Station philosophy from Dr Rob

More station philosophy from Dr Rob aka the Gentoo Whisperer

Friends back home often like to ask what a ‘normal’ day on Macquarie Island looks like.

Very early in the year I started to take offence at the unintended boringness of this question. I am still unable to take the question seriously. We’d compromise and just laugh about Tom Hanks in Castaway or Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I’d always be very careful to leave a lot of grey in terms of how much of the comparison was a joke.

I have been wary of literally and specifically describing my daily routine since I was a teenager learning high school French. The grammatically well-intentioned teacher made us spend weeks describing it. Teachers aren’t just asking to be nice, they are trying to complicate the world with lessons. Inside this particular Trojan Horse of a lesson were ‘reflexive verbs’. However, the main message I took away when describing the exact time I me brosse les dents each morning was how unremarkable so much of what we do each day is. Not good or bad – just necessary and unexceptional. All the colourful bits life seem to accumulate around the predictable routines we make for ourselves.

Even more than that, it's the unroutine and non-normal things in life that we not only get excited about, but that we can actually recall. Everything else just becomes a hazy soup of memories. What did you have for dinner last week on Wednesday? What were you thinking about when/if you showered yesterday?

I think we’re wandering off topic here but my point is that a hypernormalised and unexciting daily pattern very much exists here on Macquarie Island too. It gives us structure to get our jobs done (ish), and a calm natural pace to move at as a community. I might add here too that I’ve been thrilled how luck, intention and compromise have all conspired correctly here on Macca. Our group of 21 strangers (including the 3 who left in November) have got through this remarkably so far.

For Icy News this week I wanted to talk about penguins. Because seeing one of these underchromatic weatherproof beauties each day snaps my mind from ‘Mundane Mode’ and into ‘The Attenborough’. My two key sub-Antarctic influences – Mal Vernon who paved the way for me in the 19/20 season and Robbie Kilpatrick whose enthusiasm for the place is contagious – both sung the virtues of a daily walk. I didn’t need to be told more than twice.

As a relevant aside, a friend recently sent me a quote from a fellow named John Ruskin back in 1840:

“When I begin to think at all, I get into such states of disgust and fury at the way the mob is going on that I choke; and have to go to the British Museum and look at Penguins till I get cool. I find Penguins at present the only comfort in life. One feels everything in the world so sympathetically ridiculous, one can’t be angry when one looks at a Penguin.”

I hear you John Ruskin – I get cool watching the penguins as well. And it’s more than just the sand-laden furious fifties steaming in from the west. While I’m not as angry as poor John – I can certainly empathise with his opinion of ‘the mob’ and how everything in the world is sympathetically ridiculous. I think all my ‘normal’ days in the future will be the poorer for not being able to get a regular fix of penguins.

From Dr Rob and your friendly neighbourhood Macca team