Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hope Bay, Antarctica

No matter how grandiose and unique, every country on earth can be readily compared with some other country. Massachusetts has features in common with Washington state. I’ve seen signature elements of the land of China repeated in New Zealand. Even Alaska, which I’ve been in love with ever since I went there for the first time twenty years ago, is not unlike the Norwegian or even Chilean fjords. But nothing - nothing but the moon! - compares to Antarctica.

I’m here for the second time in my life and it’s like treading on holy ground. We’re all aware that if something happens to the ship, we’re pretty much done for, but we can’t make ourselves fear the grandeur, the blue light sweeping off the ice or the endlessly forbidding planes that lie ahead. It’s simply mind boggling to be here; humbling, exiting and more awe inspiring than any place on earth I know.

According to the Antarctic Treaty, no country can claim this continent for itself. In that regard Antarctica is like the moon, which also can’t be owned by anyone but all of us. And that makes this place so special too. It fulfills an almost messianic role between the earth, upon which rivaling clans wage their ridiculous territorial wars, and the heavens where people exist free and freely sharing the bounties of creation without needing to claim ownership.

Draga whispers beside me that we don’t really belong in Antarctica. We’re invaders, she says, but I squeeze her closer and disagree. We humans weren’t simply born on planet earth, we’re part of it. All of us were brought forth by this planet in its entirety; all of its elements and economies, all of its weathers and area’s. We don’t own the planet and it doesn’t own us; we’re it. We are the earth, and there is no place on earth where we can or should not go.

Luckily for all of us, the Powers That Be have decided to no longer allow vessels that have no urgent business here access to Antarctic waters. The nature of our present mission prohibits me from informing the reader what it is that Draga and I are doing here, or even on which kind of ship we are, but the new treaty pretty much means that this is our last time here. If we were ever to return here, it would be to do something else, something that serves the land with a purpose great enough to warrant blasting tons of exhaust gasses into its atmosphere.

My God in heaven, could it be that we’re finally learning?

Icebergs in Antarctica waters
Icebergs in Antarctica
Hope Bay, Antarctica
Hope Bay, Antarctica

Esperanza Station at Hope Bay, Antarctica

Esperanza Station at Hope Bay, Antarctica

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