I am becoming a little bored of being electrocuted every time I open the fridge

door. Or, for that matter, touch a handrail before climbing steps into a building.

And then I get a shock, once indoors, when I hang my overalls on their metal

peg in the boot room. The same happens when you pass someone a cup of tea and

your fingers touch.

You know those blue spongey kitchen cloths that come flatpacked super brittle

but go soft when you get them wet and then stay soft forever? Well here, they’re

always super brittle. Even when you use them every day. Pints of water are a

must last thing at night and first thing in the morning, not just when you’ve

been drinking. Moisturiser and anti-dandruff shampoo aren’t just for girls.

This is the driest place on Earth.

I’ve just come off a week of nights. Blissfully task-free other than the basic

duties of bread, met obs and a little cleaning. My first night-shift in April

was a big deal, I remember, would the bread be acceptable to the boys, whom

do I wake if an alarm goes off, what is the fire drill procedure, how many octres

of stratus cloud are there, is the mirror in the bathroom spotless? This time

round, I remarked only on how easy and wonderful it was. No agenda, nothing

to do but whatever I wanted to do in that moment. (That’s something else I’ve

learnt here,- to lose my fear of boredom. To overcome that guilt feeling associated

with watching a film, reading a book, daydreaming a day away.)

Making bread has become almost normal for us and if it’s rubbish bread, well,

tough… or I’ll make another batch. Met obs are a nice opportunity to go outside

at 3am and 6am. My first few nights were beautifully clear, starry and dark.

We even had a couple of auroras. By 6am, incredible layered clouds, pink, red,

the morning sunrise colours emerging in stripes. Halley Haze. It’s great when

all the buildings look like they’re floating. At the end of the week a storm

was approaching, wind speed soared, snow blew past my face, it was dark and

wild. That could well have been my last week of darkness here; soon it will

be light most of the time, or at least most of my waking hours.

The storm is here now. Forty knots for the past few days but dropping soon

I hope. I do enjoy the wild weather but it is a hindrance to everyone’s work

and you start feeling a bit cooped up after a while. Plus, three people have

been stuck on base for the last week when they were hoping to be on a post-winter

trip. On Sunday we decided to go ouside despite the weather. A couple of us

helped dig melt-tank just for the hell of it, it gets you outside and moving

after all, and then we tried putting a pup tent up in a gale. These are the

emergency tents used if you’re caught out in the field – so why not try

them in more realistic conditions? I’ll give it to BAS: they are ridiculously

simple to erect, even in a storm. After that we rode Craig’s bike around under

the platform for a while. As you do. Not quite the weather for golf.

One of the funniest things I heard this week is that we’re running out of

tea bags. No, really, this is serious. Not just a serious fact, but a serious

problem. I actually don’t know what will happen if it’s true. We have apparently

got through over 13,000 tea bags and about 2 tins of instant coffee. Horlicks,

Ovaltine and herbal tea are drunk, but it’s not the same, is it? This is a very

British base after all. During the winter months here, outdoor work is tiring

purely due to the cold. After even 20 minutes outside, you have earned a cup

of tea. And anyone else who’s around will probably join you. Personally, I think

if anything is going to turn us into crisis mode, this is it. I’ll keep you


It’s very bitty. I am dredging my brains to try and think of something new

to say, something you haven’t heard before. A friend wrote to me recently and

said she felt like she knew what my life was like thanks to these blurbs. In

contrast, I couldn’t really imagine hers at all. That’s odd, isn’t it? I could

take it as a compliment about my writing but suspect it has more to do with

the fact that life down here is incredibly simple and repetitive, there’s only

so much to say and then I have to start saying it all over again. In contrast,

I can never know everything about anyone elses life in the ‘normal’ world. We

don’t even know that of our loved ones, nearest and dearest who we live with

at home or work with every day. We share only a part of anyone’s life. Home,

work, school, office, hobbies, sport, recreation, films, families, friends from

the past, colleagues, aquaintances, daily commute, thoughts, dreams, aspirations,

the person you buy your milk from in the morning. Everything that makes up your

day at home involves so many other people. Your life is a composite of so many

lives. Even if I were to spend a month living with my friend, I’ll only ever

know the part of her life that she shares with me, and only ever know the person

she is when I am around. In contrast, I share most of my thoughts here with

the same people, watch the same films, discuss the same ideas, work with them,

live with them, drink with them, experience the same storm and the same halo

with them. I see them as they are with me, but also who they are with others

as well. We see different things of course and have vastly different opinions

and backgrounds, but we’re getting to know these as well.

Thankfully, we still surprise each other and Halley still surprises me but

my point is, it’s simple. For me, it’s a happy place, I am very contented here.

There are others I know however who really just want to go home. But still I

think it’s odd that you can know so much about my dailyness and I know nothing

at all about yours. It doesn’t matter, I’ll be back in yours before I know it

and can re-experience it all over again. For now, let me indulge in this feeling

of space and ease of living. It can’t last forever but it’s pretty goood for

right now.

This entry was posted in Rhian in Antarctica. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Equinox

  1. kristian says:

    hey rhian

    so here you are! excellent photographs, and what a wonderful sounding adventure. we canadians miss you… and have news, some of it unfortunately sad. please get in touch… when you can…

    happy equinox…. peace and love from the northern hemisphere

  2. Felix says:

    If it’s so incredibly dry down there, can’t you just leave the old teabags out for a day or so and then reuse them?

  3. Stefan says:

    Can’t you use little bunches of toilet paper as the filtration device? Or is it the actual tea you are out of?

  4. Alexa says:

    Hello, like most things on the web, I stumbled across this blog by accident. I had to write to you because the pictures you posted have made me very homesick. 4 years ago I spent three months in a tent many hundreds of miles to Halley’s east in Dronning Maud Land. We were operating a blue-ice runway and I was the cook in the camp. It was both heaven and hell to be in such an environment but I had the time of my life. I hope to return to Blue 1 at some point but the area is rarely visited unless you fly in with the Russians from Cape Town. It’s certainly do-able but very expensive.

    I had a chuckle reading your comment about running out of teabags. The irony for us was despite living in tents, we had five-star meals. Much of the food we ate was fresh (flown in regularly from Cape Town) and the favourite meal for the boys was fresh mango souffle. If you do happen to run out of tea bags, take a skidoo to 71 32S 8 48E. Start digging and you’ll find crates of the stuff. Enjoy your remaining months on that matchless continent. Best wishes – Alexa

  5. jeff says:

    Let me know your PO Box down there & I’ll drop some PG Tips in the post for you. And some Nivea.


    Rhian Salmon is blogging the poetry & tedium of a year stationed with the British Antarctic Survey on the Brunt Ice Shelf .

  7. Rhian says:

    Thanks Jeff! I think the ship that delivers post will probably also be delivering teabags so we should be ok but if you want an address, anything along the lines of Rhian, Halley, Antarctica c/o BAS Falkland Islands should work. Can you tell me some beautiful atrocities? I imagine my images and those thought of by a city dweller might be quite different!

  8. Rhian says:

    Can somebody please explain the concept of teabags to Stefan?

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