© Stephen Eastaugh, 2018. All Rights Reserved.
I soon say good-bye to hut fever in its Antarctic form and prepare for other fevers. My immune system must be rather weak now after a year of no internal microscopic bug wars to keep it fit I also worry that my tolerance to other peoples concerns has been severely diminished as well. How can I pretend to be concerned or even bother listening to anyone who has trivial complaints or mentions topics like –Michael Jackson’s new film, fashion tips by the US president’s wife or which celebrity is doing naughty things. I have had little to do with many things for a long time, even important world news has seemed so faraway and unconnected to life here on the Ice that I may seem rather callous when I return. Maybe I was callous before I wintered? I hope I did not loose any empathy out there on that slippery icecap.
I have been living in a tiny outpost of society that cannot survive at all without support from “home” but it is a fact that I feel very distant, fuzzy and maybe hesitant about re-integration into normal society. Everyone certainly misses their loved ones and I desire enormously to see Carolina but our concerns have been artificially limited due to the isolation. Concentration is elusive now as I slowly start to readjust for the welcome home onslaught. All these feelings sum up what is called “a burnt out winterer” or a “broken” winterer as an Argentinean Antarctic doctor tells me. I feel pretty weathered both internally and externally as I sit here and wait for the Casa light plane to land. Admittedly I did put myself in this situation and pushed myself with an intensive work routine. I may be drained more by my elongated self-inflicted studio time than the dark temporal oddity of an Antarctic winter. I wave goodbye to this far-flung frigid village surrounded by glimmering ice and pack my bags ready to fly over masses of pack ice.
Farewell to my Mawson mates as well as to the hardy orange lichen on nearby boulders where I used to sit and contemplate. Melt water can now been found so moss and lichen begin to come out of hibernation, I best work out how to do the same.
We all talk about “RTA” and wait for extraction. No one speaks of “going home” or “waiting for a flight.” Acronyms are linguistically fashionable down on the Ice. This is due to communication methods used that must pass information fast and clear also government and military systems have tainted language down here. So you can hear over lunch sentences like - “RTA on the AA”, “Oh on V3?” “Say hi to the VL for me” or “…FTO over summer.” Someone on station almost ended his telephone chat with his mother with “Over and out Mum. VLV standing by.” Return To Australia for me will involve a whirlwind of people, chores, medical, telephone calls, psychological debriefing, drinks, airports and acclimatization, all sounding very exhausting for this delicate petal.
RTA (RETURN TO AUSTRALIA)
I begin to head northwards. Mawson to Davis took me over the massive Amery Iceshelf with views galore and after a little over two hours we landed on the sea ice just off Davis station. Here the Aurora Australis icebreaker has been busy bashing its way through the heavy ice in order to resupply the station with people, food, fuel and cargo. As resupply was underway I attempted to settle first into a donga then into my cabin on ship. My social skills have certainly weakened as I found Davis station with a monster population of 100 rather tedious to navigate around. I hope to get a good eight-hour long sleep some time soon as I prepare for many days of cabin fever as we cross the often rowdy Southern Ocean in a tiny bright red ship.
The voyage involved icebreaking, pack ice, filming, floe ice, reading, bergs, writing, waves, sleeping, movies, more reading, more waves and the slow shedding of polar clothing. After 322 days far south I arrived back in Hobart on 5th December feeling rather elated but askew. Many things are surprising as I stroll around Hobart but all things are warm which is also incredible! I have slight bouts of ‘Green-out” upon seeing shrubbery and bushes. The smells are fabulous but flowers look just crazy and fake. Patting pets and observing other creatures like insects all seems peculiar. Not to mention all those wired humans running about the place.
Perhaps as you read this Carolina is shearing off my beard with a rusty machete as symbolic revenge for not being physically close by and having this odd affair with an icecap for one year. I have indulged in a serious love-hate relationship with a place that often charms and occasionally frazzles minds. What form of relationship did I form with Mawson station during 2009? I will answer that question visually via exhibitions in 2010. I owe Carolina a great deal for her understanding and extreme patience while I was ogling the Ice for such a long time, now I must get over the Pacific Ocean and find her.
In Argentina I will thaw out and the Ice will slowly become fluid in my mind as some good, some bad and some indifferent limbo-like Mawson memories melt away. What I retain will be astonishing experiences as well as a little ice floe-ing in my blood, even when its +40C.