Interview with Neal Scheibe

Neal Scheibe

Neal answers questions about his life in Antarctica

Where do you live?

Crested Butte, CO

What did you do before coming to the ice?

I worked as an engineer in a place that resembled a Dilbert cartoon, but they laid me off.

Neal with glassware Neal in the skylight Neal with GPS

What made you decide to come to Antarctica in the first place?

Since I was unemployed, it seemed like a good idea to go someplace far from my friends and family, who were at work all day anyway.

Where is the coldest place in Antarctica that you have been to?

I spent two winters at the south pole. I believe the coldest temperature was about -101F, but I experienced a wind chill of -150F or so.

What is the most exciting (legal) thing that you have done here?

It’s a toss up among being in a military aircraft that was landing in heavy cross winds at McMurdo Station, being tossed around in my bunk during a crossing of the Drake Passage on the research vessel Laurence M. Gould, running around the south pole marker at -100F after hanging out in the sauna which was cranked up to +200F (we call that “The 300 Club”), or jumping into the frigid waters at Palmer Station.

What is the most dangerous situation you have been in down here?

Walking on icy footpaths.

Does your heart get gloomy after days and days without sunlight?

I’ve never checked my heart here, but I tend to enjoy the food more on the sunny days.

How do you vote in a US Presidential Election while on the ice?

I abstain.

How many seasons have you spent on the ice?

I have spent one summer and two winters at the South Pole Station, and four winters at Palmer Station.

What is your favorite part of the day here?

I enjoy the eating and sleeping parts of the day.

Many people are led to believe that you must survive months on end by eating only penguin meat; is this true?

Yes, it’s true that many people believe that you have to eat penguin meat. As it turns out, I’ve only ever seen penguins eaten by leopard seals.

What do you miss most about home?

I miss getting to snowboard everyday.

If you’ve been to multiple USAP sites could you briefly describe what you like and don’t like about them?

McMurdo Station is like a small town more than a research station and there is a lot to see. It’s always very busy and windy when I have been there, though. The South Pole Station is like a shopping mall on stilts. It has just about everything you need on two floors and long corridors. In the winter, it’s one of the best places to watch aurora. I like Palmer Station the best because it is the prettiest and smallest. The bad news is that we go a long time without freshies (fresh vegetables) around here.

What is your role on station?

I work in the store as a store clerk. I’m a fireman and I’m on our search and rescue teams. I handle the station finances. I clean toilets and sweep the floors in the kitchen. I am a longshoreman, helping tie up the supply ship when it arrives. I shovel snow, organize recreational activities, and lend a hand wherever needed. I am an EMT, helping with medical procedures and transporting injured people to our medical facility. I think I was hired to maintain geophysical scientific research equipment, when I have a chance.

Have you developed any interesting skills while on the ice?

I can type when my fingers are too numb to feel anything.

If you could bring one famous person to Antarctica who would it be?

I would bring President Obama, because I don’t think any president has been to the ice before.

Do you believe Antarctica is the safest place to be during zombie apocalypse? If so, why? Further, is the promise of survival one of your main reasons for working here?

I do think that parts of Antarctica would be good refuges during the coming zombie apocalypse, mostly because the zombies would likely freeze before reaching someplace like the south pole. Being on the coast and above the Antarctic circle, as I am now, would not be ideal, as the zombies could merely walk across the ocean floor to reach us. They would not be any colder than the temperature of the water, and therefore would not freeze until they got out of the water. Depending on the air temperature, the freezing process could take awhile, so they might have time to turn us all into fellow zombies. Also, I don’t come here to avoid the zombie apocalypse. There’s no escaping it, so I won’t even try.

What’s next for you?

I suppose another winter is in store.