Jelly-wrestling leader sacked

BY PHIL HAMILTON
Last updated 17:49 22/02/2009

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A weekend jelly-wrestling bout in the Antarctica has cost the organiser his job.

The evening of jelly wrestling at McMurdo Base was uncovered the following day by a high-powered delegation from the United States Office of the Inspector General, which audits the National Science Foundation - funder of the programme.

The organiser of last month's jelly wrestling, which was held in a vehicle maintenance facility and attended by New Zealanders from neighbouring Scott Base, was sacked the following week.

The incident also led to an urgent all-staff meeting where the US Antarctic Programme workers were read the riot act and given a stern lecture on their collective moral failure, with other activities involving nudity cited as further examples.

In an email sent to all the staff, the sacked jelly-wrestling organiser threatened to file a suit for wrongful termination as well as lamenting the way the US programme was now run by Raytheon Polar Services and the "fun nazis".

"I will just say that I was terminated for having harmless jello wrestling," he said in the email.

"No-one was injured (five medevacs from the company-sponsored softball game), no equipment was abused or damaged, no-one complained to HR, there was no inappropriate behaviour, clothing, or nudity (though the Polar Plunge just hours before the jello event had plenty of nudity but no-one got fired or reprimanded for doing that!)."

The incident has highlighted the culture clash between the Raytheon Polar managers, many of whom are ex-military, and the staff, who may have been working on the ice for many years and do it out of commitment to the programme.

Another staff member, who has done five stints at McMurdo, said all the fun was being sucked out of working in the Antarctic.

"Each time we go down, the place just seems more and more emotionally beat down," he said in a posting on a website.

"Every trip, there are more and more rules, restrictions and guidelines that seem designed to take all the life out of the place and make it more like a unionised auto factory.

"Yes, I know it is a workplace, but they are sucking all the fun out of the place."

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- The Press

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