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Coronavirus lockdown is a 'culture shock' for NI postmaster Kit Adams after stint in Antarctica

Co Down man Kit says he feels more isolated here than remote Antarctica

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Kit Adams in Antarctica

Kit Adams in Antarctica

Kit Adams in Antarctica

He has worked in one of the most desolate places on Earth.

But Kit Adams said he feels more isolated on returning to a Northern Ireland that bears no resemblance to the one he left just a few months ago.

When the Co Down man departed his native Newcastle for a stint as a postmaster at Port Lockroy in Antarctica, the main concern back home was the effect Brexit would have on the border between north and south.

Now, however, the entire island is in lockdown due to the coronavirus epidemic and 26-year-old Kit, who came home at the end of March, told the Belfast Telegraph that it has been a challenge trying to adapt to the culture shock of post-Covid Northern Ireland.

"It's strange, but in many respects I have stronger feelings of isolation back home in Co Down than I had when I was living in one of the least populated places on the planet," he said.

"Even in Antarctica, we actually had quite a few people coming and going. We had cruise ships regularly visiting, with 300 people at a time passing through [Goudier Island].

"It's hard to believe but I see fewer people now I'm home!

"Here, however, it's all about making the best of a bad situation and seeing the good where it is."

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The Port Lockroy team of Kit, Vicky, Lauren and Lucy
with Goudier Island in the background

The Port Lockroy team of Kit, Vicky, Lauren and Lucy with Goudier Island in the background

The Port Lockroy team of Kit, Vicky, Lauren and Lucy with Goudier Island in the background

Since his return to Northern Ireland, Kit has been enjoying spending time with dad Colin, an estate agent, conservation volunteer mum Janette and brother Nick (24), who is also back home having left his former job in the Swiss Alps.

"You become fantastically close to people you're away with and then everybody goes their separate ways so it's nice to be back with family," he said.

The young adventurer, who already had three Arctic expeditions under his belt before he left for the other pole, said the experience more than lived up to his expectations.

"It was fantastic - I could have stayed a bit longer if it had been an option but we had to come back before winter set in," he said.

Perhaps surprisingly, the geography graduate said he was not on his own "that often" when he was there.

"We had some trouble getting in initially because of sea ice and at the start of the season we were iced in so we didn't see anybody else for a week," he said.

"We had to gather bits of icebergs and melt it down for water.

"We'd only been on the island for a few days when the wind direction changed and it blew a load of ice close to the island and none of the ships could get in, but we managed."

At that point, there were only six of them there, but later there were "various people coming and going from conservators to electricians and other workers".

Being postmaster in such a remote part of the world was "quite interesting", according to Kit, whose job entailed sending missives "all over the world".

"It was always a surprise where things went to from here," he said.

"Tourists coming to the island sent mostly postcards or letters, staff sent stuff to family and friends and people also wrote to us from all over the world asking us for information about various things."

He added: "We all received stuff as well from family and friends which was nice."

Kit admitted that he pined for nothing while he was gone.

"It sounds bad but there really wasn't an awful lot I missed," he added. "It was warm, dry and there was lots of chocolate."

The lack of normality he now faces at home is "a bit strange", Kit explained.

"You go away and you come back with all these grand plans to go travelling or something..." he said.

"And then I found myself in a not too dissimilar situation than I was in Antarctica."

But he certainly sounds happy enough.

"It's really not that bad," Kit said. "You can still get outside, you can go for a run, you can do various forms of exercise that I just couldn't do in Antarctica so in many ways it's easier.

"When we were in Antarctica it was 97 days before two of us left the island for the first time."

He added: "There are more opportunities here at home - you can go for a run or a cycle. I suppose it's what you make of it, really."

Although Kit, who has a Master's degree in polar and alpine change, initially said it would be "tough" to single out the best bit of his Antarctic adventure, he subsequently revealed one special memory which will be hard to surpass.

"We got to kayak around the island on Christmas Day which was pretty special," he said.

"It meant that we could see the island from a different perspective."

Recalling a December 25 like no other during his stint at the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust's post office, Kit said he did not even miss not getting the usual turkey dinner.

"There was a little bit of snow on Christmas morning, then it cleared and it was a real blue sky day," he said. "We started cooking the Christmas dinner and we had an offer to borrow kayaks from a ship that was in the area so we borrowed those, put the Christmas cooking on hold, left it on the hob and went kayaking around the island."

Not many people ever get up close and personal to the penguin population, but Kit can now be counted among their number.

"The chicks are inquisitive and would go into buildings if you left doors open too long," he said.

"Some of the adults are a bit less friendly, and more protective. But they're fantastically funny to watch; I don't think you could ever get bored watching them and we were literally surrounded by them the whole time."

Four months in one of the world's most remote locations must be hard to follow. Asked what's next on the agenda, Kit replied: "I really don't know.

"You can have all these grand plans and ideas and then a virus throws a spanner in the works.

"I wanted to see some places that I'd never been before. Now I'm sorting through photographs from being away."

Kit said he would "love to" go back to what must be one of the coolest destinations he has ever visited.

"We'll see how thing span out for next November," he mused.

"The trust has said they'll be choosing people who've been before to go back ... so I'll possibly throw my hat into the ring."

Belfast Telegraph