Interview with Keith Reimink

Keith ReimickKeith answers questions about his life in Antarctica

Where do you live?

Born and from Zeeland, Michigan.  Currently live in Denali Park, Alaska.

What did you do before coming to the ice?

Three years of cooking experience before coming to the ICE.  Prior to that I was a student in New York City.

Keith in the kitchen Prepping potatoes Freshly baked croutons Keith in the kitchen, kneading dough
Keith in the kitchen
Prepping potatoes for dinner
Freshly baked croutons!
Kneading dough
What made you decide to come to Antarctica in the first place?

At first it was the adventure and excitement of being as far South as I can get, and always trying new and challenging things.  It has since become a way to make money and make a living in a market of insecurity. 

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

The South Pole.  One day it was -98.2F.

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

I went on a science trip where I was able to walk amongst the penguins in their natural habitat.  I have great black and white pictures of this walk that I will cherish forever.

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

One day at the South Pole, I went for a walk with some friends.  We went .5 miles from station to measure snowfall for data collecting purposes.  The sun was coming up, so it was flat light.  But it was windy and foggy, and about -75F.  I gained lots of weight at the Pole, so I was about 250lbs; not a very good walker.  About halfway out, I had to take my goggles off because my breath was fogging them and I couldn’t see.  It was so cold and windy that my eyelids froze shut.  I couldn’t see the station behind me, or my friends in front of me. I started to panic and breath really heavily.  I got down on my hands and knees and crawled forward. Eventually, I found the flag line and was able to crawl to meet my friends.  They didn’t even know I was missing.  It was very scary, and could have ended badly. 

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

Sometimes. But the night sky is so beautiful that it helps takes the gloominess away.  We see constellations down here that we can’t see in the northern hemisphere, and the Man in the Moon is upside down.  This is still weird to me.

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

I exercise my right not to vote.  If choosing a candidate means picking the lesser of two evils, I don’t bother.  No matter what happens, I’m going to have to work until I die, and social security will be gone when I want to “retire.”

How many seasons have you spent on the ice?

Seven seasons.

What is your favorite part of the day here?

I like watching people eat the meals.  I like watching them come back for seconds.  That is my favorite part of the day.  I also like when the work day is done and I know I have several hours all to myself.  I can do whatever I want. 

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

Of course not.  We cannot touch penguins because of the Antarctic Treaty.  And we get two big shipments of food every year.  If the station were to burn down and we had no food and a colony of penguins stopped by, I’m guessing the government would be ok with us trying to live on penguin meat.

What do you miss most about home?

I don’t miss much about home.  The real world is dumb.  I do miss grocery stores, riding my bike on a sunny day, and sitting on the beach.

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

McMurdo: it’s too big, there’s no privacy, and many people don’t care about the efforts that go into your work.  But I have very good friends there, I miss the landscape, and it’s the easiest USAP site to get to.  South Pole: it’s very cold, very bright, and hard to fall asleep.  The altitude keeps you awake, and the dryness cracks the skin on your hands and gives you nosebleeds.  But it is awesome to stand at the very bottom point on the earth. Very special. Palmer: it is a small, happy place.  I love the winter crew, the glacier, the hot tub, and the freedom my job gives me to create interesting things. But, I am  a supervisor so I have too much contact with management.  I am blamed for things that others screw up.  And the community is so small that sometimes how other people work (or don’t work) greatly affects the stress level in your day. I don’t like that.

What is your role on station?

Food Service Supervisor.  Chef. Cook. 

Have you developed any interesting skills while on the ice?

I have learned to print my own pictures in the darkroom, I have learned to play the bass guitar, I have learned how to brew my own mead (a sweet wine), and I am learning to snowboard.

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

Living, it would be Werner Herzog.  Show him what Antarctica is really like instead of that stupid movie he made making us all look like fools.  Dead, it would be Kurt Cobain. From the sounds of it, he can only play about three chords on the guitar.  I can play that many as well.  Maybe we could play a song together. 

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?

Antarctica would be a great place to survive an initial zombie apocalypse. Eventually we would die because there would be nobody left to send us food.  It might be the dumbest place to be because we would be alive, but we couldn’t go anywhere.  But I think surviving a zombie attack is pretty easy.  Can’t you just pretend you are a zombie too?  Drool on yourself and walk around eating people?  Seems pretty easy.  I don’t know why more people in movies don’t do this.  No, survival is not the key reason for being here.  Running away from real life is a main reason. 

What’s next for you?

I want to keep cooking and traveling.  I am thinking about returning next season for one more, or maybe will work in Alaska or on a boat.  I like to keep moving.