Summer in Antarctica is all about the science; 84 scientists descend on a small patch of dirt at the bottom of the world to conduct their experiments, take readings and just do science stuff. Most of the scientists must get off station to perform this work. This is often a day trip, but sometimes they would be away for two, three or four days. Critically, they had to be transported to where the science work would take place. For some scientists, the work was conducted around the station, but for most, their science ground was 200 to 300 kilometres away.
The transport mode of choice was air. We had two helicopters at our disposal and two specially modified aircraft were to arrive soon, having spent the winter back in Australia. Now, I'm no mathematician, but two four-seater helicopters and 84 expeditioners, all champing at the bit to get off station and count the penguins, doesn't compute, particularly when a round trip of 400 kilometres takes up most of the day.
So, as in most organisations, managing this was all about the appropriate allocation of scarce resources. The trick in managing scarcity is not just to make the right decision, but to be seen to make it the right way. People might be upset with the outcome, but if they understand the process they are more likely to accept it.
I went to a ...