FAQ

Summary: I’ll be at sea again on the RV/IB N.B. Palmer from Dec 7th 2015-Jan 4th 2016, supporting the Ocean Observatories Initiative. My blog is the best way to keep track of what I’m up to while I’m away; you can also subscribe to email updates by entering your email address in the box below where it says “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” over on the right.

I’ve served the US Antarctic Program twice before (and am hoping to do so again). Prior deployments:

  • Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during Nov 2010 – Feb 2011 as “The Helpdesk at the Bottom of the World.”
  • On the Research Vessel/Icebreaker N.B. Palmer during Aug-Sep 2014, as system and network administrator for the NOAA AMLR mission.

N. B. Palmer Links

South Pole Links

Below is an old FAQ from when I was getting ready to go south for the first time.

Some questions and answers

  • What will you be doing down there? Is this Google-related? My primary task will be running the Help Desk, trying to keep visiting NSF scientists whose laptops are misbehaving from freaking out. I’ll also be shoveling snow, hauling cargo, cleaning pots, fighting off space aliens and generally helping out in any way I can – the contract staff for the US Antarctic Program are a rather tight-knit group that has to be ready to do whatever’s needed.This isn’t actually Google-related in the least. Working at the South Pole was something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Well, actually, I wanted to work on the moonbase, but since we’ve not built that yet :(, I figure the South Pole is good practice. Other than one Google code review I’ve promised to do from the Pole, I’m counting on putting my Google work on hold to concentrate on supporting the USAP during my deployment.
  • That’s so cool! (and we’re sure you’re tired of the pun) – how can we follow you? Heh. It is hard to find a more appropriate word than “cool”, isn’t it? I’ll be there during austral summer, so it really only gets down to around -40F/C. But if “follow you” means “keep track of your Antarctic shenanigans”, I’ve been blogging all my thoughts over at The Roadtrip Blog, which I’m hoping to keep up while I’m down at the Pole. Subscribe by sending email to roadtrip-blog+subscribe@googlegroups.com On the other hand, if “follow you” means “I wanna do this too!”, have a look at this post in particular to see what’s been involved (so far).

    Other posts you might find informative:

  • Right. So… don’t you already have a job? What does Google think about this? Good question. We have a very liberal “unpaid leave” program at Google, where you can go away for up to three months to regain your bearings and get yourself nice and centered. Going to the Pole to work for the USAP violates pretty much all of the conditions of that program. But it helps that the HR folks think this is an awesome opportunity. It especially helps that my manager used to name his desktop machines after Antarctic explorers. So with a bit of cajoling and negotiation, Google’s given me approval to go.

  • Uh… don’t you have a wife and family? Yes, and they’re all very excited about this. We’ve got some semi-fulltime help in Jamie, who the kids love, and who is an awesome “third parent”. Yes, it’s going to be hard on Devon. It’s going to be hard on Jem and hard on Andy, all for very different reasons. I’m really really aware of this. I’ll be gone for four months – only four months – at the heart of the school year. Both kids will be returning to their former schools and former friends. We’ve been talking to the kids about it for a while. They’re aware of the implications, and understand that it’s going to be hard not having dad around for a bit, but they think it’s the most awesome thing in the world that their dad is going to the South Pole. In terms of role modeling, I think we’re doing a good thing here.
  • So, what’s it going to be like down there? Honestly, I don’t know yet. The best idea I can give is pictures and blogs from the South Pole veterans I’m going to be working with.
  • One more question: what the hell are you thinking? Don’t you know it’s insanely cold down there? Yeah. I dunno. Maybe it’s a tribal thing. Maybe it’s like in Close Encounters, where a random group of people got flashed with a brilliant light and found themselves drawn to northern Wyoming (which is also cold and desolate, but with substantially more mosquitoes in the summer. I hate mosquitoes). There just seem to to be some people who are drawn to the Pole. And the more of them I meet, the more they feel like kindred spirits. So, I figure I’ve got to go find out for myself. (If you’re a Netflix subscriber, watch Encounters at the End of the World. Decide who was crazier – Herzog or the people he was filming).

  • WAIT – I actually have one more question!  Good! I was expecting that. In fact, I’ve got a bunch of questions too. I’ve set up a Google Moderator series, Questions for Pablo at the Pole, where you can look at questions people have asked me, vote on them and ask your own. I’m going to be doing my best to update answers to them, here and on the Roadtrip blog.
Thanks!

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