Considering that within the audience there might be someone thinking of applying to work, or just generally interested, in Antarctica I’ll share my journey and maybe reveal a bit about my psyche as, from the tales I’ve heard so far, everyone here has forged their own unique path.
- I started in NZ; stayed for 13 years; primary education; rode my bike to school in the snow; mostly peaceful.
- Then to PNG for 5 years; secondary education; changed accent. Missed 2 exams in year 10 from being in lockdown due to rampaging students. Got caught in the middle of 2 warring tribes in the New Guinea highlands. Etc.
- Then settled in Oz. Tertiary education; mostly peaceful.
- Now in Antarctica. I wouldn’t exactly call it peaceful, where just getting to the office can be an effort.
So all this gave me itchy feet, no not the ringworm from PNG but the desire to get out there and see the world. So for work I sought out opportunities to do just that. I also don’t make a good tourist; I like having a reason to be there. Work like a local and then play like a local. You see quite a different aspect that way.
- Changchun, right up the north of China. Installed a x8 phone line expander after a village wrote to us. Now instead of just the mayor being the only one to have a phone, the fire chief and 6 payphones in the town square were also available. And I made time to look around the town; see the pic of me on market day.
- Brazil. Longest flight around the world, 5 hops, 42 hours just to Rio, then another to Salvador. Debugging issues interfacing to their telephone exchange, under threat of having a contract cancelled and installing in the favela (slum), not the safest place. Then after hours, squashed into a pub to watch the world cup soccer.
- South Africa. Submitting a tender to SA Telecom, then hiring a car to driving from Joburg to Sun City, getting lost and ending up in a township.
- Norway. Writing software for Ericson’s telephone exchange, then fabulous skiing on the weekend. Mostly peaceful.
All this varied experience taught me to be flexible. I initially applied for a role at Davis station (a 12-month process) and made it onto the reserve list. Cruising into Xmas but still half mentally preparing. Then a role at Mawson suddenly came up. 2 weeks from initial talks to being offered the role. 1.5 weeks to ask for a sabbatical from work, pack up my life and fly to Hobart. Load up on some training, then on a boat south and before I had time to catch my breath I’m stepping onto continent No. 7.
I don’t believe in bucket lists, but I’ve always wanted to complete the 7 continents. Now, not only have I visited all 7, but I’ve lived and worked on all 7.
I didn’t want to be just a tourist in Antarctica either, I wanted this to be my backyard. Survival training last week was work, but there was also time to appreciate the vastness of the never-ending ice. Unlike Oz, where if you find some, you’re aware that you’re on a small patch surrounded by brown Australia.
Maybe it’s FOMO that drives me. Well, fear is not the right word. It’s more a regret I know I’d have if I didn’t at least try. I collect experiences, something to tell my grandchildren. And on that note, my firstborn’s firstborn was born 2 days ago. Another new experience to enjoy.
Andrew (Mawson CTO)