connectivity

There are many perils in modern life – living and working being two of the most obvious. Trying to do both without the internet is increasingly difficult.

I am sat in my favourite café – the Ramos Generales in Ushuaia. Sited in an old shop/warehouse it is lined with beautiful (if dusty) shelves full of objects from an earlier age and has the best bread by far in town in addition to good beer and steak. What more does a man need, apart from the internet? Nothing, today, anyway.

My relationship with the net began many moons ago, but only recently has it taken over – I’m addicted to it, making it almost impossible to function when I can’t get on line. Even Facebook. Even Facebook. Damn that Mark Zuckerberg and all his clever ideas. Friends despair – many eschew FB, but I just find it too useful to give up.

Consider my position. My current, and in fact my last two job offers came to me as Facebook messages. OUT OF THE BLUE. Just like that. ‘Gerard, do you want to winter at Halley?’ wrote the British Antarctic Survey HR person. ‘Hey Gerard, do you want to come and work for me? ‘ said Susan, my great current boss. Of course, I said yes to both.

Even one of my books came to me as an offer in Facebook.

Working on a ship in the Antarctic as I do, we have intermittent access to the net – it works most of the time, just slower. It's a little like going back to dial up. Remember those days? Waiting for the phone signal to beep beep its way through to a remote server. However did we cope?

To be fair, we have little need for the net on the ship, really. I mean, how connected do we need to be – what is it that makes out lives need to share our posts with friends and family constantly? Being on board can, like being on a research station, can leave you a little cut off, but is that a bad thing? No, not really. I was musing to my colleagues this morning that when I first went to Rothera research station in 1996, my internet allowance was nil. Nada. We had only two named contacts that we were allowed to send just a page of A4 text to a week. That had only recently gone up from 150 words per month by telex. Imagine that – it’s not much more than a tweet.

Following my first winter, coming home in 2000 one of the biggest changes to day to day life was the prefix WWW. It took a while to work out what had changed.

Still, even with that limitation, it is sometimes hard to write about the day to day events that fill one’s life. I could write about breaking through the sea ice on the ship, watching emperor penguins or beaked whales, visiting Horseshoe Island deep in Marguerite bay…but that would be boring right?

It is interesting to read messages that friends post when I put pics of my travels on line. Many of them are incredibly kind and interesting, and I am flattered that anyone follows me at all.

I recently found out that one of my oldest friends is too scared to travel outside Europe and in fact always has been. I still haven’t found out why to be honest. When he told me, I proposed that he must think me insane for doing what I do. He said yes, he did. For my part, I’m glad the insanity has stayed with me for as long as it has. One day my reality might well change and I will clean up my act and be normal. But for the time being, I’ll happily continue to travel on his behalf.