Antarctic Region Map

Also in the camp is a somewhat enigmatic Polish film director. His first name is Jerczy and his last name seems completely unpronounceable, as it has a whole string of consonants with possibly only two vowels to pull them together. He doesn’t speak much English and only a little French. Previously I had made the big mistake of trying to converse with him in French. From then on as soon as Jerczy sees me he invariably makes a beeline in my direction and we have some very convoluted conversations. He’s a nice guy but our talks aren’t going too far.

Our rather hesitant contact immediately reminds me of my old Latin teacher who was rather ominously called Mr Judge. He had been blinded in the war and taught by relying purely on his amazing recall of the text books he’d used from before. Mr Judge was a stern, tough and exacting teacher, perhaps because of his blindness, and was always jury as well as judge. With him there was never any chance of an appeal. The reason Jerczy had made me think of him was that Mr Judge had the strangest explanation of why it was necessary to know Latin.

Antarctic Region Map Photo Gallery

He had been in a prisoner of war camp and his bunk companion was Polish. Neither could speak the other’s language and they were only able to communicate by speaking in Latin. ‘So you see, he would exclaim triumphantly, ‘Latin isn’t a dead language, you never know when it might come in useful. It seemed more than a little far-fetched, but I always took his explanation in good grace. He was such a brave man, I’d often walk with him to his bus stop and he would accept my companionship but never on the basis that I was in any way assisting him. Perhaps it was my first encounter with the Zen spirit which has come to mean so much to me.

Mr Judge was determined never to allow himself ever to be dependent on anyone or ask for any help. I very much admired his courage but he was, in reality, impossible to actually like. He was ramrod stiff, mostly harsh in manner and rarely smiled. He never gave any quarter, perhaps because he never asked for any. He was as tough on me in class as on everyone else, often tougher I thought. However, he is the teacher I remember the most. That’s probably why I usually respond to Polish people more sympathetically, they invariably remind me of Mr Judge and his bizarre conversations in Latin in a POW camp.

When Jerczy hears I am going on this tenting expedition overnight he also wants to come along to take photographs in the mountains and Steve agrees he can. It is turning into a large party and I feel that soon we will be emptying the camp. But it also means that there will be fewer people in the camp for Ros to feed and that makes it easier for Fran to get away. I am really looking forward to the trip and to staying out in the mountains, but first there is the rest of the evening to enjoy. They have laid on a huge dinner, plenty to drink, music of a kind and I again try to manoeuvre my tapes into those being chosen. Most don’t seem bothered either way whereas I like what I like, though my tastes are as broad as a broad can be. I mix in Pavarotti and Duke Ellington and of course the Stones.

Then it’s time to wander outside, buttoned up, hatted and double-coated into the utter brightness that is the Antarctic night in December. It feels like the end of the world, which in one sense it is and there’s utter magic in the frosty, breath-swallowing air. I wander over to my Byrd tent, take out my toilet bag and make a quick dash over to the latrine igloo. Fortunately the red flags are pointing upwards and I can take my choice of either one. I check and decide the left one is the better for now. Tomorrow it could easily change. Then back to Byrd and bed.

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