Debora Shapiro and her husband Rolf

Deborah Shapiro writes about the 270 days she spend in isolation with her husband, Rolf Bjelke, in the Antarctic.

It never ceases to amaze us, but the most common question Rolf and I got after our winter-over, when we spent 15 months on the Antarctic Peninsula, nine of which were in total solitude, was: Why didn't you two kill each other?

We found the question odd and even comical at first, because the thought of killing each other had never crossed our minds.

We'd answer glibly that because we relied on each other for survival, murder would be counter-productive.

The personal skills needed to survive such extreme isolation:

Showing tangible signs of caring and of empathy ensures that cabin fever never takes hold. It's one of the personality traits Sir Ernest Shackleton looked for, when signing-on crew for his expeditions.

As Rolf, who has Shackleton as a role model, always says: "I can teach anyone how to sail, but I can never change a person's personality."