Monday, May 14, 2007

Antarctic women rock!

The history of human endeavors in Antarctica is very brief compared to other epochs of exploration. Amundsen and Scott led the first men to the South Pole only back in 1911, less than a century ago. Since then, men have been bravely advancing the human presence down at the bottom of the world, making the first flight over the South Pole, building permanent structures allowing them to spend the entire winter in a dark frozen wasteland, carrying on that pioneering spirit inspired by those intrepid early visitors who triumphed and perished.

What about the women? According to Bill Spindler, our Title II inspector in 2005 and the foremost historian of Antarctic history and specifically South Pole lore, tells me that women came down to Pole for the very first time in 1969 when a group of 6 female scientists got to spend a few hours here on a boondoggle trip. It wasn't until 1974 that women actually came down here to work and Elena Marty and Jan Boyd were the first female contract workers at 90 degrees South latitude. And a real trailblazer is Michele Raney, the physician in 1979, who became the first woman ever to spend a winter at the South Pole.

Now, women are part of the fabric of life down here. We have just about every trade represented by the fairer sex. The men still outnumber the women by quite a large margin down here, but no one bats an eye at the sight of a woman slinging a heavy tool belt, driving a loader or sewing up a patient.

This winter, out of the crew of 54, we have 11 women. We are a cook, an Ice Cube scientist, an electrician, a greenhouse technician, three various materials specialists, a safety engineer, a facilities engineer, a work order scheduler and a PA.

Bill Spindler shared some fun stats with us recently. To date, there have been only 152 women to have ever spent a winter at the South Pole.

126 have wintered once
19 have wintered twice
6 have wintered three times
1 has wintered four times

About that last woman who is crazy enough to spend four winters down here…that would be me. It’s a dubious record to have I suppose, and I’m not sure if I should be too proud of it but what can I say except maybe I’ve found my niche. At least for the time being. For a great expose on what it’s like to spend a winter down here, see Neal’s post and then tell me how crazy you think I really am for doing 4 winters here.

So today, I give a cheer to my fellow female crew mates, each one a terrific person and a great addition to the club. We rock!

Ladies Spa Night - on floor L to R: Kari, Katie, Lynette. Standing L to R: Claire, Liz, Dainella, Leah, Terry, me, Laura and Francie.

For more infomation on South Pole history, please see Bill's wonderfully comprehensive website.

14 Comments:

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous WaterDon said...

I like whiskey drinking women. Once they get a little hammered, they buy me drinks to go away.

 
At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Heidi! You can be in the Guiness Book of World Records!! (Assuming Spindler's statistics include all women from all countries).

Shan

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger skua76 said...

Shan,
Heidi rocks! I can personally attest to that since she took good care of me in her role as physician assistant during my 2005 winter. And I have confidence in my stats...

but they relate only to all nationalities of women who have wintered at the South Pole, which is, after all, the South Pole.

Similar statistics on the rest of the continent would be welcome...

 
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

Wow! Pretty smiles and umm.... what a chainsaw!

That part of the medical plan if someone cracks under the strain? ;-)

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger Neal said...

Heidi doesn't just stitch people up, but she also is the station drug dealer....

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

So there's a story behind the chainsaw...it was a Friday the 13th and some of the boys thought it would be fun to break into ladies night with a chainsaw, terrorizing us helpless damsels. Well, we got wind of their little plan, found the hiding place where they stashed the chain saw and proceeded to cover it in glitter paint with flowers and sayings like "I love kittens". It's so fun to mess with the boys.

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Heidi, we all know you rock, now you have the official stats to back it up! I have to say I wish I was down there on The Ice with you all, however I love reading your blog and living vicariously through you! Enjoy your female friends down there... truly, Antarctic women rock! ...love the chainsaw story, too!!
-kathleen

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

*Laughing* That's a great story about the chainsaw!

My favorite kitten site:
http://www.dailykitten.com/

Congratulations on the South Pole record for women.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok not part of the woman theme, or lore, but history will also show that 1 Jamaican wintered at the pole.

 
At 2:29 AM, Anonymous WaterDon said...

Is the chainsaw a Stihl Magnolia?

 
At 1:46 AM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Stihl Magnolia? ...now that's funny!...

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

Yes indeed, we'll have to put Stihl Magnolia in pink glitter paint all over that chain saw.

Kathleen, I know you'd totally be a ringleader for this crew if we could have gotten you down here this winter.

Kurt, you could really cement the Jamaican W/O record if you come down next year...throw your name into the ring for winter site manager!

 
At 12:32 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Congrats to you!
(I wintered once in 1985 but that likely was it)

but now I'm teaching about the poles..
http://www.phys.barnard.edu/~kay/exp/

-Laura Kay-

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger skua76 said...

Hi Laura...
You can take the Polie out of Pole, but you...oh well. Seems like only yesterday, right?

(the evidence)

 

Post a Comment

<< Home