C is for Capes #Antarcticalphabet

Capes are places of legend. The heroic pose is cast in stone, in monuments to the first to round, the first to land. Lighthouses are built and rebuilt even as ships lie unsalvaged in the savage waters. Threatening, homely Portland Bill is recast as the Channel’s Horn, for it too has swallowed ships. Any cape struts across the chart, each one a romantic challenge.

Oceans and currents converge at a cape. Without the Horn there is no Southern Ocean, nowhere the gaudy wind can rampage unimpeded around the earth. The surface current west to east, slides over deeper counter-currents, shaped and driven by the scimitar blade of Chile and Argentina. The ownership is contested, but the extremity remains what it is.

It can be a puzzle to converge at a place, a point, an idea. We may struggle to find a plot, a fiction we can all agree will shape our world. (What does it mean, exactly, to be a ‘refugee’, rather than a ‘migrant’? What is ‘money’, but a shared notion of value?) The convergence of currents defines the physical Antarctica; it cannot constrain those fantasies of heroism and slaughter flickering across the screen of our imaginations at the thought of the Horn.

The Antarctic Convergence, where the warm north and cold south collide, is as real as the Horn itself, a border crossed in the body experiencing snow, condensation, the dance of whales. The Treaty, that convergence of ideas of Antarctica, maps the rigidity of 60 degrees south, a human fiction imposed (not arbitrarily) on the irregular sphere of the planet. The flourish of the Cape and the finger of the Peninsula lie either side of the physical and conceptual lines, and neither cares about our poses or our compromises.

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  1. Sarah… I am loving your daily reports. It fires up my imagination everyday as I follow you around the globe. It is like seeing what you see and watching out for you at the same time… I feel remarkably close in a strange sort of way. Keep on going and so very well done for getting through the storms. Fiona x

  2. Millie Pickering

    You must be feeling better, last post, almost poetic.

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