Though at opposite poles of the earth, Alaska and Antarctica have many things in common, including Alaskan employees.
Whether chasing the Midnight Sun or succumbing to the magnetic pull of the earth's axis, a growing number of Alaskans find themselves in Antarctica when they're not in the 49th state.
Literally poles apart, Alaska and Antarctica nonetheless share a chilly climate, the stark barrenness of the extreme latitudes, and preferential placement at the front of the alphabet. But perhaps more surprisingly, the state and the continent also share a work force, corporate culture--even the same communications satellite.
Alaska indisputably has among the highest representation of Antarctica workers. In fact, the number of Alaskans "on the Ice" is topped only by workers recruited from Colorado, home-base for the U.S. Antarctic Program's key operations contractor, Denver-based Antarctic Support Associates.
With hometowns of Ketchikan, Juneau, Anvik, Kotzebue, Anchorage, Kenai, Denali, Cordova, Talkeetna [ldots] these Alaskans live temporarily between 77 and 90 degrees South--as far from home as is possible without space travel.
Folks from the Great Land are literally scattered across this most isolated, pristine and arid spot on earth. You can find them serving up lunch in the galley at McMurdo Station, coordinating Information Technology support, conducting intricate science in remote field camps, supporting cross-continent communications, even designing new research facilities.
"I learned about (jobs in Antarctica) while I was working at Denali in 1994 and knew immediately when a shiver went down my spine that this was something I was going to do," said 28-year-old Anner Charrier. She's among the legions of seasonal, contract employees who switch between an Alaska summer and the austral summer season in Antarctica.
"I like walking on earth that most people have never even read about--or may not even know exists," said Charrier, assistant housing coordinator at McMurdo. "I enjoy living in small, old-fashioned communities where everyone knows each other. Like Alaska, Antarctica provides all of these opportunities, plus the chance to see the Southern Hemisphere."
Richard Forthofer, 37, arrived in Alaska in 1981 with the U.S. Army and has since made it his home. He lives in Anchorage and works as a fire-alarm inspector. Forthofer spent this austral summer in Antarctica as a power-plant operator at McMurdo Station. He has also...