HomeSPORTSLadies working in Antarctica say they have been left to fend for...

Ladies working in Antarctica say they have been left to fend for themselves in opposition to sexual harassers

Women working in Antarctica

McMurdo Station is photographed from the air on Oct. 27, 2014. The Related Press discovered a sample of girls working in Antarctica who stated their claims of sexual harassment or assault had been minimized by their employers. The AP investigation got here after the Nationwide Science Basis revealed a report in 2022 by which 59% of girls stated they’d had a detrimental expertise of harassment or assault whereas on the ice. (Nationwide Science Basis by way of AP)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The howling winds and perpetual darkness of the Antarctic winter have been easing to a frozen spring when mechanic Liz Monahon at McMurdo Station grabbed a hammer.

If these in cost weren’t going to guard her from the person she feared would kill her, she figured, she wanted to guard herself. It wasn’t like she may escape. They have been all caught there collectively on the ice.

So she stored the hammer along with her always, both looped into her Carhartt overalls or tucked into her sports activities bra.

“If he got here anyplace close to me, I used to be going to start out swinging at him,” Monahon says. “I made a decision that I used to be going to outlive.”


Monahon, 35, is one in all many ladies who say the remoted surroundings and macho tradition at america analysis middle in Antarctica have allowed sexual harassment and assault to flourish.

The Nationwide Science Basis, the federal company that oversees the U.S. Antarctic Program, revealed a report in 2022 by which 59% of girls stated they’d skilled harassment or assault whereas on the ice, and 72% of girls stated such habits was an issue in Antarctica.

However the issue goes past the harassment, The Related Press discovered. In reviewing court docket information and inner communications, and in interviews with greater than a dozen present and former workers, the AP uncovered a sample of girls who stated their claims of harassment or assault have been minimized by their employers, usually resulting in them or others being put in additional hazard.

In a single case, a girl who reported a colleague had groped her was made to work alongside him once more. In one other, a girl who advised her employer she was sexually assaulted was later fired. One other girl stated that bosses on the base downgraded her allegations from rape to harassment. The AP typically doesn’t determine those that say they’ve been sexually assaulted until they publicly determine themselves.

The complaints of violence didn’t cease with the NSF report. 5 months after its launch, a girl at McMurdo advised a deputy U.S. marshal that colleague Stephen Bieneman pinned her down and put his shin over her throat for a few minute whereas she desperately tried to speak she couldn’t breathe.

Bieneman pleaded not responsible to misdemeanor assault. He was fired and despatched again to the U.S., court docket paperwork present, and his trial is scheduled for November. His lawyer, Birney Bervar, stated in an e mail to the AP that it was “horseplay” initiated by the lady and the proof didn’t help “an assault of the character and diploma she described.”

The NSF report triggered a Congressional investigation. In a written response to Congress that’s contradicted by its personal emails, Leidos, the prime contractor, stated it obtained “zero allegations” of sexual assault in Antarctica throughout the 5 years ending April 2022.

Kathleen Naeher, the chief working officer of the civil group at Leidos, advised a congressional committee in December that they might set up peepholes on dorm room doorways, restrict entry to grasp keys that might open a number of bedrooms, and provides groups within the area an additional satellite tv for pc cellphone.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., stated the proposed fixes left him flabbergasted.

“This could have been executed earlier than we despatched anybody right down to Antarctica,” he stated on the listening to.

Monahon and all however one of many employees quoted on this story are talking publicly for the primary time. Trapped in probably the most distant spots on Earth, the ladies say they have been largely pressured to fend for themselves.

“Nobody was there to avoid wasting me however me,” Monahon says. “And that was the factor that was so terrifying.”


Monahon believes she solely escaped bodily hurt in Antarctica due to her colleagues, not administration.

She met Zak Buckingham in 2021 at a lodge in Christchurch, New Zealand, the place McMurdo employees have been quarantining in opposition to COVID-19 earlier than going to Antarctica. It could be Monahon’s second stint in Antarctica, a spot that had fascinated her since her childhood half a world away in upstate New York.

On the lodge, Monahon says, male colleagues bothering her and a pal backed off when Buckingham — a plumber and beginner boxer from Auckland, New Zealand — sat with them.

Buckingham, now 36, was intimidating and a bit wild, however humorous and charming. One night time, Monahon says, she and Buckingham attached.

What Monahon didn’t know was that Buckingham had a historical past of what a choose described as alcohol-related prison offending in New Zealand.

Three months earlier than deploying, Buckingham breached a safety order taken out by his former accomplice and the mom of his three kids, in accordance with court docket information the AP obtained after petitioning a New Zealand choose. He’d texted his ex-partner demanding oral intercourse. She advised him to cease being inappropriate.

“No, I cannot cease being inappropriate,” he’d replied, and demanded oral intercourse once more, in accordance with the choose’s findings. She once more advised him to cease. He responded, in accordance with the information: “That you must be f—– like a slut.”

Per week later, he despatched her 18 texts, court docket information present. She warned him she’d name the police.

“Proceed to threaten me and also you’ll have to,” he’d replied.


Antarctica’s historic ice sheet and remoteness make it ultimate for scientists finding out every little thing from the earliest moments of the universe to modifications within the planet’s local weather.

The inhabitants at McMurdo, the hub of U.S. operations, normally swells from 200-300 within the southern winter to over 1,000 in the summertime. Sometimes, round 70% are males.

Funded and overseen by the NSF, the U.S. Antarctic Program is run by a tangle of contractors and subcontractors, with billions of {dollars} at stake. Since 2017, Leidos has held the principle contract, now value over $200 million per yr. Subcontractor PAE, which employs most of the base’s employees, was purchased final yr by the federal government companies big Amentum.

There isn’t any police presence or jail at McMurdo, and regulation enforcement falls to a sworn on-site deputy U.S. marshal.

Buckingham was employed by PAE. Amentum didn’t reply to questions from the AP. Leidos Senior Vice President Melissa Lee Dueñas stated it conducts background checks on all its workers.

“Our stance on sexual harassment or assault couldn’t be extra clear: we’ve zero tolerance for such habits,” Dueñas stated in an e mail. “Every case is completely investigated.”

The NSF and Leidos declined to reply questions on Buckingham or different circumstances. Leidos stated sharing particular particulars wasn’t at all times acceptable or useful.

The NSF advised the AP it improved security in Antarctica final yr. The company now requires Leidos to instantly report any important well being and security incidents, together with sexual assault and harassment, it stated in a press release. The NSF stated it additionally created an workplace to cope with such complaints, supplied a confidential sufferer’s advocate, and established a 24-hour helpline.


On the ice, with restricted choices for socializing, many head to one in all McMurdo’s two foremost bars: Southern Publicity or Gallagher’s.

Neither has home windows, employees say, and so they scent of physique odor and a long time of stale beer that has seeped into the ground. In the summertime, when the solar shines all night time, folks stroll out of the bars and are dazzled by the sunshine.

One night time at Southern Publicity, Monahon advised the AP, Buckingham started laughing with buddies about who was going to sleep along with her and her pal. Subsequent factor, he was brow to brow with one other man, she says. Buckingham, reached by cellphone in New Zealand, declined to remark and hung up.

Monahon says she repeatedly advised Buckingham she didn’t need to communicate with him. Quickly after, she heard Buckingham was indignant at her.

Nervous, she says, she advised PAE’s human sources she feared for her security. They took no motion. Per week later, Buckingham rushed as much as her in Gallagher’s, shaking with anger, shouting and threatening her, she says.

“You’ve been speaking s— about my mom,” he yelled at her, she says, leaving her baffled. “Individuals who speak s— about my mom should die.”

Monahon says she was shocked to the core. “Snitches will get stitches,” she says Buckingham snarled as others intervened.

Cameron Dailey-Ruddy, who bartended at Gallagher’s, witnessed the commotion. He ordered everybody however Monahon to depart and referred to as 911, which connects to the station firehouse. From the dispatcher, Dailey-Ruddy received the numbers for the Leidos station supervisor and PAE’s HR consultant and requested them to return to the bar.

“It was form of an open secret at that time that that man had been harassing her,” stated Dailey-Ruddy. He added that Buckingham was on the bars most nights, generally drank in public areas and harassed girls.

Monahon says the managers introduced her to a secret room and advised her she may skip work the subsequent day.

It was the final time she would really feel supported by administration.


After an evening in her new room, Monahon met with PAE’s HR consultant, Michelle Izzi.

Monahon claims Izzi discouraged her from reporting what occurred to the deputy U.S. marshal, partly as a result of it will create jurisdictional complications and even a global downside, as Buckingham was a New Zealand citizen. Monahon additionally says Izzi advised her she wanted to rigorously think about how submitting costs may have an effect on her personally and impression your complete U.S. Antarctic Program.

In a later recorded assembly, Izzi denied that she discouraged Monahon and stated she had in reality instructed her to name the marshal. Izzi didn’t reply to the AP’s requests for remark.

The following night time, Dailey-Ruddy says, Buckingham was again on the bar. The night time after, in accordance with one other particular person conversant in the state of affairs, Buckingham received right into a bodily altercation with one other man.

Dailey-Ruddy wasn’t stunned by the dearth of motion in opposition to Buckingham.

“It appeared like par for the course by way of the tradition, and sexual harassment, and the way girls’s security was addressed on the station,” he says.

In the meantime, Monahon had taken the machinist’s hammer to defend herself. In a press release to PAE’s HR division, she wrote: “Zak Buckingham is a hazard to me. He has threatened my life. He’s able to hurting me and he needs to harm me. … I’ve been residing in concern for the final two days.”

Along with her employers doing nothing to handle her considerations, Monahon’s fast boss and associates got here up with their very own plan, in accordance with two workers conversant in the state of affairs.

Monahon was advised to pack her baggage, and the subsequent morning joined a gaggle making an attempt to navigate a secure route throughout the ocean ice over eight days to resupply a tiny U.S. outpost. The crossing is dangerous as a result of the ice can crumble within the spring.

“To guard her, they put her in a harmful state of affairs,” stated Wes Thurmann, a fireplace division supervisor who had labored in Antarctica yearly since 2012.

However all of them felt it was safer than her remaining at McMurdo.

Thurmann, who was additionally notified when Dailey-Ruddy referred to as 911, says he was launched to McMurdo’s misogynistic tradition when a gaggle of males recited a listing of girls they thought of targets for intercourse. Typically, Thurmann says, the NSF and Antarctic contractors blamed such habits on alcohol.

However the bosses wouldn’t ban booze, he says, as a result of it will make deployments much less engaging.


Monahon’s disaster on the ice wasn’t an anomaly. In November 2019, one other incident involving a meals employee pushed the NSF to launch its investigation. The meals employee didn’t reply to a request for remark, however her case is printed in inner emails obtained by the AP.

The lady advised her bosses she’d been sexually assaulted by a coworker. Her efficiency was subsequently criticized by a supervisor, who was additionally the girlfriend of the accused man. Two months later, she was fired.

Most of the girl’s colleagues have been outraged. Julie Grundberg, then the McMurdo space supervisor for Leidos, repeatedly emailed her considerations to her superiors in Denver.

“The truth that we haven’t come out with some form of public assertion is making the neighborhood belief our group even much less,” Grundberg wrote.

Supervisor Ethan Norris replied: “We want your assist to maintain this calm and be a impartial get together as you will have just one facet of the story at this level.”

Norris didn’t reply to a request for remark from the AP.

The case prompted among the girls to kind their very own help group, Ice Allies. Greater than 300 folks signed a petition calling for higher methods for dealing with sexual assaults.

The meals steward settled a wrongful termination declare for an undisclosed quantity, folks conversant in the state of affairs advised the AP. Leidos later fired Grundberg, in a transfer many employees consider was retaliatory.

One other meals steward, Jennifer Sorensen, advised the AP she was raped at McMurdo in 2015. Initially, she didn’t inform anybody.

“On station, I had no advocate to talk on behalf of my wants and safety, no jail to guard me from my rapist, and no information of any current regulation enforcement personnel,” Sorensen stated in a written account to the AP.

Nonetheless haunted 21 months later, Sorensen wrote to the person’s employer, GHG Corp., about what had occurred. GHG later wrote again that it had investigated her claims with Leidos and wouldn’t rent the person once more.

“Now we have concluded that you just have been a sufferer of sexual harassment,” wrote GHG President Joseph Willhelm.

Sorensen says it was shameful that GHG and Leidos downgraded what she says was rape to harassment. GHG didn’t reply to a request for remark. Sorensen additionally contacted the FBI, which didn’t file prison costs and refused to launch particulars of its investigation to the AP.

Britt Barquist, who labored as foreperson of the gasoline division, advised the AP she was attending a security briefing with co-workers in 2017 when a person in a senior position reached underneath the desk and squeezed her higher leg.

“It was a lingering hand on the within of my thigh, like as shut as you may get to simply grabbing my precise crotch,” Barquist says.

Her boss on the time, Chad Goodale, advised the AP he noticed what occurred and referred to as his supervisor. He stated the result was the person was taken off a joint undertaking and advised to keep away from contact with Barquist. But upon returning to Antarctica in 2021, Barquist says, she was pressured to work with the person once more.

“It was humiliating. And terrible,” she says. “I might attempt to not make eye contact with him, or acknowledge him in any respect. … In direction of the top, he would speak to me about issues, and I might simply be eager to throw up.”

When Barquist returned to Antarctica final yr, she took a job as a prepare dinner, working alongside her husband at a tiny satellite tv for pc camp moderately than at McMurdo.

“I simply want I had been extra protected,” she says.


Shortly earlier than Monahon returned from her expedition, Buckingham was taken to a aircraft to go dwelling early. The lady who usually drives folks to the airfield refused to move him.

“With my supervisor, we simply determined it’s not secure, and station administration can drive him out themselves,” says Rebecca Henderson.

Izzi, PAE’s HR consultant, referred to as Monahon into a gathering. Izzi’s superior, Holly Newman, was on the cellphone in Denver. Monahon recorded the dialog.

“The investigation was accomplished. We took acceptable motion,” Newman says within the recording. She doesn’t specify what motion was taken aside from to say the particular person was now not on the ice. She provides that generally they get stories that aren’t true.

Newman couldn’t be reached for remark.

Within the recording, Newman then says issues with alcohol and other people “hurting different folks” have been occurring in Antarctica since “method earlier than” she first visited in 2015.

“Why does it occur? Why doesn’t it cease?” Newman asks. “These are large questions and there usually are not actually any solutions that I sit on which might be passable but.”


In March 2022, Buckingham was sentenced to 100 hours of neighborhood service and 10 months of supervision after pleading responsible to 2 costs of breaching a safety order for his ex-partner.

“That is … the primary time you will have been earlier than the court docket on any offending of this nature,” Choose Kevin Glubb concluded. “It needs to be the final, Mr. Buckingham, you perceive that? You come again once more, all bets are off.”

Buckingham by no means confronted any authorized motion or penalties for what Monahon stated occurred in Antarctica. He’s now residing again in New Zealand.

Monahon hopes her story prompts the contractors in Antarctica to face extra accountability. And she or he needs the NSF to do greater than probably substitute Leidos because the lead contractor when its contract expires in 2025.

“What are they going to do to guarantee that this subsequent contractor doesn’t do the identical factor?” she asks.

Monahon was decided to maintain working at Antarctica and returned in 2022, however has determined to skip this season.

“It’s that mentality of don’t allow them to win,” she says. “However I do assume they’re successful proper now.”


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