My name is Atlas. I was a computer tech at McM for three seasons. Sat out the last three years, but will be going back down in October, hopefully for a year (dependent on that damned PQ).
It is easy to say that you won’t be haning out at the bars, but it’s a totally different story once you get down there. The bars are the nexus of the social scene at McMurdo. Personally, I don’t drink, but found myself at the Coffee House, sipping hot chocolate, more times than I can count. Yes, the bars sell beer, and alcohol, but they’re more of a gathering place, where people can meet, and talk about their days. You’ll see once you get down there.
There won’t be alot to do outside of town during the winter. Number one, it’s dark. Number two, it’ll be freezing-ass cold. Don’t plan on doing too much mountaineering. However, I don’t know if they’re active during the winter, but you may want to think about joining the SAR (Search and Rescue) team. Might put some of your skills to good use.
As far as photography, I take two cameras down – a point-and-shoot digital (for those times in the bar when you want to take a picture of your buddy dressed like Donna Summer, during 70’s night), and a 35mm SLR. As much as I enjoy shooting digital, I find that I cannot wean myself off of shooting slides. I plan to take plenty of film down with me, and either get it developed when I leave the ice, either in NZ, or back in the states.
If you have a choice, try to get a 35mm manual camera, like a Pentax K-1000. The only thing the battery runs is the light meter. Built rock-solid, too.
Digital-wise, sure, bring a couple of good-sized memory cards. Don’t bring just one – always have a backup. Bring plenty of rechargeable batteries, too. Digital SLRs are nice, but you may find that a P-A-S is alot easier to handle, especially with gloves, or mittens, on.
Now, about laptops – If the NSF/RPSC policy hasn’t changed, no personal programs may be placed on any NSF-owned computer. The last I heard, McM is running Win2000. Only certain folks will have administrator rights to install ANYTHING on the computer. Bringing your own will make life much easier for you. Try to find a used, or refurbished one. Even brand-new ones are less than $1000, now. Check out Ebay, Computer Renaissance, the newspaper, etc. The only real requirement for connecting it to the McM network is that it have current virus protection software. This will be checked by a tech before you can plug-in.
Hope this helps, Keith. Congrats to you. See you down south.