Antarctic Diary: December 10, 2002
Shut up, I'm dreaming
They all went off to bag drag. That leaves me. Alone for a few days.
Bag drag is when you bring all your stuff, and yourself, and you report to the Movement Control Center to have it all weighed. They need to get an accurate weight for loading the herc.
You're allowed 75 pounds of stuff when you come here--50 of which is taken by the Emergency Cold Weather gear they give you. Scientists get around this by declaring "scientific cargo". Anything you declare scientific cargo must be brought to the ice and back again.
We brought two crates weighing 1000lbs each.
I brought 70 lbs of camera gear.
So you have all this stuff when you get here, and then when you go home you have to bring it all to MCC for weighing before you catch the plane, usually eight hours later.
Naturally MCC is located at the top of a steep hill. This is done so you have to haul everything uphill.
It must be.
Now I have to try to tell you how this feels. This. Sitting here writing. This.
This is sitting here alone staring across a frozen harbor. Mountains. Volcanos.
So little of this universe is inhabitable. This place hardly qualifies. This is what it is like when you are not here. Before you were born. After you die.
This is sitting here alone beside the Hughes glacier when the winds shift, and it goes so calm the loudest sound is the blood rushing through your ears, and then the katabatics rumble down from the plateau like a thousand fighter jets, like a million trains, like the sun exploding -- a sound so big it reminds you of the denial you develop every day so you can go on with the mundane and the cheap. Because if you believed that wind for one half a heartbeat--you would live the truth, like these were your last days.
That wind reminds you there will be an end to your world.
This is standing beside the glacier with the angel in my hand, touching water frozen when the Giza pyramids were under construction. And realizing it doesn't matter we can name the dates in numbers.
So many miles.
So many years.
So many meters high. So dark. So deep.
These are what the scientists write sitting in their tents in the endless daylight.
You can believe the numbers or what's in your chest. Swallow hard and breathe the cold dry air. Months from now you can read the papers and believe what's written,the graphs and lines. Tables. All real and right.
But you can remember that in life you make an imprint on the land and it makes one on you.
Then it's gone.
Through no great feat I have been able to stand where few men have placed themselves before. It didn't matter I had helicopters to haul me out there. I didn't matter I hiked for hours, well supplied, well dressed, well equipped. When you put yourself somewhere that doesn't know humanity, you feel the comparitive agelessness of the great mother earth.
This must be how explorers felt. This must be how the first sentient beings felt.
We are each so small.
There is something greater. It's huge and nameless. Terrifying.
But you stand up to it: it knows who you are. Not a giant mirror, but someone old and familiar.
It's all I could think when I hiked to the glacier root by myself and the wind came. I wrote it fast because I felt like running.
I don't know for sure.