Well that was fast! An entire 6 months over summer at Scott Base is done and dusted without a single blog entry. Its not that I havent had a lot on my mind – its just that a load of things have been happening over the past few years and lifes moving pretty fast (when it isnt standing completely still).
It’s this whiplash stop-start motion of offseason/onseason ad infinitum thats becoming difficult to manage as I get older and life moves on for friends and family. To be honest I’m feeling stuck in a bit of a cycle here thats not particularly healthy.
Back in Christchurch for a week now (the bulk of the summer crew flew back on the C17 last Saturday) and I’m still a bit numb to it all. It’s a survival strategy for dealing with the stresses of communal living in an Antarctic research station – shutting down emotional responses to a bare minimum is what my system automatically does now. Even simple things like regulating body temperature or adjusting to the increased stream of external stimulations – more people, endless chatter, traffic, noise, sound, colors, choice, decisions – have made my brain noticeably fatigued ove the past week. It’s like a rubber band has been pulled taught across the front of my brain from temple to temple, right behind my eyes.
Anyway, throwing myself back into the Malls and City is a short sharp shock treatment to kickstart reintegration that usually works so I guess we’ll see how it goes this time.
This season was harder than most – I struggled daily with my co-worker and we didnt gel, plus an increased workload and inexperienced teams added to the overall pressure on base and I didnt deal with it particularly well, becoming reactive, prickly and somewhat withdrawn. Having the Base itself torn up and changed so fast was unexpectedly disturbing as well – all the things that were soo important in the past seems to have been swept aside. No more 9am weather observations, no more wonderful clockwork and analogue equipment to work with and keep going, all to be replaced with plastic blinking automation. My santuary – the Hatherton Laboratory – essentially discarded now and what was once the centre of kiwi science in Antarctica is now just described on the guided tour as a place ‘to be gutted and turned into bedrooms and toilets”
Oh and the Base rebuild program kicked into high gear this summer, with 3 building contractors worth of extra people crowding into an already overcrowded base. I wrote the following in the midst of the worst of it but didnt publish : it pretty much sums up my feelings at the time and I’ll leave it at that.
This is not my Scott Base.
With the rebuild of the Base now in full swing for the first real full Summer after Covid, the balance has finally shifted. Evolving from the usual frenetic tempo of a small group of base Staff keeping the Base alive and supporting science in Antarctica to a Trades-heavy population, crowded and crammed into every spare nook and cranny, ignoring rules and procedures and SBR ‘management’ (I use that term loosely) demanding instant blind obedience to the chaotic and destructive whims of the Scott Base Rebuild project.
Theres as Steve Jobs level of Reality Distortion happening here. Criticism will not be tolerated and you will be sidelined.
So this week – week 1 – I’m trying to reconnect to my New Zealand life again and decide if this Antarctica work is sustainable long term. This flatline numbness is harder to shake this time so ill have to try other things if the usual process doenst work.
Movies, healthy food, long walks and some tree-time.
Anyway, more on that later I guess and hopefully the words will come easier. I’ll add to this as they come to me.