For the past nine months you’ve been on an ice-encased island north of the Arctic Circle. You’re with only one other person. You’ve spent three months in total darkness. The nearest human beings are 140 km away. You have no electricity or running water and you’re cold. And, of course, there are polar bears about. You miss your family and friends but you decide to stay until the fall because you have important scientific and ecological work to do here.
One advantage is that there’s no COVID-19 in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard where two women Hilde Falun Strom and Sunniva Sorby have decided to remain through the summer. You can read all their fascinating story here.
Hilda and Sunniva wave at passing traffic. Photo: Hearts on the Ice Project.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Antarctica is also COVID-free. It’s also the coldest place on earth. Antarctic is about to get colder because winter in on its way there. There are now about 80 bases on the continent, home to 5000 scientists, researchers, support staff, and the odd artist and writer. But according to Keri Nelson, Palmer Station’s administrator coordinator, “I really don’t think there’s a person here right now who isn’t grateful to be here, and to be safe … The bottom line is, this part of Antarctica is gorgeous. And it’s not hard at all to get used to, and thrive in a place this beautiful.”
Nelson and the others on the southernmost continent have been able to enjoy their library, gym, music room, cinema and high-fiving each other without fear of becoming ill. But in terms of the coronavirus, there was a close call that nearly brought the deadly disease to the Antarctic. Read about this story here.
This blog is written by Maura Hanrahan, the author of Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett. You are invited to subscribe to the blog by going to the Contact page, clicking the bars in the top right corner, and then clicking the small blue bar that says “following.” Then you’ll get an entry every couple of weeks or so delivered right to your inbox.