Q is for Question: a short love letter to the scientific method #antarcticalphabet

Query Island is a pimple in the ice at nearly 69° south, its existence a question till 1948. The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (predecessor to BAS) named it recognising the difficulty of distinguishing it from the mass of the Peninsula.   That’s science for you: honouring the question. The ‘scientific … Continue reading

#AntarcticAlphabet: O is for oil

Oil drips down the trypots and the rigs. It oozes in tarpits, welling up from the ground, the black gold of fantasy released by water under pressure, the raw hydraulics of fracking. The revolution relies on the stuff; prosperity and peace rise with carbon dioxide released into air and ocean. … Continue reading

Shackleton: leadership fit for purpose

  Sir Ernest Shackleton died in 1922 at Grytviken. He was back in the south to re-attempt the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Crossing but his heart finally failed as he stayed here preparing the expedition. He is buried in the tiny graveyard overlooking the bay, the biggest marker among the simple white … Continue reading

N is for Navigation: #AntarcticAlphabet

Navigation: The process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route The passage of ships (Oxford Dictionary) ‘The demanding test of landfall’ (David Lewis, We The Navigators) Once upon a time, in the old days, those imagined times when everything was better – yet somehow … Continue reading

Fortuna Bay: my rucksack goes hiking

Three coastal indentations east of the Bay of Islands lies Fortuna Bay, a deep cove in the cliffs surrounded by ice-covered peaks capped with perfect lenticular clouds. Here we spent the night after the excitements of Salisbury Plain. Alone on anchor watch, I saw the sky lighten in the slow, … Continue reading

#AntarcticAlphabet: J is for Jabberwock

Jabberwock is the beast of change, of many words spat out into the trees, the jib-jab of uncertainty. Spells of shapeshifting are cast on the breeze and scribbled across the mackerel sky. She is slain by an unknown boy, the beamish boy, with his sword of the spoken truth, the … Continue reading

Brown Bluff: geology and gulls

The geology of the Antarctic Peninsula continued to fascinate as we arrived at Brown Bluff. The bluff in question is a line of pancake rocks towering over a huge glacier to the east and a narrow rocky beach. It sits at the entrance to the Weddell Sea on the edge … Continue reading

Stamps in my passport: marking territories and staking claims

Antarctica has no borders. It is a shared space, a place of peace and science. Those institutions which impose borders shelved them in 1957, and the first three articles of the Antarctic Treaty commit all signatories to peace, science and collaboration. It was fitting therefore that the artists Lucy and … Continue reading

Puerto Williams: southernmost city in the world

Puerto Williams sits at the eastern end of the Beagle Channel on the northern coast Isla Navarino, a large island with a toothed mountain range at its heart. It’s very proud of its ‘southernmost city’ tag, despite having less than 3000 residents, and marks Chile’s ownership of the south side … Continue reading