In the distance something stirs. A drifting polar bear searches for food on the edge of camp. Despite the presence of the huge beast, the men are in little danger. The guns take care of that. It is rare for a bear to wander so close. She must be hungry.
For the scientists and professionals who choose to live and work in this unforgiving land, Antarctica can seem a very lonely place. Perched upon a hill or mountain somewhere on this great continent, the dry air allows a clear view for many miles. On one of the rare moments the wind drops, the predominantly white landscape offers an eerie silence. You can feel like the only person on the planet.
What attracts anyone to such an inhospitable place? Despite the valuable science and work that is undertaken here, I believe many would choose to live here anyway. For me, the biggest attraction is the alien landscape, unlike anywhere else on the planet. If man is to one-day land on another world, then this is how I would envisage it. Regardless of the barren wilderness and blanket white surroundings, there is no more fascinating place on earth, probably because it is so different.
Despite the inhospitable environment, Antarctica is testament to the tenacity of life. Temperatures have been recorded as low as -89° C; Katabatic winds have reached speeds of up to 200 mph. In the face of these daunting figures, it seems incredible that anything can exist here at all. Life always appears to find a way.
My favourite Antarctica phenomenon has to be the static icebergs, fixed in position by the frozen sea. As winter approaches and temperatures plunge, the freezing sea slowly renders the icebergs immobile as they become trapped by the ice. Here they remain until the following spring, when the subsequent rise in sea temperatures melt the frozen ocean, allowing the icebergs to set off once more for foreign shores.
During winter it becomes possible to walk out over the sea and stand next to one of the huge icebergs. It is a very humbling experience standing next to an iceberg the size of an office block. In this planet’s evolutionary mix, you realize just how insignificant a human being is.