After being isolated for six months, scientists in Antarctica began to develop their own dialect

It was a suitably icy farewell: a handful of snowballs streaked across the sky towards RSS Ernest Shackleton as the ship slid away from the dock. The ship was sailing through the stormy Southern Ocean, leaving 26 intrepid people behind on a snow-covered island at the frozen tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Those waving goodbye from the shore were watching their last tangible link to the rest of the world slip through the frigid waters. They have six months of winter ahead of them, effectively stranded, on the coldest continent on the planet.

“They say it's faster to get to someone on the ISS than to medically evacuate someone from Antarctica in the winter,” says Marlon Clarke, one of those international researchers and the remaining 26 support staff at the British Antarctic Survey. Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island… km2) frozen landscape. “So, you're isolated,” Clark says. “There is a lot of mystery and mythology about ‘Antarctic winter.’ The strongest feeling was anticipation as well as the realization, ‘Okay, this is real, I’m going to be here for a very long time.’”

For the next 26 weeks of near-constant darkness and harsh weather, Clarke and his fellow residents of Rothera worked, ate and socialized with each other with almost no connection to home. Satellite phone calls are expensive and are therefore used sparingly. With each other only for company and limited entertainment on base, the “winters,” as they were called, would talk to each other—a lot.

“We would talk to each other while working, on breaks, playing pool, or in our rooms,” says Clark, who helped coordinate the winter recording batch. “We had to learn each other's stories very quickly. There were a lot of conversations about the weather — those high winds we had, the sea ice, the icebergs, the clouds. We were very comfortable with each other.” Their common language was English, which was full of slang words unique to Antarctic research stations – more on this later.

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Amidst all this talk, something surprising happened: their accents were changing.

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