Getting My Rocks Off
Finally I sleep well and then wake early. I quickly dress and use the latrine and wash hut using some of my precious container water. The atmosphere in the camp is surreal and gives an impression that it’s floating in a slow-moving, luminous-white sea. There is a slight mist which is slowly lifting. I walk around the tents which seem abandoned and are spaced one from another before going over to the cook tent for breakfast.
I am the first apart from the two cooks who are already busy preparing everything. They are happy to chat at the same time and I learn that they are using this work opportunity as a way of travelling out here and seeing something of the Antarctic. Although they have been here for several months neither have yet been to the South Pole. I express my surprise at this and they explain they would still have to pay for the fuel costs and this is very expensive. They are hoping there will be a possibility towards the end of the season.
Antarctic Circle On Map Photo Gallery
Everyone else is now drifting in and I buttonhole Max to see if there is going to be any chance of going to the Pole today. He isn’t enthusiastic and apart from some engine work he wants to carry out later, he tells me he’s learned that there are a group of VIPs from New Zealand visiting the Amundsen-Scott Station. So even if we were able to go, there would be no chance of visiting the base itself, so it would be much better to wait. There is no hurry, from his point of view of course and he advises me to just relax and use the opportunity to tour around the camp area.
I am fast getting the impression that no one is likely to respond to my anxious urgency. The pace of life and activity at the camp is obviously on a much slower level than I had expected. Zen teaches you to be patient but also to use every opportunity. The Zen philosophy is always positive and would rarely suggest someone holds back and does not go for it. Of course it is important that all chores of the camp have to be carried out but it is still necessary to work out a balance and to prioritise. I am certainly getting the strong impression there is never any rush to do something here and it doesn’t seem to matter whether things are done now or tomorrow whenever that is. Perhaps all polar pilots are the same and Max Wenden is cast in the same mould as Harry Hansen, the pilot in the Arctic who had nearly stopped the Tate Gallery team from reaching the North Pole. I decide I will have to gauge my approach carefully if I want to encourage Max to take us to the South Pole. Ian is angrier and wants to demand Max makes the arrangements as a matter of necessity. Gradually I calm him down and explain that we have to accept their way of operating and must work within their system.
In the centre of the cook tent there is a blackboard where information and daily notices are pinned or written up. At a moment when everyone else seems occupied, I write in large lettering: ‘Unless morale improves the whippings will continue and sign it The South Pole Gazette. Also at the bottom I add Carpe Diem, hoping Max might get the hint! There’s considerable discussion on who might have written the messages but I don’t volunteer and just hope both will have some impact. From then on a joke or similar wry comment appears from someone or other most days. There’s one I suspect Fran wrote, ‘Remember to empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board. At least it helps to amuse us whilst we are waiting for the opportunity to take off for the Pole or the mountains. Hans and Christian have definitely decided to climb Mount Vinson, at close to 5,000 metres it is the highest mountain in Antarctica and therefore one of the seven summits. They are as frustrated as everyone else however, as the winds are too strong for the Twin Otter to take-off yet and they must also wait in the camp.