• Bored Antarctic Scientists Binge Drink A Lot

    Cold weather, isolation and hyper-masculinity drive Antarctica’s residents to binge drink, get into brawls and show up to work drunk. Live Science reports that contractors and scientists on the frozen continent have been hitting the bottle at an alarming rate, getting up to all sorts of “shenanigans,” and giving their superiors at the National Science Foundation (and themselves) a big headache.

    Aside from drinking on the job and getting into fights, there are reports that some workers have exposed themselves while in their altered state. Fifty-seven workers have violated the U.S. Antarctic Program’s (USAP) code of conduct over just a 20-month period, with one worker found brewing his own beer at the base. Now the National Science Foundation is considering sending breathalyzers to keep Antarctic scientists honest on the job.

    So what’s driving scientist and contractors on the frozen continent to binge on and off the job? Live Science reports it’s simply a factor of the environment they live in. Working in Antarctica means facing constantly low temperatures and being cut off and isolated from the rest of the world.

    Nitika Garg, a marketing professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia said, “If it’s extremely cold, you feel worse emotionally, affectively, and that pushes you toward consumption that you find rewarding and hedonic.”

    A masculine environment is also blamed for the reckless behavior of scientist in Antarctica. The scientific field is dominated by men, and research shows that roughly 75 percent of scientist and contractors working in Antarctica are male. This apparently leads to more drinking among the smaller female population as well.

    Esther Rothblum, a women’s studies professor at San Diego State University who has studied the psychology of women living in Antarctica said, “You’ve got women who often have to prove themselves. They have to show they are one of the guys, and if drinking is part of that, then they’re drinking.”

    It may all come down to boredom however, says NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay. In a conversation with Live Science McKay said, “From my personal experience in many field trips to many extreme environments, the primary reason folks turn to drink is that they don’t have meaningful work to focus on.”

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