Friday, March 2, 2012

saying goodbye to antarctica

I love Antarctica in a way that most people will never be able to understand. To love a place like this is hard; it fights you every step of the way, it's cold, and it's almost entirely uninhabitable. But there's something about this continent that really catches you and latches on, and you wake up one morning and realize that despite the blizzard outside and the third day in a row of bad food in the galley, you really, truly love Antarctica. You love the people, and the scenery, and the amazing wildlife. You love the sunsets and the nacreous clouds and the auroras. You love the mountains and the ice shelf and the pressure ridges. You even love that ridiculous giant blue building in the middle of town. Few people on earth, I think, get to experience a love of a place like this one.

But all of this makes it almost impossible to say goodbye to it.

I flew down to Antarctica from New Zealand on January 23, with the intention of staying 9 months and spending a winter season in McMurdo Station. I did a Winter in 2011, and had an amazing experience. I was looking forward to repeating the experience, and adding new things to it; meeting new people and having new adventures. I packed for nine months, said goodbye to friends and family, and flew down.

But winter in Antarctica is not something many people can handle. This is literally the harshest, highest, driest, and coldest continent on earth. It's physically isolated from the world from March to August every year (February to November if you're at the South Pole!). And that made me realize that despite the love I have for this place, and for the amazing, extraordinary people here... I cannot stay this winter.

I won't go into detail on a public blog, but personal reasons mean that I can't stay this winter down here without the ability to leave for six months. It was the hardest decision of my life to make, and I'm so thankful that I have the support of my friends here and off the Ice, to help give me strength to do what I need to do.

I don't think you can ever truly "leave" Antarctica. Once you've come here, a piece of it stays in your soul, lurks in the back of your consciousness, for the rest of your life. Even if you can never physically return, you know that part of your heart always belongs to the Ice. I do hope to return someday; maybe later this year, maybe next, maybe years down the road. I love Antarctica too much to let it go completely.

My adventures will continue once I leave here. I'll be back in the States next week, and from there... who knows? There are a million new places in this world to explore, and a million new places that I can fall in love with. After all, you never forget your first love, but maybe there's something out there to fill the hole in your heart.

Goodbye, Antarctica.


Anonymous said...

Terrible food in the galley, I doth protest -Q

Lilith said...

I'm so sorry. You were so excited to go back. And yet - you have the experience to look back on, and you're moving forward. I trust it will all work out for the best

Michelle said...

Hey Q, if you were down here the food wouldn't be so bad! Lukewarm, and generally very "brown" in theme (no, really, last night's dinner was an entire row of brown, brown, beige, and brown).

Emma, I really was looking forward to this winter, but I'll hopefully be back in the future, and I have some good stuff lined up in the meantime I think.

David Pablo Cohn said...

Time away can be a good thing. The ice will always be there for you when you want to go back to visit that little part of you it's hanging on to.

pjmarz said...

Sorry to hear about what has happened. As you have mentioned, there are other opportunities out there and it is important to seek them out when they do come about.

You have a long road ahead of you and I figure that Antarctica will be in your future again. In the meantime, follow what's best for you.