The captors of Antarctica: why people quit their jobs to go to the White continent

The captors of Antarctica: why people quit their jobs to go to the White continent

The Anthropogeos project and its editor-in-chief, Sardar Sardarov, organized an expedition to Antarctica in December 2019, where participants observed the emergence of an interesting anthropological and social phenomenon: the colonization of the last formally uninhabited continent of the Earth, and this is not a typical colonization, but a seasonal settlement of the continent by human beings; they do not seek to benefit, but often spend more than they receive; but for them, temporary relocation is an opportunity to test themselves, to abandon their way of life and to change things.

Sardar Sardarov

Sardar Sardarov is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular science project "Anthropogeos", which organizes and conducts expeditions involving scientists, researchers, writers, and explores how the place of residence affects human beings and cultures, and the "Anthropogeos" project has already visited Antarctica, the Gobi desert, Guatemala, the island of Spitzbergen and many other parts of the Earth.

The Antarctic route took 21 days for the Anthropogeos team, starting from Punta Arenas, Chile, passing through the Union glacier, the South Pole, the Inaccess Pole, the Novolarevsky station, and ending in Cape Town. They walked 4,500 km in 21 days, and people from South America reached South America through Antarctica by car for the first time.

Sardar Sardarov: "For me, these long, 24-hour crossings have become a real gift, an opportunity to be alone. It's rare for people to travel in small spaces all the time together. In Antarctica, you're all either in a car or in a tent.

I'm lucky I didn't have a changer. I could see this amazing land and the way it changes in nuances -- the color around it, the landscape. So you touch the planet over a meter by a meter. Nothing distracts you from the vision."

Hlynur Sigurdson

One of the two accompanying guides and mechanics was Hlynur from Iceland, working with cars for 16 years, developing cooling systems for the last six years, and sometimes working as a guest guide.

Worked in Antarctica since 2011, brought in one of the first polar modifications of SUVs, and that year Hlynur was on the continent with three other people on two cars, and they showed a better time result in moving to and from the South Pole.

One of the main tasks of Hlynnur and his partners in their travels to Antarctica was to explore new roads and territories. Before going on a cruise to a new place, they studied satellite imagery, observed the movement of ice sheets, then conducted reconnaissance with a radar that was mounted on a car bumper. When travelling across the red zone, the car travels about 6-10 km/h, and when leaving the car, people are bound to be insured. Where the car can travel safely on flat wheels, it is most often impossible for a person to pass.

Hlynur is also involved in rescue operations when they are carried out with the participation of cars, and he remembered one of them in our conversation:

"Perhaps the hardest time I worked in Antarctica was a trip across a field with cracks, and we were called to help two kids from South Africa who were running a fuel depot. Their sleigh fell into a crack, and they were all over it. We needed to get the sleigh out and keep people from falling apart. These two got into a snowstorm and lost one of the tents, and the other with food supplies was almost destroyed, and they had a very bad connection.

Wendy Cyrle.

Wendy is a mother of many children from the United Kingdom who decided to ski the South Pole, although she did not even know how to ski before she was targeted.

The idea came to her mind when she worked eight years ago with a charity that organized skiing and sleigh trips in Antarctica. Wendy helped with the technical side of the expedition.

She was preparing for this expedition for five years: training as an Olympic athlete, looking for sponsors and partners, and taking part in other expeditions for preliminary experience — for example, in a group crossing of Greenland, until she became the seventh woman in the world to cross Antarctica from the Gulf to the South Pole on her own skis during the 2019-2020 season.

During the year before the expedition, Wendy trained six days a week twice a day, combining it with full-time work and caring for the family — Wendy had four children — she was riding a bicycle, running, but mostly carrying a heavy and large tire — which was exactly what she was supposed to do.

"I've been going through a lot of companies, offering to use my face as an advert and telling me that I'm planning this trip. For a potential sponsor, it's a big risk, 'cause they can't say with certainty that I'm gonna go to the end and that it's gonna go well, but I found a few companies that believed in me. I've all been assured that I won't have enough money until I get on the plane. That's exactly what happened. Right before the start, one of the companies offered me extra funding, which is why I bought a plane ticket from the UK."

Emma Roos.

In a camp in the South Pole, the expedition met Emma Roos, a member of the camp and the only female employee on the pole, and she came to work in Antarctica for the second time, and this time she was sent to this remote camp, where she likes everything: cold, a small number of people compared to the main camp on the Union glacier.

In order to come to Antarctica, Emma quit her job in Sweden -- she was a criminal psychologist and she worked with children as witnesses of crime -- despite a fine career, difficult but interesting job, Emma went to serve a tourist camp in Antarctica, and in the first year she took a season leave for three months, and when she returned to Sweden, she continued to work in the same department, and for the second time she decided to quit and try to change her life.

The idea of trying to get a job in Antarctica came from a random acquaintance. Emma worked at a remote mountain camp where Hannah, head of the Royal Penguin Camp of ALE, came to rest. She showed her photographs from Antarctica and offered to try to submit a resume to work. Emma's ability to dig snow and experience in remote locations clearly helped her, and she was invited to a separate team for the season.

"ALE has three permanent camps in Antarctica. I worked in two of them, on the Union glacier, and in a small camp in the South Pole. I was part of a hotel team that kept everything working for the guests. For example, we helped with the settlement, the tents, we watched all the facilities, toilets and souls, I cooked water, I mean a lot of snow. I like this job, I like to work in the fresh air, and in Antarctica, life in the fresh air, it's also physically hard, unlike my usual work.

The main camp on the Union glacier is much bigger than everyone else, and there's a very different system, compared to the South Pole. There's a camp manager who looks after everything at once, and there's workers who are divided into several sections. I've worked in hotel and kitchen sections. People from other departments have always worked this way: three weeks here, three weeks in the South Pole. For a hotel group, it's a new system. Three years ago, there was no one in the small camps at all, and then they sent one person for the whole season. I'm very lucky to be that person. The whole camp team on the pole is smaller than my hotel group in the main camp.

Emile Grimmson

The director of Arctic Trucks International and Arctic Trucks Polar, founder of Arctic Trucks, is engaged in the modification of cars for extreme conditions and the organization of expeditions to the North and South Pole.

When he was a young man, he began to work in the Icelandic Toyota unit, then began to adapt cars to complex landscapes and organized his own company. In 1996, he first carried out an expedition to Antarctica, in 1998 he crossed Greenland, and in 2007, he and Top Gear drove to the North Pole, and in 2008, they began regular expeditions to Antarctica.

The first major challenge for SUVs was to support the race to the South Pole: the cars were the main vehicles that transported medical doctors, film teams, food and materials, and since then the Arctic Trucks vehicles have already driven more than 340,000 km of anthractic plateau.

Emile has been on a number of expeditions, exploring routes for new runways, organizing fuel depots, and Emile has remembered one of the most remembered expeditions he has ever organized.

"We made an expedition for Hyundai Motor, in which the great-grandson of Ernest Shackleton was involved. She was passing through Antarctica on a route that could not overcome his great-great-grandfather. First, we had to modify the car so that it could go through the snow. Then we had to write all the logistics together with ALE," he says. "And once we started working on this project, thousands of letters asking for presentations came to me. We were only at the beginning. Such expeditions become complex and trigger a lot of questions. So if I only had a couple of hundred emails and a couple of presentations, it's a very easy organization."

Juan Pablo Escobar

He's a high-end guide who's been specializing in high-rises for the last 16 years, and in Antarctica he's been through a friend who's already been working there, and Pablo spent two seasons in the White continent in a remote camp near the FD83 fuel depot, and in the first year Pablo was a member of the team, and in the second year he was its leader.

The FD83 fuel depot supports planes that stop on the way to and from the South Pole. Camp workers help the crew with gas and assist passengers. Coastal roads to the pole are not easy — an intensive set of heights from a few metres to several thousand metres above sea level. Pablo and a medical doctor, who must also be on the team, helped to cope with mountain disease, advised, received teams and single tourists travelling on the ground.

Anthropogeos' expedition met Pablo at the fuel depot, stopping there twice, on the way to the Inaccess Pole and on the way back to Novolarevsky Station.

"The depot is 1600 km from the ALCI base. When we arrive there at the beginning of the season, the first thing we have to do is prepare a camp. We have to level the snow, set up the big tents," he says. "FD83 gas station has planes that need refuelling on the way to the South Pole, mostly Twin Otters or Basters. Our responsibility was also to prepare the fuel barrels that we had made since the previous year, to inventory them and to receive new fuel supplies: they are dropped from the plane with a parachute.

Every day we met planes, cooked food, soup, assessed the pilots' condition, and they had the greatest responsibility. We also prepared a strip at the beginning of the season: the racing machine and the mechanics drive through the snow field to make it fit for take-off and landing. That's basically our main task. Work in the fuel depot is a pretty big operation. It's interesting. It's like you're in a video game."