Antarctica is … well see that’s the problem.
Antarctica is so otherworldly it defies easy description.
Sublimely overwhelming, it’s a place of contradictions and mystery
It’s desolate; it’s alive. It’s immense; it’s intimate. It’s lyrical; it’s brutal.
It’s so remote and yet it touches the rest of the world in one way or another.
The Antarctica I know, the peninsula, is surrounded by waters teeming with life – plankton, krill, fish, seals, whales and bird after bird after bird. Its waters feed the world’s waters. But every time I turn my gaze inland, I remember why they call it the crystal desert; its 5,000 meter thick ice receives less precipitation than the Sahara; there there are almost no signs of life.
My Antarctica is a place of water, forming clouds in the air, blanketing mountains in snow, freezing into ice, melting into the ocean. It slumbers below constantly changing surfaces, cloaked in an infinite variety of whites, grays, blacks and impossible blues. It’s fantastic formations and transformations are unbelievably suggestive.
My Antarctica is weather.
Not only does it change global weather patterns, its weather is constantly changing.
It whirls through a kaleidoscopic array of moods, sometimes in a single day.
There are times when the sun, reflected from every angle, becomes blindingly bright and seems to penetrate you so deeply that you feel transparent.
There are times when the skies and the waters are so dark and dense they feel like pure night congealed.
There are times when you find yourself slowly passing through dense fogs, as looming monoliths drift by the dim outlines of mountains, before they recede to the far horizon, only to come again.
There are times when the air is so still that you can float through a crystalline mirror for what seems like an eternity.
There are times when the wind is so strong it blows you off your feet, hurls ice crystals through the air, creates waterspouts on the ocean, and blows waterfalls back up cliffs.
There are beams of light, halos, sun dogs, rainbows, and lightning.
On rare occasions you’ll see the stars and perhaps even aurora.
There are sunsets and sunrises that last for hours.
I’ve never been to Antarctica in its winter, when the temperatures plunge to a hundred below during a night that lasts months.
The Sounds Of Ice
My Antarctica is a symphony of ice: the explosive crack of slipping ice caps, the thundering crash of glaciers calving, the metallic rush of the resulting tsunami, the hollowing knock of large blocks of ice on still larger blocks, the fizz and pop as they disintegrate into smaller pieces, the crystalline chiming of millions of tiny pieces of ice colliding with one another in an endless gyre, the sighing sound of rain from fast-melting icebergs, the slow drip drip dripping of water from those melting more slowly, and finally the hush that comes when snow fills the air growing ever thicker and quieter.
While there are times when my Antarctica is filled with a chorus of sounds mixing wind, water, ice, birds, seals, penguins, whales; there are other times when my Antarctica is filled with an immense silence that washes over you like a tidal wave and threatens to drag you into immeasurable deeps. It is seductive – and too short lived.
This frozen Eden will capture your heart and never let it go.
There is a profound sense of privilege that comes from being in the presence of such rare beauty. It touches you deeply. Witness to the extraordinary, you leave changed – for the better. It’s as if you’ve been given a gift and you feel compelled to keep giving it.