I left the lab late today, around 9:30 pm, but it had been a productive afternoon
so I bore no grudges. A nice little blast of work to clear my conscience for
the weekend. Truth be told I haven’t done much up there this week as it’s been
stormy for the past few days and there’s no fun in going to the CASLab in winds
above 30 knots, vis less than 10m, unless you really have to. Anyway, I left
the lab in the dark. Two steps down and there was a breeze down my ankle –
I hadn’t pulled my overalls fully over my boots. Back indoors to re-attire.
And check the mitts are snug as well.
I reached the bottom of the steps and was nearly knocked over by a gust of
wind. It’s blowing 25 knots and though that’s low compared to the last few days,
I was reminded that it still gives the air a significant force. But nothing
unmanageable and the wind was behind me and slightly to my side, in my favour
at any rate.
I thought, I love this, this is great. I wanted to remember what it was like
so I stopped and looked around. Behind me was my beloved lab, shining white
by the floodlights, still looking as though it belongs on the moon. Inside it
is hot or cold, loud, buzzing, clicking and full of problems. From the outside,
it still makes me gasp with pride. I work there. That’s my lab. I even saw it
In front of me, well the direction I was headed, were three dim lights. Hazes
of light denoting the Piggott, Laws and Simpson platforms. Are they clear enough
to follow home or should I stick to the handline? I love following the lights,
there is so much space around me then. In every other direction I could see
nothing. I couldn’t see the surface my feet were walking on, I couldn’t see
my black mitts against the black sky. It does get really dark here still, thank
God. I felt elated. This is what I love. A strong wild wind, space in every
direction and a strong, deep, sense of security. Someone recently told me I
was brave; I couldn’t relate to that at all. Here I feel absolutely safe, at
one, at home. It’s wild but it’s wonderful.
Dark. The surface, I was thinking about the surface and how my feet feel the
way forward. Crunch crunch they squeak on the hard snow. Then suddenly a soft
patch, like icing sugar, it’s divine. Then back to the polystyrene chunks. Snap:
so easy to break. The worst thing that can happen between here and the Laws,
I feel, is that I fall over!
And as sure as mud is mud, you will fall over. I fall over the whole time.
I love falling over, we always laugh. It doesn’t hurt, there is nothing to be
scared of. Why does it hurt at home? Maybe the scrapes and bruises – but
here I am padded everywhere. A twinge in my lower back when my foot lands on
air and I fall deep into a sastrugi hole perhaps, but that’s the worst of it.
It makes me laugh always. I love tripping people up too. You’re never safe here
if someone is walking behind you! Come to Antarctica and learn to rugby tackle
(I was rubbish when I first got here – I’ll be responsible for all sorts
of bloody noses and lost friendships when I get home, no doubt, forgetting that
So I’m thinking about the surface beneath my feet that I love walking on so
much. I could ski, not in this, but sometimes – but I prefer walking.
I like to feel the sastrugi under my feet, the snow, the ice, feel the ice,
a hundred metres of it maybe below me, and then below that is water. Salty,
cold and dense ocean. It’s great. Nothing like snow on concrete, snow on earth,
this is snow on snow on snow. All water molecules.
So I’m watching the world around me, so dark, so blowy, so exciting. Remarking
on how little there is to focus on, unlike at home. At home there would be buildings
everywhere, or at least trees. Here I just have three blurry lights in front
(I’m heading for the middle one) and one behind me. Black everywhere else. O
my – there’s a dot of light in front of me and up a bit. Bend, bend, bend
your back upwards, Rhian. My hood and dead rabbit hat and goggles are obscuring
anything above me, keep bending. O MY – LOOOK!! STARS!! Soo many stars
you have no idea, I am clapping with joy. There’s big smiley Scorpio and the
bright lights of the Southern Cross. The Milky Way streaking like a great smoky
line across the sky, even the magellanic clouds are clear tonight. This storm,
this 25 knots of blowing snow around my head – it’s just here, just at
ground level. Not even on the platform of the lab was it this blowy. It’s amazing.
I knew I wasn’t alone! Now I really am laughing, I can’t contain myself. Who
could ask for more?! Stars and storm?!! Woweee! I keep looking up but then I
can’t go forwards and I fall over. In the end I lie on my back, in the 25 knot
blow, snow flying past my ears, and stare at the sky. HALLO SKY I shout!! I’m
Rhian!!! I know, you fool, say the stars, we’re billions of years old. Now get
up before you never get up. And they accompany me all the way home.
Just before I reach the platform I am called in from my silence, my chest
bleats "Rhian, Rhian- Laws" and after some fumbling inside two jackets
I manage to extract my radio to inform them I’m ok, nearly there, nearly home.
"Would you like a drink waiting for you?" Oh yes, a gin and tonic
please, this is a night to celebrate.