24 October 2022: Life at Scott Base

View of Scott Base from a helicopter

Life at Scott Base is fairly comfortable and homey. It’s a largish, boxy looking facility with long heated hallways with ramps and stairs connecting the various buildings and felt like a maze when we first arrived. It was very easy to get lost the first few days and accidentally wander into a cargo room or someone else’s sleeping corridor. Everyone here has been extremely friendly and genuinely excited to see new faces and help out the confused new scientists running around. There is a culture of mutual appreciation between the scientists and the teams of people that make it possible for us to do our work. There are so many logistics that go into each project and all the projects are so varied. Electricians, mechanics, field logistic support crews, cargo crews, flight crews, engineers, communications specialists, field trainers, chefs, and people that keep the place clean, warm, and livable. It’s been a pleasure getting to know them and we certainly couldn’t do any of our work without them.

My favorite part of Scott Base (other than the people) is the fact that there are nearly 5 meals a day that are all incredible. We are offered the typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also “smoker” which comes between the three meals and consists of coffee or tea accompanied by tasty snacks – like toast smothered in cheese, tomato, and bacon. The chefs are also so thoughtful and accommodating with dietary issues, which has been critical for some of us!

My other favorite part, is that just outside base you can walk along pressure ridges where the sea ice bumps up against land and creates beautiful ice sculptures. Of course, you have to have had proper field training first, must always sign out and back in to avoid a search and rescue, and must bring a radio to signal when you’ve transitions onto and off of the sea ice for safety purposes. It’s a lot of work just to go for a 30-minute walk, but it’s worth it! Not only is the scenery gorgeous, but it’s a place where Weddell seals nudge their way through cracks and thinner ice to haul out on thicker slabs of snowy ice to give birth to their pups. On our last walk around the pressure ridges we counted 9 seals and 3 pups.

Weddell seal along the pressure ridges hike in front of Scott Base with view of Mt. Erebus in the distance.

There aren’t too many downsides to being at Scott Base, which is good since we got stuck here longer than intended due to delayed cargo and the delayed arrival of the Antarctic New Zealand helicopter (our means of transportation to the penguin colony where we camp and work). The only real negative I can come up with is the extremely dry air which leads to itchy eyes, dry skin, nasal congestion and random large shocks of static electricity every time you touch metal. Which is a lot! The trick is to touch metal as consistently as possible while walking anywhere to discharge the static, and everyone looks like they’ve got a compulsive tick to tap things constantly. And we do, or else we suffer the consequences!