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Live from Antarctica: January 24th

Work on the station is really humming along now. The vibrations of all this movement and change is in the air. Like a horse sensing that it is on the home stretch, his nostrils flair smelling the proximity of home and there is no time for the fatigue which gnaws at our bones. We mentally shake it off - there is no space for such luxuries. Cables have to be laid, pipes, ducts, connectors, in their hundreds have to be put into place if the station is to live and breathe.

Last minute orders fly out as shortages, non-deliveries and modifications demand new parts. The complexity is breath-taking. You can only gaze at parts of the whole, like Perseus observing the Gorgon in his polished shield. To look on the whole is to risk your sanity, and be immobilised by confusion. The vastness and the complete disconnection in scale between our world and this pitiless immensity leaves us totally exposed, small and insignificant. There is no background "noise" behind which to hide. There are nomore social constraints, obligations or protocols. The psyche is laid bare to the gaze of all, and every weakness is there, as is every grace and strength. Impossible to mask the petty small pretensions, we are shamed into revising our conduct and gradually become more altruistic, more noble. We finally "see" each other, the only too fragile, only too human "Other" who shares our burden. In due course, we learn humility and mutual respect. We see reflections of our common humanity in each other, and are humbled.

Tonight it is -19°C, with a windchill taking us to -30°C. Think of us in your warm beds as we huddle in our small tents trying to keep warm before rising at 6.30 tomorrow to attack with extra vigour the job ahead. At the coast, the traverse has encountered a storm which has reduced visibility to 20m. Tonight, while we sleep, they will be loading up the sledges before heading back to camp, 20 hours away.

Nighat Amin

Author: IPF

Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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