COPY-Matheny: Long days, sub-zero temps at South Pole
AMUNDSEN-SCOTT STATION, Antarctica (KTIV) - Last week we introduced you to Tracy Matheny. He's a Sioux City man who's spending more than four months in one of the coldest, harshest places on the planet.
He's the health and safety coordinator for one of three U.S. bases on Antarctica. Thanks to a satellite phone, I talked to Matheny. He told me he's learned two things while working at the South Pole: He's never been so busy, or so cold. "The temperature is anywhere from -60 to -80," Matheny said. And, its summer in Antarctica, right now.
Weather that cold means workers on the Amundsen-Scott research station, at the South Pole, have to be covered from head to toe, at all times. "30 seconds is about all you have to lose a finger." Special suits allow workers to continue to unearth the old research station from 50-feet of snow and ice. "We take lots of breaks." And, drink what most people would when working in the cold. "We drink lots of coffee, lots of hot chocolate."
And, when he's not working, he's eating. "I sometimes eat 5, 6... maybe seven times a day." Working at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, workers need to eat 5,000 or 6,000 calories a day to function. "I have a lot of places I have to get to."
And, as tired as Matheny may be, sleep doesn't come easily. "The sun came up on September 22nd, and it won't go down until around the end of March." That's right, the sun doesn't set for six months. Making matters worse is the weather. "Pressure changes here at the bottom of the planet, and it makes it hard to sleep."
Still, Matheny wouldn't trade this experience for anything. "People come from all over the world to shovel snow, and ice." The way, if you stand at the South Pole, every direction you point is north.