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Arctic Isolation

The midnight sun and our Snow compass / sundial

This is one of the strangest places I have ever been (I wrote last year). We are hundreds of miles north of the nearest village and just 700 miles from the North Pole. There are just six other people here with me. If we have a major emergency we could be in a very perilous position. We have an igloo. We have midnight sun. So in some regards this is the most isolated, remote place that I have ever been. Indeed, one of the things I was looking forward to about coming here was the sense of solitude. And yet, despite my regular efforts, it is very rare that I feel isolated here.

As I eat homemade fresh bread for breakfast I have to remind myself that the nearest bakery is thousands of miles away. As I clutch head in hands at my desk, searching for the right words for this blog I have to look up and out the window to remember where I am. And as I drift off to sleep at night I am not continually conscious of sleeping on a thin skin of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean.

Oliver summed it up well yesterday. The 20 knot wind was filling the air with snow and visibility was very poor. They trekked back from the science sampling site and, with Brownie the dog hauling the scientists’ equipment sledge, they felt pretty wild. Only to step into Malin’s mess tent and be served fresh baked pizza and Coca-Cola for lunch. The impression of privation and hardship was shattered! Indeed the nearest any of us could feel to being isolated during that lunch was when we ran out of Tabasco sauce.

Daily phone calls and emails from the office in London further maintain our connection to the world. I am not sure it is possible to feel really isolated these days when you have wireless internet and a telephone. That said we have no real idea what is happening in the outside world. The internet is so expensive here that it is never used except for expedition related emailing. I don’t even know any football results, so perhaps I am isolated up here, after all…

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