intersection 02.1.16

Antarctica Dossier
Book Land: Antarctica

Antarctica has become the it-continent, have you noticed?

The Weepies have described the idea of their 2008 song Antarctica as "becoming disconnected to survive." In the toxic environment in which we live—toxic on numerous levels—why would our imaginations not be drawn to a relatively unspoiled (more on that in a moment) and virtually unpopulated patch of the planet?

It was in January 1966, exactly 50 years ago, that Lars-Eric Lindblad took the first group of regular travelers to visit. The Atlantic Treaty had been signed in 1959 by twelve countries, (now by 53), determining the continent is to be used for peaceful purposes only.

Even so, as the Times reported in December, the continent is becoming "geopolitically contested" for its resources. And tourism has expanded from the 57 people in the maiden Lindblad trip to an expected 40,000 this season (some of whom remain on cruise ships and don't actually land).

You can travel now to Antarctica with plenty of amenities, as Newsweek notes—gourmet food, saunas, and Wi-Fi, but as the death of Henry Worsley reminds us, a large part of the continent's deep-seated allure is its very hostility to exploration.

Even if we can describe Antarctica as relatively unspoiled, the fact is that climate change and overfishing threaten to destroy the ecosystem, which includes nearly 10,000 species in the oceans around the continent. The Antarctic peninsula region has seen dramatic ice loss in recent years and is one of the fastest warming areas on earth, according to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance. Learn more at their website.

Some armchair or local travel, then:

Tonight, (Feb 1), at the Explorers Club, The Land Where Water Runs Uphill, a lecture by Robin Bell about the expedition she led to Antarctica's Gamburtsev Mountains, the ice-covered mountain range previously unexplored, where, in fact, the water under the ice sheets runs uphill. The reception is at 6pm, the lecture begins at 7pm.

For a more artistic lens of the 'Southern Land', head to Jane Lombard Gallery, 518 W. 19th [10th/11], where the artists Lucy + Jorge Orta have an exhibition called Antarctica, featuring works from their 2007 sculptural village installed during a visit there. The show, which runs through February 20, features The Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau, created by the Ortas, that does indeed give uniquely numbered passports to visitors who pledge to support the goals of the project, including taking up the fight against global warming.

Two movies to watch, from a comfortably warm apartment: Filmed over a decade, Anthony Powell's Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013) is now available on Netflix and other streaming services as is Werner Herzog's 2008 film Encounters at the End of the World.

Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent by Gabrielle Walker delivers on the subtitle. A terrific read.

Speaking of great reads, The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard is the story of the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole.

Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth's Last Wilderness is explorer and conservationist Robert Swan's plea on behalf of the continent.

Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole is by Ross D. E. MacPhee, who curated the Museum of Natural History show a few years back.

Ice Station: The Creation of Halley VI. Britain's Pioneering Antarctic Research Station, by Ruth Slavid and photographer James Morris, takes you inside the station, focusing on the ways in which design can smoothe the edges of inhospitable environments.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing—well-researched and edge-of-your-seat story-telling.


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