Year Contracts And Psychological Winter Exams

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    I’m going to next year’s job fair to try and get a job on the ice.

    I’ve noticed that most jobs in the IT field are Summer only contracts, but I know they need winter overs, too. Being in the IT field, I can understand why they offer only Summer contracts to new hires.

    But, as the “status quo” is concerned, if you do well in the summer and pass their psychological evaluation, will you be offered a job during the winter? Or, is this a completely seperate deal?

    As far as the psychological evaluation is concerned, are they looking to screen out psychos (which I am not) or are they looking for specific psychological characteristics — as far as compatability with whom you will be wintering with?

    Thanks for any response,


    Hello, Jeff —
    I’m in the IT Dept. down at McMurdo (not there right now, but will be in October).  Maybe I can shed some light on how things work on the ice…
    Typically, there are contracts of 4 mos. (October-February: Mainbody), 6 mos. (August-February: Winfly), 6 mos. (February-August:  Winter), 8 mos. (February-October: Winter/Winfly), 12 mos. (October-October:  Summer/Winter), and 14 mos. (August-October: Winfly/Summer/Winter).  Just saying summer and winter isn’t quite adequate enough.
    The contract a person receives is entirely dependent on need, and availability. The population of McMurdo is about 1000+ during the summer.  Obviously, there is need for more personnel.  The winter population is only about 200.  The IT department is trimmed back to maybe a dozen people.
    Believe me, it’s definitely best if FNGs start out at summer, rather than winter.  You will need to get some time in under your belt before biting off a winter contract.
    Go to the job fair, get a feel for what’s available, work a summer, and, if you like it, make sure the bosses know you’re available for the winter.  Obviously, previous winterover personnel have priority in filling the winter slots.  Many of them even have contracts for the next season before they leave at the end of their current contracts.
    Yes, you do have to pass a psych eval.  They don’t want people ‘losing it’ over the four months of cold, isolated, darkness, with no way to leave.
    That said, I’ll be doing my first winter, next year.  Yee haw.
    What job is it you’re interested in, Jeff?
    Let me know if you have any other questions.


    Jeff, Atlas pretty much covered the basics. As he said, with over a thousand people there in the summer months, there are a lot of IT people. In the winter it drops back basically to a hardware person, a system person, a number of telco and cable people and a supervisor. Not much room left for anyone else. Best to get your feet wet in the summer and network your way around after you know the ropes.
    As far as the psych eval goes. Mostly they are looking at peoples ability to survive the winter. Because of a few alcohol related incidents over the years, there is also a good look at how you handle stress and whether you drink your problems away. Be prepared for a background check that looks at your records for any indication of a drinking problem. IE. DWI. Bar fights etc. Once down here for the winter you will appreciate not having to deal with drunken violence.
    It sounds bad, but there are actually very few people who don’t pass the test.


    Thanks for the replies Atlas and Mike!

    I have applied for the job of “Systems Administrator.” That’s the job that I’m best qualified for. Although, I have no practical Mac experience, I hope that won’t be held against me.

    I have a lot of technical ability, but no work is ever beneath me so I think I would take the challenge of Antarctica quite well.

    From now until the job fair, can anybody suggest where I should concentrate obtaining expertise that would help me get a year’s contract on the ice?

    Currently, I’m in Los Angeles working a steady job. Faced with the fact that I can’t afford a condo even in the ghetto with a mere $50,000 a year salary here I’d honestly like to get out of here; but I wouldn’t want to leave for just a four month contract.

    With everything that has been said in this discussion thread, I’m not worried about passing the physical or psych evaluation.


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