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Antarctic Scientists Seek Solace In Booze; Fight, Flash, And Turn Up To Work Drunk

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | October 7, 2015 |

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | October 7, 2015 |

American scientists in Antarctica may soon have to face breathalyzer tests as their drinking spirals out of control.

It turns out that spending months cooped up in some of the coldest, loneliest places on Earth with nothing but Science (and maybe The Thing) for company results in the occasional minor hangover. Well, that and fights; indecent exposure; and showing up to work drunk.

A moment should be taken to acknowledge how proud a moment this is for the universality of the human condition, as many of us can now finally say something we probably never thought we could: ‘Hey, Antarctic Scientists, we’ve all been there!’

Hilariously, enforcement of any potential breathalyzer tests will be difficult by virtue of the fact that the bases in question, though owned and operated by the US, are not actually US territory; as well as the incredibly high altitude making it an arduous task to calibrate the kits.

Antarctic science is one of those subjects that I have managed to remain almost completely ignorant of up until this point in life, but in total there are 75 research stations located on the Antarctic continent and Antarctic Peninsula. 45 of these operate all year round and 30 are summer-only.

The bases are owned and operated variously by the thirty countries signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, but this particular icy booze flood is being attributed to two of the US-owned stations: McMurdo Station, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

McMurdo is the slightly less remote of the two and has a whopping three bars; while Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (as the name helpfully hints) is located way out on the Geographical South Pole, so a small shop which happens to stock alcohol amongst other sundries is the only recourse for George the geologist who’s had just about enough of Alan the astrophysicist’s shit and is definitely gonna teach him some manners via a bottle of Smirnoff Ice across the chops after work on Friday.

The only recourse, that is, unless he decides to brew his own beer in a lab like one plucky and thirsty scientist did.

To be fair, a spokesperson for the National Science Foundation did say that, ‘Alcohol-related misconduct is not disproportionately represented at the Antarctic stations,’ so while it is a problem, perhaps the Wild Antarctic West saloon-type scenario being so gloriously built may not be exactly correct.

As I said above, Antarctic science, and Antarctic geography in general, isn’t a strong suit of mine by any means, so I decided to Google Maps the ‘less remote’ McMurdo Station to try and visualize the situations the scientists are in.

The first result yielded this:


Which was not very helpful, so a zoom out was called for, resulting in this:


Again, not that enlightening; a full-on Zoom Out proved necessary:


Oh. Jesus. Hey, Antarctic Scientists, I see your point. Mind if I have some of that lab-brewed beer?

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.