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Leading on the Edge: Extraordinary Stories and Leadership Insights from The World's Most Extreme Workplace by Rachael Robertson

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Chapter 12      image

Ask ‘why?’, then keep asking why

All through training we had been pushed to our limits mentally and socially. But much of training was also highly physical. First fire training, crane operation, working from heights, then boat training.

Fire training? With all that cold and ice?

Fire training

The lowest temperature recorded on Earth was −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) at Russia's Vostok Station, halfway between Davis Station and the South Pole. The highest temperature recorded at Davis Station is 8 °C, which had occurred the year I was in training. The average temperature of inland Antarctica is −57 °C.

Now, I knew that for fire to burn it needed fuel, oxygen and heat. So why all the fire training?

Humidity. Antarctica is technically a desert. It is the driest continent on Earth. It never rains, ever. It only snows. The extreme low temperatures result in near zero humidity — a big cause of cracked lips and skin among expeditioners.

There is next to no risk of anything burning outside buildings in Antarctica. It's just too cold, and there's no fuel. The huge, indeed massive, risk is within the station buildings themselves. These are heated to a balmy 23 °C by large diesel heaters that run all day, every day. Any moisture that might have been in the air from humans inside is sucked out. Any moisture inside timber frames, furniture, clothing and bedding is quickly evaporated out, ...

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