Winterer's wife - Glenda
For how long was your husband George away from home?
George was away from home for a total of 18 months, with 14 months 'down south'.
Did he look different when he came back?
No - apart from being extremely pale-skinned.
What did you find hardest about his absence?
The loneliness was hard. Going to functions on my own and trying to maintain things around the house and yard. And, living in a small country town, there were times when I felt quite vulnerable, as everyone knew that my husband was away; people (some of whom I barely knew) were constantly asking after George. Friends and acquaintances who inquired after my well-being (plus our daughters') were much appreciated.
How different was the household into which he returned from the one he left? In what ways was it different?
Quite different because when George left, Natasha, our elder daughter was living away from home and studying at uni. Our younger daughter, Kerstin, was also away at that stage, doing a course at TAFE. When he returned they were both working and living back home.
Do you think you gained anything from his Antarctic stint?
I gained a wealth of knowledge of living and working in Antarctica, which was previously unknown to me. I also became more confident in making decisions on my own.
Did you discuss strategies for coping with separation before he left?
Not as much as we should have, although George probably took for granted that I would be comforted by the fact I had our daughters living with me, and had other family nearby. We both agreed that we would always attempt to be honest in our communication.
What advice or hints would you give to someone else in your position?
Make the effort to meet fellow expeditioners, prior to departure. It was good to put faces to the names of those who shared this experience with my husband. It was also interesting to speak with this 'extended family' of George's throughout the year. Communicate regularly, even though this can be quite time-consuming (not to mention expensive). Email is very good and is a cheaper option.
How do you think he coped with the separation?
Perhaps too bravely - he preferred not to let us know if he was having problems, either personal or station-related. However, I guess that's the way he found it best to cope, by not upsetting those at home with his problems.
How do you think the children coped with the separation?
The girls generally coped well with occasional sad times. They also felt the added responsibility of caring for me in the absence of my mate. For example, they would feel guilty on Saturday nights when they would go out and leave me at home watching football on TV. My football knowledge greatly increased in 1996!
How long did it take to readjust to him being home? What sort of things did you do to help each other and the children readjust?
It took about two to three months to readjust. We spent a fortnight together in Tasmania on his return, and this helped to ease us back together into family life, before facing up to home and its responsibilities.
In retrospect, would you do anything differently?
Spend more time together before coming home to the barrage of visits from family, friends and non friends. Also, George returned to his job at TAFE immediately, and we now know that he should have taken some time to settle back into life in general before going back to work.
What do you think of the British policy (in place until quite recently) of only sending single men to the Antarctic?
I think it's discriminatory towards both men and women - single men would still be leaving behind loved family and friends, with the inevitable associated emotions and problems.
Do you think that such a separation can damage relationships?
Yes, particularly if there are existing problems.
What was easiest in not having him around? What was most difficult?
Easiest - being able to say yes or no to invitations without consulting George and keeping regular contact with my family and friends.
Hardest - loneliness. And little things like remembering to check tyre pressures and even the petrol gauge on the car, before embarking on a trip. Also maintenance of our home, garden and motor vehicles.
What was your greatest fear about him going to Antarctica for a year?
That something traumatic could happen, either down south or here at home.
How would you feel about him going again?
Having coped once, I know I could again. Although, I'm not sure that it would be any easier second time round.