Winter-over

That’s the term for people who stay for the 8 months of Antarctic winter. Generally, someone begins their contract in October, the start of “summer”. Over the next four months they are deluded into thinking that staying for the year would be an interesting adventure (I would love to do a winter. Once). These poor souls then extend their contract (if they hadn’t already signed a year contract) so that they’re now stuck on the continent for 12 or 13 months.

When I was at McMurdo I met a bunch of Polies coming through town on their way back home after having just spent a full year at the South Pole. They started off with 4 months of permanent sunlight, then a few weeks of sunset, 6 months of darkness, and then a few weeks of sunrise. They looked like they’d seen a ghost. Or been to war. Or seen me naked. Their first day was spent sitting in a huddled group together in the mess hall, staring blankly at cups of coffee. It was their first time seeing new faces in over 8 months. They’d been confined with the same 40 people in a small base in the coldest temperatures in the world, unable to leave, no chance of evacuation, in permanent darkness. I’m half-surprised no one was eaten.

I ran into one of the pale-face people out at the coffee shop later that day. He was standing around with one eye bigger than the other and had his sunglasses on the table. “Nice glasses” I said. “Oh. Oh yea, these are really good. You use them outside.”

Those guys were completely toasted.

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