In retrospect, I was suffering from fatigue and altitude sickness (the pole is about 9300 ft.) Both affect one’s problem solving abilities. They can also cause confusion, and I was definitely confused the day I got lost while walking from the shower building to my room.
My room was in a blue Quonset Hut as shown. Each Quonset Hut had eight very small rooms. I was surprised to discover that all the rooms were bedrooms and that the bathroom was in a separate building about 2 books away. Since it was about -20 degrees C (-50 degrees with windchill) I could not make a dash to the potty in my gown and slippers. I was issued a large empty food can to use during the night or when ever. The can came with instructions that contents were to be emptied in the toilet each day and not on the ground.
It was December, which is summertime at the South Pole. During summer the Sun never set. Instead, it moved around the sky at about the same altitude above the horizon 24/7.Much of my fatigue was due to being up so late. My watch read 3 am, but with so much sunlight my body was confused. One sleeps at night (after sunset). Taking care of my potty needs before retiring, I left the bathhouse and heading for my room. I’ve never figured out what went wrong. I entered my building and opened the sliding door to what I thought was my room.
I felt like one of the three bears–“Someone was sleeping in my bed.”
Quickly closing the door, I stood in the hall trying to figure out where my room was.
Had I entered the wrong building?
Each building had two doors, one on each end. Had I entered the wrong end of the building?
I tried other buildings. I tried the doors to all the buildings. By now I was about to sit in the snow and cry when I decided that I would return to the bathhouse and start over. Thankfully the bathhouse was in site. Never thought to go half-way and start from there. NO! I had to return to the bathhouse, go in, then exit the building again. This time before I started walking, I found what in my mind was the Quonset Hut where I had been assigned a room.
With my mind focused on the task of walking to my building, I entered, and then walked to closed door I prayed would be my room. Slid open the door.
I didn’t realize how stress I was until the room in front of me had my stuff in it. I was flooded with relief and tears. I got into bed and curled into a fetal position. Don’t remember taking my parka and boots off. May have slept in them.
The experience had been like a nightmare. While I was lost only in my mind, the panic attacks I had were real. I felt like I was in danger. From what? Nothing identified, just an over whelming feeling of danger.
There were phones in the hall of each building. Why didn’t I call for help? Never thought about it. Was too terrified and confused. You can bet that I was more alert when outdoors after that experience. I also, took notice of the time. I needed sleep even if my body got confused about the 24/7 continuous sunshine.
Science Around the World identifies and describes different biomes.