In the words of Doctor Nick: “Hi everybody!”
Been a bit quiet down Halley way since midwinter and hence- been a bit quiet on the blog writing front.
So, whats been happening down here then?
Well, not much is the simple answer. July down here is a little like January back home – or would be if January was permanently dark and going outside could kill you! The similarities are there though. The big celebration of the year is now just a happy memory and things are little low-key for a while. The weather has been a little harsh, so we’ve been stuck inside for quite a while and the sun is still some three weeks away from showing its face.
Now, I think it may have been obvious that I actually like the dark days and nights and I’ll happily enthuse about the joys of staring at the stars, but even there it’s been a poor do for the last month or so. In the periods where the wind has dropped to less than 20knt and the snow has eased up it has still often been cloudy and/or foggy. Whilst it’s a bit more extreme at -40degs it seems to me slightly akin to a miserable grey day back home. It’s just a bit “meh”. We’ve had plenty of days like that so not much opportunity to see the stars or auroras. When the wind gets up a bit then it’s a little more exciting. When it’s cold and clear the wind only needs to blow just a little and you feel like you might freeze mid-stride, so you have cover everything nice and tight (don’t want to go home without ears!). If its warmer but snowier you get the higher winds and staying on your feet or seeing more than a metre in front of you is a task in itself. The external doors at Halley are huge air tight spaceship-like doors and when you stand in the entrance looking out during a blow it’s like staring into some insane swirling vortex of nothingness. Step fully outside into it and it hurts!
So, July thus far has been quiet and it’s been one of the more difficult times I’ve had down here. It’s hard to explain but it’s like a kind of tiredness has hit you, nothing too big or drastic but it just seems like everything takes a bit more energy at the moment and it’s a touch easier to become irritable. Whether this is just down to the lack of daylight I’m not sure. You try to fight it by keeping a routine, resisting the temptation to sleep too much and to keep busy. That last one is none to difficult, this award-winning house doesn’t run itself after all! Plenty of work and a new routine in the gym (after the gruelling endurance challenge that was Race Antarctica – more on that later) and we all seem to be coping quite well – I don’t want to give the impression that we are all on the verge of becoming howling lunatics or anything, more just that it is noticeable that this is a bit harder than normal, a weird kind of lethargy.
I think the Americans have a good word for it – Toast (as in burnt out) Marie, who has wintered at the Pole (and is now up in the Arctic) writes about it here:
Here’s a taster: Toast, also known as “Polar T3 Syndrome” or “winter-over syndrome”, is a phenomenon that often presents itself in polar winter-overs. While it’s a popular joke and a common excuse it can ultimately become a serious issue. Someone who’s toast is burnt out – simply done.
It’s a great blog on life at the pole, well worth a read.
I hasten to point out that it’s not all doom and gloom down here, despite the lull in glorious sights and adventures it is, after all, quite a bit better than a nine to five job back home! It’s still a breathtakingly beautiful place despite its current appearance of absolute desolation. I think also, that perhaps one of the reasons it feels a bit greyer and duller is because we are all now beginning to look forward to the next few months and beyond. In around three weeks we will get to (briefly at first) feel the Sun on our faces again, we get to go down to Windy Bay and see the huge Emperor Penguin colony (and abseil down the ice cliffs to get to it). We have our second round of winter trips to look forward to and finally, although it’s a while away we get to see strange new people, outsiders coming in on the first planes in November (along with freshies!) after so many months of just the thirteen of us. And, though it seems far, far into the future right now there are thoughts of arriving home, seeing loved ones and dealing with the real world once again. So all in all a lot to look forward to during this quieter, more introspective month on base.
Seeing as that was a rambling post with no pictures or anything I promise to pull my finger out and write some more and post some more photos this week.