The BBC World Service just broadcast an amazing radio documentary on the experience of isolation – talking to people who have experienced intense remoteness from other humans including polar base residents, astronauts, prisoners and people who completed the Mars-500 simulated mission.
Firstly, it’s just beautiful. If there’s such a thing as an ambient documentary, this comes sublimely close to achieving it at times.
But the programme is also a fascinating look at the subjective psychology of separation.
A doctor explains how it feels to see the last plane leaving an Antarctic research base for nine months of separation from the rest of the world.
A British drug smuggler explains what it was like to be sent to an Argentine prison when he spoke no Spanish – unable to communicate with anyone.
Astronaut Al Worden has been the most isolated human in history, during his time on a Apollo mission, and explains the experience of ultimate remoteness.
The programme reminded me of another form of modern isolation the 21st century hermits who hide themselves away due to fear of the effects of modern technology – like the mythical ‘health damaging effects of WiFi’.
An article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine made the comparison between these modern day hermits with their ancient brethren.
The World Service documentary is wonderful, however. As is normal with the internet-impaired BBC Radio pages, you have to get the podcast from a completely different page but you’re probably better off downloading the mp3 directly.