Scientists working in Antarctica are apparently drinking so much that the National Science Foundation is considering whether or not to install breathalyzers to keep researchers in line, according to a report from Wired.
In one instance, auditors reportedly discovered that a researcher was actually using the lab to brew his own beer, which is definitely not allowed. Rather, the “beakers,” as the scientists are called, are asked to bring alcohol to a lounge in one of the base’s survival pods, or simply go to a bar. There are three bars on McMurdo, Antarctica’s largest base.
Breathalyzers also raise a few other problems — because Antarctica is not United States territory, the NSF is unsure that it can get anyone to administer the tests, or what to do if a researcher decides to contest the results in a court of law, because there are no courtrooms on the South Pole.
What’s more, the altitude of the South Pole Station, nearly 10,000 feet, makes it hard for breathalyzers to calibrate correctly.
Though the NSF is careful to say that that “alcohol-related misconduct is not disproportionately represented at the Antarctic stations,” the problem is made inherently more difficult because the closest medical care would be in New Zealand, more than 3,000 miles away.
As Wired points out, “That means a supervisor’s judgment is the only thing keeping the base safe when someone has a few too many and climbs on a fourteen-ton ice tractor.”