I walked to the end of the wharf tonight, to breathe in this magic place and remind myself of where I am. It is the limit of our base, where it meets the sea. At 2am the sun has gone behind the mountains, lighting everything in an eerie grey and shadowy light, a kind of perpetual dusk. I went to look out to the sea, but there is no water, just a white blanket of soft downy snow. The icebergs are stuck obstinately in amongst it. They sit there, slightly menacing like grounded ships and its as if they’re saying, we are here to stay, your oil and steel can’t move us. The whole of Antarctica is like that. A strong continent, unbending to human will. In this half-light, the distant mountains and dimly lit snow have a proud distant beauty. Like a warrior king, dressed up in all his finest armour. Worn to remind us of his strength, but also to show his magnificence.
A few days later these words seem to have a prophetic effect. Our resupply ship could not get to us through the porridge ice. The worst kind, it freezes around the ship, hindering its movements. After days of forwarding and reversing 100 tonnes of steel, they have given up and headed back to the Falklands. On board that ship are people, food and supplies for the coming season. A huge set-back. It maybe weeks before they try again. A reminder of just how remote we really are. Though for now they will try and fly as much back and forth as possible.
I have been very busy the last few days. Every meteorological instrument, upon which not only does the base and the planes depend but also the world’s whole weather model needs, has decided to break. We’ve worked hard to get most of them back on-line. It is satisfying work to make repairs where they are truly needed, and most of it is straightforward enough, just sometimes time-consuming. I’ve had little time for much else.
There are two types of weather in Antarctica. Snowing, and snowing hard. Today it was snowing, a soft light fall of snow. When the sun shines, the sea looks like it has had whipped up ice cream blobbed on it. Soft dollops laid out on a flat white plate. The rest of the landscape has been dusted with fine white icing sugar.
But when the wind blows, it is a horizontal type of snow, impossible to walk against or look into. The landscape just disappears into grey shadows.
Tomorrow I am on “gash duty”. I will be washing dishes and cleaning all day. Electronics will have to wait.