2019年10月,破冰船RVPolarstern坐在中央北冰洋上的厚海冰中陷入了厚厚的海冰 - 唯一的地标在广阔的虚无的内容中。另一个破冰船,Akademik Fedorov,慢慢接近,拖运一大堆耗材和人员。科学家和船员排队了每艘船的阳台,抓住冰块的横骑师,因为它们在空隙上凝视着。他们可以看到他们的同事的微笑面,只需站起来 - 但他们分开了两个时光。

At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless. It’s simultaneously all of Earth’s time zones and none of them. There are no boundaries of any kind in this abyss, in part because there is no land and no people. The sun rises and sets just once per year, so “time of day” is irrelevant as well.

Yet there rests the怪异,故意锁在冰上一年来衡量该冰,它下方的海洋的各个方面以及上面的天空。这艘船充满了来自20个国家的100人,漂流在冰川的怜悯中,比国际空间站更远。我一直从内陆科罗拉多州远程支持使命的通信,其中时间稳定。我的世界是与外星人对比的困惑,船的科学家们的生活和工作在 - 那里的时间职能,而且感觉与地球上的其他地方不同。


Since the expedition began last September, thePolarstern’s time zone has shifted more than a dozen times. When theAkademik FedorovandPolarstern并排停放,他们仍然分开。但没有别人在数百内of miles in all directions and with no cues from the permanently dark sky, the very concept of a time “zone” seemed meaningless.

At Earth’s other pole, time zones are quirky but rooted in utility. In Antarctica there is land and dozens of research stations scattered across thousands of square miles. At most stations, permanent buildings house laboratories, living quarters and social spaces. Each mini civilization has adopted its own time zone that corresponds with the home territory that built each place.

At the North Pole, it’s all ocean, visited only rarely by an occasional research vessel or a lonely supply ship that strayed from the Northwest Passage. Sea captains choose their own time in the central Arctic. They may maintain the time zones of bordering countries—or they may switch based on ship activities. Sitting here in my grounded office, it is baffling to think about a place where a single human can decide to create an entire time zone at any instant.

去年秋天Polarstern船长每周将时区推迟一小时,六周,与传入俄罗斯的船舶同步,遵循莫斯科时间。随着每班,船长调整了散落在船上的自动时钟。研究人员停下来观看模拟时钟的手,向后旋转。每次发生变化时,它都会追踪基于时钟的通信 - 在冰上部署的仪器之间的微妙平衡,在船上的研究人员之间,以及他们之间的家庭及其家庭及其家庭和同事。


If drifting without established time zones isn’t alienating enough for people onboard, add the unsettling reality that there is no time of day either. What we think of as a single day, flanked by sunrise and sunset, happens just once per year around the North Pole. So I can’t help but wonder: Does a single day up North last for months? Is a year just a day long? ThePolarsternwas engulfed by darkness in October after a three-week-long sunset—just as the other pole saw the first bits of a three-week sunrise after months of black.

极夜接管后,只有relentless darkness. Looking out from the ship's deck, a person sees a horizonless cavity—unless it is dotted by needles of light spouting from the headlamps of a couple of distant human beings at work—an otherworldly scene not unlike being on the moon.

Inside the ship is just as bizarre. How can 100 people function if there is no day, no night, no morning, no evening? The voice of the German ship captain blasting over an intercom system is the sound of a wake-up call at 8 A.M.—whenever “8 A.M.” happens to be. People file into the mess hall for meals, held at predetermined intervals. Scientists head out to the ice to check on equipment or meet in laboratories at equally rigid periods. The ship operates like a windup toy, disconnected from the spinning of the planet, which normally dictates time. “Time” is just an operational ritual, intended to create the illusion of regularity.

When scientists’ fingers are warm enough, they may occasionally send a limited satellite text to their bustling worlds far away. Communication with friends and colleagues who are in dozens of time zones involves convoluted time conversions—a reminder that the people on the ship are in suspended animation. A fleeting text message is only a momentary connection to a distant existence.


The only thing that truly reminds the team that time still ticks forward is data collection. Research instruments dot the frozen landscape around the ship, collecting measurements of the ice, the ocean, the sky—all on Coordinated Universal Time, which is based, ironically, on the position of the sun relative to Earth. The science, however, progresses undisturbed. Data collection has followed its own time since thePolarstern去年9月被抛弃,从人类忍受的精神鞭打中解放出来。对于船上的人,监控曾经的进步数据给他们一个前向箭头的感觉。否则,这种感觉只能带有生长的面部头发 - 以及鲜面包的气味:当气味穿过船时,它必须是“星期天”。

When scientists leave the怪异,他们经历了真正的永恒。有些乐器在冰上设定数英里,仅通过直升机到达。在航班期间,研究人员看着窗外的航班太暗无法判断地面有多远 - 或者而是漂浮在海洋上的冰是。直升机将它们放在表面上并再次起飞,张开叶片的声音褪色到距离。然后这是真正的沉默。所有的时间都无关紧要。研究人员可能会被挤在一起,他们的前照灯在黑暗中创造了一个小小的光芒,如宇航员漂浮在太空中。他们的头部从寒冷中捆绑着束缚,所以他们听到的只是对自己的心跳。那个节奏成为追踪时间传递的唯一有形措施。


What Matters May Be Experience

我的第一个只有几个电话来自科罗拉多州的船舶涉及数周的规划和尝试,并没有与卫星驾驶一起连接,在那里可以在任何时刻吹过或在雪下埋葬。当我终于建立联系时,我屏住呼吸并听取一个微弱的戒指,然后是一个漫长的冷暂停。俄罗斯收音机的糟糕的哈士奇声音回答,“RV怪异,this is Igor.”

A few weeks later I worked to organize a San Francisco–based press conference for the expedition. Our goal: connect journalists with ship-based researchers by phone in real time. Logistics meant connecting with colleagues in five time zones on land while trying to nail down the “time” of a ship that could drift into another time zone at any instant. It felt like throwing darts blindfolded at a moving target.

We pulled it off, and soon after I was on a plane home. When the wheels hit the tarmac, I grabbed my phone to text my husband that I had landed safely. When I toggled off airplane mode, I saw the time jump from 8 P.M. to 9 P.M. in an instant. Time is weird everywhere.

Maybe time is defined not by numbers or zones or the spinning of Earth—but by what we experience. When I entered my house, I was eagerly greeted by my dogs. I fed them their dinner—their favorite “time” of day. Right about then, researchers on the ship were eating a bowl of warm oats before hitting the ice—“time” to check those instruments again.