Below Zero


Caitlin Dudzik descends an observation tube installed through sea ice and into the liquid ocean. Courtesy photos

WCC staff member embarks on icy research adventure in Antarctica

Adventure is nothing new for Caitlin Dudzik, clerical support staff member at Washtenaw Community College’s Counseling and Career Planning Center.

The 27-year-old currently resides in icy Antarctica, serving as air transportation specialist at McMurdo Station (a research center). Specifically, Dudzik works cargo logistics, ensuring that all researchers’ equipment is packaged correctly and arrives safe and sound at its destination.

After learning last October that she was one of the lucky few to be selected by Pacific Architects and Engineers, Inc. for the position, Dudzik had only seven days to prepare for the four-month-long journey.

“I’m nervous about the unknown, but more excited about being able to meet people and researchers from all over the world,” Dudzik said on the eve (Oct. 14) of boarding an airplane to the coldest, driest, windiest continent in the world. She is experiencing Antarctica’s summer season, which consists of 24 hours of sunlight. The temperature will range anywhere from -10 degrees on a typical day to 30 degrees on a “hot” day.

This isn’t the first time Dudzik has followed her adventurous side. Two years ago, she spent seven months volunteering with the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service on Johnston Atoll, an island located approximately 800 miles southwest of Hawaii.

There, Dudzik lived in a tent without any electricity, so she relied on non-perishable foods and resorted to bathing and doing laundry in the ocean. Despite being chased out of the water by sharks on several occasions, the experience only fueled her sense of adventure.

“I lived with four other people and we were the only research team on the island. There were times when I jokingly said to them, ‘Guys, I can’t handle you right now’ and they understood because everyone needed their space,” Dudzik said. “At one point, I broke my toe and had to walk around on that because there was no doctor. There were definitely some crazy times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Read the rest of my story in the January/February issue of On the Record here.



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