From a Sociologist's Point of View

From a Sociologist’s Point of View

By Elizabeth Perera, DePaul University

July 5th, 2015

Here at Camp 17 the culture is very much one of camaraderie. Because there are 50 people living here, everyone pitches in and helps out. There are chores to do each morning, different people who cook the meals every day (they tell me it can be stressful…), and if you need something, you can almost always borrow it from someone. Everything at camp also has a name, including the food pantry (Tina) and the lost and found box (affectionately referred to as “YDS”, or, “Your Darn Stuff”). The sense of helpfulness and friendliness also means being aware of others’ safety and preventing injuries. If you have any injury, especially blisters, the staff all want you to show them your feet, because “your blister is the group’s blister.” There have already been several minor injuries at this point in the expedition, so knowing that this mentality exists is especially helpful for me, a first time adventurer. 

Camp 17, situated on a ridge between the Lemon Creek Glacier and the Ptarmigan Glacier. Photo by author.

Camp 17, situated on a ridge between the Lemon Creek Glacier and the Ptarmigan Glacier. Photo by author.

We are also all connected in our new perceptions of “clean.” With all of us living together in close quarters, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Hand washing is the most important, as is keeping all doors closed to keep the warm air in. Keeping gear, like ropes and crampons, free of dirt is also important. At the same time, the only way to do laundry, shower, or wash hair is by warming up water on the stove and using a washbasin. Consequently, many people up here haven’t taken a complete shower since leaving Juneau (almost a week ago, now). We all have hand sanitizer or wipes for the outhouses, and any other sweat or smells are now part of daily life. On days like yesterday, snow showers are a nice perk of the good weather! Many people don’t even use deodorant or wash their faces.

Our close living quarters. Photo courtesy of Laurel Rand-Lewis.

Our close living quarters. Photo courtesy of Laurel Rand-Lewis.

Mainly what I’ve noticed about the people here is that everyone wants to learn, have fun, and are willing to help, regardless of our different personalities and levels of cleanliness. It doesn’t matter what age we are; most are currently in college but some have already graduated and a few are still in high school. Nonetheless, everyone wants to be useful and to be a part of this fantastic learning experience that is the Juneau Icefield Research Program. We’re all just one big, dirty, happy family doing what we love!