Herald science reporter Jamie Morton gives an insight into life at New Zealand's Scott Base research station.

Stepping into a club as exclusive as Scott Base's can intimidate you at first.

The 45-strong summer crew has been bunking, eating, working, yarning and keeping each other safe and happy on this windswept rock, 3500km from home, since October.

You're now in their neatly-functional ecosystem and it's easy to think of yourself as an outsider that's blown in from the north just as quickly as you'll blow out again.

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A green replacement joining a blood-bonded platoon.

But Scott Base isn't like that at all.

Within a couple of days – and even if you're the type who likes to keep to yourself or out of the way - full-timers will be saying gidday to you by name in the hallway.

They'll show you how to use the espresso machine and offer you a ride over Ross Island to McMurdo Station - Mac Town in local lingo - if they're headed up that way.

If you're sitting by yourself in the dining room you'll soon have company.

If you've got a problem, someone around here will be able to fix whatever it is.

If you slip up somehow – leaving the juice tap running, or your towel in the shower stalls, or the dishes dirty when the tray is full – it'll be pointed out, but there'll be no real drama.

Head off up the hill without signing out, however, and you'll get a much sterner talking-to.

What's as clear as the platelet ice here is how everyone and everything seems to gel.

Everyone on Scott Base is required to attend the Saturday meeting. Photo / Jamie Morton
Everyone on Scott Base is required to attend the Saturday meeting. Photo / Jamie Morton

You've got field training instructors, carpenters, engineers, electricians, pilots, chefs, cargo handlers, comms operators, fire crew, mechanics, tech support workers, domestic workers, medics and administration staff.

All of them have their own busy, different jobs around the base, but they're pretty much one tight group of mates, proud of the fact they're supporting an important programme.

Any downtime – going out for a ski or a visit to Mac Town, or hearing one of the visiting science teams give a talk in The Tatty Flag, the base bar – invariably involves others.

This might be because close-quarters living builds camaraderie, that they share the same sense of adventure, or that there's no WiFi connection to keep anyone glued to their phone.

They do things every day - driving Hagglund carriers over rough ice, flying helicopters up mountains, training scientists how to survive in an Antarctic white-out - that would wildly impress anyone back home.

But they'd be the last kind of people to brag or post selfies on Instagram.

They're quite aware that they're part of a select few who get to see Antarctica, let alone live here.

To be boastful about that really runs counter to base culture, and those same values that brought them here and everywhere else they've been in the world.

Life on the ice seems to flow according to the things that Kiwis are famous for: humility, aroha, mana, resilience, intrepidity and humour as dry as the polar air.

It's been evident since Sir Edmund Hillary and his gang hammered out the first Scott Base, 60 years ago, and designated the telephone's official call-sign as "Eh?".

There's also something admittedly lovely and comforting about hearing Dave Dobbyn's Loyal or The Feelers' Venus playing in Antarctica.

There are other little reminders of New Zealand; framed pictures of Kiwi beaches and forests; Maori carvings; old editions of The New Zealand Listener and New Zealand Geographic in the library; and maps of the north and south islands in The Tatty Flag.

The daily news bulletins that get read out over the intercom are often some weird or cute story from back home that's free of tragedy or politics.

Even in a closed-in outpost, at the edge of an ice shelf, at the bottom of the planet, there's no room for gloom.

During morning "skeds" – that's a scheduled check-in with teams braving it out in the field – comms operators like to chuck in riddles to help keep scientists' spirits up.

One of the senior comms operators is Matamata-raised Dan Poulton, a member of the New Zealand Defence Force's permanent operation in Antarctica.

It's his first season on the ice; back home, where he's got a fiancé he calls every few days, he runs the paint shop at RNZAF Base Ohakea.

He's well-loved around the base and you see why after spending a few minutes with him.

A Kiwi-patterned mitten in New Zealand's Arrival Heights laboratory. Photo / Jamie Morton
A Kiwi-patterned mitten in New Zealand's Arrival Heights laboratory. Photo / Jamie Morton

Coming to Antarctica has been a dream deployment for him and when he hasn't been working a shift or sleeping, he's been able to get out and do some photography.

Ruby Bainbridge also comes from a defence background: she was a Navy medic who came here as a comms operator two seasons ago.

She's returned as a civilian, employed by Antarctica New Zealand as a medic and domestic worker around base.

"I loved the place and wanted to come back," she says.

"Everyone down here comes from all over the place and from different backgrounds, but they'll all got the same reason for being here so it all fits.

"I just like the culture here; no one is stuck in their little cellphone bubble and you can come into the kitchen and chat with anyone."

One of the senior comms operators is Matamata-raised Dan Poulton, a member of the New Zealand Defence Force's permanent operation in Antarctica. Photo / Jamie Morton
One of the senior comms operators is Matamata-raised Dan Poulton, a member of the New Zealand Defence Force's permanent operation in Antarctica. Photo / Jamie Morton

She'll be part of a skeleton crew that's boldly signed up to spend the winter here, when it's perpetually dark, typically freezing, often violently stormy, and the big LC-130 Hercules cargo planes have stopped flying in and out of Williams Field.

Chef Malcolm George will be joining her for the long haul.

Feeding anywhere between 45 and 86 mouths each day has taught him as much as anyone down here about the challenges of logistics and supply.

An old poster in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut that stands as a remnant of the original Scott Base. Photo / Jamie Morton
An old poster in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut that stands as a remnant of the original Scott Base. Photo / Jamie Morton

One big ship order caters for the entire summer season, with a few fresh food deliveries to keep stocks running.

"Eight-hundred kilograms of potatoes, 400kg of flour, 380kg of coffee ... we're ordering things by the pallet, not by the bag."

Unlike his former job back at Amisfield near Queenstown, there's no foraging for fresh produce, so it has to be made to last.

That puts anything like avocado – one of the most craved items by people in Antarctica – or banana in hot demand.

"We focus a lot more on home-style food than anything, just that real comfort food that people don't have often.

"Simple is better down here because it's what people want. A baked potato for lunch reminds them of home and makes them feel good."

Scenes of New Zealand help stave off homesickness at Scott Base. Photo / Jamie Morton
Scenes of New Zealand help stave off homesickness at Scott Base. Photo / Jamie Morton

So it's kind of ironic that packing up your gear for "bag drag", and the flight home, comes with a pang of sadness.

In his documentary Antarctica: A Year On Ice – probably the richest insight anyone could get into life down here – Kiwi Anthony Powell explained why.

You might not ever get to come back to this extraordinary place, and to the extraordinary people who live here.

Jamie Morton is hosted at Scott Base by Antarctica New Zealand.