Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Mysterious Continent

I turn around one last time to view my home for the past several weeks. Cold. Way below freezing. Death. And yet, I'm sad to leave, because as I stated before, it was my home for several weeks. Sighing, I turn towards the ship and board. As someone hands me a cup of hot tea, I sit by a window and watch the ship bid farewell to Antarctica, the Mysterious Continent. After having a dream that I visited the ice continent and took in the wonders there, I decided to learn more about this place. All I knew of Antarctica was that it was the only continent not inhabited by humans, with ice and snow and temperatures I've never experienced before.

I was dead, dead wrong.

Thanks to the fabulous Gabrielle Walker, Antarctica comes alive through her words in the book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. She speaks Science in such a way that everyone can understand and learn from with ease. From the first page of her Introduction to the last page inciting hope to save the continent from global warming, you'll feel as through you're right there with her, braving every moment of sheer frozen terror and wonderful discoveries. As much as I enjoyed the book, I didn't want it to end. Walker's writing is just that good. Plus, the people she met were colourful and eccentric  - you had to be in order to be there.

The explorers Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton braved the continent with hardly the equipment used today. They dared to do what others could not and would not do. And, because of them and many others, Antarctica is a little more understandable and still just as mysterious. From those who dig deep into the ice for core samples that date several thousands, if not millions, of years old, to those who survey the landscape and feel as though they are on the planet Mars, Walker shows us that Antarctica is not for the faint of heart. It is for the different heart. Eccentric seal and penguin watchers, children being born there so they can claim that they are Antarticans, even a gift shop that provides coffee mugs and souvenirs.  There's even a sickness known as going "toast" when you lose all sense of self and just . . . exist. Actually, not even that.

Many people know that I am an Adventure Seeker and will try (mostly) anything once. Yes, I found myself looking up ways to visit Antarctica on several occasions, all the while wondering how I would pay for such a trip. To explore a place where your neighbours are seals, penguins, whales, strange creatures of the deep, not to mention that your life hangs by a fragile icy thread every time you stepped outside of the camp. . . . yep, I was actually talking myself into it.

To visit Antarctica, as many researchers and scientists informed Walker, is to understand surrender. If you visit with an ego the size of New Jersey, be prepared for it to be coldly crushed. In Antarctica, no one is better or worse than others. Everyone who is stationed there is equal, although that wasn't the case not too long ago between men and women. However, everyone plays a part to assist in keeping everyone safe, alive, and healthy there. One screw up could cost some one's life.

This book was a phenomenal read - I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

So, with a final wave, I say goodbye to Antarctica, a la Midnight Oil.


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