Interview with Melinda "Mindy" Piuk

Mindy answers questions about her life in Antarctica

Mindy
Where do you live?

Parker, CO

What did you do before coming to the ice?

I recently completed a 2 year sailing trip of the Atlantic and Caribbean.  Professionally, I am a Regulatory Compliance Auditor within the Agricultural industry.

Mindy Mindy in the hood Mindy with liquid nitrogen
Mindy in firefighter garb
Mindy in the hood
Mindy with liquid nitrogen
What made you decide to come to Antarctica in the first place?

I have been interested in visiting Antarctica since 1998.  I sailed to the town of Woods Hole, MA in 2007 and met a woman who had been to Palmer Station.  I’ve been actively trying to get into the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) since then.

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

Palmer Station is the only USAP station I’ve visited, so this is the coldest place in Antarctica I’ve been; however, I have been to colder places.

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

When the boat leaves the station, several station members jump into the water.  We call it the polar plunge.  

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

A little iceberg snuck up on me while I was moored at an island in one of our Zodiacs (a rugged inflatable boat). The Zodiac was pinned up against the rocks.  Now I know to be very aware of changing ice conditions.

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

Yes, a little. However, our short winter days have advantages as well.  The night sky can be stunning and the winter daylight hours are one long spectacular sunrise-sunset.

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

I have not been here during an election; however, I have voted by absentee ballot when I wasn’t in my home state on Election Day.

How many seasons have you spent on the ice?

This is my first season on the Ice (Winter 2011)

What is your favorite part of the day here?

Just after sunrise – I like looking out over the harbor and seeing what changes have occurred overnight.

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

It is true for the leopard seals, whose favorite food is penguin.  We humans aren’t allowed to eat the penguins here.

What do you miss most about home?

I miss my husband.  We are working opposite seasons on opposite sides of the continent.

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

I haven’t been to the other stations.

What is your role on station?

Winter Assistant Supervisor of Laboratory Operations

Have you developed any interesting skills while on the ice?

I worked in a wood shop for the first time in my life.  I’ve operated saws and drills which I did not know existed before I came here.

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

Bono

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?

No, the promise of survival is not one of my main reasons for working here.  Yes, Antarctica is the safest place to be during the zombie apocalypse and we would survive:

  1. Palmer Station is an excellent base and we can survive months here without help from the outside world.  We also have ham radios to keep in touch with other bases/compounds for up to date information of the rise of the zombies and the subsequent zombie wars.   Assuming the apocalypse will be swift and devastating, they should consume all of the available non-zombie brains within a short period of time.  Once they no longer have brains on which to feed, they will begin to quickly decay to a rather harmless form of undead.  Then we should be able to return to the mainland and dispatch them as necessary.
  2. The best case scenario would be to have a ship at the Palmer pier when the apocalypse occurs.  If that is not the case, we must quickly act to ensure a zombie-free vessel is dispatched to the Station, so we can leave the station when the zombies have decayed.  If the apocalypse is too far advanced, then we should not take the risk of contaminating the station and will take every opportunity to keep a vessel from arriving at the pier.  If that is the case, we must also start building the vessel which will take us back to the mainland when the apocalypse is over.  This will be slow work, but possible with our materials and tools on station.
  3. We must keep zombies from attacking our station:
  • Our first line of defense is knowledge – you would be surprised to learn how many people, let alone Zombies, do not know where Antarctica is located.  Even if the Zombies realize that Antarctica is here, finding the few stations that are located on this huge continent is not straight forward.  
  • Our second line of defense is location – the Zombies will have to be capable of crossing the treacherous Drake Passage to get to the southern ocean, and then must navigate the icy waters surrounding Antarctica.
  • If the Zombies manage to make it to the Peninsula, our third line of defense will be physical.  We will keep a ship from mooring by placing nets between the islands to foul the ship’s propellers.  We can also destroy our pier to keep a ship from docking.  We can fashion flame throwers to destroy any Zombies arriving by smaller landing craft as they arrive in the harbor.
What’s next for you?

My goal is to spend half of the year living on a sailboat and the other half working at a scientific field station.