A lifestyle traditionally so different to most, Narelle Campbell shares her experience with the Manning River Times on working in Antarctica and the similarities to life in lockdown.
Between growing up in Wingham and moving to Harrington in 2015 where she lives today, Narelle has had four deployments and has spent a total of five years in Antarctica. She has been station leader at all four Antarctic stations - Mawson in 2008, Casey in 2010, Macquarie Island in 2012 and Davis Station in 2014.
"Each deployment was between 12 to 17 months with no visits home during deployment periods," Narelle said.
"After a period of time on a station, boredom can set in, missing loved ones, the feeling of having to continually adhere to rules and procedures, unable to be with family for significant events are all quite common and can have a major psychological impact on an individual."
If someone feels lonely or sad or anxious in isolation that is very normal and even though you see people out and about riding bikes and walking dogs it does not mean they don't feel the same.Narelle Campbell, former Antarctic resident
During her time in Antarctica, Narelle said it is the people who are staying busy, calling loved ones, learning hobbies and staying connected who get through the tough times.
"To get out and get the sun on your face, or sit in the garden, or walk three houses down and back, that actually changes the boring routine you are having at home," Narelle said.
While these strategies help. Narelle came back to the importance of community and working as a team in times of crisis.
"Occasionally conflict can't be resolved and when this occurs you reiterate the importance of a supportive and functioning community," Narelle said.
"When issues arise and are unable to be resolved immediately due to the nature of the issue we ensure it doesn't become the main focus day in day out. Updates are provided, questions answered, then we get on with things until the next updates are provided."
Social media platforms can be very useful when following the official news during COVID times, Narelle said, however she stays well away from reading individual comments as it can have an immensely negative effect on the community.
"There might be 30 assumptions and not one of them could be correct but people are consuming them anyway."
When reflecting on her four deployments in Antarctica, Narelle said that despite the obvious challenges that they faced, everyone returned home a much better person with more resilience, patience and tolerance.
During the winter months there is an average of 18 personnel on station with a range of ages, diverse backgrounds and experiences, while in summer, there are approximately 100 at the two busiest stations, Narelle said.
My winter at Casey there were 22 males and just me.
The female to male ratio varies between stations but in general the summer holds 30 percent female and 70 percent male. While the winter has up to 25 percent female and 75 percent male.
"The Australian Antarctic Division aims to employ a mix of ages and gender where possible as this provides a good healthy balance within teams.
"Winter teams however are mainly made up of trades personnel which in general attracts male applicants, there are a few female mechanics, plumbers and electricians employed."
Narelle is "semi-retired" but is still involved with the Australian Antarctic Division. She is on the Station Leader Selection panel, reviewing applications and recruiting station leaders.
She explains station leaders have overall responsibility of all personnel, ensuring infrastructure and science projects are supported and completed, safety, incident management, plant equipment and transport - aircraft, hagglunds, boating (within station surrounds, station to station, station to Tasmania).
The Antarctic Treaty was adopted by 12 nations including Australia, to ensure Antarctica was used for 'peaceful purposes.'
It entered into force in 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations. The total number of parties to the treaty is now 53.
Some important provisions of the Treaty:
- Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only
- Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end ... shall continue
- Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available
Earlier this year, Narelle announced the awards of the Harrington Australian Day function with Crowdy Head Chamber of Commerce chairman Mike Parsons.
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