Life is tough so far away from home, but Antarctic scientists will see a cap on alcohol after brawls and liquor-induced disputes endangered the safety of everyone inside the stations.
- Between 60-75% of problems in Antarctica stations are caused by alcohol
- The two U.S.-run bases house around 1,150 people
- Sources have reported “cultural splits” and “culture clashes” that cause trouble, certainly enhanced by alcohol
- The NSF has proposed breathalyzers to be shipped to both stations, but they’re unlikely to work
Being trapped in the cold and isolated plains of Antarctica is certainly no walk in the park. Anyone would be forgiven if they indulged in a glass of whiskey, but moderate use is certainly not the problem. Instead, reports of alcohol abuse at two U.S. bases have called out the need for legal measurements.
Officials at the National Science Foundation (NSF) have stated that both stations, the McMurdo Station and the South Pole Station, might soon have their members subjected to breathalyzers. At least, the notion was proposed. An audit of health and safety discovered that abuse of alcohol has led to a few unfortunate incidents among the isolated stations.
During the 20 month-long period for code of conduct violations, a number of 57 people were disciplined due to inappropriate behavior. Between 60% to 75% of problems were suggested to have been stemmed in alcohol abuse. In fact, one of the scientists was even found brewing beer on the premise of one of the stations, which is strictly prohibited.
Fights, indecent exposure, and working under the influence were just a few of the complaints. Back in 2007, an U.S. air force plane needed to evacuate two injured men after a drunken fight during Christmas at the South Pole Station. And that was almost definitely not the only one. Conflicts, apparently, have a hard time getting reported due to an imbalance among status of workers.
Philip Broughton, who worked as a technician and bartender at the South Pole Station, has claimed that there’s a “cultural split in Antarctica”. There’s an “ongoing culture clash” that breeds trouble between scientists (nicknamed “beakers” at the station), and other members of the staff. According to Broughton, “beakers have a license to kill”, metaphorically speaking, obviously.
Scientists are the highest on a hierarchy in an isolated world far away from ours. So, there’s little consequence for what they do, not to mention the fact that they eat, drink and socialize separately from the rest. It would be like the stereotypical high school filled with cliques, only that ‘the nerds’ have taken control.
The NSF’s proposal to include breathalyzers, in order to either reduce or prevent problems, has been met with several issues. For one, Antarctica is not U.S. territory, so it’s unclear who will conduct the tests and what authority they will have.
Furthermore, the South Pole Station is situated at an altitude of 10,000 feet, where breathalyzers will not even work properly. It’s a difficult environment to work in, cold, and trapped there with the same people day in and day out.
However, the agency is trying to make sure that alcohol will not cause more problems in an already taxing place.
Image source: blog.thesietch.org