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Sharon Heilman - Ice Friend
(Ice Friend was Sharon's nickname when she posted in the Cool Antarctica Forum)

Sharon left from Peoria, Illinois on Sunday September the 28th 2003
and arrived on the ice at McMurdo Sound Antarctica on Thursday the 2nd of October 2003

This is Sharon Heilman, a retired Registered Nurse living in Princeville, Illinois. Sharon always wanted to go to Antarctica and in September 2000, she did just that. After attending a job fair in Englewood, Colorado. for Raytheon Polar Services she was one of the few lucky people to be hired.

Raytheon is under contract with the US National Science Foundation and is responsible for science, operations, and maintenance services at three US bases in Antarctica - McMurdo Station, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, and Palmer Station. Raytheon employs thousands of people in its Polar Services Division and every year they hire seasonal employees for their Antarctic program.

She has now been twice to Antarctica to work and she will shortly be returning to The Ice for a third time in October 2003.

Sharon also has a Masters degree from the University of Illinois, having become a nurse after her three children entered school - "so I was a late bloomer!"  She now has grandchildren and will turn 65 in October on the Ice!  "Again, blooming late!"

Sharon's job will be to drive shuttle buses around the US McMurdo base in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica. In the Antarctic summer from October to February when she will be there, there are about 1,000 people on base. A very similar size in fact to the small rural community in central Illinois where Sharon lives.


While she is there she will see:

She will get to (hopefully) ride on

Mount Erebus (an active volcano) A Helicopter
Emperor and adelie penguins An Icebreaker
Scott's hut from the 1903 expedition Ski-Doos
Shackleton's hut from the 1907 expedition Haaglunds
Ice caves Her own shuttle bus!
The "Great Ice Barrier"

Received 14th October 2003

Hi Folks,

Not much to report from McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  Cold and windy, planes can't come down from Christchurch, NZ, so many workers are stranded there.

Temperatures have been about -10F to -20F with wind chills to -60F or so.  We actually had a Condition 1 in town the other day.  Unusual!  Must stay where you are, not go even from one building to the next.  Condition 1 usually only occurs away from Mactown, at the airfields of up in the hills.

My job is going very well.  I love driving shuttles!!  I took some carpenters out about 10 miles onto the Ross Ice Shelf the other day in a Delta, the big orange vehicle with 5' tires.  The passenger section and engine section are articulated from the driver section.  The driver, me, sits forward of the front tires!  The are building a shelter for the LDB, Long Duration Balloon, project.  The scientists send up a balloon probably in December or January to 120,000 feet, the edge of outer space.  It circles counter-clockwise Antarctica collecting data to be analyzed later at Washington U. in St. Louis.

I learn so much and hear so much that there is never a dull moment.  I know we have a cushy life here compared to the early explorers, but last Thursday, a woman decided to walk/climb up Observation Hill, a 900 foot lava hill.

Well, she went alone and did not take a radio!  A big no-no.  She lost her footing and slid on the lava about 20 feet, then rolled over and slid another 40 feet, loosing a shoe and gloves in the process.  Luckily, a group of hikers came along after about 1/2 - 1 hour and found her.  She has frostbite on all 20 digits!!  And her one heel is purple/black.  She is confined to her room, visiting medical for dressing changes and morphine and debridement daily.  She is not out of the woods yet!  She could see shuttles going to Scott Base that night and waved and yelled, but with howling winds almost always, nobody saw or heard her.  She's lucky to be alive - and only right on the edge of our buildings !!


For some reason this was the only email we received from Sharon - Paul Webmaster

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