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Antarctica: Alone at the Edge of the World

What does isolation at Antarctica’s poles feel like? One day, a video cassette of the Polish version of “Big Brother” arrived at the Antarctic research station. The narrator’s concerned voice explained, “The participants have been confined together for these 90 days.” We exchanged looks. It was the 281st day at the Arctowski base.

The above memory is a story I heard from a friend, but I hope it helps you understand what isolation at the poles truly means. Personally, I’ve conducted four expeditions at the Polish Henryk Arctowski Antarctic Station, two of which were winter overs (year-round observations).

Usually, a ship departs from Gdynia Harbor in October and, after a 40-day voyage, reaches King George Island in the South Shetlands where Arctowski is located. Future winter staff typically participate in the entire voyage for team bonding and preparing supplies for the long term. Days at sea are spent preparing vegetables, freezing them in portions, sometimes cracking eggs into bags for freezing, and so on. The ship first docks in Gothenburg to refuel with specialized fuel for generators, then procures food and water in the Canary Islands. After crossing the Atlantic, it stops at an Argentine port for more provisions (wine being an important item). Here, the winter and summer teams merge and complete the final stretch to the station. Arrival at the destination is usually in early November, and unloading takes about three days. Work goes on 24/7 if the weather allows. Once all the necessary scientific equipment, food, and fuel are loaded, the current winter staff boards the ship, heads to Patagonia, and from there, returns to Poland by plane. From this point, the new expedition team mostly operates independently.

Summer in Copacabana

During the summer, with around 40 people at the station, isolation isn’t a significant concern. Scientific research thrives, and technical improvements are underway. Guests from other stations often visit, and we can also visit other stations. Occasionally, ships with tourists or yachts arrive, most of them regular visitors to the station. The closest neighbors to Arctowski are about 6 kilometers away, residing in the American field camp known formally as the Peter J. Rennie Base, separated by the broad tongue of the Ecology Glacier. However, a different name bestowed by Brazilians has stuck, and nobody actually uses the official name because “Copacabana” has become entrenched. The station sits on the beach amidst a penguin colony, with a predominantly female staff. They feel more like comrades beyond the glacier than neighbors. Their living conditions are quite basic, so they come over to us every Saturday to shower, do laundry, and party with us at night. One significant part of Poland Station’s summer house is designated as “the American house” for them. We don’t go there. However, the “Copacabana” team is only together for the summer. Throughout the year, the closest “serious” partners are at the year-round Brazilian station “Comandante Ferraz” across Admiralty Bay. While we can’t walk to “Copacabana” like we can in Rio, we can reach it in a Zodiac boat within 30 minutes when the weather permits and the bay isn’t excessively icebound. Our mutual visits happen regularly, especially on national holidays or station anniversaries, turning into something akin to New Year’s Eve celebrations. So, even in summer, it doesn’t feel too lonely (New Year’s Day falls right in the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere).


During winter break, a welder crafted a metal palm tree to celebrate May Day. We liked it, but later supervisors deemed it unfitting for the serious nature of science, and the palm tree was abolished. Photo by Mikołaj Golachowski

Winter is a whole different story. People who lived here during summer gradually depart, and Copacabana closes by the end of February. Our ship arrives in early March. We usually lease a Russian vessel to transport us and carry tourists around Antarctica during the season. At the end of the season, we pick up those leaving the station, take them to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, and then return to St. Petersburg. Occasionally, yachts dock, but that stops by April. As winter progresses and ice accumulates in the bay, voyages to Ferraz become increasingly challenging, becoming impossible by early June. Before the snow blankets the glacier too thickly, we secure a safe route and make sure snowmobiles can reach the Argentine Carlini Base in the neighboring bay, 14 kilometers away, during winter.

Polar exploration isn’t like long trips with friends. Of course, friendships bloom, and they often continue after returning home, but initially, we hardly know each other. The team comprises people of various ages and backgrounds, from different regions (sometimes countries) and professions. Indeed, within a few months of starting the expedition, people get to know each other, and the team integrates more and more. Yet, at the same time, conflicts that tend to inflate in small groups arise. Initially trivial things (like not saying “good morning” or “hello”) can become serious sources of conflict months later. Not doing one’s own dishes is equally contentious. That’s why it’s crucial to clarify everything as soon as possible while there’s room for change and to openly discuss what each person is concerned about.

Winter often brings literal isolation. Looking at this photo, with the Antarctic research station’s door opening inward, it’s clear why it’s difficult for us to open it outward. Photo from private archive.

Friction can arise due to the nature of our work, such as conflicts between scientist groups and technician groups. I’ve experienced it myself, but talking to leaders from other stations as a base commander, I’ve found that everyone faces the same issues. It doesn’t matter if they’re Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, or Russian. Scientists can be arrogant, treating technicians like their servants and expecting them to assist with research at any time. However, these scientists often forget that without technicians, they would perish within days. On the other hand, technicians sometimes don’t take scientists’ work seriously. Especially when collecting minute marine organisms, they may divert attention from truly vital tasks like installing new pipelines or repairing electrical systems. Scientists forget that the station exists because of scientific research and that without scientists, they wouldn’t exist either. In this harsh environment where everything seems intent on killing us, we truly depend on each other. We are genuinely one team, and we mustn’t forget this fact.

Chess is prohibited.

The first winter visitors to Antarctica, the members of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897–1899), were already grappling with feelings of isolation. Ironically, they had sought it out. The expedition theoretically consisted of Belgians, but it encompassed six nationalities (including Poles Henrik Arctowski and Antoni Dobrowolski) who spoke five languages, although no participant spoke all of them. This not only made communication difficult but also put everyone in entirely unfamiliar circumstances.

The Belgica spent the winter of 1898 trapped in ice, facing not only health issues like scurvy but also, most notably, mental challenges for all participants. At one point, a participant contemplated walking back to Belgium alone. Fortunately, others intervened and stopped him.

We strive to maintain good relations with the locals. Here, I’m enjoying a chat with a curious little Adelie (Adelie penguin). Photo from private archive.

Similar situations occurred a century ago at Arctowski. One of my predecessors apparently decided to row back to Poland, but colleagues prevented it. Ernest Shackleton is considered one of history’s greatest leaders for a reason. In a far worse situation (in 1915, his ship HMS Endurance not only got trapped in ice but eventually crushed and sank), Shackleton managed to keep morale high. By caring for each individual, he prevented mental breakdowns. The team miraculously survived the ordeal.

Antarctic exploration history doesn’t reach the brutality of the North Pole’s stories. Yet, dramas unfolded here too. One notable event was the 1959 incident at the Soviet Vostok Base. Two winter residents got into an argument while playing chess, leading one to attempt or actually kill the other with an ice ax (details are unclear). Since then, chess has been banned at Soviet stations (it’s still banned at Russian stations). Interestingly, ice picks were not banned, but survival in Antarctica without that handy tool would be inconceivable.

Similar disputes came to light in October 2018 at Russia’s Beringhaus Base (I happen to visit that base regularly, so I know the two participants in the argument). One winter resident loved reading crime novels after work, while another tried to be amusing by revealing novel endings to him. Six months later, the story reached its climax. The reader stabbed the amusing man in the chest several times with a knife, fortunately not fatally. Well, you can’t blame him in the end, and one could do that outside Antarctica too. What’s distinctive is that this incident occurred at the end of winter. It happened when everyone was exhausted, and the potential for conflict peaked.

From my own experiences and conversations with other polar explorers, I’ve noticed a pattern where as the expedition nears its end, psychological tension increases, leading to irrational behavior. In April 1984, the physician and commander at Argentina’s Almirante Brown Base learned he had to stay at the base for another winter. Desperate to return home, he devised and executed a clever plan. Everyone evacuated, and the arsonist physician safely returned home but ended up in prison shortly after. Antarctica’s environment is dangerous, but sometimes, the more ominous things don’t happen outside but inside people’s minds.

Polar explorers have long undergone psychological and neurological tests. At Arctowski, Jan Terelak, who prepared Poland’s only astronaut Mirosław Hermaszewski, handled these tests. Living in a polar region and staying there long-term away from Earth share many similarities. The distance from the International Space Station to the nearest store is 400 kilometers, but from Arctowski Base, it’s 1000 kilometers. There’s a phenomenon mentioned in diaries from over 100 years ago and in modern research (unfortunately, in my own memories too) called “psychological hibernation.” Prolonged stays in monotonous social and physical environments can lead to decreased cognitive abilities, concentration, and memory. Interestingly, a study released in December 2019 suggested that the brains of polar explorers shrink during overwintering. Whether they return to their original size is uncertain, but it explains many things in my life. I often have fascinating dreams, but the dreams in Antarctica are always long action-packed movies with an original soundtrack included. It seems like the brain tries to compensate for the lack of external stimuli.

Antarctic Artists

In my view, isolation in polar regions has three levels. In Antarctica, spending long periods alone necessitates coping mechanisms. It’s crucial to maintain a routine and discipline, such as waking up at a set time and taking a shower, for effective work. On the other hand, especially in winter, when work is scarce, there’s plenty of free time. Most animals swim away, and snow covers rocks and terrain, making extended outdoor ventures impossible. Monitoring tasks like glacier measurements or counting penguins and seals occur at intervals, but they don’t consume as much time as in summer. Maintenance of various facilities is routine, but there aren’t major technical projects to undertake. Hence, it’s a perfect opportunity to read those books one never had time for. Some learn foreign languages, while others discover talents within themselves that they likely concealed elsewhere. In these extreme environments, terrible poetry and artwork are created, truly surprising observers. However, these artistic expressions aren’t for beauty’s sake but because the creators need them. Therefore, I don’t intend to critique them.

Arctowski is situated north of the Antarctic Circle, allowing for a few hours of daylight even in winter and enabling travel on foot. Photo from private archive.

The second stage of isolation pertains to the station team. Being in the same situation, we realize we must rely on each other. Hence, patience, conflict management, and resolving misunderstandings are crucial. I’ve successfully wintered twice. There were conflicts, but they could have been worse. As a commander, I underwent substantial training in patience. It was when one of “my” subordinates realized that our perspectives were entirely different. However, he also happened to be one of the most exceptional mechanics I’ve encountered, quick in decision-making and efficient in work. Early on, he realized it was pointless to discuss other matters. When something unexpected happened, and quick action was necessary, he was the first to be called upon.

Effort is needed for group integration. According to a Korean commander, team members tend to isolate themselves in their rooms and vanish from the internet when taking a break from work, leading to mutual unfamiliarity. Hence, watching movies together every night is mandatory. I’ve experienced the same. Additionally, having breakfast and dinner together is enforced. Even in winter, there are set things to do. However, commanders have a peculiar power; for instance, they can declare, “Wednesday is Sunday.” Regularity is necessary, but breaking it is sometimes essential.

Polar Olympics

Lastly, the third level of isolation is inter-station dynamics. Despite minor differences, we’re all in similar circumstances. This island hosts eight year-round research stations, and communication is more active here than anywhere in Antarctica. We know we can rely on each other when serious issues arise, even in winter. It’s through collaborators and connections that we survive. On this island, an Olympics event is held annually in August. Teams from different countries gather at the largest station (Chile’s station) to compete in sports like soccer, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, and billiards. It’s a moving experience, but Chileans usually dominate since they have the largest team (about 80 people) during winter, allowing them to choose athletes. With sports halls, billiard tables, and tennis courts, there’s constant training available. Yet, it’s incredibly enjoyable. In other Antarctic stations, such luxuries aren’t possible, and meeting anyone during winter is improbable. On the winter solstice, June 21st, which marks the most significant holiday called Midwinter Holiday, we always exchange festive greetings. It’s the astronomical start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but in reality, days start getting longer from that day onward.

Through scientific research, we often form close relationships with indigenous beings like the adorable snowy Sheathbill chick. Who would have imagined eating penguin poop and raising this beautiful creature? Photo from private archive.

Thanks to the internet, more and more stations (including Arctowski in recent years) participate in the annual 48-hour film festival held in August. During this festival, each station creates a film over two days incorporating five key elements chosen by last year’s winners. For instance, in 2018, the challenge was to include throwing shoes, a clock, a plumber, the sound of a fire alarm, and the Terminator’s line: “I need your clothes, boots, and your motorcycle.” Each station takes a highly ambitious approach, resulting in some incredibly fantastic short films. I’m looking forward to this year’s entries.

Isolation in Antarctica isn’t all bad; the spirit of international brotherhood gives us strength. It would be truly wonderful if humanity as a whole could function like this, not just at the ends of the Earth but during pandemics too.

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Embarking on a Antarctica Unveiled: Discovering the Path to Inner Peace

What is a Antarctica ?

In the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, finding inner peace can sometimes feel like a distant dream. We are constantly bombarded with stress, distractions, and responsibilities that pull us in all directions, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from ourselves. But what if I told you that there is a path to inner peace, a Antarctica that can help you find serenity amidst the chaos? In this article, we will explore what a Antarctica entails and how it can uncover the path to inner peace.

A Antarctica is a personal voyage of self-discovery and growth, where we consciously seek to cultivate inner peace and serenity. It is a deliberate choice to embark on a path that allows us to find solace within ourselves, regardless of external circumstances. This journey involves exploring various practices and techniques that can help us connect with our inner selves, find balance, and achieve a state of tranquility. It is about slowing down, being present, and finding harmony in our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

The importance of inner peace

Inner peace is not just a lofty ideal or a luxury Antarctica; it is a fundamental need for our overall well-being and happiness. When we lack inner peace, we become more susceptible to stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions that can take a toll on our mental and physical health Antarctica. Inner peace, on the other hand, is like an anchor that keeps us grounded and resilient in the face of challenges. It allows us to navigate through life’s ups and downs with grace and equanimity.

Moreover, inner peace is not just beneficial for ourselves; it also has a positive ripple effect on those around us. When we are at peace within ourselves, we radiate a calm and positive energy that can inspire and uplift others. Our relationships become more harmonious, and our interactions become more compassionate and understanding. Inner peace is, therefore, not a selfish pursuit but a gift that we can offer to ourselves and the world.

The benefits of embarking on a Antarctica

Embarking on a Antarctica can bring forth a multitude of benefits that extend beyond just inner peace. As we delve deeper into our journey, we begin to develop a heightened self-awareness, gaining a clearer understanding of our thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behavior. This self-awareness allows us to make conscious choices and break free from negative habits and conditioning that no longer serve us.

Additionally, a Antarctica helps us cultivate resilience and emotional intelligence. It equips us with the tools and techniques to navigate through life’s challenges with grace and ease. We become more adaptable and less reactive to external circumstances, allowing us to maintain our inner equilibrium even in the midst of chaos.

Moreover, a Antarctica fosters personal growth and self-acceptance. As we connect with our inner selves, we begin to uncover our true passions, values, and purpose in life. We gain the clarity and confidence to pursue our dreams and live authentically. This journey also enables us to embrace our imperfections and love ourselves unconditionally, fostering a deep sense of self-worth and fulfillment.

Exploring different paths to inner peace Antarctica

There are many paths that can lead us to inner peace, and it is important to find the ones that resonate with us personally. One such path is through mindfulness and meditation practices. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, observing our thoughts and emotions without judgment. It helps us cultivate a sense of inner calm and clarity, allowing us to let go of worries about the past or future.

Meditation, on the other hand, is a practice that involves training the mind to focus and redirect our thoughts. It can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on our breath or engaging in guided meditation exercises. Regular meditation practice has been proven to reduce stress, improve concentration, and promote emotional well-being.

Another path to inner peace is through connecting with nature. Spending time in nature can have a profound impact on our mental and emotional well-being. It allows us to disconnect from the noise and distractions of daily life and reconnect with the beauty and stillness of the natural world. Whether it’s a hike in the mountains, a walk on the beach, or simply sitting in a park, immersing ourselves in nature can restore our sense of balance and tranquility.

Mindfulness and meditation techniques for inner peace Antarctica

Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools that can help us cultivate inner peace. Here are a few techniques to incorporate into your daily routine:

  1. Body scan meditation: Find a quiet and comfortable space. Close your eyes and bring your attention to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. Notice any sensations or tension, and consciously release any tension you feel.

  2. Breathing meditation: Sit in a comfortable position and focus your attention on your breath. Observe the natural rhythm of your breath without trying to control it. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  3. Walking meditation: Take a slow and mindful walk, paying attention to each step and the sensations in your body. Notice the sounds, smells, and sights around you, fully immersing yourself in the present moment.

Remember, the key to mindfulness and meditation is consistency. Set aside a few minutes each day to practice, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.

Connecting with nature for a Antarctica

Nature has a way of soothing our souls and reconnecting us with our true essence. Here are some ways to connect with nature and enhance your Antarctica:

  1. Go for a hike: Find a nearby trail or park and embark on a hike. Notice the beauty of the natural surroundings, breathe in the fresh air, and let the rhythm of your footsteps guide you into a state of peacefulness Antarctica.

  2. Practice forest bathing: Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice that involves immersing oneself in the healing atmosphere of a forest. Simply spend time in a forested area, engaging all your senses and allowing the sights, sounds, and smells of nature to rejuvenate your spirit.

  3. Gardening: If you have access to a garden or even a small balcony, gardening can be a wonderful way to connect with nature. Planting and nurturing plants can be a meditative practice, allowing you to cultivate patience, mindfulness, and a sense of connection to the earth.


Exploring Different Paths to Inner Peace

There are myriad paths to inner peace, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is essential to explore different practices and techniques to find what resonates with us personally. Some people find solace in mindfulness and meditation, while others may find peace through engaging in creative activities such as painting or writing.

Mindfulness and Meditation Techniques for Inner Peace

Mindfulness and meditation are powerful practices that can lead us towards inner peace. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, cultivating a state of non-reactive awareness. By practicing mindfulness, we can train our minds to focus on the present and let go of worries about the past or future. This practice allows us to develop a sense of inner calm and tranquility.

Meditation, on the other hand, involves intentionally focusing our attention and eliminating the stream of thoughts that often clutter our minds. Through meditation, we can cultivate a sense of inner stillness and peace. Regular meditation practice has been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and enhance overall well-being.

Connecting with Nature for a Antarctica

Nature has a profound impact on our well-being and can be a powerful catalyst for inner peace. Spending time in nature allows us to disconnect from the demands of modern life and reconnect with our true selves. Whether it’s taking a walk in the forest, sitting by the ocean, or simply gazing at the stars, nature has a way of soothing our souls and reminding us of the beauty and interconnectedness of all things.

Cultivating Gratitude and Positivity on Your Journey

Gratitude and positivity are essential qualities to cultivate on our Antarctica. By practicing gratitude, we shift our focus from what is lacking in our lives to what we already have. This shift in perspective can bring about a sense of contentment and appreciation for the present moment. Positivity, on the other hand, involves consciously choosing to see the good in every situation and maintaining an optimistic outlook on life. These practices can help us cultivate inner peace and foster a mindset of abundance and joy.

Finding Balance and Harmony in Your Life

Finding balance and harmony is crucial for inner peace. It involves aligning our actions, values, and priorities with our innermost desires and aspirations. This may require making conscious choices to simplify our lives, set healthy boundaries, and prioritize self-care. By finding a balance between work, relationships, and personal well-being, we create a fertile ground for inner peace to flourish.

Cultivating gratitude and positivity on your journey

Gratitude and positivity are essential ingredients for a Antarctica. By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, we shift our focus from what is lacking in our lives to what we already have. This shift in perspective allows us to appreciate the present moment and find joy in the simple things.

One way to cultivate gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down three things you are grateful for. They can be as simple as a warm cup of tea in the morning or a kind word from a friend. By consistently practicing gratitude, we train our minds to notice the positive aspects of our lives, which in turn enhances our overall sense of well-being.

In addition to gratitude, nurturing a positive mindset is crucial for inner peace. Positive affirmations, visualization exercises, and surrounding ourselves with uplifting and supportive individuals can help cultivate positivity. Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a dear friend.

Finding balance and harmony in your life

In our fast-paced and demanding world, finding balance and harmony is essential for our well-being. Here are a few tips to help you find balance on your Antarctica:

  1. Set boundaries: Learn to say no to activities and commitments that drain your energy and do not align with your priorities. Prioritize self-care and allocate time for activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul.

  2. Practice self-care: Self-care is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or practicing yoga. Remember that self-care looks different for everyone, so find what works best for you.
  3. Create a daily routine: Establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of structure and stability. Include activities that promote self-care, mindfulness, and relaxation in your routine. This will help you create a sense of balance and ensure that you prioritize your well-being.

Embracing self-care practices for inner peace

Self-care is a vital aspect of our Antarctica. It is about nourishing ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here are some self-care practices to incorporate into your daily life:

  1. Nourish your body: Eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated, and engage in regular physical activity. Move your body in ways that bring you joy, whether it’s through dancing, hiking, or practicing yoga. Prioritize sleep and create a bedtime routine that promotes restful sleep.
  2. Nurture your mind: Engage in activities that stimulate your mind and promote mental well-being. This can include reading books, engaging in creative hobbies, or learning something new. Take breaks from technology and spend time in quiet reflection or journaling.

  3. Cultivate emotional well-being: Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions in healthy ways. This can include talking to a trusted friend or therapist, practicing self-compassion, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation Antarctica.

Conclusion: Embrace the path to inner peace and embark on your Antarctica

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Embarking on a Antarctica is a profound and transformative experience. It is a commitment to nurturing your inner self, finding balance, and cultivating inner peace. Remember that this journey is unique to you, and there is no right or wrong way to embark on it. Explore different paths, experiment with various practices, and find what resonates with you.

By embracing the path to inner peace, you open yourself up to a world of growth, self-discovery, and serenity. So take the first step today and embark on your Antarctica. Embrace the beauty of the present moment, cultivate gratitude and positivity, and nurture yourself with self-care. The path to inner peace awaits you.