You might think you'd go a little stir crazy stuck on a boat in the middle of a creaking frozen ocean with nothing but white all around.
Or you might think it would be the perpetual darkness of winter or the 24-hour daylight of summer that would drive you bonkers.
You'd be wrong. Every day something unexpected happens out on the Arctic Ocean where the ice is so thick, explorers once searched in vain thinking they would find land.
It might be as simple as waking up to the thrill of finding polar bear tracks next to the boat, as Masterton scientist Grant Redvers did recently, and being reminded that, even though you feel you are the only ones alive on an alien planet, this empty chilly place is the home of other powerful beings.
Nature might treat you to a spectacular light show in the sky one day then whip up a storm the next, leaving you listening anxiously to the ice squeezing and grinding on the hull and hoping your boat will withstand the pressure.
Redvers has become used to this magical world, but because of climate change he might leave it far sooner than planned. The ice has thinned and an expedition expected to last two years may be over in little more than one.
We have reached Redvers by satellite phone to catch up on the research expedition he is heading aboard the purpose-built polar schooner the Tara, formerly Sir Peter Blake's boat the Seamaster. Redvers talks about going nuts. The funny thing is, he hasn't. He had heard the darkness of winter could play havoc with the mind but says he has never felt stir crazy, even though the sun disappeared for months.
Instead, the isolation and lack of contact with the rest of the world gives you a sense of freedom, he says.
"To be out walking on the ice under a full moon, with Polaris, the North Star, directly overhead and the sea ice glowing with the reflection of the moonlight is magical and stunning beyond words.
"You really feel you're on another planet. That complete feeling of isolation, of living in our own icy, dark world up here."
Along with French and Russian crew members, and a couple of huskies, Redvers set off nearly a year ago on what was to be a two-year mission as part of Project Damocles, a European research programme investigating climate change in the Arctic, and coinciding with the International Polar Year.
The aim was to trap the boat in the ice and attempt the great arctic drift, which is the movement of the icecap clockwise around the North Pole by the wind generated trans-Arctic current. The plan was - and still is - to drift on the ice from one side of the frozen ocean to the other, reaching the North Pole in the middle and gathering scientific data on how the Arctic climate may be changing.
Not quite a year into the journey, the boat is drifting a lot faster than anticipated because the ice is thinner than expected, says Redvers.
While detailed analysis is yet to come from the numerous scientific activities carried out daily, the speed of the drift is telling.
He knows it has increased because this expedition has a comparison. In the late 1800s a Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, built a boat he called the Fram and embarked on a voyage to test his hunch it would be possible to drift across the Arctic ice on the ocean current.
Nansen's goal was to reach the North Pole but the drift was so slow and such halting progress made that after two years he left the ship and tried to walk the rest of the way. Conditions were such he had to turn back and he was eventually rescued.
The Tara was hoping to better Nansen and be the first boat to drift all the way to the North Pole but Redvers says, while they have broken the record and drifted further north than Nansen, reaching the pole is no longer looking likely.
The Fram made it as far as 85o56'N. Tara has made it to 88o32'N, which equates to about 280km further north but is still 160km from the Pole.
Because the drift has been twice as fast, everything's out of kilter. It's summer again now and snow which has accumulated on the ice is melting and forming pools so big the crew have to wear fishing waders and life jackets to get around outside in order to reach the scientific equipment set up around the boat.
"It would have been nice to get past 89o," muses Redvers. "We were hoping to get a little bit further north when it was colder because we might have had the opportunity to walk to the pole. It wasn't really one of the main objectives of the expedition, just sort of a nice bonus to get there if we got close enough, so we were a bit disappointed but not really too disheartened."
The real intent of this mission is the science. Aside from the fast drift, another sign the climate is changing is the size of the ice ridges. A hundred years ago Nansen saw ice pressure ridges 10m high. The largest the crew on the Tara are seeing are only half that size.
"This relates to the ice thickness so we're seeing quite obvious on-the-ground evidence of the thinning of the Arctic ice," says Redvers.
Initially, the team thought the boat would become free from the ice toward the end of next year. Now, they think this could happen as soon as January or early February.
The results from last winter's scientific experiments and data are due to trickle out in the coming months. After a flurry of scientists from around the world coming and going - one of the toughest jobs was building an aeroplane runway on the ice - Redvers is back to a basic crew again and enjoying the relative quiet.
They will still be busy, carrying on with the many tests, such as using hi-tech equipment to collect data from 2000m above the ice and oceanographic soundings to 4000m below, all the while watching over their shoulders for polar bears.
Aside from the recent tracks they have only seen five bears, including a mother with two cubs during the winter.
The reported reduction in the extent of the pack ice will affect polar bear habitat, he says, but he can't say if this has affected the number they have seen.
It's nice to be seeing some signs of life again. Now that it's summer the odd bird is arriving but there is not much yet in the way of marine life.
"However Zargrey [one of the huskies] gets very excited sometimes, barking madly at open water or cracks in the ice making us think he can smell the evidence of a passing seal. We should start to see seals very soon."
Redvers finishes the call by saying it's nice to hear a Kiwi accent and that he sometimes daydreams about the holiday he will take back in New Zealand when the trip is over.
But you get the sense he and the others will miss their icy isolation. After our conversation, on day 300 of the drift, he wrote a log for the expedition website (taraexpeditions.org) in which he tells how the crew were finishing dinner with a "fine lemon meringue pie" when they heard an unfamiliar thumping sound.
Outside they found a Russian helicopter sitting on the ice 100m away and about 2km away was a Russian nuclear ice breaker.
"Heading for the North Pole with 130 tourists on board they thought they would pop in to check if we were okay ... "
Out of the helicopter climbed a group of people including an American television crew - and some Russian security guards on polar bear look-out. They made a whirlwind tour of the base and boat then were gone within half an hour.
Writes Redvers: "As they set course to the north and disappeared into the rainy grey evening one could not help feel a bit envious of Nansen on the Fram as he inconspicuously made his passage across a truly undiscovered territory."