UB Around the Globe
Fire and Ice
Maximilian W. Balzano, B.S. ’13, already had 10 years of firefighting experience in Maryland when he stumbled upon the Antarctic Fire Department’s website the summer before he graduated. “I always wanted to go to Antarctica, and this gave me a way to do it,” the criminal justice graduate explains.
After traveling to New Zealand for orientation and to be fitted for extreme-cold-weather gear, Balzano found himself on a ski-equipped plane to McMurdo Station, a U.S. research center on the southern tip of Antarctica’s Ross Island. The base is the largest community on the continent—capable of supporting more than 1,250 residents—but only about 150 people live there in the winter. “I pretty much knew everyone on station,” says Balzano of the seven months he was there in 2015.
So what does an Antarctic fireman do? Mostly fire inspections of the buildings around McMurdo Station, he says. “It’s the coldest, driest, windiest continent in the world—a fire that starts there can really take off,” Balzano explains. When he wasn’t working, he volunteered at the station’s general store and developed his photography hobby.
“The hardest thing to adjust to was 24 hours of daylight,” says Balzano, who arrived in February, when the sun is above the horizon all day. As the months went on, Antarctica entered an annual period when the sun is never seen. For Balzano, that meant photographing the star-studded Antarctic sky, including capturing the Milky Way and some of the strongest polar light displays in a decade.
“When I look at the night sky now [from Maryland], I think about how there’s so much we’re missing,” he says.
Have you traveled abroad recently and snapped a photo of yourself wearing your UB gear? Send your photos to the UB Office of Alumni Relations, 1130 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201 or via email. (And next time you head overseas, don’t forget to wear your UB apparel.)