Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prurient Interest..... gets me every time. McMurdo Station is the largest permanent outpost in Antarctica, and its purpose is scientific research. During the summer it can house around 1,250 residents: scientists and their assistants, station staff, the odd reporter.

When winter comes, everyone leaves except the core staff needed to keep the Station functioning and intact until spring, and a few scientists to look after the equipment, about 125 people. When the coldest place on earth starts blasting storms around, the Station becomes the most isolated place on earth. Nothing can get in or out, so the last supply shipments have to contain everything the base staff might need until the thaw. [Note: As this is the Southern Hemisphere, winter lasts roughly from March to September.]

I'm sure they have a large library of books and DVDs, and as much internet access as they can get from satellites during breaks in the storms. Still, this has to be the top hardship post on earth, and one has to wonder how the staff gets through the storms and the months of night and remain sane.

Well maybe we just got one big honking clue.

According to this news report from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the last supply delivery this year was made in early June, so winter's coming late to Antarctica this year. If winter is short and ends sometime in September or so, that's 120-150 days of isolation before resupply can arrive. And included in the last supply shipment was 16,500 condoms. For 125 people.

Shall we do the math? 16,500 condoms distributed among 125 people comes to 132 condoms per person. Now, we know what condoms are used for, and nobody ever uses one alone. (At least, no one I care to know about.) This means that in each, mmm, incident in which a condom is used, it provides protection for both of the two participants. So, in effect, that 16,500 condoms amounts in practice to 264 condoms per person.

For 120-150 days. And nights.

How DO they pass the time? Do we know now, maybe? And just what IS the m/f ratio of the staff down there?

(h/t: Because No One Asked)