MUSCATINE — For many, Antarctica is impossibly far away, but for one local resident, a trip there is only a week or so away.
Jim Huston, who is part of the Muscatine Journal’s marketing and advertising department, will resign from his position Friday. Instead of selling ads and talking with clients, Huston will work in Antarctica, one of the coldest places on Earth.
While the ice-covered continent may seem like an intimidating place, Huston said he has always wanted to see it.
“It always looked fascinating, and the experiments they do down there are interesting, but I never thought that I’d ever go down there because I’m not a scientist.”
In late Summer 2018 while talking to a Muscatine Journal subscriber, Huston learned about the opportunities she had to go to the South Pole after going to the North Pole. “She gave me the contact information and I began submitting applications.”
This opportunity was found through PAE Government Services. PAE is an international company that works on all seven continents where they offer operational support, analysis and training, infrastructure operations and more. Since 2012, PAE has used workers and resources to help scientists in Antarctica maintain their experiments and research things like climate change, sea levels and endangered species in the harshest conditions.
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While Huston was too late for the 2018 season, he begun submitting applications again in early 2019 which earned him an interview. Afterwards, he was made an alternate for the 2019 season. Because of this, Huston didn’t expect to go until 2020. However, when the PAE needed another person, his alternate status came in handy. “They called me Tuesday and asked if I wanted to go, and that I’d have to leave next Wednesday, and I said yes.”
Being in the middle of the season, Huston will only be in his new job for the next three or so months. There, Huston will be working at the McMurdo Station’s supply department, where he will help support all aspects of the camps. “As I understand it, we keep everything in supply,” he explained, “building materials, maintenance materials, food, scientific equipment — whatever they may need.”
While the trip itself is short notice, both Huston and his family, who have supported him throughout his application process, are very excited for his trip. “How many people can say their dad’s in Antarctica?” his daughters said when they found out. As for Huston himself, he is looking forward to the excitement of a new adventure.
“Not many people get to go (to Antarctica). I think it’s only a few hundred down there, it’s a small town.” He hopes he’ll be able to visit the actual South Pole's location while there. As for concerns or worries, he is a bit nervous about the cold weather. “I don’t mind cold, but it gets real cold down there.” Antarctica is entering its summer season, so the nearly 24 hours of sunlight should help. He questioned how to pack for such a long and unusual trip.
Still, Huston is confident he will be able to learn and adapt while on the job and expects it to be a positive experience. “Not knowing what’s ahead, I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Huston said, “There’s a lot of nervousness and anxiousness about the unknown, but it’s just a fabulous opportunity too.”