I’m home

That was it really. Seven weeks in Antarctica was a wonderful experience.

 

Now I am back in Malaysia after a very long journey (Antarctica – Punta Arenas – Santiago – Sydney – Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Terengganu). Apart from the expected jet lag, I can’t help thinking about my time in the south continent.

Life in Antarctica is very simple and fun (note: it refers to King Sejong Station in particular as I have no idea about other stations or places in Antarctica), but at times can be very hectic and daunting.

Many people thought that I was living in a tent or igloo in Antarctica. I can’t blame them as they make the assumption based on my skinny body that get skinnier after coming back. That’s another thing that I can’t seem to work out. Yes, I had been eating no meat for two months, but the scale in the station’s shower room always told me that I was losing no weight every time I step on it.

So, how is life in King Sejong Station like?

King Sejong Station is the South Korean station located in King George Island, West Antarctic peninsula. This is their first station which operated since February 1988. They now have a new station, Jang Bogo, located in Terra Nova Bay in Antarctic mainland which has been opened in early this month! King Sejong is a permanent station which means it operates all year round. During summer it can accommodate around 60 people, mainly scientists from Korean Polar Research Institute. Meanwhile, this station is accommodated by 18 overwinter members during one-year cycle.  King Sejong Station consists of more than 10 facility buildings including laboratories, dormitories, seminar room, clinic, gymnasium, kitchen and dining room. Since its location in the peninsula, the weather in King Sejong Station is pretty mild where in the summer the temperature ranges from -5 to 5°C (it definitely is very cold in the winter though). 

The buildings at King Sejong station

Since the arrival on 16th December 2013, our life was pretty much about doing the same thing every day. We started our day with breakfast at 7:30 am before started the works on 8:00 am. Working time ended at 6:00 pm when dinner was served. However, most people would still do some works after dinner up to 9:00 pm or even at midnight. Every day is working day in King Sejong Station, with the exception for the 25th December, 1st January where we had half day off for both days, as well as during the lunar new year where we had 1 ½ days off.

We slept in a dorm, in a proper bed (like in boarding school), not in a tent or an igloo. Dorms are quite small, but there’s nothing to complain about since this is Antarctica. We did not have to cook by ourselves, but there were two cooks who prepared our foods 3 times a day. We had rice for every meal, even for breakfast. So, that was very much to my liking as I am used to eat rice 3 times a day too. The only slight hardship I had to endure was to transform myself to become a pseudo-vegetarian (pseudo as I did take eggs and seafood). Other foods and snacks were abundant so we could eat something between the main meals.

This modern ‘igloo’ was used to clean and process the samples before been transferred to laboratories

The dorm

The cooks that had always try hard to cater my pseudo-vegetarian needs

The rice is similar to Nasi Dagang Kelantan

Christmas dinner party in dining room

Basic facilities are very good in this station, to the point that sometimes I did not feel like living in Antarctica. Internet was very fast. Not as fast as the Streamyx or Unifi. But I was able to make Skype video call to Malaysia almost every morning (though it had to be very early before everyone woke up and used the allocated bandwidth at the same time).

We, the scientists were provided with our own work station in a well equipped laboratory. Basically the lab was where we spent most our time if no sampling to be done. Be it for laboratory works, other academic or research works, or even some sort of entertainments (e.g. movies or computer games), the laboratory was the place as it was quite comfortable.

Crowded but comfortable lab and work station

Apart from works, we also occasionally had a brief ‘getaway’ to the nearby areas. The main destinations for us were the Sejong peak and penguin area. Both could be reached within 1 to 2 hours time. The visit to these areas helped to lift our spirit and to prevent us from boredom after carried out the same routines for many days.

Difficult and boring it may sound for some people, but for us, our time in King Sejong station was a memorable one. Even for myself, with difficulties in terms of foods and language, I still feel that the 7 weeks over there was very short. Wish I could go to Antarctica again next time.

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