Even at Antarctic stations bustling with grand achievements, scientists (and support staff) still find time for the occasional theft.
The most common theft is of clothing, which is probably because Antarcticans daily wear more clothing than anyone in the world, apart from soldiers or clowns. With everyone donning and shedding layers like a bunch of snakes, there is expensive technical clothing just lying about nearly everywhere on station. Often the acquisition is a case of mistaken identity, fliers are posted on the walls and doors of Highway 1, and the North Face X50 Turbo-Fleece is returned to its rightful owner. But sometimes it is simple, unrepentant theft. Standard-issue USAP parkas alone have a retail value of around $600, and each season a few go missing from the vestibules in 155.
Overall the Antarctic community is, refreshingly, a trusting one. Typically, you can buy a case of beer and let it sit in the vestibule all day, leave your door unlocked or, as a most astonishing example, loan someone a book, and still be secure of your property.
Nonetheless, every season some clothing or cameras go astray, and when the NAVCHAPS are in town it becomes fashionable to blame them.
As with all misdeeds, some thefts are more intriguing than others. The missing parka or the TV taken from NASA are simply irritating: someone stole a commodity for profit. But some thieveries, despite the offense, invoke the imagination, such as when someone stole:
- various auto parts and tried to mail them home, alongside bags of crappy tortilla chips that are free from the Galley
- a tank of nitrous oxide
- baby Jesus from the nativity set at the Chapel of the Snows
Or when, several days ago, someone stole over 150 lbs of prime rib from the Galley, which the McMurdo community widely deems to be the focal point of the upcoming Christmas dinner.
The case brings up many questions:
Who would do such a thing? Did they have a plan? Or did they just have a truck, see the meat, and swipe it? Where are they storing it? When will they eat it?
With typical good humor, the town now jokes about the missing prime rib. Anyone could have done it, so everyone is jibed.
With typical fervor, management is on the hunt. The station manager, a useful tool for errands far beyond his job description, has been appointed detective. He is investigating work-centers that have freezers or refrigeration units, in search of the missing meat. The thief is likely one step ahead of the managerial bloodhound. Considering that the theft happened in Antarctica, the delectable haul is probably just being stored somewhere outside.
Message: If you stole the prime rib, I would like to interview you briefly. Anonymity assured. My email is on the sidebar.