Antarctica: Students Call it Home
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Springtime at Stanford University usually means catching rays and flinging a tribe around the Quadrangle, But this year two Stanford students will associate springtime with temperatures of 50 degrees below zero and days that grow shorter and shorter.
John Green and David Schaeter, graduate students in Stanford's Department of Physics, are spending the year in the Antartic studying radio waves.
Green Schaefer and a student from the University of Maryland comprise the scientific staff at Siple Station. They are conducting eight experiments for various American universities and research organizations.
Life On the Ice'
Living in the station for a full year is a challenging, psychologically gruelling experience according to John Katsufrakis adjunct professor of electrical engineering at Stanford.
Siple is closed off from the rest of the world from February through November. During December and January which are the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere, supplies and mail are flown in almost every day.
Students who "winter over" at Siple spend almost all of December and January stocking up the station with fuel and frozen food, and get down to their experiments in mid-February.
Katsufrakis, who recruits graduate students to winter over at Siple, says it is crucial that students be working as much as possible up to 10 hours a day
"We encourage them to take down as much of their library as they want any games, anything to make the clock move. Katsufrakis says. "Otherwise, people start sleeping more than they should, or drinking more than they should."
Bill Gail, a graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford, calls his winter of 1981 in a South Pole station similar to Siple probably the most valuable thing I've ever done You learn a lot about how to depend on yourself, and learn a lot about being able to understand people's strengths and weaknesses.
At both stations, the majority of residents are support staft--cooks, mechanics paramedics and communications operators To get water for their weekly two minute shower, the residents must take a tractor out and gather snow for a snow melter Gail says.
Returning to civilization, which for the Stanford students means flying a Navy C-130 to Christchurch. New Zealand, Gail says he was first struck by "a wave of odor."
"It's mostly flowers and things like that," he explains. After living in a barren environment like Antarctica for a year, where there is absolutely nothing alive it really hits you in the face."
Gail says he didn't have as hard a time readjusting to civilization as he thought he would He trained as much as he could for a marathon in which he finished 38th three weeks after coming home Included in his training was a half-hour run in 102 below, zero weather, which he thinks may be some sort of record.