Monday, June 9, 2008

Keeping warm in the Antarctic winter? - updated

I'm intrigued by a report in the Guardian, London.

Before the winter darkness descended over Antarctica, a US research base received one crucial final delivery, according to a report today - a consignment of 16,488 condoms.

A year's supply of the prophylactics was despatched last month to the McMurdo station, on the southern tip of Ross island, the New Zealand newspaper the Press reported.

The last staff flight out of McMurdo before winter set in was on February 26. Workers will now have to wait until August 20 for the first sunrise of the spring.

As the biggest settlement in Antarctica, the research station had a summertime population of around 1,000, but this dropped to about 125 in winter, the paper quoted its manager, Bill Henriksen, as saying.

"There are some people that tend to get a little bit bored. But for the most part, people who come down here know how to occupy their time," he said.

The condoms would be freely available to staff, he said: "Since everybody knows everyone, it becomes a little bit uncomfortable. We'd prefer to just provide them and do it that way so that people don't do without."

"So, tell me, Mr. Scientist, what sort of research kept you busy over the winter in Antarctica?"

"Ah - well - er . . . it was the penguins, I tell you!"



EDITED TO ADD: Received by e-mail from JWR:

I read that there are about 125 staff on station during the winter. If the sex (not 'gender') ratio is 50-50, and the 16,500 condoms represents a full winter's supply. That means that the 62 guys are getting busy about 266 times. That's about a 10 year quota for a married guy in the US.

Where do we sign up for an Antarctic research grant?


phlegmfatale said...

It must take a lot of stiff determination for the staff to stick it out through the long, hard winter. Hats off to the folks who hold themselves to such a high standard.


Anonymous said...

Yep, definitely sounds like it will take a lot of stamina to make it through a stay there. Though perhaps not the kind one may assume.