I've seen a couple of other Antarctic AMAs done recently and there seemed to be some ancillary interest in my perspective, so I'll throw this one out there and see if it sticks. If you're curious to see pictures or other stories about life down here, check out my blog at http://frozennerd.blogspot.com/


The United States Antarctic Program maintains three year-round scientific research stations in Antarctica, and I'm currently living at the largest one: McMurdo station, located on Ross Island, a 5-8 hour airplane ride south of New Zealand. This is my fourth season "on the ice", previously I did three seasons as a Utility Mechanic at the USAP's smallest outpost of Palmer Station, where I did an AMA last year: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1ndncc/i_am_currently_livingworking_at_the_usas_smallest/


Wondering what it's like to do IT and get people drunk at the bottom of the planet? Ask away!


Want to know more about McMurdo? Live webcams are here http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm and the NSF's official page about the station is here http://www.nsf.gov/geo/plr/support/mcmurdo.jsp


CMA: I do not speak for the National Science Foundation, United States Antarctic Program, Lockheed Martian, or any other company or organization. My opinions and statements belong to me and me alone.

My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/Tq3IG4i.jpg

Because I know it'll get asked a billion times:

What's the internet like? We've got an 18mbit/10mbit connection over the Optus D-1 satellite, and that connection is shared by everything and everyone on station. Phones, business intranet, scientific data, recreational internet, everything goes over that connection. As you'd expect with ~1,000 people sharing that pipe, it's extremely slow with latency between 710ms and 1200ms, depending on the QoS policy that's applied to the traffic.

How do I get a job down there?: This is one of the more comprehensive and accurate write-ups I've seen about that: http://southpolestation.com/trivia/ncs/jobs.html

Comments: 239 • Responses: 73  • Date: 

thelordofcheese40 karma

How much do uglies get bumped?

TotallyToast18 karma

shrug The majority of the population is single, and in their 20s and 30s. It happens about as often as you'd expect.

Raptor_Man2229 karma

What is your most commonly ordered drink down there?

TotallyToast49 karma


That, and stuff-in-Coke. Mostly Makers Mark, Crown Royal, Jack Danial's, and Captain Morgan. On Sunday morning (our one day off a week) we'll also do a ton of Bloody Marys and Mimosas.

msiekkinen9 karma

How often do you get new booze shipments?

TotallyToast24 karma

I think booze comes in on our yearly supply ship, with the rest of the bulk cargo.

MagnusTheGreat13 karma

45% alcoholic beverages, 20% food, 25% equipment? Also, do you know an Icelander there that was/is working on the SPIDER telescope?

Also, since it is this cold, I assume you can play about 100 video games at a time without the computer overheating...Which would be impractical, but really cool.

TotallyToast13 karma

SPIDER, the long-duration balloon project? I know of them in that I've had to go out to their launch facility with some frequency to install equipment, but I haven't spoken with many of the guys too frequently.

p-wing27 karma

Did we score on the fucking Kiwis this year?

TotallyToast32 karma

Actually they've canceled the Intra-Station rugby game recently, because there were too many injuries.

irrigatedpanda24 karma

How'd you get the position? I assume you were brought down for IT and the bartending came second... but maybe I'm wrong. Am I wrong?

TotallyToast36 karma

You assume correctly, I'm an IT guy by trade and that's my primary responsibility. Bartenders here are selected from the community, there's a pool of ~40 of us and we'll each take a shift or two a week working at either one of the bars, or the Coffee House/Wine Bar.

stealthgerbil13 karma

How do you get an IT job there?

TotallyToast31 karma

shrug Go to the web site and apply.

That being said, there's very few positions in IT here. Two network guys (A senior Engineer and a junior Admin position, which is me), two System Admins, Five PC Techs and one person on the helpdesk. And most of us come back season after season, so an open slow is pretty rare. I did three seasons as a Utility Mechanic before I was able to snag a spot in IT, and I plan on being here for a while.

stealthgerbil16 karma

It sounds like a pretty unique gig so I can imagine that its hard to get into.

TotallyToast24 karma

It is and it isn't.

From what I've heard from various managers, finding people who have the technical qualifications isn't the hard part. It's much more difficult finding people who have the skills, AND can function in this culture/enviroment.

tkellogg15 karma

What about the culture makes it so difficult to function? Do scientists have a psychotic side that I'm not aware of?

TotallyToast21 karma

It's like living in a cross between a college campus and a mining town. It's shared bedrooms and communal bathrooms, so you don't always have a lot of privacy or personal space. The work week is long (54 hours is normal, some departments work more), the climate is harsh and you're cooped up here without any way to get out for months at a time. Some people can handle it, but a lot of people can't.

resurrezione22 karma

How many people in total would you guess are living on Antarctica right now?

TotallyToast33 karma

MAYBE 3,000, spread among all the countries stations. McMurdo is far and away the largest, but the majority of the stations are less than a hundred people. During the winter, the population of the entire continent probably drops below 500.

PorkyPengu1n21 karma

Do you regularly interact with penguins? Would you call any of them porky?

TotallyToast27 karma

Nah, harrassing the wildlife is an excellent way to get yourself fired pretty quickly.

There's not too many penguins in the immediate vicinity, the nearest colonies are a few miles away and they generally avoid us. I did a couple seasons at Palmer Station, which is in another part of Antarctica and has vastly more wildlife, but even then we operate under the rule that we don't influence the behavior of the wildlife, if we can possibly avoid it.

gentleman_bronco19 karma

Thanks for doing this! I have always been interested in Antarctica and the work that goes on down there. Is there a typical "night life" in Antarctica to warrant a bartender? And what is a popular drink down in McMurdo right now?

TotallyToast27 karma

There is a decent enough night-life, although "night life" is an odd term because the sun hasn't set here in a couple months, and won't again until March. The bars are mostly open 5 days a week after work hours, with a few "day bar" shifts for people who work the over-night shifts.

AtheistComic17 karma


TotallyToast26 karma

Any gaming that happens is mostly on split-screened consoles. The Rec department has a couple Nintendo Wiis that we can check out, but a number of people bring down xBoxes or Playstations of various vintages. To my knowledge there's not much networked gaming that goes on down here, we just don't have the infrastructure for it.

The majority of the community doesn't have access to the wireless network, and there's not many wall jacks in any communal areas that people might gather. If someone were to bring down their own switch and set up a LAN party in one of the lounges there'd be nothing to stop them, but at that point it's just easier to use consoles rather than expecting everyone to have a gaming-capable laptop.

speel17 karma

Network admin here as well. Sometimes I feel like I need to get a side job in the public like being a bartender to balance out sitting behind a cubical all day dealing with the same people everyday. Do you feel that being a bartender balances you out?

TotallyToast17 karma

Definitely, the main reason I took the Bartending gig was to force myself to socialize a bit. Like many IT people I'm pretty introverted by nature, so doing a shift or two at the bars every week forces me to get out of my office and dorm room occasionally, and actually interact with people.

playswithf1re8 karma

Was thinking about doing this myself, but I now what would happen - I'd be midway through a bartending shift and something would break that I need to urgently fix. :/

TotallyToast13 karma

That hasn't happened yet, although I do always have to carry a pager in case something does break. The bartending here is pretty low-key; if there really was a work emergency I had to tend to, my bar manager would be understanding and either step in to cover, or I'd just kick everyone out and lock the building, and come back to clean up later.

Fortunately our WAN connection has chosen to mostly break during business hours this season, at least so far.

tooch6715 karma

Does the harsh environment impact the way you install/maintain the IT equipment there? (Like backup generators, special heaters, insulated cabling, etc...)

TotallyToast22 karma

Did you know you can get a PoE heater? I didn't, until I came down here.

For the most part, it's nothing too special, aside from needing to put small heaters inside some outdoor enclosures that have some long-range wireless comms gear. The majority of the back-hauls between buildings are fiber with local ethernet distribution switches, the same as you might find anywhere else.

We have a building UPS system for our server room, and we're also tied in to the backup generator for the laboratory next door, in case we did lose power from the power plant.

sqrt-1loveyou13 karma

PoE heater?! That's the first I've heard of that wow

TotallyToast12 karma

Me too. They don't put out much, but it's enough to keep the little enclosure within operational temperatures.

WheresBilly14 karma

Do drinks cost a lot more in Antarctica?

TotallyToast25 karma

$3 beer, $4 mixed drinks with 1.5oz pours. I've never bartended in the states (and actually, I don't drink at all myself), so I've got no idea how that lines up in comparison.

idea1714 karma

What made you apply for a job in Antartica?

TotallyToast19 karma

I had a quarter-life crisis back in 2008, when I realized I was still living in the same town I grew up in and was at a real risk of getting stuck there. I knew I didn't want that for my life, I wanted something more interesting and I wanted to travel, so I took my first contract down here as a "Carpenter's Helper".

After that I got quickly addicted to the contracting lifestyle and haven't looked back since.

sllimdj12 karma

Speaking of Carpenters Helper,

I'm currently serving in the military working construction, and my current duty station is all carpentry. It's my dream to someday work in Antarctica. When I saw this position I was so stoked I could hardly contain myself.

What kind of woodwork do you do, and what is the pay like?

Also, what is the likely hood of wintering over? Is it something that everyone wants to do, and therefore difficult to get a spot?


TotallyToast12 karma

Well "Carpenter's Helper" was basically "Tool Bitch", and that was at Palmer Station which has much less defined job rolls than McMurdo. If you have a background in contruction and carpentry, you'll have no problem getting a job down here if you want one. The vast majority of the jobs here are in the skilled trades. The pay for the "Helper" and "Apprentice" positions is fairly low, as you'd expect from nearly-entry-level work, but the more skilled positions do pay pretty well. Expect to make about 1/2 to 2/3rds what you could make for equivalent work in the states (But all your expenses are covered, similar to being in the military).

I've never been so into woodworking myself, I'm more of an electronics and mechanical type guy. I build stuff like this in my free time: http://frozennerd.blogspot.com/2014/01/building-panning-time-lapse-rig-out-of.html

As for wintering over, it depends on the year. Some years there's a plethora of people who want to winter, some years they're scrambling and begging people to stay. Doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason, it comes and goes in waves.

ethan_lynch13 karma

Do you enjoy living in antarctica? Where did you grow up? What was it like adapting to antarctica?

TotallyToast24 karma

I do like living here, I like it a lot. There's a reason I've kept coming back season after season.

I grew up in Chicago, or the suburbs of it. Adapting to Antarctica is easier than you'd think, as there's nothing even remotely like the real world here. It's such a completely different lifestyle, climate and culture that it's like being transported to a different universe for a while.

TehCuddler6 karma

Late to the party but hello from 1:10 am in Chicago suburbs. High of 6 degrees expected next week. That's probably nothing compared to highs and lows you've experienced is it?

TotallyToast9 karma

When I got here in early October we had a few days where the wind chill was in the -50s, but it's warmed up since then. These days, in the height of summer, the ambient temperatures are usually in the teens or 20s.

I_am_a_crazy_person13 karma

What's the worst kind of drunk shenanigans you've seen down there?

TotallyToast22 karma

I PERSONALLY haven't witnessed much, but stories that border on legend abound.

Earlier this season someone got kicked off station after they instructed the Area Director (one step above the Station Manager) to go have intercourse with himself when he was politely telling them to please stop making so much noise in one of the dorm lounges in the middle of the night.

Wrinklyroy12 karma

Hi man! I didn't realise there was a bar in Antartica. Is there more than 1? Shit man.. sounds like the Arctic is pretty boomin!

TotallyToast16 karma

There's two bars just here at McMurdo (Gallagher's Pub and Southern Exposure), plus the Coffee House which serves wine by the bottle and glass.

Hurdler7719 karma

Wait there is a strip club in Antarctica?

TotallyToast12 karma

Ha, no.

rstgrs12 karma

What does it feel like living in a such remote area of the world? Also- what do you do in your free time there?

TotallyToast20 karma

I like remote areas, for some reason I find myself drawn to them. Even when I'm back in the real world and traveling for fun, I tend to seek out the more desolate corners of the earth.

Besides drinking, there's a fair few recreation opportunities. Lots of fitness clubs, arts and craft opportunities, or you can go hiking on some of the trails around station.

And did I mention the drinking?

clit-power11 karma

I had a teacher tell me that he once seen an albatross with wings that spanned three metres in length on his trip to Antarctica. Can you confirm that such a beast exists?

TotallyToast14 karma

Easily, the Wandering Albatross regularly has wingspans of 3.5m, and the largest recorded was 3.7m (12ft 2in)

JoelTheSuperior11 karma

What's it like being so cut off from your friends and family back home? Obviously having that internet connection is better than nothing but a link like that shared between that many people... surely you struggle sometimes?

TotallyToast14 karma

Eh, I don't miss my friends and family as much as you'd think. I'm not overly-close with my family and my friends and I are all quite nomadic, so it's not too hard missing them. I do miss my girlfriend, as you'd expect.

More than anything I miss my hobbies. I'm an adrenalin junkie and there's not many ways to get a good adrenalin fix down here.

nerddtvg10 karma

How do you maintain a relationship that is so long distance and so long in between visits?

TotallyToast15 karma

Lots of phone calls and e-mails, but it's not easy. The upside is that for the other six months of the year, we get to see each other much more as I don't have to work while I'm back in the states.

214b10 karma

People spend cash money at your bar? Other than paying for bar drinks, is there anything else to spend cash on down there? Is there an ATM machine?

TotallyToast7 karma

Yup, the bars are cash only. I think they're going to new POS systems this winter which should allow them to start taking cards, but for now it's all cash.

There is an ATM here, and there's also the station store which sells some touristy stuff, snack foods, toiletries and booze.

214b6 karma

So who runs the bar? Do you keep all the money you take in? Could someone, in theory, make more money by running a bar or some other kind of business than from the main job which brought them there?

TotallyToast3 karma

The bars are run by the Retail department, same department that runs the store. It's sort of like a company town with a company store and bar.

Stephonovich10 karma

Have your networks ever been DDoS'd, or in any other way bothered? Do you do much monitoring for attacks, or is there no concern?

TotallyToast11 karma

Not to my knowledge. Our connection hits the internet out through our corporate headquarters in Denver, so to the outside world it doesn't look much different than any other typical business's traffic.

22PoundHouseCat9 karma

How's the local cuisine?

TotallyToast14 karma

Not great. Rumor is the Galley had a 40% budget cut this year, and there's a big push to more pre-packaged foods to cut down on prep time. Needless to say, it shows.

StarbuckPirate9 karma

Hey Snowtender. How long are the days/nights? What time does the bar open and close? Is your internet slow because you have Comcast?

TotallyToast12 karma

We've got 24 hours of sunlight right now, and will until sometime in March when the sun finally starts to dip below the horizon.

The bars are generally open from 7pm-11pm after most work days, although on Saturday night they go to midnight.

As much as I enjoy complaining about Comcast like anyone else, even one of their standard residential connections would be far faster than we've currently got.

rboellund8 karma

How does law enforcement work down there?

I can imagine that theft and fights happen, so how is that dealt with and who is in charge off this?

TotallyToast12 karma

I believe the station manager is officially deputized as a US Marshall. As for any day-to-day incidents that you might usually call the police over, the fire house mostly takes care of that stuff.

Ladefuckingda7 karma

What are the living conditions like when you aren't working? Housing, supplies, socialization, etc..

TotallyToast7 karma

It's dorm-style housing, usually 2-4 people to a room with communal bathrooms. The majority of the socialization happens at the bars, as you would expect, or over meal times in the Galleys.

canyoutriforce7 karma

What's the one thing you miss most?

TotallyToast13 karma

FRESHIES. Holy crap, I would murder a kitten for a box of raspberries right now.

frazzledinptc7 karma

I went to your blog and saw the sign with the notice for the LGBT social. Are there really enough LGBT people there to warrant a social or did the drawings of the unicorn and rainbow mean it was some Antarctic humor that I missed? I was wondering how many open LGBT's there would be out of 1000 people.

TotallyToast18 karma

There are, I can't give you exact numbers as I'm not one of that crowd. But there's quite a few, one specific guy is so out that he legally changed his last name to "Fabulous".

_atsu6 karma

Hello there! A lover of science, coldness, and remoteness here, thanks for doing this!

  1. How is the community there?

  2. How are the living quarters? Does everyone get their own room?

  3. I hear of a lot of people who make it down there on work opportunities, are there a lot of study opportunities for students?

Also, the Palmer Station bar looks like the perfect place to have a drink in the middle of a cold desolate land! Bucket-list'd instantly.

edit: 4. Do you guys get to order things from Amazon?

TotallyToast8 karma

The community is great, and probably one of the biggest reasons that many of us return year after year. McMurdo isn't quite as tight or intimate as Palmer was, which is to be expected due to it's size, but there's still a lot of really great people down here.

Living quarters are dorms, 2-4 people to a room with communal bathrooms and cafeteria-style food.

There are opportunities to come down as a student, generally as a grad student attached to your professor's research project. It's usually part of their Masters or PhD program.

We do have an APO mailing address and we can order things from Amazon, or anyone else that ships to APOs. However, mail service is very slow and unreliable, especially during the peak of summer when the only planes in and out are the C-130s.

XeroByt35 karma

Have you ever read the Matthew Reilly book "Ice Station?

TotallyToast20 karma

I have not, and from reading the Wikipedia page, it seems to be another book written about Antarctica by someone who's never been here.

HoorayInternetDrama5 karma

Thank you for reenforcing my view that all network engineers are basically alcoholics. Source: another network engineer.

Do you do anything special for pushing data across the satellite link? I'm assuming you tunnel everything in either UDP or that XCP. I'd imagine there's either a WAN accelerator and/or local proxy also just for sanity.

TotallyToast10 karma

Actually, I don't even drink. :)

We don't do anything special with regards to traffic, the latency is high but from a packet standpoint it's quite reliable. Although we do have an Accelerator/Optimizer that can do some caching to squeeze a little bit more out of the pipe.

We have an extensive QoS system in place, which we tweak as the season progresses and our scientific data requirements vary depending on what projects are active at the time.

HoorayInternetDrama4 karma

Actually, I don't even drink. :)

My god, heathen!

We have an extensive QoS system in place, which we tweak as the season progresses and our scientific data requirements vary depending on what projects are active at the time.

I used to work extensively with WAN accelerators. They honestly do do good work with re-writing TCP to be just...better/faster.

Do you land all your traffic at a head office, or let your upstream do the routing for you?

TotallyToast3 karma

Yup, all the traffic goes out through our corporate headquarters in Denver. That's where our Enterprise firewall is, and QoS duties are split between a few devices along the chain (some in Denver, some down here).

HoorayInternetDrama3 karma

I had a nose about and found this which gives me a better idea of what you're up to.

I assume that this position is in head office, and not in Antartica....

TotallyToast3 karma

Yes, anything Lockheed is in the head office, not on the ice.

If you want to work down here, you have to go through the contractor. The link to them is on that page I linked to in my initial post, about how to get a job here.

TomilloDanup5 karma

Hello, I hope you can still answer this. Are there any needs for IT Security on the antarica networks or computers and how do you deal with it? Things beyond antivirus or firewalls. For example, security policies or aligment with standars like ITIL or ISO2700, or some super secret stuff that needs top notch security.

TotallyToast5 karma

Honestly, we don't have nearly as much security as I would like, but those decisions are made far above my head. I worked in IT for the Army for a couple of years, and this is so lax by comparison that it makes my head spin.

But the requirements for a production network are different down here. We've had a couple guys come here after working in the Sandbox, and they described this place as a "Tactical Environment". What I took that to mean is that the focus is VASTLY more on getting the science accomplished and getting the mission done, rather than piling on a ton of security policies and requirements that would mostly just serve to get in the way.

TomilloDanup3 karma

Thanks this a great answer. I know Lockheed is a contractor (not sure if the term is correct) for the antartica mission so I used to think they would have some security in place. What do you think could improve security over there? (No need to be specific hehe)

TotallyToast3 karma

Well I think we have to avoid falling into the trap of "Security for the sake of security". My understanding is the NSF's primary concern is getting as much science accomplished as possible given the limited resources and narrow climate windows we have, so before we go adding military-grade levels of security to the network, they'd want to see how it's going to help get more science accomplished.

Of the top of my head, though, some network segmentation would be nice, along with some sort of network access control. My understanding is those things are in the planning stages, but enterprise-wide projects like that take quite a while to plan and implement.

wh0ligan4 karma

I there any kind of job there for a automotive mechanic and what would the responsibilities and pay be?

TotallyToast5 karma

Tons! The Vehicle Maintenance Facility has a lot of mechanics, two shifts worth. I think the separate it into Light vehicle and Heavy equipment specialties, but there seems to be a lot of overlap. No idea what the pay is like, rule of thumb is 2/3rds of what you could make in a similar job state-side, although basically every expense is covered and you don't have to pay for anything (transport, food, housing, etc is all provided)

wh0ligan2 karma

I probably won't do it but where can I find info?

TotallyToast2 karma

Read the link about getting a job here that I put in my initial post.

214b4 karma

Tell us the details about the hookup scene there... Like, with everyone living with roommates, where do people actually go for some privacy? With a ratio of almost 3 guys to every girl, how is messed up is the dating scene? Do the girls play the field, expecting guys to do all kinds of stuff for them?
Any crazy stories you've seen or heard?

TotallyToast11 karma

Where there's a will, there's a way. All sorts of places you can try and find, or just politely ask your room mate if they wouldn't mind vanishing for an hour.

The dating scene is heavily biased in favor of women, but the saying is "The odds are good, but the goods are odd". I've had a few girls express to me that when they narrow the selection down to the pool of guys they would consider actually datable (i.e. in their age range, not obese, reasonably groomed and generally just decent people who aren't mouth-breathing troglodytes), the ratio is a lot more even than it looks on paper.

RNAPII4 karma

Are there girls?

TotallyToast6 karma

The ratio is about 70/30 men to women.

BlankUsername424 karma

How did New Year's Eve work down there? What time zone is your bar in?

TotallyToast7 karma

We're on New Zealand time, as it makes coordinating with incoming flights from Christchurch easier.

Stoyon4 karma

What kind of powerplant do you use? Just a large diesel generator?

TotallyToast8 karma

Multiple large generators, yes. The Kiwis installed three wind turbines on the hill between our two stations, which meets their station's needs and they give us any power that's left over from them.

jfmorrison4 karma

I came down to McMurdo Winfly 2003. Good times! Sad to see they haven't upgraded their uplink, much. Do you like McMurdo or Palmer better? Ever make it to the pole?

TotallyToast8 karma

I liked Palmer better, but basically everyone who's been to Palmer likes it better. It's so much smaller and more intimate, food is better and there's more wildlife.

However, I like the work here at McMurdo FAR more. Even if I was working IT at Palmer, McMurdo's network is so much bigger and more interesting, there's much more to learn.

Twice_Knightley4 karma

I have a lifelong goal to bartend on every continent. How realistic is it for me to do a shift in your bar?

TotallyToast8 karma

Well you'd have to get a day job doing something else here first. But after that, it's easy.

lukeskyscraper4 karma

1 whole second of latency for 1000 people? worse than any comcast connection? Ouch.

Do you have a web cache of some kind, or are you investigating / interested in implementing one in the near future?

TotallyToast5 karma

We do have a web cache, I think it's an Extenda that does caching and optimization. Our Denver corporate headquarters handles most of that WAN stuff, my responsibilities on that are mostly dealing with the internet-facing firewall.

Tuxedo33 karma

I'm currently going to school for IT Management, do you like your job?

TotallyToast5 karma

I love my job! Then again, I'm one of the strange sort who knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up since I was 12 years old, and have still stuck with that plan. I'm 30 now and I'm still not burned out, I'm still excited about technology and I really enjoy the work.

combatwombat8D3 karma

What kind of schooling do you have?

TotallyToast8 karma

I'm a high-school drop-out. :) IT is probably one of the only industries where you can teach yourself a lot of what you need to know, and I've been very fortunate to have a lot of great job opportunities come my way which have enabled me to learn on the job.

gunshooter3 karma

What are the top three beers in Antartica?

TotallyToast7 karma

It changes depending on what we've got in stock, most of our beer comes from New Zealand. The Fat Tire Pale Ale went pretty quickly, now a lot of people seem time like Speights and Tui.

Barbara_Booey3 karma

How are your sexual needs met?

TotallyToast7 karma

Dating happens, although the ratio is 70/30 male to female.

GoTurnMeOn3 karma

I understand you live in one of the world's most remote areas, but why is the DSL connection so damn slow?

Furthermore, why is that the only connection, especially given the amount of people sharing the line and/or the importance of the scientific information being shared?

TotallyToast6 karma

I'm not sure if your question is a joke or not. You can't seriously be that thick . . .

GoTurnMeOn4 karma

Nope, I must be. All those questions were completely serious.

Edit: FWIW, I looked up the Optus D-1 satellite and ADSL technology to make sure the question wasn't answered in a simple Google search.

TotallyToast8 karma

The short answer is because satellite connections by their nature are incredibly expensive and slow. We're basically renting an entire dedicated transponder on that satellite and it costs ~$6 Million dollars per year for what we get. (We don't actually pay it due to a complicated cooperation agreement we have with NASA, but you get the idea).

The NSF's goal is to do science; that's why this station is here, that's what the USAP is for, and that's why we have the internet connection. Any bandwidth that's left over that isn't being used for science is allowed to be used recreationally, on a space-available basis. But it's not a priority; the NSF's main question is "Can we get the science done with the connection we have?". And if the answer is yes, then that's the end of the discussion.

Azzaman4 karma

When I was at Scott Base I was told that the US was thinking about sticking an undersea cable in between McMurdo and NZ - do you know anything about that?

TotallyToast10 karma

Back in 2008/2009 when the economy was tanking, a lot of the ships that lay undersea cables were basically out of work, and offering themselves up for ridiculous discounts. At that time, when it looked like we could get it done really cheaply, there was talk about running a fiber-optic cable to New Zealand or Australia.

Unfortunately, when they looked at the hydrograpic surveys of the Ross Sea, even 500 meters down they could see MASSIVE gouges and scrapes from where icebergs had evidently dragged their keels along the bottom of the ocean. So sadly, that idea was scrapped.

jerryliufilms3 karma

How bad is the ozone hole in the Antarctic now? Does it limit your outdoor hours (especially in the summer months)?

TotallyToast8 karma

The ozone hole has actually been shrinking dramatically over the last couple decades now that CFCs were banned, but it's still there. Sunburn times here are VERY short, less than ten minutes in some situations, so everyone covers up and applies sunscreen religiously if they're going to be outside at all.

Dabee6253 karma

Who pays to have alcohol delivered all the way down there? I'd doubt the people who hired you would want to also pay to get their employees drunk.

TotallyToast6 karma

The booze comes in with the rest of our material orders, though the USAP cargo system. We (The employees) can either buy it in the bars, or buy a limited amount in the little station store every week.

I don't doubt that there's some senior management in the NSF that would probably like to see all the stations go dry, but I think there's also a realization that people have to blow off stress in some way and responsible drinking isn't a bad way for them to do it. There will always be the occasional problem of people not being able to keep track of their limits, but aside from some semi-famous events that have now devolved into legend, it's not that common.

kozmund3 karma

The important questions:

  • Is Southern Exposure still smoking?

  • Do beakers tip better or worse than support? What about polies?

  • Any interest in wintering over? Or even summering at pole?

TotallyToast2 karma

Nope, Southern is non-smoking now. I don't think you're allowed to smoke in ANY of the buildings, just the little smoking huts that are scattered around.

I haven't noticed any one group tipping particularly well or poorly. When the Aussies got stuck here for a couple weeks early in the season due to weather, most of them didn't tip, but I think that was just due to culture. Once it was explained to them, they were very apologetic and tipped well.

I've done a winter before in 2008 at Palmer, and I'd like to do a full year a Pole at some point.

hold-my-richard3 karma

Do you use an ice machine, or just break some up from outside?

TotallyToast4 karma

We've got ice machines in the bar and galley. Most of Antarctica is technically a desert, so there's not as much snow and ice outside as you'd think.

NorbitGorbit2 karma

Given the slowness of internet, are private intranets with say gigs of pirated movies more of a thing?

TotallyToast3 karma

As long as said private networks don't touch our network, they can do whatever they like. :)

NorbitGorbit1 karma

given the smallness of the community, do you know if this is a major thing, like they are at colleges?

TotallyToast4 karma

To be honest, I don't think so. I haven't seen it much, although as long as it's not connected to our network we don't monitor it particularly closely.

Most buildings, especially the dorms, don't have network connectivity anyway. So if people are going to share stuff, it's generally more efficient to sneakernet over a hard drive.

Shardeux2 karma

I'm interested in some of the challenges you come across living in an extremely desolate area - how is sewage handled? What is the medical system like down there - would you say your medical crew is well equipped to handle most potential threats?

TotallyToast2 karma

We have a sewage treatment plant here at McMurdo, at South Pole it's all just buried a couple hundred feet down under the ice.

We've got a clinic with a doctor and a few nurses, we have x-ray and ultrasound capability. Most of our focus is on keeping people alive and stable long enough to transport them back to New Zealand for proper treatment. A few details of our medical capabilities are here: http://frozennerd.blogspot.com/2014/11/mci-drill-mass-casualty-incident.html

magickero2 karma

Is there a government there? Who's in charge?

TotallyToast3 karma

Each station operates according to the laws of the country that runs it, so we operate under US laws.

intrepid_goat2 karma

Do your customers tip at all?

TotallyToast3 karma

Yup, people tip really well and bar-tending is an excellent way of making some extra cash down here.

KamikazeKrasian1 karma

As someone who is going into Computer Networking, what advice can you give me?

TotallyToast2 karma

I've found work experience and personal connections have helped me far more than education. And when you're getting any advanced certifications, specifically Cisco stuff, don't hesitate to pay for some good online instruction videos. Don't just poop-sock the exams away, actually learn when you need to know.