Did you know there were Norwegians living in Antarctica?

At the Norwegian station Troll in Dronning Maud Land, as many as eight people spend the entire winter each year. The overwintering team is alone at the station for the eight long, dark months of winter. During this period, no planes fly to or from Troll.
The first overwintering team at Troll in 2005. Left to right: Olav Tåsåsen, Vibeke Hedanger Nissen, Ole Johannessen, Ole Torbjørn Lien, Arne Sommers, Morten Andreas Hansen and Arne Oddvar Bergdal.The first overwintering team at Troll after the station was opened for year-round use in 2005. Left to right: Olav Tåsåsen, Vibeke Hedanger Nissen, Ole Johannessen, Ole Torbjørn Lien, Arne Sommers, Morten Andreas Hansen and Arne Oddvar Bergdal. Photo: Arne Oddvar Bergdal / Norwegian Polar Institute

In the summer season, which lasts from November to February, Troll is a hive of activity. Everyone works long hours right up to the day when the last flight leaves Troll at the end of February. In the summer, the work involves keeping the station’s infrastructure running, other types of work that need doing at the station, and the all-important transportation tasks. In the winter, the team members are each in charge of their own specialties: there is a mechanic, a doctor, an electrician, a cook, maintenance technicians and research technicians. A station leader is chosen from among them. Women have been on the overwintering team several times, but most of the crew are men.

In the winter, Troll is physically cut off from the rest of the world, but there is a satellite link-up. The overwintering team can make phone calls and send e-mails, surf the internet and watch television. The station has many video games and a library. Both the gym and the distinctive surroundings outside the station attract many visits. If there is enough snow and not too much wind chill, ski trails are prepared, and right beside the station there is a hill that offers superb opportunities for telemark skiing. Troll has its own 10-peak challenge, in which participants climb ten different peaks in the vicinity of the station.

The food at Troll is as similar as possible to ordinary Norwegian fare. Provisions are bought for the station once a year, and three huge containers are stuffed with food enough to last an entire year. These containers are then shipped by boat to the ice edge and transported with convoys of tracked vehicles the last 300 kilometers up to the station. The fresh fruits and vegetables are gone early in the winter, and everyone must do without them until spring, when the first plane comes, in November.

Troll Station’s closest neighbor is the South African base Sanae IV, about 300 km away. Between Sanae and Troll is a broad ice stream that is dangerous to cross by snowmobile, so there are no neighborly visits. Troll is so totally isolated from the outside world that safety issues have high priority both at work and in leisure time. Anyone who gets injured has a doctor to turn to, but if the injury is really serious it may be necessary to evacuate the patient for specialist care. An emergency airlift from Troll to Cape Town in South Africa during the winter season is extremely challenging. Fire at the station is perhaps what the inhabitants fear most of all. There is an emergency station, to be used as a last resort, but a fire in the winter would nonetheless be disastrous.