Sunday, August 22, 2010

Showers, the male version

Another Polie has just published a long and amusing post on her Ice White & Blue blog about showers at Pole (warning, it's not a G-rated blog). Showers are an interesting topic, at least for Polies, but I don't seem to suffer the angst and emotional commitment to showers that Genevieve does. Of course she takes her showers in the women's showers and from her post that seems to be a much more icky experience than showering in the male showers.

To conserve power and water each of us only gets two 2-minute showers per week. We get our water from a rod well (technically, a Rodriguez rod-well) but we all call it "The Rodwell". The Rodwell is basically a flexible pipe that extends deep into the ice through which we constantly pump hot water. The result is a huge globe of water deep in the ice enclosed by solid ice. The depth of our rodwell is now giving us water that fell as snow in Antarctica 2,000 years ago. As we use water the depth gets deeper, and the water older, until it is too deep for us to pump anymore.  When that happens (it takes years) we have to start a new rodwell.

I know this is about showers, but let's talk drinking water for a minute. This water here is simply the best tasting water you can imaging. I love it. We can only get it at one remote place in the station before it is treated. This water is so pure it won't support life. It hasn't percolated through soil, or run over rocks in streams, so it doesn't have any dissolved minerals or electrolytes that our bodies need. So we have to treat it to add those things. But everyone who comes here should taste the pure stuff once.

Showers: because it takes energy to melt this 2,000 year old ice, and eventually the Rodwell will have to be relocated to another spot on the ice, we conserve as much as possible. A two-minute shower means two minutes of running water. We can stay in the shower as long as we like, but we can only run the water for two minutes. The rest of the time we are wet and freezing. We wet ourselves down and freeze while we lather up. Then rinse off and freeze while we do it again. Then we freeze as we get out of the shower to dry off. Although the bathrooms at the Pole are the same temperature as the rest of the station - between 62 and 68 degrees - the baths have higher ventilation rates so there is a constant breeze - Brrrr.   Note to NSF: heat lamps in the shower stalls!

There are, however, techniques for not freezing to death. And no, we don't wear our ECW into the showers.  We get 2 showers a week, so if you only take one shower you can take a four-minute shower! Wow. Also, if you turn the water down so it is trickling out the shower head at half flow you can double that to eight minutes! The half-flow trick is a very good one because that little bit of constant warm water also keeps you warm(ish) for the whole shower.

Getting out of the shower into the 65 degree air of the room is a different story - I have found no solution.  See previous note to NSF.


Anonymous said...


I am totally enjoying your blog!!! Thanks and keep it up.

- Ilona

Desert Tortise said...

It doesn't matter where you are. Emerging into 65 degrees wet and warm is, well, cold. A wetsuit wouldn't even help.

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