I am so often asked by people from all over the world who contact me, ‘How can you live there, don’t you miss home.’
A simple answer to this is, Of course!
To pack your luggage for 1 year abroad is not easy. After all, this is no Caribbean beach holiday. But now think to yourself and ask yourself, How on earth do you ‘pack your mind’ for a year away from home?
Of course all of us miss our complicated, traffic riddled, coffee house frequenting, television watching work-home lives back in UK, Italy, France and Russia.
Life here is different and comes in its own unique form, shape, and substance. It comes in its rawest form.
You stop suffering distractions and quickly realize a lot of what keeps us all so busy back home, in the words of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, actually ‘doesn’t really matter’ at all. It’s not worth thinking about and it’s certainly not worth arguing with loved ones about.
You stop looking outward – no restaurants, no traffic, no appointments – and you look inwards. I have to say, so far, it’s been interesting what I have found.
It is a strange thing to say, but time here is slowing down, grinding to a halt in fact. You have time to consider things and make well-balanced and valuable decisions.
Probably you are asking yourself – oh c’mon what can you possibly learn about yourself looking at a flat, white blanket horizon? I guess you could ask an Astronaut what he experiences and feels when he looks back at his home planet turning beneath him, without him.
Well, all I can say is generally speaking overwintering in Antarctica is nothing like coming here on a cruise in the summer. And overwintering at Concordia station, being completed isolated in the world’s most extreme environment, short of breath with each hypoxic step and asthmatic from the minus 80 degree Celcius air… this is nothing like overwintering at any of the other peripheral stations, especially those lying in the safety of the reach for an evacuation in the case of emergency. Alongside Russia’s Vostok station and the US Amundsen Scott South Pole Station… we are alone. We are here for the long haul. And if there is turbulence, you ride it out until you are home and dry. You understand life here- it is simpler.
‘Scott-free’ in relation to ‘home and dry’ is an interesting British term used often to describe ‘making it to dry land’ and ‘getting let off the hook’ having suffering no deserved consequences for your (inconsiderate) actions. 100 years on, it is a curious phrase when placed in respect of Sir captain Robert Falcon ‘Scott’, who never reached home and instead was held hostage to the weather inside his tent, and died from starvation just 11 miles from One Tonne Camp, a food and supplies cache, on returning from the South Pole. Life here being in its rawest form is cruel.
Overwintering in Antarctica is a journey of personal discovery. I suppose, yes, ‘Life is like a box of Chocolates’. And here too, ‘You never know what you will find.’ You dredge the ocean’s depths of your mind.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, and certainly not any of your answers, but I have started to find my own answers.
At night you look up into an ocean of stars and with your naked eye peer into the Milky Way Galaxy itself. You can’t get this view and feeling anywhere else on Earth on this scale. You soon realize how small you really are and how wonderful life is.
Every night before bed, dressed for bed, I open the front door, receive a chill to my bones, peer up into Heaven, and then take a deep cold, breath back just after it has been sucked from my lungs, in Hell.
This is both Heaven and Hell.
This is ‘Real’ Antarctica.
This is Nowhere.
But this is Home.
In a time-honored tradition, please enjoy my Song of the Day – of course, it has to be:
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Today’s Weather Report at Concordia:
|Temperature||-58.4 °C||Windchill||-77.4 °C|
|Dew Point||-65.5 °C||Pressure||642.5 hPa|
|Wind Speed||4.7 m/s||Relative Humidity||40 %|
|9.1 knots||Wind Origin||129°|