Many have asked “what is it like living in McMurdo”, in particular the food and accommodations. Here’s my attempt to answer those questions. To start with, room and board are provided. Transportation to and from Antarctica is also covered.
|Front of my dorm, 203B|
For those who lived in a college dorm, were in the military or attended summer camp, the experience is similar, sort of. Our dorm is connected with two other dorms, each two stories high. The rooms are about 12’ by 18’, have two single beds, two wardrobes, two night stands, two chairs, and a refrigerator, a lot to cram in a small space. But it's plenty big enough for two. The mattress I have is firm and comfortable. Bedding is provided. I was lamenting about not having brought flannel sheets with me but a fellow Shuttle driver found me a set left behind by a past resident so now I’m cozy and warm at night.
|Small but cozy. There is a window covering to block out the light.|
There are both men’s and women’s restrooms on each floor. I’m lucky because my dorm has heated floors in the restrooms. Each dorm also has a laundry room. The washers and driers are free as are the laundry detergent and fabric softeners.
|Dorm lounge with TV, chairs and a couch. Trash and |
recycling bins to the left
Each dorm has a lounge. The furnishings differ from dorm to dorm but generally have a large flat screen TV, a variety of chairs, couches, coffee tables and desks and an assortment of books, games and movies. Most lounges have a few ethernet cables for accessing the internet. There is no WIFI for the general population. And no cellular service, which is both a curse and a blessing.
|Other side of the lounge, with a view overlooking |
Ross Sound and the Ice Pier.
Each resident takes a turn in keeping the dorm clean. Janitors clean the restrooms but residents vacuum, mop and sanitize the other public areas, as well as their rooms. These “house mouse” duties, as they’re called, are assigned by the Resident Administrator or RA.
|Dining room early in the morning. It's usually pretty crowded.|
Meals are served at the galley (think cafeteria or mess hall). It seats a little over 300 people. Meals times are generally 2-3 hours in length, three or four times a day. A midnight lunch meal was added a few weeks ago to accommodate those working the night shift.
|Inside the galley.|
There is a wide variety of food and plenty of it. It is good, especially the breads and desserts. You can make yourself a deli sandwich or panini, and pizza is available a good part of the day. In the morning I usually have two eggs over easy or an omelette (made to order), yogurt with fruit, and a danish or turnover. You can eat healthy, or not. So far I’ve been good and have actually lost 4-5 pounds since I got here. I guess that’s not normally the case.
|The Glacier Deli and salad and dessert bars.|
As many of you know, I enjoy coffee. The coffee here is good which was a pleasant surprise. When I was warned it might not be good I mailed myself a 5-cup coffee maker and six pounds of Peet’s French Roast (both decaf and regular). Recently I’ve been making a pot in my room. It’s a morning treat that gets me out of bed. And I've become an herbal tea drinker. That's what I have with my lunch and dinner.
Right now there are plenty of fresh veggies and fruit but that will end in the next week or so when the C-17s stop flying between Christchurch and McMurdo. The C-17s, based at McChord Air Force Base in Washington State, are the work horses because of the large payloads they can handle. I’ve been warned to enjoy the “freshies” while I can because the C-17s flights won’t begin again until January. This will also affects mail delivery.
|C-17 at Phoenix Airfield. Photo by Colin Harnish.|
All in all, I’m very happy with life here in McMurdo. That’s not to say I don’t miss my little house on Frazer Lane and all my friends and family. But compared to the early Antarctic explorers, I have it quite nice.
- As of November 25 there are 895 people in McMurdo.