Southern light and free dogs: Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas reminds me of small towns in New Zealand. It has the neat rectangularity of Invercargill and the bright colours of Napier. The town shares the light with Bluff, on the south point of South Island. Even clouded and raining, the air is that particular southern oceanic grey, brighter … Continue reading

Placemaking in Antarctica

There are stations and bases scattered across Antarctica, spread very thin and mostly around the edges. These are places, with form and function: . I’m avoiding the word settlement because the Treaty doesn’t allow permanent settlement (which is a good thing).     The term placemaking gets bandied around in my … Continue reading

A is for: an #antarcticalphabet

Antarctica lies hidden behind the cold-current fringes of the Southern Ocean, ancient lands shrouded in white and blue. Sleeping Beauty, bramble-fenced, breathing in rhythm with the tick of the clock, awaits the destined prince. Cold, storied emblems of passivity and pride. Amundsen and Shackleton have come and gone though Scott remained, … Continue reading

Women writing sea poetry? Not much of it about.

The sheets of my heart snapped taut to breaking, as a gale stronger than longing filled the sail inside me. There’s lovely, but more widely I find a dearth of strong poetry about the sea by women. There’s plenty of great poems by men of course, most famously John Masefield’s thundering … Continue reading

Staying the right way up: wind and knots

I have just downloaded the US Sailing Directions to Antarctica, a weighty tome full of dark warnings. The British would call it the Pilot Book, the detailed description of the coastline and sailing conditions of the area. (The Admiralty Pilot is not available electronically and costs at least £60.)  In addition to … Continue reading

Pulchritudinous Pirates Women on tall ships (part 2)

Pirates always excite the imagination, at least the ones on tall ships in the Golden Age. Stevenson’s and Barrie’s fantasies played their part in the popularisation and Johnny Depp has a lot to answer for. Now there’s even International Pirate’s Day. The wicked, bare-breasted, cutlass-wielding woman pirate is an alluring … Continue reading