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Join the Antarctic Fire Dept

August 19, 2015


At a fan’s request, I’m sharing more about my brief stint with the Antarctic Fire Department. Yes, there is a fire department in McMurdo–you can see above, the Antarctic medallion on the truck, and Ob Hill in the background. The Christmas tree ornament on the pole was cute–it was December after all.

Intrigued, I asked the fire fighters to see more of the equipment on the trucks, and how they dig through the snow. Little did I know how I’d end up(!)

The trucks of course carry long spools of hose. Some of the trucks have those triangular tractor wheels to get through any snow or mud. That time of year, mud was what you mainly saw in McMurdo.


And of course they have stretchers, with extra padding for warmth, to rescue people out of the snow.


And worse–out of an icy crevasse!


This triangular stand with pulleys is designed ingeniously to lift a trapped hiker out of a narrow crack in the ice. The pulleys distribute the force so that anyone with minimal muscle strength can pull the victim up. Even me!


That went so well, the next thing I knew–I was drafted into the fire training program! With a room upstairs “burning” and a body to rescue, there was no time to waste.


The suit weighed a ton, especially with that oxygen tank. It made those Antarctic red coats (upper right) feel like nothing. That black thing in back is the motion sensor–you have to “dance the Macarena” the whole time, or an alarm goes off in case you passed out.


There’s my partner. She and I had to climb up the stairs through “smoke” –I was just scared I would fall over, with all the weight. We crawled along the floor, without stopping lest the sensor go off. I found the “body” under a bed (apparently kids do that) and she dragged it out. We did so well, they told us there are always job openings in the department. Who knows where I’d be now, if I didn’t have my seat out on the Herc scheduled the next day.



  1. August 20, 2015 11:35 am

    Very cool! So, December is… late spring? Or do seasons not really vary much down there?

  2. August 20, 2015 12:02 pm

    very cool

  3. August 20, 2015 12:18 pm

    December is early summer. It makes a big difference–because of the sun, remember. Sun 24 hours. McMurdo turns to mud, and the outer edge of each frozen lake thaws, forming a “moat.” Winter is 24-hour night, with auroras. Minus 40 to minus 80.

    • August 20, 2015 1:28 pm

      Oh – right! How could I forget the 24 hours of daylight?!

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