I just spent a brief half hour lunch, staring out the large second floor window here at a small black speck half a mile away making its way slowly across the ice field.
Stopping every 20 paces or so, the tiny figure would turn a shuffling 360 degree circle, checking for predators or possibly just staying on track, before setting off again across the ice, little feet flapping along, heading who knows where.
You can barely make him out but he’s way out there just past the central tine in the pitchfork -shaped shadows out on the ice. A tiny black spot moving through the grey-white nothingness.
A lone Adelie penguin sneaking home to the rookerie on one of the larger islands in the bay.
His cautious, meandering odyssey reminded me instantly of a forgotten dream I used to have quite regularly as a child ( and less regularly as an adult).
I would be about somewhere in the world, usually in the countryside, running and always moving, relentlessly pursued by massive grey sharks – landsharks. There was only every one or two but they were the size of jumbo jets – and deathly silent. These nightmares would burst up through the very crust of the earth looking for me ( and only me) and try to gobble me up. They could go anywhere and break through any surface : the only warning an uneasy feeling and a shadowy ripple underfoot microseconds before they attacked.
Luckily always with just enough time to escape – my only tactic was to keep running.
They never got me – I’ve always been a fast runner and in these dreams I move like a parkour-savant ninja and am an artful dodger at the best of times anyway.
It occurs to me just now that this scenario is an actual possibility here, watching this little penguin wanders the ice alone. How does he feel at the moment? Nervous? Lonely? Or just hungry and looking for a meal. Hyperalert. He must be so tired. Paranoid (if that exists for animals – trauma is trauma after all ) and constantly vigilant for killer whales or leopard seals that can smash up and grab him through the thinner sections of the sea ice.
He’s still walking though – still stops every 20 steps or so – has a good look around. Keeps on.
I wonder would he see their shadow under the ice as they came for him?
What would flash thought his little penguin consciousness as the crushing jaws closed around him and the teeth tore into his delicate skin.
Whatever the penguin equivalent for “Shiiiit!” is I guess.
Could these things grab me once I start walking out and about here on the thinning seaice, heading to the nearby penguin colonies or just walking around the shoreline.
There was a lady killed by a leopard seal not long ago, dragged down under the ice floe.
Drowned her real good it did.
My fantastic Landsharks are real here.
It’s not the first childhood nightmare that has rang eerily true since I’ve been here in Antarctica. Dejavu galore.
Many moments where I’ve felt that Ive lived this moment before, seen in a dream when I was a kid. Even stupid things like a breakfast conversation this morning, the person sitting opposite me and what they were eating. It’s the details that stick, their ripples sending me back into childhood.
*speaking of recurrent nightmares, remind me to tell you about the red glowing pig eyes at my window, the exploding TV room or the persistent (and annoying) werewolf calling himself “the British Umpire” who would stalk me along quiet country roads and launch himself ferociously at me from the darkness.
No wonder I write.
The winter crew had their official station handover just now – informal speeches and the handing over of the station key to the new station leader for summer. What a great group – 18 or so dedicated personnel who roughed it over the toughest and most blizzard filled winter in history. I hope the 80 or so of us can hold up to the same standard set for us.
Later this after noon the old crew will wander out to the ship and then they’ll be heading home with a lifetime of stories to tell. Traditionally the Summer Crew set off flares and farewell the departing Winterer Crew on their 2 week voyage home. Some of them have been here for a year or more through one of the toughest Winter seasons on record and getting home to friends and family is the only thing on their minds at the moment.
As the ship finally pulls away, there’s a strange mood – a mix of elation, melancholy, relief and excitement for the time ahead of us.
Tonight the bar opens, the embargo on alcohol lifts, and we finally get to test out the local Vestfold Brewery fare -the legacy of an endless selection of fine ales, ciders and lagers brewed by the Official station Brewmaster. All on tap. All free. Open bar and hijinks.
High quality home brew and 3 weeks of forced sobriety should make for an interesting evening as everyone can finally relax after a busy resupply, with no work tomorrow.
Today for me has been power outages, flaky UPS issues, annoying network issues but overall a much better day work wise. I’ve had a few wins today and they’re finally outweighing the losses.
Boopity boop clickety click…computers : meh.
Settling into a routine now and I have 4 months to whip things into shape.
Winter is over.
Let the summer begin!