Valentine at Mount Erebus – the southernmost active volcano in the world – “we flew up some contracted radio techs,” said Valentine. Photo courtesy of Anna Valentine.
Although Antarctica residents can’t spend much time outside, McMurdo station features three gyms so they can get plenty of exercise. One gym focuses on cardio with treadmills and other equipment, one has weightlifting equipment and a yoga room, and the third is a full indoor sports gymnasium with a climbing wall.
Activities are scheduled daily and include fitness and yoga classes, soccer, volleyball and basketball games, trivia, knitting clubs, and even craft fairs. There are also larger events scheduled throughout the summer including a baseball tournament, Icestock (the Woodstock Festival of McMurdo), holiday parties, an Antarctica marathon and trail running series, and a constant flow of live music from McMurdo residents.
Valentine told The Montanian that food quality varied with the time of year. Food is delivered by the Air Force on a C-17 military transport, but deliveries aren’t frequent. During a portion of her time at McMurdo, they had fresh fruit and vegetables but that soon changed to regular cafeteria-style food. “It’s crazy how much you can crave a fresh, green, leafy salad,” said Valentine with a smile.
Other challenges of living in Antarctica included snow blindness, and sunburn risk. Valentine said that due to a continuously changing and growing ozone hole above Antarctica, it is very easy to get major sunburns and consequently, there is also increased risk of eventually developing skin cancer.
“Camp crud,” was also a concern because of different illnesses brought in by the constant flow of people arriving at McMurdo along with the dramatic temperature and weather fluctuations.
Now that Valentine is back, she plans to enjoy the significantly more accommodating environment of northwest Montana alongside her family and friends. She normally works for the Forest Service on the Kootenai Rappel Crew during the summers, but after seven years, she said, it is time for a change.
Currently, she is helping to manage a local outdoor recreation guide business. Hopes are high, she said, that they will soon begin providing scenic raft floats on the Kootenai River, equipment rentals, inner tubes, and shuttle services for customers that would rather float on their own.
Valentine does plan to return to Antarctica again in September though because it was an extremely rewarding experience for her in spite of the continuous sun, cold temperatures, isolation, and other challenges.
“My favorite part,” Valentine said, “was probably getting to know the community down there. There’s so many unique people that have done really incredible things, and it’s just cool to hear everyone’s life stories. Also the scenery, of course, can’t beat it.”
Valentine had some inspiring words to share with other adventure seekers. “The biggest thing I’ve learned throughout my travels is, if there’s something I’m interested in or really want to do, then I need to take whatever that first step is to do it, and the rest will work itself out. Growing up in rural Montana, opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. You have to reach outside the comfort zone, probably leave Montana for awhile, and create relationships and networks that will open up other opportunities. I really do believe anyone can do anything if they want it bad enough,” she said.