Did he not feel lonely on that expedition with no chance of contact? Or scared? “No I was so excited about what I was going to do, and I was well prepared. But it’s as it was with the performance artist Marina Abramovic [who Kagge mentions in his book] when she first went into the desert, she was afraid and experienced the opposite of silence, she had all this noise in her head. That was the same for me at first in Antarctica but it’s a threshold you have to pass. We shouldn’t be put off by it being difficult.”

In Silence he writes: “Antarctica is the quietest place I’ve ever been…there was no human noise apart from the sounds I made. Alone on the ice, far into that great white nothingness, I could both hear and feel the silence.”

While walking in the white, with over seven million cubic miles of ice beneath his feet, Kagge noticed abstract shapes formed in ice and snow, and the various gradations in shades of white. “Nature spoke to me in the guise of silence. The quieter I became, the more I heard…I was neither bored nor interrupted,” he wrote.

“The quieter I became, the more I heard…I was neither bored nor interrupted”

Though it wasn’t all thoughtful pondering and meditative pleasure, Kagge suffered serious frostbite along the way. When he eventually reached the South Pole, he arrived at the US science and research base. I ask if it was weird to suddenly speak again? “Really strange as I hadn’t even spoken to myself for 50 days and nights. The first guy said: ‘How do you do?’ So I said: ‘Like pig in a shit,’ and we had a laugh.”

Sunset IV, 2009 Credit: Catherine Opie as featured in Silence: In the Age of Noise