I thought that I would do a very different blog post today. Instead of writing what I do I will write about how I feel. I was re-reading my grandfather’s diaries and letters the other day and I was impressed how similar his feelings were many years ago.
To sum it up – it is a bittersweet combination. On the one hand, you are totally excited and happy to be in Antarctica, see amazing sceneries, penguins, and so on. These trips do not come that often and doing fieldwork while here fills it up with a sense of purpose. I totally share my grandfather’s sentiment that doing work in Antarctica makes the trip much more meaningful.
On another hand, there’s a whole life you left behind, with your family and friends who you miss dearly. It was much harder for my grandfather to reach out than it is for me, but there is still that sense of isolation and even desperation that you feel sometimes. And I totally agree with my grandfather – when things are going badly with fieldwork you miss home much more.
So here are a few quotes that touched me the most in my last read of dedushka Vitaly’s journals:
21 ноября 1959 года
Долго сидел на верхней палубе, смотрел на море и небо и курил. Как-то там сейчас дома, все дальше от которого увозит меня "Обь"... Увидят ли мои мальчишки то, что привелось увидеть их отцу? Поселится ли в них этот беспокойный дух путешествий, желание побольше видеть? Я ещё ничего не фотографировал, считая, что пока мало впечатлительного для плёнки. Может быть ошибаюсь? Во всяком случае аппарат завтра надо бы зарядить...
November 21, 1959
I set on the upper deck for while smoking and watching the sea and the sky. I wonder how things are at home as I’m traveling further away on my ship Ob’… Would my boys ever get to see the things I get to see on this trip? Would they even have this restless feeling of adventure and an interest to see more? I haven’t taken any pictures yet thinking that it is not significant enough for a film. Am I wrong? I should probably load up the film into my camera tomorrow.
Funny he mentions the adventurous spirit of his offspring. The first thing my dad said when I told him I’m going to Antarctica for the first time (a few years ago) was “why not me?”. Growing up with a penguin does this to you ;)
8 марта 1960 года
Думаешь порой - чёрт дернул тебя в эту Антарктиду, да еще так надолго. Особенно, как мне показалось думается так когда мало работы, когда прошла какая-либо размолвка с товарищами по работе или по дому - ведь все мы люди, а у людей есть один весьма существенный в здешних условиях недостаток - нервы. Очень мешают в Антарктиде эти с нашей точки зрения лишние придатки...
March 8, 1960
And sometimes you think – why the hell did I decide to go as far as Antarctica and for so long? These thoughts mainly appear when there is not enough work or when you had a fight with your colleagues or a misunderstanding with the loved ones back home – we are all people after all. And as people we all have a big disadvantage – our emotions. These “supplementary” things often get in the way in Antarctica…
This is very true – emotions do get in the way. Although I would not disregard them as “supplementary”, sometimes it makes it harder to work in a highly stressful environment and ACE cruise was not an exception in that regard. However, I am happy to say that leg 2 of our journey feels less stressful to me than leg 1 was. I also did not find a connection between not having enough work and being more emotional, maybe because I never found myself in a situation of not enough work during either legs on ACE. I keep thinking that if I have some spare time I will read some papers I need to read for a manuscript I am writing, fill out a form for my project report or code. Instead of that even ACE things keep piling up on me – there is too much to be done…
I went to boot camp yesterday for the first time in a long time (and I totally felt that I skipped so many exercise classes, I need them to function!). It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm and we were exercising out on the heli deck. I wish I could do it regularly!
23 марта 1961 года
Борт д/э "Обь".
Впереди Кейптаун! Сожалеем о том, что опять во второй раз приходим в этот порт. А так хорошо было бы зайти в новые места в Австралию, скажем, или в Южную Америку! Интересно, приятно для биографии (ведь осталось только два не посещённых из шести континентов) да и полезно в прозаическом смысле: Кейптаун - это далеко не торговый рай.
March 23, 1961 on board Ob'
Cape town is ahead! We are sorry that we are going through Cape Town port again. It would have been good to visit other places, such as Australia or even South America! It is interesting and nice for my life story (these are the only two continents out of six I did not visit). It also would have been useful too – Cape Town shopping is not that great.
So many comments I want to leave here! First of all – funny how my dedushka envisioned ACE expedition visiting all these ports he was dreaming about. Secondly, South America is going to be my last visited continent as well. I am not sure though if my grandfather ever visited North America, so his comment of the only two continents left is a little deceiving. I know he lived in Eurasia, went to Antarctica through Africa, but I do not remember any family stories about North America where my family happens to live now so many years later.
Thirdly, Cape Town has gone a long way since 1961, the pier area is now one big shopping mall. Besides, it is not that important nowadays as the “deficit” era of the Soviet Union is in the past.
Times change while the adventure spirit of my family stays strong I guess…
And since I'm talking about my grandfather so much – here’s a picture he took from his ship. I have to say the scenery has not changed much:
Funny how I started the post with saying I will write about my feelings and spent most of it translating my grandfather’s diaries. I think there is a big difference in a way he wrote his letters and journal entries and me blogging. My blog is public – this makes it harder for me to express myself as openly as he did. It also makes it really hard to write about other people, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I might have already inadvertently hurt someone and I do apologize for that. I really enjoy the company of my colleagues on board, I hope those of them who get to read it will know this. I think we are a great bunch and we find ways to work together, not “against” each other, which is great. Our expedition is unusual in respect to many different people with various backgrounds and interests using the limited resources we have and we do make it work.