to back things up just in case this one fails. It appears that electronics have difficulty adapting to the cold weather here just as much as people do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The First Month

Greetings! It's been almost a month since I arrived and I seem to be adjusting well. The six-day workweek is still exhausting but I'm enjoying my work, strangely enough. There's a nice bit of satisfaction that comes from looking at a clean restroom or work area and knowing that I made it look that way. Sometimes I listen to music or podcasts while I work to help pass the time, but janitorial work can be meditative and sometimes I just enjoy the quiet (or the sound of the vacuum).

It's still very cold down here and that takes a toll on my body. Even though the buildings are warm, the constant alternation of going outside in the cold and coming back inside in the warmth wears me out. Overall, my muscles are not nearly as flexible and limber as they usually are. I've been told that that's due to the cold. Every morning at work, we have a fifteen-minute stretch break to help prevent muscle injuries, and all employees are encouraged to take mini-stretch-breaks throughout the day. Even still, my muscles feel tight.

The sunsets are beautiful! Right now they last from about 5pm to about 10pm, although they go later into the night with each passing day. Also, as the sunset dims, it moves sideways along the horizon toward the west. Right after the sun has set, the twilight is in the northwest; by the time it's almost gone, it's moved towards the southwest. Since there are mountains west of us, it's as if the sun were shining a flashlight from one end of the sky to the other, backlighting the mountains. The colors are incredibly rich and it makes the mountains look as if they were cardboard cutouts against a vivid painting. There have been a slew of nacreous clouds recently as well, much more beautiful than the first ones that I first saw.

If your interested in learning more about the United States Antarctic Program, you can check out the program's website at For a webcam view of the station, go to Look at the top center left and you'll see a winding road coming down a hill. Just below that, you'll see a building with two white lights (I think those lights are on all day) on the right end. That building is my dorm, named Hotel California. (What a name, eh?) I live on the first floor, far left end. The blue building in the center is Building 155, the main hub where the galley and several station offices are located. There are also a number of dorm rooms there. This is a live webcam so feel free to check it out throughout the day. We're six hours behind Mountain Daylight Time here and seven hours behind Central Daylight Time. Right now, you can still see the station at night, but soon it will be daylight 24-7. And I suppose if it's completely white, that means we're having a snowstorm or windstorm. ;)

More photos soon to come! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the last days of northern summer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The grosser side of Antarctica...

So, as it turns out, the janitor staff took a tour of the Waste Water Treatment Plant last week. I'm sure many of you have been wondering, "How do they get rid of their waste water?" Well, it is all dumped into the ocean, but only once it's been through a thorough cleaning process that leaves it as clean or cleaner than the ocean water. So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here goes. Enjoy! ;)

As soon as we walked into the treatment plant, we all noticed the nasty odor. Larry in particular couldn't stand it. Since the tour was technically optional, Larry decided to go clean his dorm instead. :)
Our tour guide shows us some of the stuff that gets gunked up in the works from time to time. He called himself Poobacca.

These pipes are where all the wastewater from the station flows into the treatment plant. Inside these tubes are slicers and grinders that remove as much solid waste (mainly paper products) as possible.

Here's where the water comes out after the solid wastes have been removed. Any solid matter that is still in the water at this point has to be removed by hand. Eeeewwww...

After as much solid waste as possible has been removed (both by machine and by hand) the water sits in this tank for a couple of days while the bacteria in the water breaks down everything into organic material. This bacteria is not added; it comes from the people's poo.

Here I stand, next to the stewing, nasty water.
This is my coworker Edwina. I tried to get her to do a pole dance, but she was afraid she might fall in.

This is my coworker Kevin, who seems to really be enjoying the nasty water. A bit too much, perhaps?

And here's my supervisor Justin. He's the head of janitorial staff and the one who arranged for the tour to take place. He looks like he's getting a bit tired of the nasty smell.

Once the nasty water stew (right) has processed long enough, it goes through a filter area (middle) that removes the little bit of solid waste remaining and allows just the water to pass through (right).

After the water has finished processing, it is subjected to several hours of UV radiation. This kills 95% of the bacteria in the water before it is sent out to the ocean.

Here's a bucket of solid waste that was sitting near the water processing tanks.  This all had to be removed by hand from the water. Eeeeeewwwwwww...

Here's another bucket of solid waste removed by hand. This one has plants sprouting on top! You know what they say-- one man's trash is another plant's treasure. 

At the end of the tour, Poobacca put a drop of water from the end of the process onto a slide and let us look through a microscope to see all the little bacteria and other creatures living in the water. Very fascinating. Needless to say, I'm happy I don't have this job and I'm very appreciative of Poobacca and the other people who work to clean our water. I hope you enjoyed touring the Waste Water Treatment Plant as much as I did. It's too bad I couldn't upload the odors for a more complete experience. ;)