I am writing to you, having left my new home at Concordia Station!
I am writing this from Mario Zuchelli station- the Italian Antarctic base located in Terra Nova bay- made famous of course, by British exploration.
So, you may want to know what I am doing here. I am wondering the same. This is my understanding…
I have learnt that the italians are quite excessive… for a country carried on the shoulders of its smiling leader, walking proudly, straight down ‘Rue de L’economique crisis’.
It seems that three weeks of travelling to the opposite corner of the world took some of the fine grain out of my appearance… actually, chiselled it out… leaving me feeling awful, dry, dishevelled – not much in line with my professional standard. Interestingly, I have collected these symptoms together to form a new syndrome, and will be the first to describe it here… ‘Economy syndrome’. Its awaiting scientific publication, but I am hoping the scientific community will welcome this important contribution.
On Monday morning at 12:30pm (during lunch), The station leader pulled me aside and I was given 30 minutes warning to pack my bags for the plane, to leave my new home, Concordia, to fly to Mario Zuchelli Station.
My italian language needs some work, but as I boarded the plane, Sergio, Concordia’s (Italian) Station Leader, said something along the following, whilst throwing his hands around in the traditional italian fashion, touching his hair and stroking his beard every now and again, at the crescendo of every sentence. The Twin Otter’s engines were on so it was difficult to hear everything, but I think I got it:
“I would get on the plane to be flown from Concordia… in the middle of nowhere… heading for somewhere else. But we would need to stop to refuel at midpoint A, somewhere, located approximately two and a half hours inbetween nowhere and somewhere else. When I get to somewhere else, I should be at Mario Zuchelli Station, where I would be met by the station leader… who would be shown promptly to the hairdresser where I would have to have a haircut and a shave.”
He also said he didn’t know the cost of this… saying it would be very expensive. I tried to get off the platform to the plane, but he urged me backwards and onto the plane, reassuring me, shaking my hand saying that it is very important and would be worth it. I remembered the ‘Loreal’ advert … ‘because you are worth it.’ For those of you wondering I am sponsored by Loreal… I am not, but before this time, I thought my golden locks should have been.
“Don’t worry” Sergio said as he let go of my hand. I didn’t know if | would see my winter-over colleagues again.
I looked around me on the flight – there were 5 other passengers, some italians and one french man, all hairy and dishevelled. Some more so than me. Poor folk I thought – we are all in the same boat (or plane).
5 hours flight, stopping to refuel somewhere, between nowhere and somewhere else. As a child, I remember watching Roberto Baggio and Maldini, among others – all the Italian footballers in fact, equally and impeccably dressed, shaven, with perfect hair. After sharing football stories, we all felt very bad we hadn’t taken better care of our appearance.
So here I am. Awaiting a haircut, I think. Sat in Terra Nova Bay, on the stunning and raw Antarctic coast, thinking about British explorer and hero, Scott, knocking around these parts 100 years ago.
I have taken some photos to remember what may become the world’s most extravagant and expensive haircut. Starting with the flight out from Concordia and some of Mario Zuchelli Station and then wandering around Terra Nova bay, awaiting my appointment with the hairdresser, feeling very nervous indeed.
Mario Zuchelli Station reminds me of the start of a James Bond film… a purpose built, remote base or fortress, with an extravagant variety of vehicles moving around hardened soldiers in foreign uniforms, who process and handle missiles bought from the russian black market- all weapons for mass beauty and appearance.
I am staying in a dormitory with my fellow prisoners – in a poorly ventilated, wooden built hut with an antique, Scandinavian feeling, similar in appearance to Sir Douglas Mawson’s hut… that housed his men against vicious winds. Outside, the midnight sun blazes through these winds.
These winds are famous- notorious in polar accounts. They are Katabatic winds from Antarctica’s core. If you haven’t been blown over and around by them, you haven’t been to Antarctica. Some call it blow-drying. My hair has certainly seen better days.
So far I have been here one day, but no haircut. Out of raw desperation, some of my fellow prisoners resorted to cutting their own hair, having bartered with the prison guards, one prisoner had acquired a set of hair clippers. I managed to get a few photos of them using the clippers. We waited until the Katabatic winds picked up, and the roof rattled, to hide the noise of the electric clippers.
The hairdresser must be busy- there are over 80 people on this base, prisoners to the unpredictable and harsh Antarctic weather, hindering air transport. Not counting the displaced persons, like myself, who are flown in from all over Antarctica, for a haircut.
The old saying is true… The italians really do care the most about their appearance.