The Worse Winter in the World
Its just turned into May and I have been away from home for 4 months. Time has flown but what an adventure it has been.
The sun will disappear for 3-4 months and we will be left in a state of twilight and then enter into a period of complete 24 hour darkness, before hopefully re-emerging at the other end.
This is the beginning of the true Antarctic winter - the World's Worse Winter.
It is extremely difficult to describe what it feels like to watch the sun sink below the horizon. The sun represents life on Earth to me and I will await to see what happens in the following months without it.
I have never before experienced the feelings I have, watching it set for the final time.
Instead of writing a couple of paragraphs about my own feelings, I have written a short chapter inspired by a telephone conversation I had with a poet in New York City... it better describes my state, 4 months into the expedition...
After several months of isolation and life at the extreme, I have found forgotten (surprise) memories from the past tumble into and dissolve through your mind most unexpectedly, becoming a dilute solution offering no taste, no bitterness and no fulfilment.
This may be a face you haven't seen, a road you haven't walked down, or a life you haven't lived or thought about for years. A forgotten surprise. The clock and cogs of time here slow to a meaningless endless existence - you become your own fate.
You feel your mind stretching at times, buckling and bursting, but still contained within its seams, a hollow ship caught, trapped, hook line and sink, struggling for breath within the ice pack. The stress and pressure of continuous isolation and sensory deprivation has been known to drive the strongest, soundest mind searching due South, down the highway to lunacy, breaking every speed limit. Beware he said, people go mad there you know.
Your mind, powered by hope but inspired by nothing - no new smells, no tastes, no feelings. It pulls its own imaginary sledge across the blank white canvas, unbeknown, the buried treasure of the past of this continent when jungles lay soil to glaciers.
The ingredients together, a witches' brew, what you have lived in the past... good and bad. Here its the same and becomes misconstrued, black becomes white. And it plays its own musical instrument, knowing full well you may not like the sound which is certainly not tuned to the life you had. This is new, this is different.
Your imagination tires and withers, drowning in the products of its own exhaustion. A man in the desert with only petrol to drink and desperation to eat.
Sleep brings no rest, no solutions. At night you dream wild and raw, vivid imagery, conjured by a potent concoction of hypoxia, isolation and sensory deprivation, offering biblical successes, catastrophes and a recurring plague.
You wake the next morning, blaze-eyed-red, darkness still seeping in through the windows from the long cold desolate Antarctic winter's night, perpetuating the infection.
Your spurious links to a faraway land you once knew, stretch and snap, each one a hurtful pang of sorrow for tomorrow, the breaking of the strings of your loved instrument cause the downfall of the fret. Humanity is brought to its knees around you, war, disease, disaster and murder. You feel nothing. The connection has been lost. Try again later. Windows cannot save your data.
You put on your shoes before clambering into the shower as you realise your mistake, checking your calendar from a distant world. Only 4 months of darkness to go. There is no cure, only endurance. And 100 years ago, even Shackleton's Endurance sank swallowed by Antarctica, as the weather takes command, again and again. This is no man's land, a spider's web and it's Christmas everyday. This is heaven and it is hell. Your minds cooks as it freezes.
Back home, in the velvet-rouge seats, people worry for you. But the play isn't over; the theatre isn't sold out.
I pull my duvet back. Its real. This is here. Im really here.
The sun won't rise again until August. Good bye and good luck.
Song of the day has to be...
'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' by Elton John & George Michael (live)