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Tik Tok Star Shares Life In The South Pole


TikTok has seen a boom during the coronavirus lockdown even in Antarctica, which missed much of the pandemic.


JOSIAH HORNEMAN: I thought I'd show you the actual South Pole.

So a couple people have requested a tour of the craft room we have here at the South Pole. I don't know what half this stuff is.

All right. So for today's tour, I want to take you into the science lab.

SIMON: Josiah Horneman documents everyday life on the social media platform as a physician's assistant in the South Pole Station clinic. He joins us now - I don't get a chance to say this a lot - from Antarctica. Thanks so much for being with us.

HORNEMAN: Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be on here.

SIMON: I have to begin by asking, what's the temperature there today?

HORNEMAN: Well, today, it is actually pretty chilly. It's -95.8 Fahrenheit or -71 Celsius. That's not including the wind chill, which gets down to -128 Fahrenheit or -89 Celsius - so very, very cold. We obviously need to bundle up very, very much when going outside.

SIMON: Yeah, no flip-flops, it sounds like.

HORNEMAN: No flip-flops or shorts.

SIMON: So why did you start documenting everyday life on TikTok?

HORNEMAN: Well, a few things came together at once. We actually just kind of got the go-ahead from PR department at the United States Antarctic Program which is run by the NSF. And lately, they've kind of opened the door for us to start documenting our life here and showing it. I've been documenting my life personally for a few years now on my YouTube channel, mostly travel and things. So it was just, like, a natural thing for me to come here and start doing it here.

SIMON: What's on your TikTok channel, for those few people in the U.S. that haven't seen it? You have half a million followers.

HORNEMAN: (Laughter) Which is insane by itself. I remember a year ago on my YouTube channel when I got 100 followers, and I thought that was a big deal. And to have half a million now is just absolutely ridiculous. It's been a wild ride. What I've got on there now is - I think I just started about two months ago, so it's all Antarctica. But I just show a little bit of daily life, you know, what it's like to actually live down here - usually nothing glamorous. A lot of times, it's taking out the trash, or I give a tour of the clinic at one point - just the ins and outs, the kind of food we eat, you know, what the bathrooms look like, what our bedrooms look like. So yeah.

SIMON: What do you do for fun?

HORNEMAN: Well - so keeping entertained is a big deal around here because we are kind of, for lack of a better term, in a spaceship here in the harshest environment on Earth. But there's a lot of extracurricular activities. We have a lot of movies, a lot of books. We have usually an event every night of the week, whether it's board game night or movie night. So there's definitely room to stay active in the community and just keep mentally engaged so you don't go crazy down here not seeing the sun for five months.

SIMON: What's for dinner tonight?

HORNEMAN: That's a good question. I actually am probably one of the few that don't look at the menu.

SIMON: The food is famously pretty good or at least better than what you'd expect, right?

HORNEMAN: Yes, very, very good, actually. It's so good, I had to do a whole TikTok on it. What's really great - actually, we're very lucky. Probably - I don't want to cast shade on any other stations, but right now, I believe we have the three best chefs in the United States Antarctic Program here at the South Pole right now. So we're actually very, very lucky. They're all - all three of them are very talented. And I think that goes a long way towards the morale here, is having great food all the time.

SIMON: Josiah Horneman, who's with the U.S. Antarctic Program, thanks so much for being with us. Good luck to you. Nice talking to you.

HORNEMAN: Thank you very much, Scott. I appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.