The ship was due to arrive a week ago but it found itself 300nm away stuck in the ice. Since then it has made very little progress and we’ve been in limbo, ready for them to arrive. Meanwhile we’ve had our first outside contact since February as the Canadians have flown in to join us.
The ship has left Hobart to come and get us and our time here is quickly coming to a close. On the one hand I’m mercilessly harassing our risk averse station leader into letting me experience everything I can in the last few weeks, and as a result I’ve pulled off some great little trips away.
Finally, the much dreaded winter psychology post. Having slowly accumulated ideas on what to write about during the past three months, I’ve put it off long enough. Indeed I am running out of time, as the sun will be back in less than a week.
This is the first time I’ve wintered in Antarctica, but as I read over the Polar Manual as prepared by the US Naval Medical school over fifty years ago, I see that many things haven’t changed, at least on a psychology level. Certainly we do have it a lot easier in many respects but the physical isolation is the same. Although it seems attitudes or at least political correctness has changed! As such this grandfather of references is a little more humorous than the comparatively dull documents of today, and I shall use it to guide me through this post.
Today, Sunday 3rd February 2013, is a little sad and anticlimatic – the ship has sailed, leaving seventeen of us to man the station until next summer. Note the choice of words (man the station) and don’t worry, the bad jokes and innuendo are rife already. This is the first year since 1993 that Davis winterers been all been male. In fact there are no women on any of the Australian bases this winter for the first time since 1986. [Post script: these facts are incorrect, see comments] If the ship arrives on time, normally late October or early November, we will be on our own for around 9 months. I’m not sure whether I should have mentioned that book I read about island strandings due to shipwrecks and mutinies. Especially in a time of budget cuts and a ship at the end of it’s life (please, pay your taxes!)
How did I get here? Well, after the training was completed we came down by ship. Whilst on the ship I almost started a blog… in fact, I wrote the passage below in a brief creative outburst before going back to playing lots of cards (Five hundred, of course!).
“Are you on drugs?”
“No, but I get asked that a lot”, I replied to Jen, one of the Aircraft Ground Safety officers (AGSO’s), on the second day on the ship bound for Davis station, Antarctica. I’d just told her I felt great, as we stood on the back helideck of the Aurora Australis, rocking from side to side, with a couple of expeditioners hugging the deck nearby, one holding a plastic bag containing stomach bile. Meanwhile Jen was talking about some ideas she had of isolated places to visit after this trip. She made the point that it’s a good way to find out about yourself.
For me there are several reasons why I thought this gig down south would be a good idea.