When you tell friends and family you’re thinking of heading off to Antarctica for an extended period of time, the response is quite variable. I know I got everything from congratulations to apologies, to pure confusion as to why I would subject myself to these conditions. This place is famous for its immeasurable beauty, stirring scenery, surreal wildlife and untouched nature on the whole. Anyone who has considered working here or has a friend or family member who has done so also knows that this place is notorious for its isolation, harsh climate and dangerous landscape. But this week I’d like to dedicate my story to something less well known about Antarctica but a true commodity that cannot be overlooked by anyone who has been here. That is the people.
There are no indigenous people of Antarctica, no Inuit, Eskimos or otherwise. Rather there are a group of people who dedicate a period of their life to the great white south. It’s been happening every year for decades now. Anyone who has done it knows that flexibility is key. Dates, times and places change as plans remain totally fluid until you put both feet on frozen soil, and sometimes beyond this still. Other than this flexibility and a serious sense of adventure, there isn’t really a prototypical Antarctic worker. But in our group of twenty-one, I have found something to like and/or admire about each and every one.
This came to my attention as this week at Casey was my birthday! But it was also a week in which I was having great difficulty getting to sleep (another really common problem here). I could make a list of almost everyone on station that checked on me, asked how I was doing, saved me a plate of dinner, or otherwise offered some form of help in this period of difficulty. To me it is a true testament to the people of Casey Station, winter 2013. To top it all off, Scotty made me a fantastic birthday cheesecake which was shared with Jukka (born just a day later), Allan offered to take me for a night away at Jacks donga and Tim built me an easel so I can paint/draw or otherwise be creative in my room whenever I want! Dougie made me a bookmark with information about Weddell Seals and Ben H surprised me with chocolates and sweets! There may or may not have been a second roll of Mentos before the picture, I guess we’ll never know. Handshakes and well-wishes filled up and brightened my day, my name was on the sign out front and at the end of it all I drifted into a solid peaceful eight hour slumber.
So again my “This week at Casey” goes out to the people here with me now as well as those who have been here before. While it is a privilege to be here, it’s not always about the beautiful views and wildlife. Sometimes living here is a little less perfect, but made vastly better by the people around you, their kindness, compassion and generosity. Wow, that was pretty sappy; maybe I’d better go watch a movie with fast cars, wild women and maybe even some explosions. Until next time!