Campbell Island overwintering soundtrack | Polarjournal
In the early 1990s, a walking tour by the Campbell Island station meteorologist. Image: DR / Peter Fisher

Two friends set meteorologist Peter Fisher’s personal wintering experience to music with the album Life on Sub-Antarctic Campbell Island – The Weather Station Years.

“It’s as if this music draws Campbell Island, its floral explosions, its animals… a beauty that very few people have had the privilege of observing over a long period of time,” explains New Zealand meteorologist Peter Fisher in an interview with PolarJournal. The music? It’s from the album Life on Sub-Antarctic Campbell Island – The Weather Station Years, released at the end of April. Twenty-two tracks by New Zealand musician Tony Parker with a road-movie rock sound. These two friends had known each other for a long time when, three years ago, they decided to co-produce the musical project.

Tony Parker has never been to Campbell, unlike Peter Fisher, who overwintered between 1994 and 1995 while on assignment for MetService, the equivalent of National Weather Service. “I put myself in Peter’s shoes, and he’s a mine of information, in addition to his experience,” says the musician. This world isn’t completely foreign to him either. When Peter Fisher overwintered, Tony Parker had send him mail parachuted onto the island by the air force, and they had a few conversations by radiotelephone.

Many of the island’s stories have helped him build his imagination. For example, the return ofa tiny endemic duck after the island’s liberation from rodents 20 years ago. Or the legend of Lady of the Heather, a woman who may have lived here in the 19th century. Then he immersed himself in impressions that convey “the magic of this place”, like having “a crested penguin in the kitchen”, or “finding a seal in his bed that wouldn’t move”.

The music is peppered with sounds recorded on site, taken from Peter Fisher’s peregrinations at the time. “A lot of it wasn’t useful because it was very windy,” the musician points out, “but it also allowed me to get into the subject.” You can hear a plane fly by, the crackle of a radio, “it’s the only music where you can hear a coded weather report in the background”, says Peter Fisher, “sometimes at three o’clock I’d turn on my radio to send the report to New Zealand. Everyone was asleep, the animals were screaming outside, this ritual was a bit like a beacon in the dark.”

The two friends were able to exchange ideas freely as they conceived the album. Tony Parker sent him his recordings to see if the music appealed to him when he was on the island. Three years in the making. “We weren’t in a hurry,” explains the musician, mainly a guitarist, but who also recorded himself on keyboard, drums and vocals, on sometimes soaring tunes.

Glide depicts the flight of albatrosses in the typical winds of the Southern Ocean. “For IsolationI tried to find out what it meant to be isolated,” he explains. “My first thought was of a sad, lonely song, but people who have stayed on Campbell Island for a long time explain that it was inspiring and fascinating.” Peter Fisher is delighted to have awakened his memories of the wintering and brought his recordings back to life, 30 years later: “Tony has succeeded in opening a door to this part of the world for those who don’t have access to it.”

Camille Lin, Polar Journal AG

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