My journey to Antarctica has been a long one…It’s to be expected, but until you’ve walked the walk and experienced every nuance of the path, it’s not till you stop…take a breath…you realise where you are and the journey it’s taken to get there!

My Journey to Antarctica has been a long one

It’s to be expected, but until you’ve walked the walk and experienced every nuance of the path, it’s not till you stop…take a breath…you realise where you are and the journey it’s taken to get there.

Arriving at Davis Station less than a month ago it feels like time is flying by, but also going very slowly all at once. Upon taking a moment to stop, breathe, and reflect on the journey thus far it has been nearly a year to get to this point.

It all started the moment I first saw the opportunity to work in Antarctica. Whilst visiting this great continent had always been a deep-down dream, I had always logically expected it to stay a dream…never had it crossed my mind that there would be an opportunity to live and work here and experience so much of what it has to offer. On a whim I did my best to put together the job application as I only had a few hours to do so before the cut-off date. I certainly wasn’t going to get the job, but it was a fun story to tell my friends and family.

“I applied for a job in Antarctica today” I said to a few people. Met with disbelieving laugh or puzzled look, we would have a good bit of banter and get on with our day. I distinctly remember telling my wife the moment I pressed the send button on the application what I had just done. The look I received was not an unfamiliar response as it was the same one I get for all the other crazy ideas and things I have tried. If the look could be translated into words it would have said “Ok dear, good luck with that” with a humorous sarcastic undertone. We had a bit of a smirk with each other and went about our day.

For the next few months following the submission, there were a number of stages within the recruitment process that had to be passed and criteria met to proceed to the next round of assessment. Medical checks, psychological assessments, group interviews, and technical interviews to name a few. Personally, I did not think I would get very far but you must be in it to win it. One by one I passed each stage as they arose, and my internal excitement exponentially rose with each email or phone call to say I had successfully made it to the next round of the selection process. This might actually happen.

The day finally came, the phone call I had been so keen to hear. A phone call to offer me a job in Antarctica…I have done some pretty cool stuff in my time, but this was by far the biggest highlight to date. After this phone call and the paperwork had been finalized, a few weeks later I found myself in Hobart, Australia to begin training for this grand adventure. Being a wintering expeditioner, I am due to stay for a full year in Antarctica. There are various training modules we get to undertake to ensure the safety and well-being of ourselves and our community during the winter months. During this time access in or out of Antarctica can be very difficult given the harsh conditions of the continent. I spent two weeks in Hobart Hospital training to be a lay surgical assistant, one week with the Tasmanian Fire Service learning to fight fires, numerous working at heights, confined space, and other work-related training all added up to a busy but incredible few months in preparation for our time down south.

Did I mention how excited I was to have this opportunity…The day came when it was time to board Nuyina and head south…and we keep heading south till we can go no further.
As an aside, not every expeditioner gets to Antarctica via a ship, some fly down which I’ve been told can be a bit of a surreal experience. One-minute you’re walking around a modern city, you hop on a plane then a few hours later you’re surround by ice, wind, and snow in a bit of a surreal process. I have to say I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to journey south on the ship through the Southern Ocean. To see nature evolve the further south we got is a memory I will never forget. Our first iceberg…followed by hundreds more, the many types and vast tracts of sea ice, emperor penguins, seals…It was amazing! An opportunity to really get a deep slow immersion into what life is like here. If you get the opportunity to come to the continent and you have a choice, go via ship!

After a number of weeks we knew we were close, but we had to wait for some weather to pass. Once conditions were calm enough, we would make an effort to break through the ice toward our final destination. Unsure if the weather would pass, I distinctly remember the moment…still lying in bed having just woken up, a message went out to all on the ship from the voyage leader…“land ahoy”.

The comical scene that ensued reminded me of the old looney toons cartoons, people clambering out of their rooms, half dressed, getting dressed, or didn’t care to dress, in a hurry up towards to observation deck where 60 odd people were all looking out the front of the ship in the same direction. The Vestfold Hills could be seen behind the icebergs and off in the distance the ice plateau of the continent was shining brightly in the sun.

After a long year of hard work, high expectations and anticipation, we had arrived at Davis Station. Our home for the next 12 months. Our opportunity to see and explore one of the remotest locations on earth. An opportunity to have our names added to the list of expeditioners who have paved the path before us.
Welcome to Antarctica…

Jared McGhie - Carpenter & Expedition Photographer