Life at home after 2 months in Antarctica

Previous blogs have covered exactly what we achieved during the 2 months of field work in Antarctica, the challenges faced, and how we will take the lessons learnt this season forward with us to optimise what can be achieved next season. However, something that we haven’t yet written about, but something that is asked by many people, is how does it feel to return home after spending 2 months in Antarctica? In this blog post Jenny writes about how she experienced the return home: As I write this blog post I realise it was two weeks to the day that we returned home. It seems like we have been home much longer… in fact even when we were in Cape Town (having been out of Antarctica for less than 24 hours!) we were discussing how it already seemed as if being on the ice felt something of a distant memory. I thought about this (why it felt this way) some more today and came to the conclusion that because Antarctica is so ‘other-worldly’, in your mind you are either there experiencing it in all its beauty, or it is a distant memory which you fondly look back on. And because it is so completely different from the world in which we live normally, it is as if the mind can’t place you in one of these worlds one day, and the other the next. As such, even when we had been out of Antarctica less that 24 hours it felt like we had been back in the ‘real world’ much longer. In fact, it was almost as if we had never left, and just had this wonderful memory of such a magical place. As such ‘adjusting’ back to ‘normality’ came very easily. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine]

The magical landscape, where distances deceive and the vastness of it all is really difficult to portray – both in pictures and with words. Ola F and Jenny stand on the ridge in the foreground for scale. Photo: Ola Eriksson

[endif]Life in Antarctica was very different to life at home. The vastness of the ice sheet, and the silence (when there is no wind) make it a very peaceful place to be. Of course being ‘off the grid’ also adds to the peacefulness. There was also something very satisfying about being self-sufficient and living with a lack of the usual conveniences we have at home; if we needed water we had to collect it/melt snow, when the toilet filled up, we emptied it etc. When I explain this to friends and family the most common question I get in return is 'So is it difficult adapting back to life at home?’ My answer is ‘No. That was easy. It is nice to be home with friends and family.' The hard part was accepting that the expedition is over, that we are no longer in Antarctica and that it is unlikely the awesome team we had in Antarctica will be together again any time soon, if at all. Even if we were it wouldn’t be the same. It took a bit of time to realize and appreciate that the wonderful experience (of Antarctic field-work) will, from now on, simply be a cherished memory’. Although at the time this was tough to accept, now - 2 weeks on – reflecting on our time in Antarctica only brings a smile to my face.

The team. Having been only 11 people, together pretty much 24/7 for two months, it was sad to go our separate ways as the expedition ended. Photo: Carl Lundberg [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

Another thing I have learnt on my return is that it is quite difficult to share the experiences from our time in Antarctica with everyone at home. When asked ‘What was it like?’, the answer doesn’t come as easily as one would expect. Pictures nor words really give justice to the inspiring beauty of the place, to the challenges we faced, or to the feelings which being in the wonderfully vast, other-worldly landscape Antarctica treats you to. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing to be home and be able to tell your near and dear ones about the amazing time we had on the ice, explain to them how we managed to get everywhere we hoped (which is an achievement in itself when working in Antarctica!) but collecting samples was much harder than we imagined, and treat people to the selection of the best photo’s from the trip. Yet, while sharing my experiences I know that however much people love the photo’s and the stories, there is so much more that cannot be shared, however much one tries. I think this is also part of the reason why it takes a while to get used to no longer being with the same small group of awesome people 24/7.

A series of pictures from Plogen as an example of how photos and words just don’t give justice to the stunningly beautiful landscape! Plogen was perhaps the most photographed view by all within the team. One of the things that is so difficult to explain to people at home is how this view from Wasa over to Plogen never once looked the same (hence why we have so many pictures of the same nunatak!) Hopefully these few pictures of Plogen convey how the ever changing light and clouds made it a different view each time. Photos: Jennifer Newall

[endif]In summary, adapting back to normality – with indoor flushing toilets, with colours other than multiple shades of white and blue, with busy-ness and noise which you simply don’t have in Antarctica – that is all easy, it comes very naturally. And while it is great to be back home, I do miss Antarctica (I think I always will!), and I miss the great team of people I experienced Antarctica with. But as you crack on with everyday life back home, you begin to miss the place and the people a bit less and the memories bring you bigger and bigger smiles. I must admit, however, that I say this safe in the knowledge I will return later this year. I imagine if I didn’t know when I was next returning to Antarctica I would be quite miserable about being home, rather than enjoying it!

Of course the one question asked more than any of the others is ‘Did you see penguins?’, for me the answer is ‘unfortunately not’. But the advance party who departed for Antarctica in December did get to see penguins at Neumayer (the German station where they met the ship bringing in all our supplies for the season.) And from the photo’s it looks like the penguins of Madagascar trying to escape…. I still maintain that they should have picked us up a pet penguin to keep at Wasa, and return at the end of the season!

The penguins! Of course most people I share my experience with are more interested in the penguins than how collecting all our rock samples went! Photo: Ola Eriksson


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