Coming Soon. Lies has one more post – then a new volume : ANTARCTICA.
Antarctica. Introduction. When asked his biggest mistake in life, Mick Taylor replied, ” joining The Rolling Stones and leaving The Rolling Stones.” If asked the same question I would reply,” going to Antarctica and leaving Antarctica.”
Antarctica: Scott dying thwarted, devastated, malnourished and revered. Shackleton single-handedly challenging the Southern Ocean to return – no lives lost. Amundsen, ruthlessly meticulous, savagely metronomic, dogs, men, research, all sacrificed to ambition and priority. Sir Edmund Hillary giving a finger to the English punkah wallahs and racing to the South Pole on farm tractors.
For seven years, from the mid 1980’s until the early 90’s, I worked in Antarctica. McMurdo Station wasn’t heroic, or glorious, or chivalrous, it was ugly, clumsy, profligate and frequently hilarious, often without intending to be. The ruling body, comprised almost entirely of middle-aged, middle-class, white men, took themselves and the empirical, simplistic science they were charged with overseeing, far too seriously. The result was Kremlin like rules and Gdansk shipyard efficiency.
Of those who returned year after year, the majority were refugees from a world which found them ill suited, and they ill fitting : erratic, temperamental, and vice ridden; McMurdo was the, fried food scented, foul mouthed, two days past a shower, boarding house of downsized ambitions and easy money they found home. A home stumbled into the way many fall into marriage, a union briefly euphoric then glum, brittle, self possessed, wistful of separation but finding apathy comfortable, convenient and by default, preferable.
This is the Antarctica I saw working in a kitchen that fed 1200 people in summer, and 200 in winter. It’s what I observed, preparing food, serving meals, wiping tables, mopping floors, cleaning up after Thanksgiving and Christmas banquets. It’s not how Antarctica is normally betrayed or imagined. It’s not completely truthful either – some of what occurred is so bizarre as to be unbelievable – and in the interests of credibility has been omitted. This is one person’s story. It’s not a film – it’s a series of still photographs. Be warned there may be a sequel.
The first three posts are scene setting. Because we were all very young – names have been changed – youth provides both an excuse and explanation for what later may cause cringe. Anyone who was there will recognise these obvious contrivances.