These women came to Antarctica for science. Then the predators appeared

These women came to Antarctica for science.  Then the predators appeared

On April 12, In 2019, Boston University finally fired David Marchant for sexually harassing Wellenbring. (The university said it could not confirm its claims of physical or psychological abuse.) Marchant issued a statement, which was published by the magazine Sciences He was quoted as pledging that he “did not sexually harass” anyone “not in 1998 or 1999 in Antarctica or at any time since.” But because of Wellenbring, word spread.

In the wake of this scandal, the National Science Foundation commissioned an external study into sexual assault and harassment in Antarctic research facilities. The lengthy report, published in August 2022, contains shocking allegations of assault, stalking and harassment. Brett Barquist, the former fuel foreman, was under McMurdo's contract with a company now called Amentum. She supervised a crew of about 20 people who did the dangerous work of handling and cleaning diesel and gasoline fuel tanks. One day in late November 2017, she told me, she was sitting at a table next to a man in a senior position at Leidos, the company that runs Antarctic research stations. He was conducting a staff briefing when he touched her in plain sight.

When she talked about it with her supervisor, he said he had witnessed some of the incident himself. His boss reported the matter to Amentum's HR department. “I told HR I didn't want to be anywhere around him again. 'I'm afraid of this person,' and he said, 'OK,'” Barquist says.

But in 2020, during another stint working with a McMurdo contractor, she was told she would attend weekly virtual meetings with the same senior official. Barquist, who needed the job, downplayed its importance to herself. β€œIt was disgusting and terrible to look at his face and listen to him talk, just seeing him treated like a normal man, while saying in my head: This man is a predator,” she says. . Why does everyone act like a normal person?

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The following year, at the end of nearly three weeks of coronavirus quarantine with a crew in New Zealand, she scanned the manifest for an upcoming flight to Antarctica and saw the senior official's name on it. When she called her human resources department to file a complaint, due to spotty communication, she said she was met with stubbornness from two administrators, one of whom was presented as a victim advocate.

“I said I still didn't want to be around this guy,” she told me, “but they said, 'So how do you propose we handle this?'” Barquist became emotional as she recalled her conversation with the two women. From her employer. β€œI thought they would be on my side,” she says. Instead, they kept pressuring her about how afraid she was to be around him.

“Finally I said, 'Yes, I feel unsafe when I'm alone in the room with him!'” she says. Then the signal went out, and she was never able to reconnect with them. Barquist returned to Antarctica where she tried to avoid the senior official. But since her team's safety depended on her communicating with them on an almost daily basis, she eventually relented.

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