Friday, February 09, 2007

There is no decaf coffee at the south pole

In the galley, there are two coffee spigots. But instead of the usual "regular" and "decaf", they're labeled "regular" and "high-octane", made extra strong. This suits me just fine. It also suits a station that operates 24 hours of the day, where people often find themselves shifting their schedule back and forth from days to nights or the other way around.

My schedule has stayed fairly constant: I went on the night shift in the first few days I was here, and that's where I've stayed. My routine has me downing several cups of the high-octane brew every evening at around 8pm before I head out to the lab to work. In some ways, it makes no difference when you are awake and when you sleep here. The sun is always at the same height, it just shines from different directions depending on the time of day. People are working and sleeping at all hours, and it's easy to program yourself to view 8pm as if it were 8am, and vice versa. But there are still significant differences. Most of the station operates on a day shift, so planes come and go during the day, the halls are busy with people, and most socializing happens in the evening hours. Being on the day shift als0 has the advantage that you can eat normal meals at their normal times. Night shifters wake up to dinner, have "midrats" for lunch, and then come to breakfast after work.

I still prefer the night shift, even though I've had french toast for "dinner" most days of the week for a month. It's quieter and calmer. The midrats meals lately have been absolutely fantastic. The satellite is up during the night, so it's easier for me to look up references online while I work. Plus, I've enjoyed spending time with the night crew and having the social areas of the station mostly to ourselves while the day-shifters are at work.

As the season is drawing to a close, I'm so used to the south pole schedule that I barely think about it anymore. I've adjusted to the sun circling the sky all the time, and I don't really mind that it never gets dark. But three nights ago (where by "night" I really mean morning, when I was headed back from work) I saw something I hadn't seen since we got here: the moon. It's been circling around in the sky going higher and higher for the last few days. Seeing it made me miss night, the real kind of night.

(look for the moon - a tiny white spot just to the left of the telescope)



Dixon said...

It is so amazingly cool to read your blog. The tiniest fraction of us will ever experience the South Pole, let alone a research experiment at that level. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

11:31 PM  
Andrej said...

wow, it must be weird to have always 'the day' and never real kind of night! but it also sounds so cool! the pic of the moon left of the telescope is amazing! Keep up the good work and keep posting about the south pole and your amazing work! Big 'hi' all the way from Europe! =)

10:50 AM  
f3ze said...

What a really interesting blog, you probably hear this the whole time but you are so lucky to go all the way down there!
Anyway, I'm sure you'll stop in NZ on your way back so make sure you go up to the sunny Bay of Islands for some R & R - real nights, fishing, sailing in non-frozen waters and yes even penguins!

1:46 AM  
ryo128 said...

Now then i know the sun is always shinning in the south pole. Do you get to see polar bear there?


11:00 AM  
silane said...


I thought polar bears only appear in north pole ???

11:26 AM  

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