A conversation with Borge Ousland

Patagon Journal has posted a Q&A with Borge Ousland, a Norwegian polar explorer, photographer and writer. In the Q&A, done following a expedition across the Patagonian ice cap in 2009, Ousland discusses the reasons behind his polar journeys. Currently he is taking part in another adventure in Patagonia, follow along on his blog or Facebook.

The most interesting answer was in response to the question asking what it is like to be out there alone:

The South Pole can be quite sterile in a way. The animal life is coast to coast and when you get inside its just a huge expanse of snow. But what is interesting about that, especially solo trips, is that its not just traveling from point A to B, rather its also very much a mental trip. When you don’t have anyone one else to relate to, you relate more toward nature and also toward yourself — you reach levels inside of you that you didn’t know existed. As well, you also have an entirely different interaction with nature when you are by yourself. For me, it’s extremely exciting to do it solo, my trips alone are some of the most rewarding I have done. But I mostly do the trips with other people because its too beautiful to do it alone and I want to have someone to share it with.  

I saw Ousland speak at a National Geographic Live event more than a decade ago. I found him inspiring, and I have enjoyed following his adventures since then. His ability to travel solo, to persevere in incredibly harsh conditions, to adapt to adversity make him one of this era’s top explorers.

Here is a video National Geographic posted following an event earlier this year:

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Living in Antarctica at Halley VI

Having read Shackleton, Mawson, Steger, Scott, Ousland and others, I have always been fascinated by Antarctica and the quest for the South Pole. Living and working there have also always been a dream. The international stations located around the continent do interesting research that help to explain how Antarctica is changing and how the world’s climate is being altered.

Ian Hey, a mountain climber and guide based in Snowdonia, North Wales, worked at the British Antarctic Survey Station Halley VI for a year and documented the experience.

Located at Lat. 75°35’S, Long. 26°39’W, Halley VI is the first fully moveable research station on the continent. It operates throughout the year, with a crew of about 70 in the summer and 16 during the winter. Earlier versions of the station (Halley I to IV) were buried by annual snow accumulation and crushed. Halley V was place on stilts that could be raised, but eventually the ice shelf the station is located on moved too far from the mainland and was at risk of being cast adrift on an iceberg.

Haller VI consists of seven modules (each about 160 sq. meters) and one social hub (about double the size). The modules are built on hydraulic stilts that can be raised and lowered, but rather than being set into the ice, the stilt ends are giant skids. When lowered to the ground, the modules can be dragged to a new position by tractors or bulldozers.

Robert Falcon Scott’s hut in the Antarctic.

The video reveals the process for setting up a research station at one of the ends of the earth and the difficulty of supplying it and its crew. The station’s location is stunning and the team works in a beautiful — if brutally cold — environment. The only thing missing from the video are interior images of the station. I would have loved to have seen what it looked it. Maybe something like this? Doubtful.

(Ever wonder how a penguin stands up? Check the video at 5:40 for the answer.)

A little more about the station can be found here.