5.4 Million Square Miles, One Cash Machine

Spectrum's Glenn Zorpette reports from Antarctica

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This is part of the series:
Antarctica: Life on the Ice

Transcript: 5.4 Million Square Miles, One Cash Machine

[door opening and closing]

Glenn Zorpette: It’s a continent of five and a half million square miles, but Antarctica has just one cash machine. It’s right inside the entrance to Building 155, which houses the galley at the main U.S. base, McMurdo Station. But, come to think of it: Why is there even one cash machine here? There aren’t any malls. There isn’t even a Starbucks. Not yet, anyway.


Glenn Zorpette: How often would you say you use it?

Tony Dixon: Once a week?

Glenn Zorpette: And where do you tend to spend the money around here?

Tony Dixon: Store.

Glenn Zorpette: You mean the store in the galley?

Tony Dixon: Yeah.

Glenn Zorpette: What kinds of things do you buy?

Tony Dixon: Typically souvenirs for back home and snacks. Things like that.

Glenn Zorpette: Besides the shop here in Building 155, there are a couple bars, a coffee shop, a post office, and other consumer attractions.

Corinne Morse: People sell things. They make jewelry down here. And people knit things and sell. There’s also a massage therapist here, that she does services for that. And there’s also a hairdresser. She does barbershop, and tips for that.

Glenn Zorpette: Corinne Morse is the dispersing specialist for McMurdo Station, which means that she gets to stuff the ATM machine full of 20-dollar bills.

Corinne Morse: There’s about $50 000 that goes out of that machine every week, and I fill it up every week on Saturdays.

Glenn Zorpette: So McMurdo station has its own quirky, self-contained economy. Twenty-dollar bills go out of the cash machine to the souvenir shop and the bars and the massage therapist, and then they make their way back to the cash machine. Back and forth. By the way, the bars are called Gallagher’s and Southern Exposure, which is affectionately known as Southern.

Glenn Zorpette: Do the twenties pretty much, just bounce back and forth between this machine and Southern?”

Lisa Jenkins: They are all over the station. It’s pretty amazing the—how the money turns around here. People write notes on their bills and they get them back eventually.

Glenn Zorpette: That’s Lisa Jenkins. She tends bar at Southern Exposure.

Lisa Jenkins: There’s a lot of twenties that are in cycle, that are in circulation now, that I forget what it says on it, but someone took a stack of them and just wrote their name all over them. And they’re just all over the place now.

Glenn Zorpette: They’re still here.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah.

Glenn Zorpette: Months later.

Lisa Jenkins: Oh yeah. Years later.

Glenn Zorpette: Thank you very much.

Lisa Jenkins: You’re welcome.

[door opening and closing, music]