I just finished watching Anthony Powell’s “Antarctica: A Year on the Ice” and having spent over a year on the Ice now (minus 3 weeks for a round trip home) it puts many things in perspective. It’s nearly the end of October, and my brain does finally feel like it’s returned to a nearly normal operation. I still either “Ummm,” blank out, or stutter much more than I normally do, but I feel the winter hibernation has nearly shaken off.
Watching Anthony’s movie, listening to people who I know personally, be interviewed and portray in the length of a feature what it’s like to be on the Ice for a full year evokes all the highs & lows of my last year. Around WinFly I lost the motivation, subject matter, time, and even the brain power to articulate what’s going on in a written way. This is a minor step towards that return, provoked by this documentary that is so much of what has become a part of my life.
It’s not just McMurdo that is a part of my life, but timelapses, photography, video, facilitating creativity, and engaging in pushing my own boundaries. Many many things in his film resonated with me, obviously because I harmonize with his sort of a life–both as he was an IT person in McMurdo as I am, as well as being a tech/photo geek–which has made it strange to anticipate it and live it’s premier here on the Ice after a year here.
I just lived the scenes he portrayed. I saw the nacreous clouds which entirely blew my mind. I know what it’s like to miss the dark, but not the day. I still am impervious to cold in a way that I’ve never been (as many of you will attest to I hate the cold, but after a winter here I sort of enjoy it now). I empathize when Keri talks about not thinking about things back home you want such as a Chipotle Burrito, or a swim, etc. you just put it out of your mind and adapt to the now (or you go crazy with obsession). I know what it’s like to want to both hug the new people, and cringe at the noise they make in the galley making me want to run and hide in my room.
He’s done a wonderful job of portraying the life I have just lived over the last year and I’m entirely jealous he’s been able to portray it so well. I have a large library of film, photos, and timelapses that I wanted to build into my own memory database, which seems like I’m going to have to repurpose. My jealousy battles with my happiness he’s done so well, winning awards and create a successful movie. He’s giving us a tool (better than Hertzog’s Encounters at the End of the World) to say, this is our life.
There is much he’s left out. Some I’m sure was left on the cutting room floor, some he couldn’t describe as the NSF would get mad, and others was just artistic license. Of course how would anyone put the 8500 hours of life in a year into a feature length production. Some missed notions, for good or ill left to be further explored in future productions. He only alluded to the ground hog nature of this place. How people really do not have a successful winter. What policy makers have done to this place over 50 years. The struggle of logistics that 10 million pounds (plus several more millions by plane) requires. He alluded to the struggles of relationships both on and off the ice, but this could be a film unto itself. Etc, etc. etc.
I haven’t spent 5-15 years on the Ice like many of those in the film. In fact this is technically only my 4th season on the Ice, 3 summers and a winter, with my first summer season 7 years before the next three. If all goes as planned though, I’ll have been on the Ice for about 17 months (minus those 3 weeks mentioned earlier). Which is probably the last time you’ll hear about someone having done that. (I’ve been grandfathered in under new rules.) It’s a strange and unique accomplishment. I’ll definitely be back for another winter in a few years, and for more time on the Ice between here and there, assuming the ghost of uncertainty that looms over the Ice doesn’t snatch it away from me. (Such as the idiots in congress.)
I wonder what toll this will take on me, my relationships with family & friends, and how this will change me. Before I moved rooms a few weeks ago, I spent double the time in my assigned room than I had in some apartment leases. My tunnel vision has McMurdo feeling more like home than the foggy memory of my childhood home. Yet, as people like to keep reminding me, I can’t live here. No one ever does by law & policy, and nor would I want to. It’s a surreal profound existence that is always an amazing physical/personal journey, but with no sense of permanency. How do you portray that to a population that is–generally speaking–pretty settled?
It’s some thing for me and for us to ponder in the future along with the possible visions of humanity. I hope to share in furthering the research and culture that the Ice has created, engaging in it’s evolution and keeping it useful to humanity’s knowledge base. For now, I put one foot in front of the other hoping to keep my body & mind in good shape to finish my work in good order and stay happy & sane. Till next time.