From the Archive: Deep Field Camp, Antarctica

Cold and windy, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica. © www.thomaspickard.com

Cold and windy, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica. © www.thomaspickard.com

The day I was flown from Davis Station to Beaver Lake, in the northern Prince Charles Mountains, it was cobalt blue without a cloud in the sky. Given how far we had to fly - several hundred kilometres - this was a good thing.

As our pilot Steve bought us down to land on the lake ice of Beaver Lake, I marvelled at the beauty of the ice below and the range off in the distance. Finally, after weeks of being in-transit, I would finally set foot on Beaver Lake and commence the work I was here to do with the scientific researcher I was supporting. To land on Beaver Lake, was to fulfill a dream that began with a phone call some 12-months earlier.

As I stepped out of the Twin Otter I was greeted by the wind. It was strong and it was cold. And little did I know, it would be our daily companion for the next 7-weeks.

When you live and work in the wind and the cold, day in, day out, it takes a toll. Wind is relentless. It makes everything colder. Simple chores become harder to do. Simple things like sleeping in a tent become something you endure. Lying in the eternal daylight, listening to the tent fabric sing in the wind for hours, is the norm when camping in a place like the Prince Charles Mountains.

The wind makes it hard to communicate when you are working together. Words seem to get snatched from you and cast adrift across the endless expanse of the polar plateau. When you change outer layers, you hold your down jacket with a vice like grip. To lose such an important piece of clothing, so far from anywhere, would be unthinkable.

In the seven weeks we lived and worked in the Prince Charles Mountains, I can remember just five times when we didn’t have any wind. It was totally calm. It only lasted a couple of hours, but the respite was calming. To pause, pull down the hood of my jacket and to take in the absolute silence, was one of the greatest gifts I have ever experienced in the wild.

To stand in a landscape and simply not hear a thing - no birds chirping, no trees swaying, no planes passing overhead, no mechanised background noise, no voices - no sound at all. That one moment of absolute stillness, etched into the memory of my mind. That was worth seven weeks of constant wind.