This is a story about living in McMurdo, told in 3 separate parts. This first installment of “A day in the life” will focus on staying healthy in McMurdo and the things we do to maintain our health while on the harshest continent in the world. Safety is our number 1 concern of anything we do here – whether that’s fieldwork, lab work, or just walking around station.


Ashley (left) and Diana (right) wash their hands before dinner at the Galley hand washing station. Photo by: Tandra Fraser

The first step for maintaining health in McMurdo is washing hands. It sounds simple, but keeping germs from spreading is a real concern here. Think about this: around 1000 people sharing living spaces, eating together, working in close spaces together every day. The station isn’t that big – we’re all contained in about 85 buildings on 618 acres. It sounds large, but the majority of activity is concentrated around the station’s center (Galley, Labs, and Dorms). While on station, we spend much time indoors near other people. If someone gets a common cold, those germs fly through the community at speeds approaching the sound barrier. By lunch time, half the station is reaching for Kleenex and hoping the Galley is serving chicken noodle soup.

It’s important to keep clean as possible, so wash hands we must. Before eating every meal, after using the restroom, in between lab work and coffee breaks. Over and over we wash our hands. As you might imagine – after all this washing, lotion is a hot commodity.

There are some other things we do to stay healthy in McMurdo – drink plenty of water, try to eat healthy, and take safety precautions in the lab and in the field. But, the one thing that we can easily control and continue to do out of respect for others and ourselves is to continually wash our hands!

Written by: Ashley Shaw