Winterer's daughters - Natasha and Kerstin

Sisters Natasha and Kerstin talked together about their father's absence while he was in Antarctica and the effect it had on themselves and their mum.

What did you find hardest about dad's absence?

The general feeling of distance and losing the real contact you get when you see someone on a regular basis. And worrying about mum being lonely.

Family events like Christmas, birthdays and when things went wrong because he would normally fix everything. 

The easiest thing about not having around all the time was we could watch whatever we wanted on TV, and have music as loud as we like. I could have the TV and stereo as loud as I wanted and there was less washing to do. The hardest thing was having no handyman around, leaving mum when we went out, worrying about his safety and mum coping.

Do you think you gained anything from his Antarctic stint?

I gained lots of knowledge and insight into his experience, along with appreciation of the scientific research being done. I also developed greater respect for my dad in regards to both his technical skills and his capacity to manage people.

Did you discuss strategies for coping with separation before he left?

No, not really … just gave dad a few lectures about behaving and keeping in close contact with us.

What advice or hints would you give to someone else in your position?

Be prepared for lots of adjustments… both when they first leave and when they return. Remember all of the things that you are used to them managing around the home etc. and be sure you have other ways to deal with these things or other people to help.

Make an effort to get to know the people they are going away with before and be sure to keep in contact with other people on the expedition and not just your family member. It's good to hear stories from other angles and hear from others about how they perceive your family member as coping. And don't expect your family member to change all their ways and bad habits as a result of the expedition.

Be around family and friends on special occasions for support and company. And expect some wacky hairdos!

How do you think dad coped with the separation?

I personally do not think dad coped as well as he tried to convey to us but I guess this was all part of not having us worry about him. I guess I wonder how well he coped with the social side of it - in that I imagine there would have been a lot of pressure to join in social activities and usually dad is the kind of person that likes early nights, time to himself and easy withdrawal. I think he generally missed us a great deal but he made valuable friendships and this helped him manage the separation.

How do you think mum coped with the separation?

Mum is a very confident, independent person and she managed this very well. Mum was very constructive with the time she spent away from dad and was sure to keep herself busy with home renovations.

I do feel that mum indicated some jealousy feelings at times - these feelings seemed to arise in really basic situations such as dad being distracted on the phone by someone … taking his focus away from quality time with her. I also have no doubt that these feelings would have arisen when she heard about his active involvement with social activities, because at home he can be very reluctant to do things.

Who could blame these feelings?

I think mum coped well making decisions on her own. Also I think it was easier for her because Natasha and I, being older, gave her support and company and we could discuss problems together. This would not be so easy for someone who had to cope with young children for a year or more, alone.

Do you think that such a separation can damage relationships?

Yes, I do because people do change and time can see people grow apart, developing new interests and meeting different people.

What do you think of the British policy (in place until quite recently) of only sending single men to the Antarctic?

Very discriminatory - I do not agree.

What was your greatest fear about him going to Antarctica for a year?

I was worried something dramatic could happen at home. He might not be able to come home, or he might have an accident whilst away.

How would you feel about him going again?

I would support anything mum and dad had talked through well. I think I would prefer he went for a shorter period of time - say six months.

This page was last modified on January 23, 2014.