I am one of the fortunate people who was lucky enough to explore this continent, and no, I am not talking about one of these ludicrously overpriced boat cruises that sail past the Antarctic continent and make stops at the islands. I mean I actually lived, and worked on this vast continent for 95 days.
I got to experience this venture by applying to work with British Antarctic Survey (whose headquarters is in Cambridge), and using my trade as a gateway to this mysterious white wilderness. The objective of this project; to relocate the Halley VI research station. Whose existence was being threatened by a huge crevasse on the ice shelf.
So after months of preperation and training, it was time to make the 9,000 mile journey to Antarctica. However just getting there proved to be no light task. We took a commercial flight to Cape Town, South Africa, where we had to wait a few days for a weather opening allowing us to fly into the most isolated continent in the world.
The plane we had to board in order to get to Antarctica was an intimidating start to the journey. An old Russian cargo plane used in war, converted into a plane designed for carrying ordinary people like me (It also had two festival styled portable toilets on board…brilliant).
Once we landed into Antarctica, we still had to make two internal flights on DC-3 planes (which apparently revolutionised flying in the 1930’s…hmm) to get to our own station.
Once finally out our station, we began to work. Carpenters, steel erectors, plumbers, electricians, scientists and management all playing their part in moving the multi-million pound station.
The station itself had to be relocated 23 kilometres from its original site to the new site. Which was deemed the safe zone by a mutual decision of glaceoligists, scientists and management.
It was not all work for us either. I met friends for life, Emperor and Adelie penguins that I will unlikely ever see again. I was living in Antarctica for f***’s sake! This was the dream. All sense of worry or any real life problem faded away with each and every passing day. We were really living in a currency free environment where everyones work ethic prospered the living life of everyone else. It’s hard to explain it, but it becomes home.
Once the station was relocated, our job was done, it was time to go home. After spending Christmas and New Years away from family and friends, you adopt these colleagues as them. Leaving was not easy, but staying was not an option. Leaving Antartica invloved a 28 day sailing to the Falkland Islands. An incredible, yet infuriating voyage through the frozen sea on an icbreaking cargo ship.
An experiene I will never forget, and a journey of a lifetime.