That Thing That She Does: Sarah Kaye, techie/scuba diver/white water rafting guide, has long been a wanderer; the native Bostonian has worked itinerantly across the U.S., South Pacific, Central and South America. So when she ran into someone who had worked in Antarctica, she was intrigued…
After five years of applying at scientific stations, she finally landed a job with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) providing computer help desk support at McMurdo Station in 1999. She was there only three months before making the 800-mile hop to the understaffed South Pole station to serve as a communications operator.
She plans to spend the next year roaming between the two chilly outposts, providing computer support and teaching classes to techies and neophytes alike. She also has trained in first aid and emergency procedures, and learned to drive snowmobiles and Sprytes (boxy little vehicles on tracks designed especially for snow travel...they run slow but turn fast).
Because the stations in Antarctica are all about scientific research, she has plenty of opportunities to learn and assist. She helps with everything from ozone studies to geological surveys to cosmic explorations of the chemical components of stars and galaxies. She’s pitched in on studies of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang, and on using the polar ice cap as a huge lens to look at neutrinos — tiny, nearly mass-less particles coming through the earth from the North Pole. And she has served as a remote radio operator for scientific diving expeditions to explore marine life under the Ross Ice Shelf.
Friend, fellow techie and traveler Jeff Keule puts it this way: “I think Sarah’s motivation for travel comes from a natural desire to experience as much of the world as possible, and to be as environmentally and socially responsible as possible at the same time. She has worked high-tech jobs, and finds that experience very lacking. I think Sarah values real experience and face-to-face contact with people much more than, say, Internet chat rooms. Some people just don’t feel fully alive unless they are on the move, and tackling a new challenge or experience, and I think Sarah is one of those people.”
Word from Sarah
What’s Next? This is the one I’m working on right now. Stay in the USAP and work at different stations; or find other overseas work; or find a grad school program that I really want to do (my Mom likes this option). Fortunately, I have the whole winter to think about it.
How She Shakes Off A Bad Day: Bad days… plenty of difficult days here, few really bad ones. We get plenty of challenges here (You want us to do what? With what resources?), but when we’re all working together on a problem it’s hard to go home in complete despair. Days when I don’t want to see people I go home and read. (Home is a six-by-six-foot room partitioned out of a 50-year-old canvas-walled Jamesway hut — actually cozier than you would think.)
Favorite Way to Travel: I like walking. I like moving slow. I like stopping to work for a while. I try to know something about a place before I go, but I never have a carved-in-stone plan. I try to speak the language! It’s work, but the payoff is real. Seems I talk to more people when I travel by myself, besides I get to be completely selfish about when I stop and go. Of course, there are points to traveling with friends as well.
South Pole, Antarctica
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