If you’re only here for Tedious Discussions of Infrastructure, you may want to skip this post.
Every now and then, I reserve the right to post something meaningless and self-indulgent.
Unfortunately this is one of those.

Here at the bottom of the world, we all do our part to keep the station functioning smoothly.
And at the end of a grueling workday, there’s nothing quite like a nice, long, hot shower to refresh and wash
away the day’s problems…

…wait, what’s that? *taps earpiece* hang on, I’m being told there’s an issue.

*urgent whispering*

Ah, yes. I’d like to amend my previous statement.

Here at the bottom of the world, we all do our part to keep the station functioning smoothly.
And at the end of every 3rd or 4th grueling workday, there’s nothing quite like a short, frenzied, unsatisfying,
two-minute shower to provide some limited relief.

It is very expensive to produce potable water at the South Pole! Our water comes from a “Rodwell”, which is
basically a big hole in the ground.

We pump hot water down the hole. The hot water melts the snow, pushing
outward and forming an underground lake. We can then pump water out of this lake! As long as we keep pumping
enough hot water down the hole, we can keep expanding the lake, and keep pumping cold water up. This works
well, but it’s very expensive to do.

The USAP Participant Guide states:

“Summer residents at South Pole Station are restricted to two, two-minute showers per week.”

That is… not a lot of shower! Let’s break it down.

Two showers, two minutes apiece, per week.

Simplifying the weekly USAP Shower Time Quota, we have:


4 shower minutes per week! Again… not a lot of shower.

Converting this to a daily Shower Time Accrual Rate in seconds per day, we have:


34.3 shower-seconds per day! Again, not a lot of shower.

It’s important to note here that shower-seconds are merely a proxy for the true underlying unit of concern.

We have plenty of shower space and time. The metered commodity here is water.

Everyone is free to stand in the physical shower stall as long as they want! As long as
they keep water flow within the allocated quota.

I’ve empirically calculated the flow rate of the Standard USAP South Pole Showerhead as follows:

It takes 11.5 seconds to fill a 32 fl oz water bottle.

Flow rate can be expressed in a common plumbing unit (gallons per minute, or gpm) as follows:


At a 1.3gpm flow rate, our 34.3-second shower gives us a Shower Water Accrual Rate as follows:


0.74 gallons of water per day. What you choose to do with it is up to you!

In the following section I am deliberately ignoring an advanced strategy in the shower planning toolkit.
I am, of course, referring to the strategy of prolonging shower time by varying flow rate, thereby obtaining
more shower-seconds while consuming the same amount of water (again, water itself is the true
metered commodity here).

The calculations for Advanced Showering are left as an exercise to the reader.

Returning to the topic at hand: What are we to do with our precious accrued 34.3 shower seconds per day?
There are a couple options to consider:

Option 1: Designated Weekly Shower Days

One boring, unadventurous option is to designate two “shower days” per week.

Let’s say you pick Sunday and Wednesday.

Sunday is a day off for much of the station! A great day! You can relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy your accrued
two-minute shower. Wednesday is only three days away. A nice mid-week pick-me-up. Then it’s four days to Sunday,
and the process repeats.

If you value structure, predictability, routine, and ritual, this may be the option for you.

But I didn’t come to Antarctica to settle into a boring shower rut! I came to Antarctica for adventure.

Option 2: Daily

There’s no rule that says you have to accrue shower-seconds at all!

Fly by the seat of your pants. Treat every day as if it were your last. You only live once. Seize the moment.

If any of these phrases describe you, you
might choose to take a quick, 34.3-second daily rinse. Good luck actually cleaning anything,
but that daily splash of water is a reminder that life is fickle and fleeting,
and what’s the point of shower-seconds other than to spend them?

Option 3: Intervals

The premise here is simple. You can pick any interval of days, as long as your shower duration fits within
the number of accrued shower-seconds when the interval elapses.

You are the master of your own destiny, shaping the constraints of station life to fit your own
unique needs.

Longer interval? Longer showers. Shorter interval? Shorter showers.

You’re also freed from the oppressive, fixed weekly schedule. Every week brings a new set of Shower Days.

Showering? On a Monday? How novel! How adventurous!

Reasonable options are as follows:

Every 3 days: 102.9 shower-seconds. That’s 1 minute, 42.9 seconds. Bold and daring! Can you rinse off
in time?

Every 4 days: 137.2 shower-seconds. That’s 2 minutes, 17.2 seconds. Enjoy the extra time!
You’ve earned it.

Every 5 days: 171.5 shower-seconds. That’s 2 minutes, 51.5 seconds. Approaching luxury territory.
Enjoy every precious, hard-earned second!

Every 6 days: 205.8 shower-seconds. That’s 3 minutes (!!), 25.8 seconds. High risk, high reward. If you
can hold out, you’ll be able to enjoy an indulgent, almost decadent shower.

Option 4: Danger Zone

Can we stretch the Interval Method beyond its socially-acceptable limits? Can one truly go longer
without showering, and still manage to keep a job and make friends?

The jackpot goes up, way up. But so does the associated risk. Only you can make this call, but you are truly
in the danger zone. Tread cautiously.

Every 14 days: 480.2 seconds. That’s 8 minutes (!!!), 0.2 seconds. Congratulations! You’ve scrounged
and saved, and you’ve managed to accrue enough shower-seconds to take an average American shower!

You’ve sacrificed your health, well-being, social life, and potential future job prospects, but you can
enjoy a truly obscene amount of shower, guilt-free.

Option 5: The Mega Shower(™️)

The mere existence of the Mega Shower(™️) is a hotly debated topic among participants. Some say it can’t be
done, that it’s hubris and folly for humankind to think that such a feat is achievable.

Others claim that they’ve seen (and smelled) it happen. They claim that if you walk back into specific
corners of the station, and conditions are just right, you can still smell the lingering,
putrid stench of a true hero. One who dared to blaze their own trail.
One who bravely ignored every social cue, HR complaint, emphatic neighborly plea,
and attempted medical intervention.

If you deploy to South Pole on November 15, and you depart on February 15, you’ll spend a total of 92 days
here. If you’re feeling a chill down your spine right now, if your heart starts pounding because you know
where this is going, then perhaps you may have what it takes. Search within yourself, and choose the path that’s
right for you.

The night before you fly out, you’ll walk, head held high, to the bathroom. You’ve sacrificed it all in pursuit
of this one, singular goal, and you intend to savor it. You put on some light jazz, crack the seal on a
bottle of shampoo that’s been collecting dust for the past 91 days, and partake in the greatest
shower the continent has ever seen. Colleagues shuffle in and out, sheepishly hurrying through
their paltry two-minute showers, as you triumphantly enjoy your hard-earned Mega Shower(™️).

Every 91 days: 3,121.3 shower-seconds. That’s 52 minutes, 1.3 seconds of pure bliss.

You’ve done it – the pinnacle of South Pole showering.
As you’re escorted to the plane and unceremoniously banned from any
future contract work, you can bask in the glory of your achievement.

You’ve won.

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