26th Jan 2019
Photo of ANTARCTICA AT NIGHT by Bhaskar Sarkar

I am an anaesthesiologist by profession, but a traveller at heart. For the last three years I have been travelling, balancing my job and my passion, finding time between my shifts and taking leaves to fulfil the needs of my wanderer soul. But, it wasn’t satiated with such limited intermittent excursions. So when this sudden unexpected opportunity came along, I decided to grab it with both hands and dive in headlong.

The Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was holding interviews to hire doctors for the team. This was it; the perfect opportunity to marry vocation with my passion, and I couldn’t let this go.

Antarctica. The Final Frontier. The Edge of the World. The White Desert. The Dream of Every Traveller.

Amidst the chilly barren landscape of this vast continent, there is an inherent peace – a peace that this hectic bustling modern lifestyle of ours denies us. The pristine acres of snowy white lands, the serene eternal silence of the desolate desert, the neutral smell of a pollution-free air – there is a sudden attack of a total sensory deprivation, which in turn, ironically, produces a paradoxical heightened awareness; because for all the astounding other-worldly beauty this place holds, it is in all essentiality an unforgiving land. Hidden meter-wide crevasses, slippery fast ice, highly rugged landscape, the fickle weather which can at any time morph into a blizzard peaking at over 100 knots – it is one spellbinding daunting adventure.

It opens up your clogged up mind, frees your soul. It gives you time to reflect, and find and understand your inner self. It unlocks the true you.

But for all the beauty the land holds, it is the Antarctic night sky that mesmerises me the most. The long winter months when we have 54 days of absolute darkness is pure bliss. With zero light and air pollution, the night sky sings to you. The billions of stars twinkling away in all its glory, with the crystal clear band of Milky way paving a way through the heavens – it is a vision to treasure. And just when you think you have gawked upwards long enough, a gentle flicker of the green Aurora dances into your field of view, and then slowly and steadily fill up the entire sky in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. Curtains of purple, pink, green and yellow shoot and wave all around the sky as you can just watch and stare in amazement.

Temperatures are frigid, the wind rough and the wind-chill has a nasty kick. For most of my photographic excursions, the wind-chill hovered between -40 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, where frostbite is a definite outcome within 10 minutes. But my love for photography, adventure and the night sky are too big a drive to brave it all.