Antarctica, home to the South Pole where subzero temperatures are the norm, gigantic icebergs are in endless supply and it’s probably the last place you’d think to travel until now. KRCU’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Chief Water Plant Operator William Lindman about his once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica.
Lewis-Thompson: So we're going to start out by going into why exactly you are going to Antarctica?
Lindman: The story itself starts years ago. When I was in Uganda for Peace Corps, I kind of like had this idea you know maybe one day I'd like to go to Antarctica. So, a friend of mine ended up and sent me a map of Antarctica. And I put it up in my bedroom whenever I came back to the states, and over the years I just I kind of seen that seen that, and then you know a couple of events happened in my life and I was like, 'you know it's time for a change.' You know, I think I possibly lost that passion for traveling you know. Where did I want to go? And I started reflecting, and then eventually watched a Netflix documentary and I was like, 'oh yeah that's it I wonder if they need people like me down there?' And I googled it and sure enough they did. And they needed water plant operators.
Lewis-Thompson: So, it started with an idea in the Peace Corps.
Lewis-Thompson: And then it took you to where we are right now.
Lewis-Thompson: So what exactly will you be doing?
Lindman: I'll be the chief water plant operator. I'll be working with two other people that are going to be engineers for the generators that are down there. But what I'm going to be doing is testing the water, and then figuring out what chemicals we need to put in it to essentially clean it. But it's already pretty clean water. I'm just going to probably be adjusting how the PH scale is.
Lewis-Thompson: So, you're going to be in Antarctica where most of the time it's dark.
Lindman: Yeah that's true [laughs].
Lewis-Thompson: And it's extremely cold.
Lindman: Yeah. Where I'm going it's going to be negative. The average temperature is negative 76 [degrees]. Right now it's summer down there, but when I arrive I'll have two months before the sunsets and then it's down for four months as winter comes in and it'll get a lot colder than negative 76 [degrees].
Lewis-Thompson: How long are you going to be there?
Lindman: I'll be down there for 8 months. That's the typical winter. So there's 200 so people down there right now. A lot of scientists that's when they are going to be doing all the major tests. And then there's going to be the bare bones crew that I'm going to be apart of. So, it's 8 months and you only sign a contract at a time.
Lewis-Thompson: So can you walk me through the process of how you get prepared for a trip like this, or just you know trying to get involved in something like this?
Lindman: I've gone through about six interviews so far. After like the fourth one then they started doing all the medical screening, where I'd spent so much time at the hospitals lately and I had some pretty awkward experiences with that. And then they flew me out to Denver, and I went through a psychological evaluation. That was absolutely terrifying. Like my hands were sweating. I almost just said I can't do this. You know it was so difficult I almost quit after that. I was like 'there's no way they're going to let me go. Like I totally bombed that.' And then I found out the next day I passed, and I was like ' wow okay that's surprising I guess I did alright.' And then I went through a panel interview, which I was in this conference room with like six people. And then we had two different TV screens going. We had the McMurdo station crew, which is the main base down there. They were like kind of Skyped in, and then the South Pole station crew that I'm going to be working with, they were on the other screen. And I had all these microphones in front of me and went through that. Now it's just kind of been you know doing the little things here and there just to make sure all the final preparations are ready.
Lewis-Thompson: So what does your family think of you going to Antarctica of all places? It seems almost slightly random. Antarctica, to do good work for a good cause.
Lindman: Yeah. At first they were really apprehensive. A lot of nights of late night phone calls and talking. They thought that I was running away from something here. And my dad called me one night at like 11:30, and I told him I'm like 'go down to my childhood bedroom and tell me what one poster is on the wall, and then you'll know that this is not just some random thing that I just dreamt up the other day, you know? This is something that I've wanted to do and you know I'm striving for it.' I've spent literally weeks working on all of this paperwork, all the medical clearance. Had to go to Denver. You know I've shown my parents that I'm serious about this, and they kind of know once I have that little spark that I need to do something big it's going to get done.
Lewis-Thompson: Do you have any parting words of wisdom for anyone who's wanting to do this?
Lindman: I guess if I were to leave some parting words, I would tell people that you know try not to lose focus on your goals you know. Even though it takes years to accomplish them. It can be done, and that sense of happiness that you'll receive is just unbelievable. I remember getting an email a couple days ago with the official offer letter, and I just broke down crying, because I was like I've been working on this for so long. This has been a dream for so long, and now it's actually happening.
Lewis-Thompson: Well I guess we'll see you in August won't we.
Lindman: Yep, I'll be back.