IFOA: You’ve been interested in Roald Amundsen’s adventures since boyhood. How did you originally stumble upon his stories?
Ruzesky: I am an Amundsen through maternal lines, and he is our family’s claim to fame. He visited my mother’s farm and gave my great grandfather a compass which my mom used for show and tell in school, so I was probably imagining his adventures before most kids hear about Peter Pan.
IFOA: What’s one thing you and Amundsen have in common, and one way in which you are different?
Ruzesky: We have in common a feeling of belonging in the polar regions. I don’t know what it says about me that I felt at home in Antarctica (a place as geographically hostile to humans as you can get), but I did. A difference is that I am nowhere near as tough as he was. He skied into -50 degree winds for days in a row, and, with his crew, hauled tons of supplies up a glacier to the Antarctic plateau. I wouldn’t have the endurance.
IFOA: What’s your favourite thing about travelling by water?
Ruzesky: Maybe it’s the mariner’s genes I have—I don’t get seasick even in rough water. No doubt that was an advantage in Antarctica.
IFOA: Who is your favourite poet?
Ruzesky: Depends on the hour and the day: Sharon Olds, P.K. Page, Michael Ondaatje, Don Coles, and bp Nichol.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: Next time I’ll bring…
Ruzesky: I’ll bring a good portable audio recorder. I didn’t want to see Antarctica only through a lens, so I thought long and hard about it and then left my film equipment at home. I brought a small digital camera and got some quite good photos with that. What I had not thought enough about is what a powerful aural landscape Antarctica is. There are no planes flying overhead, no trucks on a far highway. There is only the sound of a whale spout way in the distance—like someone catching their breath; or the noise of 20,000 chinstrap penguins raising a flap. Those are sounds I wish I would have been able to record.
Ruzesky will appear at Authors at Harbourfront Centre as part of the Ben McNally Travellers Series on March 13.